My friend Alan Mutter wrote something startling this week in his always thought-provoking blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur: “The population of people reading newspaper has aged dramatically in the last three years.”
By Mutter’s analysis, roughly three-quarters of newspaper readers are now over age 45. That, according to his calculations, is up dramatically from half in 2010 — a graying of newspaper readers by 50 percent in two years.
He based his analysis on data from the Pew Research Center that I was involved in producing from summer 2010 and summer 2012. (I left the Pew Research Center in December to take the helm of the American Press Institute).
The problem is, the analysis doesn’t reflect reality.
First, the numbers don’t track with any commensurate significant drop in newspaper readership in the Pew dataset. In the survey conducted in June 2012, 49 percent of adults said they read a newspaper “regularly,” the same percentage as in 2010. If you take the narrower number, the percentage of adults who read a newspaper “yesterday,” there is a slight change, a drop from 31 percent in 2010 to 29 percent in 2012, but nothing that would support the kind of dramatic structural shift Mutter estimates. Nor do recent circulation figures suggest it.