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The Power To Grow Readership The Impact Study A joint venture of NAA, ASNE, Readership Institute % Newspaper Readership Among The Adult Population Source: Newspaper Association of America Readership Trends The Moment Is Unique ABC changes open major opportunities: Report readership

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The Power To Grow Readership

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The PowerTo Grow Readership

The Impact Study

A joint venture of NAA, ASNE, Readership Institute



Newspaper Readership Among The Adult Population

Source: Newspaper Association of America

Readership Trends


The Moment Is Unique

  • ABC changes open major opportunities:
    • Report readership
    • Establish a variable-priced strategy
    • Count bulk sales
    • Grow pass along
  • Look at USA Today’s experience
this time is also unique because of 9 11
This Time Is Also Unique Because of 9-11
  • For the moment, consumers have a deeper and closer connection to their newspaper because of 9-11
    • History says the connection will not last
    • Backsliding can be stopped if you give readers new reasons to stay with your paper
    • RI (Readership Institute) provides insights & tools to develop that connection
measuring readership
Measuring Readership
  • RI measured readers’ usage of their newspaper on weekdays and weekends
  • Readership is:
    • Time spent
    • Frequency
    • Completeness
  • RI rolled those dimensions into a single Reader Behavior Score (RBS) for each consumer
measuring readership cont
Measuring Readership, cont.
  • Newspapers can easily add RBS to their current reader survey measures
    • Follow RI standards
      • (See paper at
    • Track the success of content, service and brand initiatives
    • Compare your newspaper to industry norms, similar markets etc.

4 Cornerstones and Imperatives

  • The Impact study yielded “Eight Imperatives” for growing readership
  • Each imperative fits into one of the “4 Cornerstones” of readership growth

4 Cornerstones of Readership

  • Newspapers have tremendous opportunities to grow readership through improvements in the 4 cornerstones of:
    • - Content - Brand
    • - Service - Culture
  • 4 are linked to each other
  • 4 must be tackled together
readership growth 4 cornerstones
Readership Growth 4 Cornerstones
  • Content
    • 9 types of content grow readership
    • So does a particular kind of local news
    • Content that is “easy to read” & navigable
    • Content that is promoted
    • Advertising content
  • Service excellence
  • Brand relevance
  • Constructive culture
the four cornerstones of readership
The Four Cornerstones of Readership
  • Content
  • Service
  • Brand
  • Culture
content that grows rbs
Content That Grows RBS

Topics with greatest potential to grow readership

    • News about ordinary people, community announcement, obituaries
    • 2. Health, home, food, fashion & travel
    • Politics, government, international
  • 4. Natural disasters & accidents
    • 5. Movies, TV & weather
    • 6. Business and personal finance
    • 7. Science, technology, environment
    • 8. Police & crime
    • 9. Sports
post 9 11
Post 9-11
  • Within the 9 topics, these three have the greatest potential:
      • News about ordinary people, obits and community announcements
      • Health, home, food, fashion & travel
      • Politics, government, international
  • They embody a mix of hard & soft news that readers seek
    • #1 and #3 are what made newspapers post 9-11 special
  • Interest in foreign news has always been present – as long as newspapers made it relevant
post 9 1116
Post 9-11
  • Hard-hitting, moving stories about ordinary people made newspapers come alive
  • Unfortunately, those reports are disappearing, replaced by “institutional” stories
  • There is renewed emphasis by consumers on family, home, “nesting” and health
    • These types of stories are important to growing readership
about obituaries
About Obituaries
  • RI identified many common practices among newspapers with high satisfaction ratings
  • Full report at:
change writing style
Change Writing Style
  • It isn’t enough to have the right story topics
  • Many readers are turned off by the inverted pyramid writing style that is used in 70% of your paper’s stories
what are some writing styles that work
What Are Some Writing Styles That Work?
  • Feature-style
    • Beginning, middle, end
    • Characters tell the story
    • Engages, connects
  • Commentary
    • Author’s voice
      • (Reviews, columns, first-person)
create an easy to read newspaper
Create an ‘Easy to Read’ Newspaper
  • “Easy to read” means:
    • The newspaper is relaxing to read

(This does not mean brain candy)

    • “It’s easy to find what I’m looking for”
easy to read cont
‘Easy to Read’, cont.
  • More “go-and-do” information
  • More stories about health, home, fashion, food
  • More feature-style stories
  • More in-paper content promotion

Advertising Content

Better ad content drives overall newspaper readership

  • Required Actions:
      • Learn which ads drive your readership
      • Get those ads
      • Make readership a responsibility of the ad department
advertising content
Advertising Content
  • Ad content has the third-highest potential to grow readership
  • It is even more significant for
    • Readers under 35
    • Hispanics & African-Americans

Example: A Strategy Targeting Young Women (25-34)

  • Get more ads that appeal to them
    • Special pricing
    • Ads should be exemplary
    • Best location
    • Active promotion of the ads
  • Make advertising, marketing, & news responsible for coordinating efforts

