Circulation Community Journalism

The readers we have vs. the readers we want: a circulation dilemma

One of the dilemmas faced by any medium is the extent to which journalists give readers what they want – no matter what that is.

So do we cater to the needs of the readers we have, or do we try to include content that reaches the readers we want?  And if we do that, what if the readers we want never see the content we included to reach them?

Obviously, there are no easy answers.  And newspapers aren’t alone in wrestling with this.  There are movies that win awards and movies that draw huge box office – and often those are two different kinds of movies.  The questions that must be answered:  Do we give our audience what it wants or what we think it needs?  And do we cater to our current audience or the one we’re trying to reach?

We had a note this week from Rick Craig of the Hood County News.  We applaud the News for trying to find some answers in light of a recent readership study.  Here’s what Rick wrote:

We recently completed a readership survey. We polled current subscribers and past subscribers that did not renew their subscription to our twice-weekly community newspaper. One thing that came from the survey is that our readers (both past and present) do not care much for sports, school district news or news about school activities. This is understandable since more than 73 percent of those responding to the survey are age 55-plus.

 This leads to the question that I am sure is being asked in many newspapers: Do we continue or increase the school news and sports in our paper to attract the parents of those participating in these events? Or do we cut back on those areas and focus on the areas that have a greater impact on our current readers?

 If we cut back on the news for parents with school-age children, are we giving up on acquiring younger readers to replace our older one?

Rick asked that we share the questions they are wrestling with at the News, and solicit input from other Texas newspapers.  You may not have done the survey, but as our readership ages, we all probably have similar issues.

Have you made significant adjustments to your content to appeal to a certain demographic?

And perhaps most important, what are you doing to reach younger readers?