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Young people spend almost twice as much time with newspapers in print than they do online, new research published today (7 December) has found. 

The report, 'Has digital distribution rejuvenated readership? Revisiting the age demographics of newspaper consumption', shows that in 2016, 65 per cent of the time spent with newspapers brands by their 18-34 year old readers came via their print editions – that's a total of 21.7 billion minutes, compared to 11.9 billion minutes spent accessing the websites and apps of the same publications.

The report, published in the Journalism Studies journal, is a follow-up from a project carried out earlier in 2017, which found 89 per cent of UK national newspaper reading is still in print.

The latest research digs deeper into the age of media consumers and how their habits have changed over time, from 2000 to 2016, calculating the total time spent with eight UK newspaper brands by their British print and online audiences, using data from the National Readership Survey and comScore.

"We are interested in the time that people spend with newspaper brands, because this allows us to compare online and print audiences in a way you can't easily do if you just look at readership," said Neil Thurman, professor at City, University of London and LMU University of Munich, and one of the report's authors.

"For instance, if you just look at the numbers that a brand is reaching, you're missing out on the fundamental differences in the way that people consume information in print and online – print readers spend a lot more time than online readers."

For example, newspapers' Monday-Friday print editions are read for an average of 23 minutes a day by their 18-34 year-old readers, but the 18-34s only spend an average of 43 seconds a day with the same brands online.

One exception to this was the Daily Mail, where young UK readers spent twice as much time with the publisher online than in print, which Thurman and co-author Richard Fletcher, researcher at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, attributed to its editorial approach focused on entertainment and celebrities.

Thurman explained that despite falls in the circulation of newspapers and increases in news consumption via smartphones, print editions provide an experience that consumers like to invest time in.

However, as expected, the time spent reading newspapers has dropped considerably (40 per cent) since the turn of the millennium, and the time spent by 18-34 year olds with newspapers brands has dropped by 64 per cent.

"The time spent by audiences reading the London Evening Standard and the Guardian has gone up since 2000, because the former (up 17 per cent) became a freesheet, and the Guardian (up 19 per cent) has a successful readership due to news issues such as Brexit and Trump – the 'bumps' in print readership in 2016," said Thurman. 

The study did not take into account incidental exposure, such as impressions in social media timelines, or consumption through email newsletters, which couldn't be measured. 

"Most newspapers are getting the majority of their revenues from print, so there is a correlation between the time that people are spending with a brand in a particular medium and the value of those print or digital readers," he said. 

"Look at the revenues – even The New York Times is still getting 65 per cent of its revenues from print, and that's one of the most advanced digital newspapers."

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