This paper aims to understand the level of synergy between print and online activity and to assess the influence of print/online synergy on the log of circulation change.
In order to meet this aim the authors conducted an empirical study of 100 regional newspapers supplying news media services in the UK. Two hypotheses grounded in a conceptual model were developed. The authors used Pearson correlation and (stepwise) regression analysis to test two hypotheses (H1 and H2).
H1 provides us with some interesting findings. The first is that higher priced newspapers attract more unique Internet users and mobile Internet access. Higher priced newspapers who have been in business longer and have established brands attract more online readers. Also, because these issues are more expensive there is more incentive to go online to read the papers for free. Note that this last explanation is consistent with the analysis provided for H2, the beta for price is negative. The negative coefficient indicates that the circulation change of higher priced papers has reduced more. Therefore circulation change impacts greater upon premium price newspapers for an elite rather than a broad readership. The regression results presented here indicate that established firms with premium pricing, providing multiple platform distribution and specialist digital editions with free online content, have circulations that are reducing less.Practical implications – While reducing the rate of circulation decline, current levels of online presence are not reversing it. There is a need for online presence to be focused on more targeted segments/niches of circulation such as “hyper‐local” news. This suggests a much clearer consideration must be made by newspapers with a premium price for an elite rather than a broad readership.
News organizations now find themselves less socially relevant as consumers turn towards the Internet for alternative sources of “news”. News media firms are having to rebuild their brand identity and market positioning in the online marketplace. Higher priced newspapers have been in business longer and have established brand recognition for providing elite services. This is vital if they are to retain their community influence (as trusted sources of locally produced news, analysis and investigative reporting into public affairs). Commercial influence is determined by their social influence and the demise of newspapers would significantly threaten news plurality, democracy and public service journalism at the local community level.
The originality of this work concerns its specific focus on the influence of print/online synergy on the rate of circulation change. The news media industry is an under‐researched area of Internet scholarship. The study is significant on two counts: first, it estimates cross‐media synergies based on print and online interaction at an aggregated level; and second, it identifies different combinations of cross‐media exposure over individual media effects. It combines both print and online measures of circulation. Of most importance, the study is able to show that synergy is complementary and has had a positive effect on log circulation change by reducing it by a smaller number.
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