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Community & Business

29 May, 2021

Locals passion for print

A newly released study has found that the future of local newspapers will be a key issue for regional, rural and suburban voters at the next federal election.

By Emily Middleton

Photo via Unsplash

The biggest national survey of local news audiences, reveals the passion people have for their local newspaper. The survey titled ‘Media innovation and the civic future of Australia’s Country Press’, conducted by the Australian Re-search Council Linkage Project, found that audiences want a much bigger say about the newpaper industry’s future.

Key findings include:

• There is continued strong demand (and passion) for the printed product in rural and regional Australia. In fact, the majority of audiences prefer a printed newspaper, with younger generations also part of this trend. Country press readers overall are 2.6 times as likely to read their local paper in print than in digital format.

• Audiences overwhelmingly view a printed copy of their newspaper as an essential service for their community. This accords with previous research that has advocated for recognition at the policy level of the vital importance of the printed paper.

• 94 per cent of respondents say they should be invited to have a say about government policies and decisions affecting the future of local newspapers.

• 61 per cent of respondents say policies that affect the future of local newspapers would influence the way they vote at the next federal election.

Other findings include:

• Audiences indicate they are five times as likely to go directly to a local news website for their local news than Google or Facebook, and almost 10 times as likely to go to the local newspaper website over a local council website for their local news and information. Surprisingly, just five per cent of younger audiences say they mostly use social media to find out about local news.

• Audiences believe local newspapers should be collaboratively funded by a range of relevant stakeholders, including media companies, advertisers, subscribers, government, and philanthropy to ensure their future.

• Audiences overwhelmingly indicate any additional funding for local news should be directed to employing more local journalists to report news (71 per cent), over increasing digital connectivity (13 per cent) and digital innovation products (17 per cent).

The survey findings come as country newspapers have struggled to survive during the pandemic. The survey asked almost 4200 Australian country press newspaper readers in rural, regional, and outer suburban areas about the role of local newspapers within their communities and their ideas for innovation within the sector.

Project leader associate professor Kristy Hess (Deakin University School of Communication) said the voices and perspectives of everyday audiences were often missing in policy discussion about the future of local media and people had offered innovative ideas to support their future.

The project involves researchers from Deakin and RMIT universities with support from Country Press Australia, the peak media body for independent news organisations.

The survey is part of a three-year project that aims to develop and road-test a new map to support local news media in the digital era.


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