Within the universe of people who pay for news, the survey identifies those who subscribe to newspapers and those who do not.
In all, 54 percent of people who pay for news subscribe to a newspaper, and there are a number of differences between newspaper subscribers and subscribers of other news sources.[ref Newspaper subscribers are defined here as those who personally pay for either a print version of a newspaper, a digital-only version of a newspaper, or both print and digital versions of a newspaper. Subscribers of other news sources do not pay for any type of newspaper subscription, but subscribe to a magazine, news site, news app, or newsletter, or donate to public television, public radio, or nonprofit journalism.]
Newspaper subscribers tend to place more importance than subscribers to other news sources on being informed; they also are more likely to value the benefits associated with print (if they are print-oriented) and digital (if they are digitally oriented).
Newspaper subscribers also tend to subscribe to more publications than other kinds of news subscribers. Indeed, just 15 percent of newspaper subscribers say they pay for only one type of source. Fifty-five percent of newspaper subscribers pay for anywhere from two to four kinds of publications (i.e., print newspaper, digital newspaper, print magazine, etc.). And 30 percent of newspaper subscribers say they pay for five or more kinds of publications.
By comparison, subscribers to non-newspaper sources tend to pay for fewer types of sources. The majority, 58 percent, pay for just that one magazine or digital source. Another 4 in 10 (39 percent) pay for two to four source types. Just 3 percent pay for five or more types of publications.
Among newspaper subscribers, 84 percent are paying for a print newspaper, 38 percent are paying for a bundled print and digital newspaper subscription, and 28 percent are paying for digital-only versions of a newspaper (the numbers total to more than 100 percent because of multiple subscriptions). A majority of newspaper subscribers also pay for a print magazine, which is the other most popular publication type.
Among those who pay for news, the only major demographic difference between newspaper subscribers and subscribers of other news sources is age. Seventy percent of adults age 65 and older who pay for news subscribe to a newspaper compared with 46 percent of those 18-34 years old, 46 percent of those 35-49 years old, and 52 percent of those 50-64 years old.
Newspaper subscribers also tend to be more avid news consumers than subscribers of other news sources. In particular, newspaper subscribers are more likely to actively seek out news, get news multiple times a day, and say it is very important to them to personally follow news.
Interestingly, newspaper subscribers use social media at identical rates to subscribers of other kinds of news. Sixty-nine percent of newspaper subscribers get news on social media, about the same as subscribers to other sources.
The other biggest difference between newspaper subscribers and those of other kinds of publications is the topics people are interested in.
Both groups tend to follow national politics, traffic, weather, sports, and crime and public safety. Newspaper subscribers are more likely to also say they follow news about local politics (19 percent vs. 12 percent). Subscribers of other news sources are more likely to say they follow foreign or international news (13 percent vs. 9 percent).
A majority of newspaper subscribers have paid for their paper for more than five years. At the same time, 1 in 10 newspaper subscribers started paying in the last three months.
People subscribe to newspapers for a variety of reasons, many of them similar to the reasons they cite for subscribing to other kinds of news. But there are some factors for newspapers that stand out. One of them is social connection. Nearly half of newspaper subscribers (46 percent) say they decided to pay in part because their friends or family used, compared with 34 percent of subscribers to other kinds of publications.
Other popular reasons among newspaper subscribers for starting to pay for the source are that they were looking for a news source that covers a topic well (42 percent) and there was a promotion or discount (37 percent), but all of these are similar to the reasons people subscribe to any news.
Going down the list, 2 in 10 newspaper subscribers say they were hitting a pay meter, and only about 1 in 10 say they saw the source on social media.
What about motivations for paying? Are newspaper subscribers different than subscribers in general?
The answer is they tend to be a little more civically minded in their answers than subscribers to other kinds of publications.
For instance, newspaper subscribers tend to place a lot of importance on their news source helping them be a better citizen than subscribers to other publications (55 percent vs. 37 percent) and less importance on a publication being entertaining (36 percent vs. 50 percent). Subscribers of all publications care about that outlet doing a good job of covering an issue that matters to them (about half across the board).
And even though many newspaper subscribers say they tend to prefer print, it would be a mistake to think they only engage with the newspaper that way.
Indeed, newspaper subscribers tell us they engage with their sources in a variety of ways related to both print and digital.
As an example, newspaper subscribers are even more likely than subscribers of other publications to share content (56 percent vs. 39 percent). About a quarter of newspaper subscribers follow the paper on social media and use its app (same as subscribers to other publications).
When asked about the benefits they receive from their newspaper subscriptions, features related to print versions are the most popular. Nearly half say they like the coupons or discounts while about 1 in 3 say they get access to print in addition to digital content. Only 14 percent say they get an unlimited number of digital stories.
Newspaper subscribers are also more likely than subscribers of other sources to say they like the coupons or discounts and that they get access to print in addition to digital content.
The majority of newspaper subscribers seem fine with the price they pay. Fifty-two percent of newspaper subscribers say the price of the paper is a very small cost while 38 percent say it is a moderate cost and 9 percent say it is a significant cost. Subscribers to other types of news are even more likely to say the cost is small. Sixty-six percent of subscribers to other sources say it is a small cost, 25 percent say a moderate cost, and 5 percent say a significant cost.
But there is some sign that people are worried about the flip side of the price of newspapers—the value they get for what they pay.
Indeed, 28 percent of newspaper subscribers say the paper is a very good value. Almost twice as many (52 percent) say it is a fair value. And 20 percent say it is overpriced. This suggests that newspapers may have gotten close to the point where they have raised prices about as far as they can. The majority think the price is now fair, and almost as many subscribers think it is too high than think it is too low.
By contrast, subscribers to other kinds of publications indicate there is still room. Here, a majority of subscribers to other news sources say it is a very good value (55 percent), 33 percent say it is a fair value, and only 9 percent say it is overpriced.
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