Country readers see the printed copy of their newspaper as an essential service, according to a major survey.
A string of regional newspapers either shut or stopped print editions during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
The national survey of almost 4,200 found that the majority (71%) of country readers like hard copies in their hands rather than read news online.
One reader in the survey said of the local newspaper: “The day it goes digital only will be the day I stop reading it.”
The survey also found that respondents overwhelmingly (86%) view a printed copy of their newspaper as an essential service.
The researchers (Kristy Hess at Deakin University and Lisa Waller at RMIT) say this fits with their previous research that has advocated for the federal government to recognise the vital importance of the printed paper to regional communities.
“While the average age of our survey respondents was 60-61, this demographic will continue to represent a large portion of local news readership for many years,” they write.
“This means local news organisations need strategies to aid the transition for all audiences into digital formats and/or advocate for the survival of the printed product in the interests of social connection and democracy.”
The latest research is part of a project to drive greater innovation in the rural and regional media landscape.
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