April 22, 2004

New Readership Study: Culture Counts

A new study by the Readership Institute - released at the ASNE convention - focuses on attracting younger and more diverse readers to newspapers and on overcoming the internal cultural barriers that inhibit innovation.

A presentation (6 megs) by the institute to ASNE is rife with stark, direct language that declares "your newspaper is in peril" and warns that "your employees - and too many managers - still believe young adults will read newspaper more as they age."

The institute offers a three-part strategy:

 Get into heads of your young and diverse readers.
 Move from tweaking newspaper to continuous readership innovation.
 Build organization with multi-year readership strategy that expects and rewards readership growth.

The study also creates a "Ready to Innovate" index that measures, among other things, newsroom culture and enumerates several employee-related characteristics that indicate a newspaper's willingness to take chances. Among them:

 Their employees are much more "engaged" with the newspaper - that is, they are not only present for work and performing to standard, but often perform above standard and are deeply involved in helping the newspaper succeed in its goals.
 They are better at articulating the mission and involving employees in decisions that affect them and the business.
 They provide more training and development.
 They have a higher proportion of female and non-white employees - and they are in positions of influence.

There's much more, including some classic change-resistant comments from a study of more than 6,600 newspaper employees -- "It's not my responsibility," for example - and interesting high-level points about how newspaper need to provide readers, especially younger readers, with positive readership experiences (such as the paper gives me "something to talk about" or it "makes me smarter") instead of negative ones (such as the newspapers "discriminates and stereotypes" or that it is "too much" to read).

Like all research, one conclusion doesn't fit all, but the Readership Institute is on the right track, examining not only potential reader behavior and current newsroom conditions, but how the latter influences the former.

They are a couple of slideshows up at the Readership Institute site. Read them. Have a positive experience.

 Readership Institute In Their Own Words: How to Win Readers (Powerpoint 6 megs)
 Readership Institute Background notes on the study

Posted by Tim Porter at April 22, 2004 07:56 AM