Few sectors witnessed the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic like the print media industry. The coronavirus crisis put journalism’s future in peril, hitting the newspaper sector—already on shaky ground due to years of plummeting ad revenues—with yet another economic downturn, as companies in every sector affected by the disaster scaled back their advertising budgets, setting off another round of closures and layoffs in the print publishing world.
Other news media publishers successfully staved off this economic fallout by pivoting to digital platforms, as the pandemic simultaneously drove an unprecedented sea-change in Americans’ media consumption habits, with many turning to online media as their primary source of news and information.
But as it turns out, print remains a widely-used and highly-valued resource among many. According to a survey commissioned by graphic communications non-profit Two Sides North America, large numbers of Americans still depend on print newspapers, magazines and books to stay informed and entertained.
The survey, which sought to uncover Americans’ media consumption habits now that work- travel- and leisure-related restrictions are being lifted across the country, found that nearly three in 10 respondents (29 percent) still prefer to read newspapers in print—a figure that climbs to more than four in 10 among respondents over the age of 55.
More than a third (38 percent) said they also still prefer to read magazines in print. Among those over 55, that figure jumped to nearly half (49 percent). For Americans over 65, the number accounts for nearly two-thirds (63 percent).
Nearly half of all respondents (44 percent) said they still prefer to read books in print.
As might be expected, the Two Sides survey discovered that younger adults prefer to consume media digitally (particularly among those ages 18–24). But even among that audience, more than a quarter (27 percent) said they prefer to read books in print.
Nearly half of all respondents (44 percent) said they feel they gain a better understanding of a news story when reading it in print versus online. Additionally, half of all respondents (49 percent) said they’d be concerned if print news were to disappear.
More than half (58 percent) of respondents said they intend to read more news online in the future, though nearly the same number (52 percent) also admitted they spend too much time on their electronic devices.
Two Sides’ survey, “Paper’s Place in a Post-Pandemic World,” was conducted by global research firm Toluna and polled 1,000 U.S. adults in January.