In-paper Content Promotion

Create an aggressive plan for in-papercontentpromotion

  • Required Actions:
      • Concentrate first on upcoming content; then same-day content
      • Make one person accountable
9 types of readers



Sunday heavy


Sunday heavy only

Weekday only

Sunday light


9 Types of Readers
average daily in paper promotion



Average Daily In-Paper Promotion

Focus on these & in this order

  • In winter 2002 check the Readership Institute website for a preliminary report on what works
the four cornerstones of readership32
The Four Cornerstones of Readership
  • Content
  • Service
  • Brand
  • Culture
the service cornerstone
The Service Cornerstone

Newspapers that deliver what their customers consider service excellencehave higher RBS, but the bar is very high

6 service factors that drive rbs
6 Service Factors that Drive RBS
  • Condition/completeness of delivered paper
  • Quality of paper, ink, type size
  • When, how paper is delivered
  • Accuracy of bill
  • Cost of home delivery
  • Overall customer service

Over-the-top service yields big rewards


Industry average 4.25


Achieve Service Excellence

for further study
For Further Study
  • Close link between service and content
  • Older readers more susceptible to service issues than younger readers
  • “Bare bones” vs. innovative model
  • Importance of excellent service recovery
  • Importance of publisher’s role and attitude
the four cornerstones of readership37
The Four Cornerstones of Readership
  • Content
  • Service
  • Brand
  • Culture

The Brand Cornerstone

Develop a strong newspaper brand

  • Drives RBS as much as content
  • Brand is a strong, positive image that is relevant to the reader
  • Required Actions:
      • Understand & define your brand
      • Enhance and strengthen it


Content: News & Adv.

Brand Perception

Service Excellence

Readership Brand Model


some key brand ideas
Some Key Brand Ideas
  • Build a brand in the minds of your readers that:
    • Is based on a few strong, positive and relevant characteristics
    • Differentiates your newspaper from the competition
  • In RI sample we found only six newspapers that have a strong brand
  • Brand isn’t a paper’s tag line or flag
  • It is what consumers think it is and not what the newspaper says it is
the four cornerstones of readership42
The Four Cornerstones of Readership
  • Content
  • Service
  • Brand
  • Culture

The Culture Cornerstone

To grow RBS: Tear down defensive culture and replace it with a constructive one

  • Required Action:
      • Begin to grow readership as a sustained initiative
      • Promote those who will lead initiative & involve staff cross-departmentally
constructive vs defensive

Adaptive Change-resistant

Group achievers Individual gain

Collaborative Insular

Outward-looking Internal focus

Not a sin to fail Don’t fail

Constructive vs. Defensive
culture by newspaper departments

Department Over-all Culture Primary style Secondary style






Top Execs

Passive/ Defensive

Passive/ Defensive

Aggressive/ Defensive

Aggressive/ Defensive












Culture by Newspaper Departments
defensive cultures
Defensive Cultures
  • Departments work separately in silos
  • There’s little teamwork or cooperation within or between disciplines
  • Employees are not proud of the overall quality of the newspaper and its services

Constructive Cultures

  • Departments and individualsare achievement-oriented
  • “We work together (across silos) for the good of the paper”
  • A more satisfied staff
  • Higher RBS
moving to a constructive culture
Moving to a Constructive Culture
  • It’s a leadership issue
    • Leaders must model, encourage and reward these styles
  • Requires leaders to step outside the current culture
    • See clearly what must change
    • Assess whether the right people are in right place to do it
  • Be prepared to commit to it long-term

Action Step #1

  • Measure and use readership to grow it and to serve your customers
    • RBS is the key measure of how readers behave
    • It is what advertisers need
    • Major competitors use:
      • Eyeballs/Ears/Minds/Wallets
  • Teach advertisers that RBS/readership is a better measure than eyes or ears

Action Step #2

  • Build the 4 cornerstones urgently and now
  • Other media are still fragmenting, but that will change soon
  • When it does, newspapers must meet competitors’ consolidated news and advertising strength
action step 3
Action Step #3
  • Use readership in every department
    • It’s a cause all departments can rally around
    • Puts the focus on externals (the customer) instead of internal issues
  • Share the goals openly
    • Encourage discussion
  • Enlist as many staff as you can in the action plan
    • Empower and make accountable
    • Make it cross-functional
action step 4
Action Step #4
  • Promote people who are committed to readership
  • Tie goals & rewards to readership
    • Devise rewards that matter to employees
  • Make a big deal about readership successes
  • Make this at least a 3-5 year effort and tell everyone that it is not going away

Action Step #5

  • Everyone in the newspaper must take personal responsibility for growing RBS
    • All the way from the publisherand editor … to the person whoanswers the phones
  • Put a committed champion withclout in charge of each of the 4 cornerstones; measure results
action step 6
Action Step #6
  • Provide the leadership & the will
    • That’s your challenge

The Power to Grow Readership

All RI research materials are available at: