Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Newspaper Readership Survey

There's a lot of doom and gloom about the future of newspapers in English-speaking media. With that in mind, there's some interesting tidbits from a recurring survey on media consumption in Japan - read the Mainichi Shimbun or Yahoo news summaries unless you want to wade through 60 pages of survey data1. The Asahi Shimbun summary is shorter, but they deserve applause for actually giving the URL to the report itself right at the top2.

Short take: 91% of those surveyed read the newspaper, and they read it an average of 5.2 days per week. This has not changed significantly since the last survey, and is down less than 3 percentage points since 2001.

Internet use is up about 30% since 2001, all other media is slightly down. The losers are mostly weeklies and radio, though both have flattened out or improved slightly lately. The internet is not simply eating the market share of other media; instead overall media use is increasing.

There's lots and lots of detail in the survey itself: For instance, the subgroup that uses newspapers and the internet as their primary sources are an average of 45 years old and have the highest income of all subgroups; newspaper readers are more interested others in society and environment, TV-viewers are more interested in trends while internet users are more interested in information gathering. There's lots and lots of stuff on advertising, reading patterns and so on, usually with pretty graphs so there's no need to wade through lots of tables of anything.

For me, I used to read the newspaper and watch TV a lot up until I became a graduate student and the web exploded (I was a bit jealous of friends making serious money while I was toiling away at the university3). A lack of time and the flood of online info meant I largely stopped used other media, and when I graduated I had neither a TV nor a newspaper subscription any more. Then I came to Japan and didn't know a word of the language, so neither TV nor newspapers were even possible for me to enjoy. I did however read a number of newspapers - Swedish, European American and English-edition Japanese - online.

Nowadays, while i still don't watch much TV (the occasional murder mystery or documentary excepted), I'm sort of returning to the newspaper again. I usually bring last nights evening edition on the morning train, and I occasionally browse the paper on the weekend too. I like the broadsheet format and the variety of stuff. For me, the ideal subscription format would be if I could get the newspaper on paper, along with full access to the entire paper online through both my computer and phone. Maybe someday soon.

#1 I am very happy that the survey is available online, even if I didn't intend to go through it; it's reassuring that I can do so if I want to. That said, it's a fairly easy read if you want to take a look. Note that the publisher is a newspaper association, so the whole thing is pretty newspaper-centric, and the usual caveats apply about considering the source.

#2 This is much too rare in online media for some reason, and that they did makes me feel all warm and fuzzy with happiness inside. It almost makes me send them flowers for that, but they'll just have to settle for us renewing our subscription instead. Now, if they could make it an actual live link I would probably have body parts bursting with delight here.

#3 Of course, "toiling away" meant sauntering to work sometime before noon, then spend your
day with fun people, learning all you can about things you find intensely fascinating. I'm not feeling sorry for myself.

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