The mass media play a critical role in disseminating information to the public. Forms of media such as radio, television, and print newspapers agencies have continued to enjoy massive goodwill as well as the support of progressive governments. The nature of support that the media systems receive from the public is evident in their growth over the past decades. Nevertheless, the advent of internet technology has altered dissemination of information significantly. Print newspapers in particular, have witnessed declining readership statistics across the world. The variation in the newspaper readership varies from one country to another and among different societies.
For example, readership culture in Europe is higher than the readership culture in the United States. Moreover, readership culture in developing countries is lower than that in developed countries. This means that readership of newspaper is dependent on cultural and social settings of the population. The media systems across the world have raised concerns over the underlying factors behind the decline in newspaper readership. An analysis by Elvestad and Blekesaune (2008) on newspaper readership trends in Europe reveals that individual differences such as gender, age, household income, and education level are some of the major factors that cause the discrepancies, which are apparent in the patterns of newspaper readership.
Basing on the apparent trends of newspaper readership, the media systems predict that the future of newspapers seems untenable because of the increasing decline in newspaper readership. Hence, it is imperative for the media systems to establish factors that cause decline in newspaper readership trends and put appropriate remedial measures to prevent the collapse of print media industry. The advent of information technology is a significant factor that has contributed to the decline in readership of print newspapers because people prefer searching for appropriate information from online sources than searching in the newspapers. To ascertain what causes newspaper readership to decline, this study seeks to explore factors that could be causing the decline in readership of print newspapers.
Finding out the cause of the decline could be a key pointer to the strategies to revive a strong readership culture in the United States and consequently across the world. Therefore, to achieve this goal, the purpose of the study is to examine the influence of age, gender and education level on the newspaper readership patterns.
Newspaper readership is on the decline across the world. The decline in the trend of newspaper readership has greatly alarmed media systems to establish factors that have contributed to its decline. The establishment of factors that cause decline in newspaper readership is essential because the declining trends calls for a shift of attention from measures to revive a strong readership culture to enhancement of understanding of the causal factors. A number of factors have been identified by past studies as among the factors that have influence on newspaper readership. For instance, Elvestad and Blekesaune (2008) note that the gender dictates the readership culture of an individual as men appear to be frequent readers when compared to women. The study employed comparative study by examining trends of newspaper readership in 23 countries. The study conducted to analyze the manner in which both national and individual variations influence the pattern of newspaper readership within a population revealed that gender is one of the major factors that influence newspaper readership.
The study by Elvestad and Blekesaune (2008) sought to find out the average time each participant sets aside on a normal weekday to read a newspaper. In responding to the question, the respondents, adults from 23 different European countries, were expected to respond to the question by giving the specific amount of time they spent reading a newspaper. The results of the study showed that men spent more time with newspapers. Thus, the study concluded that men are frequent readers of newspapers than women. This supports the assertion that that gender influences news readership among the population.
In a different study, Chan and Goldthorpe (2007) sought to establish a link between social status and newspaper readership. Since the education level defines the social status of a person in the society, it determines newspaper readership among the population. The study assumed that educational attainment is a parameter that enhances newspaper readership because higher levels of education increase the information processing capacity of individuals (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2007). In other words, education level increases demand of information among the population. This means that individuals with higher education levels demand more information than those with lower education levels. The study targeted adults in the contemporary British society with both males and females participating in the study.
The general assumption made by the study was that individuals with higher information-processing capacity, that is higher educational attainment, were more likely to read newspapers as compared to those with lower educational attainment levels (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2007). Since study also sought to establish the relationship between social status and newspaper readership, the analysis took a multivariate approach. The study results showed that the information-processing hypothesis was true. Higher educational attainment correlated positively with newspaper readership. The study thus concluded that individuals with higher levels of education spent more time reading newspapers than their counterparts with lower educational levels.
