Normally, when something like stocks reach new highs, that’s a good thing. But in the case of the newspaper industry, it’s a mixed bag. as is the case with a new report from the National Association of Newspapers that shows that the digital audience for newspapers reached a record high in August.
According to the report, newspapers had 164 million total unique visitors during the month—an 18% increase from the previous year—topping the previous high of 161 million visitors set in March of this year.
Highlights from the report show that there was broad growth across all age groups with the fastest growth being among young women 18-24.
- Eight in 10 (80%) U.S. adults who were online in August accessed newspaper digital content, also a new peak.
- Over the past year, young women (ages 18-24) were the fastest-growing segment of the newspaper digital audience, rising 38%.
- More than nine in 10 (92%) women ages 25-34 read newspaper digital content, the greatest reach among any age or gender.
- Those who use only mobile devices — smartphones or tablets — to access newspaper digital media, now exceed those who use only desktop/laptop computers and those who used both kinds of machines during the month.
The biggest growth in usage came from those who used mobile-only devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.), jumping 102% from the previous year, compared to a 16% increase that use only desktop or laptops to access the news.
Young women 18-24 again led the way with an increase of 204% compared to last year, followed by men 35-44 at 188%. One of most surprising increases came from women 55+, which surged by 122%, or more than double the increase by men of the same age who accessed their news using a mobile platform.
While this all seems like good or encouraging news for the newspaper industry, the NAN report fails to discuss how the growth in digital affects newspaper profits. That’s because, despite the surge, profits are minimal or non-existent.
There is little doubt that digital news access will continue to grow over time, and that more people will receive it on their mobile devices. But the problem for newspapers is that their investments in providing digital news yields little in the way of advertising revenues, which is the main driver of profits. And until newspapers figure out how to monetize their digital properties, their long-term prospects will remain uncertain at best.