Print isn’t dead: major survey reveals local newspapers vastly preferred over Google among country news consumers


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Kristy Hess, Deakin University and Lisa Waller, RMIT University

Newspaper readers in rural and regional Australia are five times more likely to go directly to their local newspaper website than Google or Facebook for local information, and almost 10 times as likely to go to their local news website over a council website for news and information.

Nearly two-thirds of local newspaper readers also indicate policies affecting the future of rural and regional media would influence the way they vote at the next federal election.

These are some of the key findings of a national survey of almost 4,200 Australian country newspaper readers we recently conducted as part of a project to drive greater innovation in the rural and regional media landscape.

Many small newspapers in Australia faced closure after their advertising budgets shrunk during the global pandemic, while others moved to digital-only editions to cut costs.

In our survey — the largest conducted of country press audiences in Australia — we found local newspapers still play a vital role in providing information to residents in these communities, even with the proliferation of news available on Facebook and Google.

This is a significant finding, given how much focus has been placed on the role of the tech giants as a central point for digital news and information.

Australia is targeting Google and Facebook with new law.
Australia’s new law aimed at forcing Google and Facebook to pay for news content has been fiercely opposed by the tech companies.
Mark Lennihan/AP

The federal government recently implemented a mandatory news media bargaining code that forces tech companies like Facebook and Google to pay news producers for content that appears on their platforms.

Last week, the ACCC granted interim approval for Country Press Australia to negotiate with the tech giants on behalf of its 160 newspapers.

This funding is desperately needed to help support publishers of credible, reliable local news who are losing the advertising dollar to social media platforms — but for some, it still may not be enough.




Read more:
As Facebook ups the ante on news, regional and elderly Australians will be hardest hit


Resistance to local papers going online only

Our survey also reveals just how passionate people are about local newspapers in rural and regional Australia — that is, the print version. In fact, the majority of country press audiences (71%) prefer to read their local paper in print than online.



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Many respondents expressed resistance to their newspaper being made available in digital format only. They offered comments such as:

There is always room for improvement, but if this newspaper went digital, I would not be interested.

And this from another:

The day it goes digital only will be the day I stop reading it.

Our survey also found that respondents overwhelmingly (86%) view a printed copy of their newspaper as an essential service for their community.



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This accords with our previous research that has advocated for the federal government to recognise the vital importance of the printed paper to regional communities.

While the average age of our survey respondents was 60-61, this demographic will continue to represent a large portion of local news readership for many years.

This means local news organisations need strategies to aid the transition for all audiences into digital formats and/or advocate for the survival of the printed product in the interests of social connection and democracy.


Age NewsSource graph.
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Locals want a say in the future of their papers

Our survey also found 94% of respondents want a much bigger say about government policies and decisions affecting the future of local newspapers. This finding sends a message to policymakers to rethink their strategies for engaging the public in ideas to support the future of local media.

When it comes to solutions for struggling rural and regional media outlets, our survey found:

  • audiences believe local newspapers should be collaboratively funded by a range of relevant stakeholders (media companies, advertisers, subscribers, social media, government and philanthropic organisations) to ensure their future
  • while some media lobbyists and academics — both in Australia and overseas — have called for newspaper subscriptions to be made tax deductible, 71% of respondents are not in favour of such initiatives
  • respondents also overwhelmingly said any additional government funding for local news should be used to employ more local journalists (71%) over increasing digital connectivity (13%) and digital innovation products (17%).



Read more:
Local news sources are closing across Australia. We are tracking the devastation (and some reasons for hope)


The voices of loyal readers must be heard

Our findings also reaffirm that local newspaper audiences are loyal and develop life-long connections with newspapers wherever they live and work. As an 88-year-old man from Victoria said,

I have always looked forward to the local paper, and whilst the format is now different, it is still a ‘must’ to catch up on whatever is happening in my town.

While there have been Senate inquiries into the future of public interest journalism, media diversity and the role of the ABC in regional and rural areas, the public submissions to these important policy discussions are lacking the voices of local newspaper readers like our respondents.




