Where do small-town residents prefer to get their news and information? Radio? Wrong. News blogs? Wrong. Word of mouth? Wrong again.
According to a survey conducted by the research arm of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, folks in communities like Decorah prefer their local newspapers for news and information ... and it's no contest.
The survey, now in its seventh year, was conducted in small U.S. towns and cities where the circulation size of the local newspaper is 15,000 or less.
National Newspaper Association President Merle Baranczyk, publisher of the Mountain Mail in Salida, Colo., said the survey shows that without a doubt, people read their community newspapers.
"The numbers are self-evident. They indicate a level of connectedness people have with their local paper," Baranczyk said. "From year to year, the studies have shown people believe in their paper for the news they need and the advertising they rely on."
The study showed that 71 percent of the respondents read a community newspaper at least once a week.
On average, readers of the 2012 survey spent 39.92 minutes reading local newspapers. Similar to previous research, 96 percent of readers paid for their newspaper; 75 percent read all or most of their newspaper; 44 percent keep their paper for more than 10 days; and an impressive 77.4 percent read the paper for local news and information.
The vast majority of local readers continue to regard community newspapers as highly valuable and important sources of information about their communities: 92 percent think local newspapers are informative; 83 percent agree they and their families rely on the newspaper for local news and information; 69 percent think the newspapers provide valuable local shopping and advertising information; and 75 percent agree local newspapers entertain them.
Of those who have access to the Internet, 49 percent reported they had "never" read local news online, suggesting residents in small towns and cities still rely on print newspapers for local news.
In addition, 71 believe the accuracy of their local paper is either "good" or "excellent;" 70 percent believe the coverage is either "good" or "excellent;" and 59 percent believe the fairness of their local paper is either "good" or "excellent."
When asked about their preference for the source of information about local communities, 53 percent prefer "newspaper" over other local media outlets such as TV, radio, etc.
"As a company serving the community-newspaper industry, we are not at all surprised that the survey found residents of small towns and communities remain avid readers and supporters of their local newspapers," said Bill Garber, Interlink founder and owner.
Baranczyk said that often local surveys confirm NNA survey finding. "In Salida, a recent city survey asked where residents get their news of the city and events. About 86.9 percent said the newspaper. "I believe in small towns and cities across the country, these percentages are the norm rather than the exception."
The conclusion is simple: To stay completely informed, read your local newspaper.