Paper readers fall to 41% not good news for community journalism

Newspaper readership down to 41% - but is there a future for the alternative?
Newspaper readership down to 41% – but is there a future for the alternative?

NEW RESEARCH HAS revealed that fewer people than ever are purchasing newspapers in Scotland – with only 41% saying they still read one or more daily newspapers.

A new Scottish Social Attitudes study shows that while over 75% of people were still reading newspapers at the turn of the century just 15 years later that has crumbled.

Most recent sales figures by newspapers in 2014 demonstrated a decline for all of the major titles – but newspaper owners will be concerned at the rate of that decline in readership, which had fallen below 50% just six years ago.

During the same period online publications have shown a steady increase – helped by the move by many titles towards subscription-based internet editions. The study also shows that those in the 25-44 age group are the most likely to access online news with those in the over-65 age group the least likely to do so.

The attitudes study was conducted by ScotCen Social Research, for whom Rachel Ormiston said: “It is clear that the way we consume news is constantly evolving, with one in three of us now reading news online on a daily basis.

“While the figure still lags behind the four in 10 who say they read a daily newspaper regularly, newspapers’ struggles for sales are reflected in the very steep decline in regular readers we have recorded over the last 15 years.”

insideMoray Editor’s Comment

“I doubt very many readers on insideMoray will be surprised at these findings – clearly, the increased use by so many of Social Media has fanned the flames of online news content – and for some time that has been increasing in ferocity.

“Perhaps it will surprise people to know that I have mixed feelings over this.  We still need professional journalists working for national and local media outlets – but that cannot happen if the current trend continues and that should be of concern to us all.

“In addition tighter regulation is coming on how and who reports the news in Scotland via the McCluskey Report, which in 2013 recommended a raft of legal changes. This could, quite possibly, be the end of publications such as ours.

“Senior politicians have already expressed their fears over media control regulation – Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie warned two years ago that McCluskey went too far, saying ‘to include every source of news coverage would result in a torrent of complaints about every website, every blog, every single tweet.’

“We are now fast approaching a vital crossroads in news delivery. I am well aware as owner and editor of this site that there is a strong following for our brand of unhindered, non-aligned and completely free daily news and opinion.

“But if we are faced with new legal restrictions then we cannot survive any more than the current newspaper industry can survive the steady decline in readership it is having to endure.

“In general, people in Scotland increasingly expect their news to be delivered regularly, accurately and free of charge.

“That might well spell the end for sites such as insideMoray – and any new independent and free sites, as they could well be strangled at birth by reporting regulations and a lack of funding.”