Read more:
Local newspapers are an ‘essential service’. They deserve a government rescue package, too


This is not because people in the bush don’t care, but because such formal mechanisms are arguably not the best way to engage with and listen to media audiences beyond the major cities.

What is clear from our research is local independent newspapers really matter to their audiences, and many loyal readers are ready to defend them at the ballot box.The Conversation

Kristy Hess, Associate Professor (Communication), Deakin University and Lisa Waller, Professor of Digital Communication, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to read books from your local library on your tablet


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I’m a voracious reader, and read between 80 and 100 books a year. Obviously, this is a habit that gets expensive so I’m always looking for legal ways to still read and cut back on the spending. Until I got my iPad in 2010, I was a frequent customer of my town’s library. Once I got hooked on digital books, however, I never really went back.

Some of this is due to the fact that I live in a very small town (about 5,000 people). I often joke that there are more cows on my street than people. So, my library is very small. While we are tied into a regional network of libraries, the next closest library is still two towns over.

Thankfully, my library joined the digital age and I can check out books digitally. This is a big deal for them, since the last time I asked them if I…

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Local Kindle Store Now in Australia


As the article linked to below mentions, there has been no announcement about the creation of an Australian Kindle store. I stumbled across this myself just recently. If you sign up to the Australian site it seems to interfere with the free and discounted offers available via the US Kindle store. So something to keep in mind.

For more visit:
http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2013/11/12/amazon-launches-local-kindle-store-australia/

Article: Burning Books to Save the Library


The link below is to an article concerning a campaign to save the local public library. The novel approach involved the burning of books.

For more visit:
http://www.neatorama.com/2012/06/15/burning-books-to-save-the-library/

Changing the World: November 30 – Supporting Local People


Today’s suggestion is one I really do like – it is about supporting the local people of isolated rural villages, especially in Third World countries (not that the book really makes that distinction).

To do this, the suggestion is to buy products produced by local artisans via the web. This is a great suggestion and one I think I will try and support from time to time. It is a great way to assist people in difficult situations.

Some useful websites:

www.villageleap.com

www.eShopAfrica.com

www.novica.com

A response to reading ‘365 Ways to Change the World,’ by Michael Norton

Changing the World: November 13 – Food not Bombs


Today’s suggestion for changing the world is to form a ‘Food not Bombs’ group. The theory behind such a group is to gather food from various sources (fresh vegetables running out of shelf life, etc) and to seek to feed the local hungry people – such as the homeless, poor, etc.

These groups also protest against war.

This suggestion is also not for me – but not because I don’t like the idea. It is a great idea and one others may like to pursue. Visit the web site below for more information:

www.foodnotbombs.net

Changing the World: November 12 – Compiling a Directory


Today’s suggestion for changing the world was to create a directory of local community events/groups. This suggestion is something that intrigues me a little. Why? Well, it would be interesting to know just how many groups are operating in and around Tea Gardens in New South Wales, Australia.

I can think of quite a number just off the top of my head – so a directory for Tea Gardens would be quite large. It is certainly something I could do – but it could be quite time consuming to do properly. One never knows, I may do this in the future at some point.

But not today.

Changing the World: November 11 – Peace for a Moment


Today’s suggestion for changing the world was doing something to support peace. The suggestion encouraged people to spend a moment to reflect on what I could do to prevent war.

In reality there is probably very little that I can do to prevent wars from occurring. It is once again a noble goal – to prevent war and ensure peace. I just don’t think it will be possible in this world.

The other part of the suggestion was to remember those who have fought and died in wars, especially with this being Armistice/Remembrance Day. Where I work the flags were lowered leading up to 11 am. They were raised again shortly afterwards.

Being that I was working I was unable to observe the 2 minutes silence at 11 am. However, the sacrifice made by those defending our way of life and seeking to return the world to peace, were on my mind.

Anzac Day is going to be an event I will be involved in in future years – not in any official capacity, but to be at the local dawn service to remember those who fought for this country, including various family members.

A response to reading ‘365 Ways to Change the World,’ by Michael Norton