If you lived in the average neighbourhood, a quick stroll down the street would reveal countless local newspapers – squashed, moisture-damaged and in various stages of biodegradation. The newspaper industry itself has been similarly compromised, with Fairfax “cutting costs by $30 million” and making a quarter of its journalists redundant (“Fairfax Media journalists strike for a week over job cuts,” 2017). Are local newspapers an artefact of the past?
The ACMA recently published a report on local content in regional Australia, which revealed some surprising statistics. For instance, only 18% of survey participants obtained local news from social media services (SNSs), and 26% from websites (Australian Communications and Media Authority, 2017, p. 10) – compared to 90% from print newspapers and 74% from free-to-air TV (Australian Communications and Media Authority, 2017, p. 9). This massive disparity has been attributed by the ACMA (2017, p. 10) to a lack of trust (only 4%) in SNSs, which (strangely) doesn’t apply to national or international news (more than 50% of participants in a University of Canberra study used SNSs as their “most popular of news in the week prior to the survey” (Park, 2016, p. 6), with only ~35% turning to printed newspapers (Park, 2016, p. 6)).
I argue that there are two main reasons behind the continued popularity of local newspapers:
- As “individuals often rely on routine and habit to determine their media use” (Tang & Lai, 2015, p. 329), the free and regular delivery of local papers acts as an incentive to read local news.
- Those interested in local news are older, and thus hold greater preference for traditional media sources. The ACMA report claims that “only nine percent of regional news audiences are under 25 (five percent decline since 2003)” (Australian Communications and Media Authority, 2017, p. 12), thus adding weight to this theory.
Do you still read your local paper? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Australian Communications and Media Authority. (2017). Local content in regional Australia – 2017 report. Retrieved 26th May 2017, from http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/local-content-in-regional-australia-2017-report
Fairfax Media journalists strike for a week over job cuts. (2017, 3rd May). The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26th May 2017, from http://www.smh.com.au/business/media-and-marketing/fairfax-media-journalists-strike-for-a-week-over-job-cuts-20170503-gvy4qj.html
Park, S. (2016). Key Findings: Digital News Consumption in Australia. In J. Watkins (Ed.), Digital News Report: Australia 2016 (pp. 6-13): News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra. Retrieved from http://apo.org.au/system/files/64397/apo-nid64397-42436.pdf. doi:10.4225/50/5754F7090A5C5
Tang, T., & Lai, C.-H. (2015). Understanding Local News Consumption and Community Participation via the Lens of Information Repertoires and Media Multiplexity. Mass Communication and Society, 18(3), 325-349. doi:10.1080/15205436.2014.995768