King 5 just released the results of a short SurveyUSA poll of newspaper readership habits in Washington State. The results, while not particularly surprising, are a snapshot of how quickly the public is changing its news consumption habits.
The days when just about everyone subscribed to, and read, a daily newspaper are long gone: Only 40 percent of those surveyed said they read a newspaper regularly, with another third saying they read one occasionally. Even more ominous for the dailies, the generation gap is huge. 70 percent of those 65 and older still read a newspaper regularly, while only 19 percent of 18-34 year olds do (interesting side note: Republicans are more avid newspaper readers than Democrats, 48 percent to 38 percent).
Newspaper web sites are not quite making up the gap, though there the future looks brighter. While only 31 percent of respondents say they regularly read newspaper articles online, 38 percent of 18-34 year olds say they do, compared to only 16 percent of 65 and older adults. And the Internet has surpassed newspapers as a primary local news source – 16 percent of respondents said they got most of their local news online, compared to 15 percent who said they got most of their news from reading newspapers (TV is still king, with 56 percent of respondents listing television as their primary news source, while radio finished fourth with 11 percent).
Charging for content online, or putting it behind a subscription wall? Don't even think about it. It’s suicide – only 7 percent of respondents were willing to pay to read newspaper articles online, and that number is consistent across age groups. And only 17 percent said they would be willing to "subscribe to an online newspaper," though these figures do not seem particularly significant—any online news venture, like a possible online-only P-I, would be insane not to offer its content for free to anyone who visited the web site.
So, to sum up: Print is on the way out, online is on the rise, people like free news and—shocking—they still watch a lot of TV.