Reports of the newspaper's demise have been greatly inflated.
"More people today read newspapers", "The biggest increase over past decade in younger group", read recent headlines in The Ottawa Citizen. In 1994, readership amongst 18 to 24 year olds grew the most to 64 percent in 1994, up from 57 per cent in 1984. These figures are the result of a survey conducted in 32 Canadian cities consisting of 24,000 interviews.
Important to furniture retailers, the affluent 50 to 64 age group are the biggest newspaper readers, up to 73 per cent from 70 per cent 10 years ago. In fact, every category in the demographic spectrum has surged. And it's not just reader numbers. Time spent by all groups with daily newspapers has also expanded across the board.
Why then the negative perception about the health of Canadian daily newspapers? According to Chris Cobb of the Southamstar Network it's "a mixture of domestic reality and imported myth". In 1989 when the recession hit, advertising revenues and circulation (copies sold) dipped. But readership (copies read) increased. In the U.S., however, significant readership was lost. Perhaps not forever. Said Charles Dunbar of the Canadian Daily Newspaper Association, "Some American papers are monopoly products. They get a monopoly in the market, then provide the least costly product. If people turn off the monopoly newspaper, they've turned off newspapers." But then consider The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Washington Post. Plenty to restore one's faith in the medium.
Michael Adams, president of the survey company Environic said, "When television came along, everyone predicted the end of radio, but it didn't happen. We seem to absorb more media into out lives. Certainly the future for Canadian newspapers is good. Our baby boomers are probably the most literate group in history, and they put great value in print."
Of course, television permits us to see the news, to even vicariously become a part of it, but it's a fleeting moment, the passing scene. Print stays with us. We scan our morning newspaper with our coffee, put it down and read it again. We use it as reference for cultural, entertainment and sporting events, births and deaths, editorials become talking points at our dinner tables, we find new careers, homes, significant others and sofas through ads, which, if cleverly written and laid out, catch our eyes and ultimately our pocketbooks.
More people are reading newspapers, and home furnishings retailers are cashing in.
Every region reflects different demographics, different needs. Take London, Ontario, for example. Located in southwestern Ontario with a population of approximately 350,000, it's an industrial, commercial and financial centre in the richest agricultural district of the Province of Ontario. With more diversification than the average city its size, there's a high proportion of professional and white collar workers linked with the University of Western Ontario, its affiliated colleges and renowned research/ teaching medical centre. London's streets and bridges are named after those of old London, its British namesake. Actor Hume Cronyn's ancestor, Benjamin Cronyn, the Anglican Rector of London in 1832, was one of the city's fathers.
More people in the city of London are reading newspapers.KINGSMILL'S
The London Free Press reports 312,300 adult residents over the age of 18. Of these citizens, over 195,200 read The Free Press on an average weekday, 212,200 read the paper on Saturday and 257,000 read The Free Press at least once a week. Average reading time on weekdays, 43 minutes and on Saturdays, 62 minutes. There's an almost even gender split with a feminine edge, over 70 per cent enjoy household incomes over $50,000 (Canadian), more than 60 per cent have some post secondary education and 70 per cent-plus own their own homes.
Tim Kingsmill, of Kingsmill's Department Store, told us that newspaper advertising has "Proven itself to us. We distributed a flyer through The London Free Press in January. It had great impact. We married our own customer list with The Free Press' home delivery list and discovered where we had high areas of penetration." Kingsmill believes that "Good photographs are key" as is color. "We use color on the covers of our flyers."
PATTON'S PLACEHUSTON'S FINE FURNITURE:
Patton's Place "Advertises very aggressively. We run half to full pages daily, some days even three pages," said Ron Logan. "We use electronic media to back up our newspaper campaigns. We see a surge when we advertise. We just ran our annual markdown sale and traffic was doubled!"
"My success definitely comes from newsprint!" declares Vern Huston, Huston's Fine Furniture. "Radio and television have become diluted in this region with 50 television channels and seven radio stations. Our advertising has to work for us. You've got to make sure it's communicating the right image and that it's cost effective."
ETHAN ALLAN: "We just opened a month ago and we've placed two ads so far. Both have pulled customers in," said Grant Wilson, of Ethan Allan. "Even with mediocre weather we had good response. Of course people still read newspapers. People with money to spend are reading The Free Press."
JENNINGS FURNITURE: Jennings' Furniture is located in St. Thomas, a town about 50 Kilometers from London. "We use The Free Press. A lot of our business comes from London," explained owner Bruce Hammond, great-grandson of Jennings' founder. "We do business through newspapers, some radio and, of course, a lot through word of mouth with a store with our longevity in the community. But people do read the papers. We also advertise in the St. Thomas Times Journal and Elgin County Market, both dailies."
Assess your competition, consider your niche, get creative and use your local newspapers.
Remember, people are reading newspapers!