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A Survey: Newspaper Readership in Italy

May 6, 2011

THE AIM and THE STRUCTURE of THE SURVEY

When I created this survey, I wanted to answer the following questions: Do Italians still buy printed newspapers? How many people still purchase their morning daily? How many read the news online? I wanted to understand who buys newspapers and who doesn’t. And, for those who don’t, why. The main interest is to investigate whether or not printed newspapers are still popular in Italy.

My first research question was: Do you regularly buy a newspaper? Respondents could answer with a “yes,” a “no” or with “no, because I have a newspaper subscription.” Based on the answer the online survey directed respondents to different questions. On the print survey, instructions directed respondents to the right question.

Those who answered question 1 with a “yes,” then moved to question 2a – How often do you buy a newspaper? Those who answered question 1 with a “no,” then moved to question 2b – Why don’t you regularly buy a newspaper? Those who answered “no, because I have a subscription,” then moved to question 3 – Do you have any newspaper/magazine subscriptions?

Respondents could answer question 2a – How often do you buy a newspaper? – in four ways:

  1. Every day
  2. Three or more days per week
  3. Only on the weekend
  4. Only when I am on holiday.

Respondents could answer question 2b – Why don’t you regularly buy a newspaper? – in five ways, this time being able to select one or more answers among the following:

  1. I’m not interested in the news
  2. It costs too much
  3. I have no time to read it
  4. I read the news online
  5. I read free newspapers.

After answering questions 2a or 2b, the survey directed respondents to question 3 – Do you have any newspaper/magazine subscriptions? In case of a positive answer, respondents were asked to specify the name of the newspaper and/or magazine to which they have a subscription. The final survey question asked respondents whether they read free newspapers or not.

THE METHOD and THE SAMPLE

The questionnaire, which was kept anonymous, was conducted only in Italian because my goal was to research only Italian newspaper readership habits. I didn’t follow any scientific method, as I administered the survey to my relatives, friends and acquaintances and I asked them to do the same by sharing the survey on Facebook and on their blogs/websites, and by administering the survey in person, by telephone, and by email. Even though I didn’t follow any scientific method, I was able to reach a significant sample of 751 respondents of different ages, random geographical provenience in Italy and random social classes.

RESULTS

In total, 751 people carried out my survey. Their answers were divided by four age groups: 16 to 22 years old, 23 to 35 years old, 26 to 50, and 51 + years old (Table1). Table 1 also shows the number of respondents for each age group.

Only 34.6% of respondents declared that they regularly buy a newspaper, while only 14 out of 751 (1.8%) don’t purchase a newspaper because they already have a newspaper subscription. The majority of respondents, (63.5%), 477 out of 751, answered that they don’t regularly buy a newspaper. This is especially true for younger people: 71.4% of respondents aged between 16 and 22, and 71.8% of respondents aged between 23 and 35 declared that they don’t regularly purchase a newspaper.

As we can see from Table 2, the difference between younger and older respondents is very sharp. Only within the age group 51+, the majority of respondents declared that they regularly buy a newspaper. As we can see from Table 3, in fact, 48.7% of respondents aged 51 or older, regularly buy a newspaper while 47.5% don’t. If we consider that 6 people answered that they don’t buy a newspaper because they a subscription, we can conclude that the majority of people aged 51 and older read newspapers. However, the two people difference between those who do and those who don’t is very narrow.

The first question of the survey seems to confirm the idea that younger people do not buy newspapers anymore, while older people are more prone to.

As I said before, question 2a asked respondents who answered question 1 with a “yes” how often they purchase newspapers.  As we can see from Table 4, the majority of people (47.3%) buy a newspaper every day, 26.5% three or more days per week, 13.8% only over the weekend and 2.3% only on holiday.

Older people are more prone to buy newspapers every day. In fact, 43.9% of those who declared that they buy newspapers on a daily basis are aged 51 or older, while only 14.6% of them are aged between 16 and 22. It is also worth highlighting that, as we can see in Table 4, 34.4% of respondents said that they buy newspapers only over the weekend and only when they are on holiday, probably because that’s the only period when they have the time to read it. As I wrote in my feature article “The Changes of Journalism in the United States and Europe,” one of reasons why less people buy newspapers is because they don’t have the time to read them anymore.

Question 2b asked respondents who declared that they do not regularly buy a newspaper, why they don’t. As we can see from Table 5, it is clear that the main reason is because people can read the news online for free. In fact, 71% of respondents answered that they don’t buy newspapers because they read the news on the Internet. As we can see from Table 6, people aged between 16 and 35 are those who mostly read the news online and don’t buy newspapers because of it.

 The second most important reason is time. In fact, 27.2% of respondents declared that they don’t have the time to read newspapers. Therefore, they don’t even buy it. This, again, confirms the theory that lack of reading time is one of the main reasons why newspaper sales are declining.

Another reason is that free papers are considered replacements for paid-for newspapers. In fact, 22.4% of respondents declared that they don’t buy a newspaper because they read free newspapers. In his 2007 book L’Ultima Copia del New York Times, Vittorio Sabbadin foreshadowed that “soon the free press will begin stealing readers from paid-for newspapers.” These unofficial survey results suggest that this is already happening. Table 7 shows how popular free newspapers are. In fact, 60.8% of all respondents declared that they read the free press, while 39.2% don’t.

The survey also asked respondents whether or not they have a newspaper/magazine subscription. Of all the respondents, only 39.1% are subscribed to a newspaper or a magazine. In the article “Decline, Decline, Decline (in Italy),” I talked about the FIEG report La Stampa in Italia 2007-2009, which commented that in Italy the amount of copies sold through subscriptions is dramatically low compared to other European countries. The fact that 77.2% of respondents don’t have a newspaper/magazine subscription helps to confirm this argument.

 

Table 8 shows to which newspaper or magazine respondents have subscribed. As we can see, dailies account for only 14.6% of all subscriptions. The majority of people, in fact, subscribe to periodicals.

FINAL COMMENTS

My unofficial survey points to the possibility that few people still buy printed newspapers. The main reasons why people, especially young adults, do not purchase newspapers are the fact that they read the news online, they have no time to read it and they read free newspapers. As we have seen, the free press is really popular and the majority of people read free papers. Considering that very few people are subscribed to newspapers and/or magazine, my survey suggests that printed newspaper readership levels are very low in Italy.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. simonetta schiena permalink
    May 10, 2011 11:40

    La cosa che appare evidente è che noi “anziani” siamo più legati alla vecchia cara carta stampata e voi giovani avete altri mezzi per informarvi…ma mi auguro vivamente, per voi, che come ha affermato Federica nel suo recente articolo, il giornale stampato non venga mai soppiantato da quello on-line…semmai affiancato, integrato, arricchito….soppiantarlo sarebbe una grossa perdita.

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