Geography impacts media access, usage and engagement

New Research on Media Consumption in Rural Markets: A new study conducted exclusively in markets with under 100,000 population in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba confirms once again, people living in rural communities consume news and information differently than people living in large cities.

A new study conducted by Totum Research with 900 Adults 18+ affirms that rural markets differ significantly from large urban ones when it comes to media consumption habits. The study: How Geography Impacts Media Access, Usage and Engagement (2020), found that several factors including internet connectivity and connection methods impact media access and shape what people can do online. The result being a stronger reliance on traditional media, printed community newspapers in particular, for news and information.

7 in 10 Households Still Receiving Printed Newspapers Into the Household and 80% Having Read the Last Edition

Among the key findings of the study was that 71% of respondents said they’ve received a community newspaper at their home in the last 7 days. The highest rate of receivership is amongst farm households with 81% reporting receivership of a printed community newspaper. Of receivers, 80% indicated that they’ve read or looked into the printed newspaper. For context, this level of readership is consistent with the numbers from the last release of ComBase data in 2005/2006 and a stark contrast from the narrative that readership of printed newspapers is in significant universal decline.

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Internet Connectivity a Major Factor in Shaping Online Activities of Rural Canadians

While internet connections in large metropolitan areas are generally solid in terms of both stability, speed and affordability, the same cannot be said in rural remote communities. Fully, 32% of respondents indicated that they had either no internet connection, a dial up connection, or a connection tied to data usage. The findings in terms of the types and degrees of activities affected were significant. 46% of respondents said their ability to conduct online research was affected by their internet connection. Streaming video was said to be affected by 35% of respondents, 29% of social media users said their usage was impacted by their connection and half of all respondents said that online shopping was either affected by their internet connection or was an activity they didn’t do.

People in Rural Communities Not Engaging With Newspaper Websites at the Same Rate as Those Living in Urban Communities

While people living in large metropolitan areas may have transitioned to receiving news and information from the websites of large urban dailies, the results of the study say it’s not happening at the same rate once you get outside of major populated areas. Overall, 23% of responded said they’ve visited the website of a local community newspaper in the last week. The highest visit rates (29% visited in the last week) were reported by people living in Cities of between 10,000-100,000 population. Conversely, people living on Farms or in Hamlets (1,000 population) reported the lowest visit rates of 17% in the last week, perhaps another example of how online activities are affected by internet connection type.

Ads in Printed Newspapers Found to be Both USEFUL and Inspire Action. Ads on Social Media and Random Websites, Not So Much.

While 50% of respondents indicated that they found ads in printed community newspapers to be useful, only 10% said the same about ads on social media or random websites. Conversely, 35% of study participants admitted that they were actually ANNOYED by online ads, either on websites or social media compared to only 3% saying ads in printed newspapers annoyed them. 3% of respondents said they often intentionally click on online ads.

Across each of the 7 measured sectors ads in printed community newspapers were most likely to be inspiring action in the form of an in-person store visit, online store visit or a purchase decision:

  • Automotive: 27% inspired by ads in printed community newspapers
  • Financial Services: 23% inspired by ads in printed community newspapers
  • Government Services: 31% inspired by ads in printed community newspapers
  • Agriculture: 31% inspired by ads in printed community newspapers
  • Telecommunications: 21% inspired by ads in printed community newspapers
  • Retail Stores: 40% inspired by ads in printed community newspapers
  • Food and Grocery: 49% inspired by ads in printed community newspapers

Interestingly, ads in printed community newspapers were 40% more likely to drive an in-person or online store visit than ads on social media or random websites.

Overall, traditional media were found to be the platforms, most likely to inspire action, while online ads, including ads on newspaper websites, the least inspiring.

You can view the complete study at

© Virden Empire-Advance

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