Elsewhere, Coelho (2008) conducted a study to find out the influence of age on newspaper readership. The assumptions that underpinned the study were that the layout of the front page of a newspaper determined which age groups were most likely to read it. This was outlined in two hypotheses; the first one claimed that younger readers are attracted to images while the second one claimed that older readers are more attracted to printed headlines. The study involved two groups, which comprised of individuals of different age groups. The first group was made of eight adults aged between 40 to 50 years while the second group comprised eight young adults aged between 15 to 18 years (Coelho, 2008). The two groups were presented with two categories of newspaper quality where one category consisted of multicolored front pages with attractive graphics while the other was slightly dull.
The analysis was conducted by making a careful note of the entry points of the individuals on the newspapers and their reading paths. This approach served to identify the portions of the newspapers that captured the attention of the readers first. The results of the study showed that the older readers stick to a linear pattern of reading, which is dictated by the relevance of the information as presented on the newspaper cover page. Younger readers for their part were less restricted by the relevance of information on the cover page and showed a clear affinity for the images (Coelho, 2008). The conclusion was that even though the study was plagued by limitations due to the number of respondents that participated and the number newspapers used, the findings confirmed that age had an effect on the readership behaviors of individuals.
The review of literature opens a window that gives insight into the factors that affect trends or patterns of newspaper readership among the population. Although, there may be other factors that influence the patterns of newspaper readership among people of all age groups, the dominant ones are age, gender, and education level. Elvestad and Blekesaune (2008) argues that age, gender, household income, and the level of education are some of the dominant factors that influence newspaper readership in Europe. Similar factors also influence newspaper readership in the United States and other developed countries.
Empirical studies conducted in the past strongly point to the fact that the independent variables of this study (age, gender, and education level) have an influence on the patterns of readership. This influence forms the basis of unearthing the causes of the dwindling newspaper readership trends that is evident across the world. However, the decline in newspaper readership poses a great challenge to the newspaper industry because it compels it balance the expectations of all individuals by considering their age, education level, and gender. Hence, for a newspaper to be competitive, it must overcome challenges in the newspaper market because it is becoming differentiating itself as time elapses.
The first hypothesis states that men are frequent readers of newspapers than women. This implies that gender is a factor that influence newspaper readership among the population. Past research shows that gender has an influence on the newspaper readership patterns. Elvestad and Blekesaune (2008) conducted a study that revealed that men spend more time reading newspapers than women. The findings show that there is gendered interest of information that newspaper provide. This means that men are common consumers of newspaper information while women are rare consumers of newspaper information. Thus, this study supports the hypothesizes that men are frequent readers of newspapers than women
The second hypothesis predicts that individuals with higher levels of education tend to frequent readers of newspapers than individuals who have lower levels of education. The differences in newspaper readership across the people due to their educational level depict how educational level increases the demand of information. A study conducted by Chan and Goldthorpe (2007) concluded that the level of educational attainment has a bearing on newspaper readership. In agreement with that study, this study assumes that individuals with a higher degree of education are frequent readers than individuals with lower degree of education.
The third hypothesis of the study states that the frequency of reading newspapers among the population increases with age. In this view, the study assumes that older people are frequent readers than younger people. In a study conducted by Coelho (2008), age was found to have an influence on newspaper readership patterns, as older people spend more time reading newspapers than younger people. Although age is a dominant factor, other variables such as the level of income mediate the trend of newspaper readership among the population. Hence, this study predicts that frequency of reading newspapers among population increases with an increase in age.
Chan, T. W., & Goldthorpe, J. H. (2007). Social Status and Newspaper Readership. American Journal of Sociology, 112(4), 1095-1134. Web.
Coelho, Z. P. (2008). Front Page Layout and Reading Paths: The Influence of Age on Newspaper Reading. Studies in Communication, 4(1), 1-14. Web.
Elvestad, E., & Blekesaune, A. (2008). Newspaper Readers in Europe: A Multilevel Study of Individual and National Differences. European Journal of Communication, 23(4), 425-447. Web.