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Don Smith: Newspapers are good business in W.Va.

Oct. 07, 2012 @ 12:11 AM

With National Newspaper Week slated for Oct. 7-13, the West Virginia Press Association is marking the industry observation by sharing its latest readership numbers for daily newspapers in the Mountain State.

The WVPA, after collecting print and online reader estimates from the state's 22 daily publications and comparing them to totals from 1982, finds that newspaper industry readership has increased 11 percent during the last 30 years.

With both print and online editions providing greater access to our news reports each day, newspapers in West Virginia are able to reach more and more people. The newspaper industry is embracing the Internet as another delivery method and using online editions to access readers at home, at work and 24 hours a day. Many newspapers report their websites are the most visited sites in their communities, often by a wide margin.

In 1982, West Virginia had a population of 1,949,644 and the state's daily newspapers were print-only with a daily circulation of 495,431. Today, West Virginia has a population of 1,855,354 and the state's daily newspapers have an estimated daily print circulation and unique online viewer total of 548,370.

Those within the newspaper industry know how much the communities and readers value our newspapers. As the theme for National Newspaper Week states, "Newspaper: The cornerstone of your community." An 11 percent growth -- especially from an already dominating period in terms of media influence -- is exciting. We should also note that with the state's population declining in that 30-year period, that growth in readership means our newspapers are reaching an additional 4 percent of the total West Virginia population each day.

The numbers are conservative in that they don't reflect the fact that, in many households and businesses, multiple people read the same newspaper or use the same computer to view newspaper websites. The employment and reader/viewer numbers don't yet reflect the totals for the state's 59 weekly newspapers.

No one can dispute the impact of the Internet on the newspaper industry; we have noticed, however, that most analysis only addresses the change in print circulation. We must also look at the growth of online viewers. The development of online readership has dramatically increased the newspaper industry's total customer base and its influence.

West Virginia newspapers are getting their message to more people each day and a greater percentage of the population than they were 30 years ago, a time when newspapers were widely considered the dominant media force in West Virginia. That's a story West Virginia newspapers need to tell more often. Our readers, advertisers, local officials and leaders need to know we continue to build market share and influence in West Virginia.

Overall, there are 81 newspapers in West Virginia, located in all 55 counties. The WVPA poll of the 22 daily newspapers found that 2,950 people directly receive income from the production or delivery of daily newspapers in West Virginia.

How important are 2,950 jobs in today's economy? By way of comparison, state officials are still ecstatic -- after granting a $20 million incentive package -- to have a Macy's distribution center in Berkeley County that will employ 1,200 people. The newspaper industry offers jobs and careers. The positions are stable, varied and located in some of the most beautiful places in West Virginia. Great places to raise a family and build a life.

We think there are many reasons to celebrate National Newspaper Week. Newspapers are good business in West Virginia.

Don Smith is executive director of the West Virginia Press Association, which has headquarters in Charleston.

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