So what if all the assumptions about ‘digital first’ have been wrong?

Wow! Here’s the abstract of a fascinating paper by two academics at the University of Texas at Austin:

Twenty years into US newspapers’ online ventures, many are stuck between a shrinking market for their print product and an unsuccessful experiment with digital offerings. Since readership is the foundation for subscription and advertising revenue, this study, through a longitudinal analysis of readership data (2007, 2011, and 2015) of 51 US newspapers, provides an up-to-date review on these newspapers’ online and print readership. Results indicated that the (supposedly dying) print product still reaches far more readers than the (supposedly promising) digital product in these newspapers’ home markets, and this holds true across all age groups. In addition, these major newspapers’ online readership has shown little or no growth since 2007, and more than a half of them have seen a decline since 2011. The online edition contributes a relatively small number of online-only users to the combined readership in these newspapers’ home markets. These findings raise questions about US newspapers’ technology-driven strategy and call for a critical re-examination of unchecked assumptions about the future of newspapers.