Newspaper outlooks remain positive

MiC speaks with the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post about 2011 readership gains in different markets and demographics.

With the amount of negative chatter around the death of print, one would assume that it’s due for its last supper any day now. However, the latest reports from Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank) and the Print Measurement Bureau (PMB) beg to differ, with both reporting last week that print readership of newspapers and magazines is staying the course, if not slightly rising.

According to the NADbank report, the Globe and Mail saw a 5% increase in its weekday readership and a 13% increase in weekly online readership in 2011, Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO, the Globe and Mail tells MiC, adding that there are certain pockets in which the publication has come up relatively strong. For instance, the newspaper has seen a 24% increase in readership in Vancouver, as well as with women, receiving 23% more female readers between the ages of 18 and 24, and a 34% growth among female readers aged 25 to 34.

Crawley attributes the Globe’s demographic growth, in particular, to its investment in a more sleek print design and female-geared content such as the Style and the Life sections of the paper. The paper also recently announced it is expanding its Style section with a bi-annual magazine.

“Over the years we have evolved the content of the paper, it’s much more of a balanced mix,” he says. “Traditionally the Globe was strong in news, business and politics, and we still are. But, we’ve added [lifestyle] sections and women generally like the presentation, the style and the design.”

With regards to the growth on the West Coast, Crawley says that it’s been an area of focus for the paper for years now, ever since it launched its BC version in 2005, and that it was the 2010 Vancouver Olympics that really helped the Globe show the province what it was made of and propel its growth.

While print has taken precedence for the Globe and Mail, Bob Hepburn, columnist and reporter at the Toronto Star says that the newspaper he writes for is focusing more on its digital offerings in order to attract a younger audience. And in the last year, the Star saw the fruits of its labour in the form of a 25% growth in digital readership among adults aged 25 to 34, according to NADbank.

“We are continually increasing our efforts on the digital side, not only on the website but also what we’re doing for mobile devices,” says Hepburn, adding that that content has also steered younger, with more offerings in entertainment, career and personal finance news as well as technology.

For the National Post, the emphasis is on reaching small business managers, says Douglas Kelly, publisher of the Postmedia-owned paper, adding that in 2011, the publication saw an increase of 61% in readership from small to medium business owners with less than 100 employees. The paper also recently expanded its reach into the small business market with the launch of group-buying site GaggleBiz.

“We are certainly, in terms of our content, putting a lot of emphasis on commentary and analysis,” he says. “I think in today’s modern media world where there is just so much out there, people are hankering for some heft what would otherwise be commoditized news.”

Though the present state of print in Canada, according to the recent reports, is on the positive side, Crawley says that there are many more opportunities for publications to ramp up readership.

“There is still plenty of growth to go, [the Globe] is not in any way feeling that ‘this is as good as it gets’ or that its stagnant,” he says. “There’s [still] plenty of opportunity.”