Two recent national studies clearly indicate that many people read public notices in their local newspapers. The studies also show that newspapers remain a far more effective medium for public notice than government websites.
Susquehanna Polling and Research’s survey of 1,000 U.S. households, commissioned by the National Newspaper Association (NNA), asked two questions of direct interest to policymakers focused on public notice issues. The first question asked respondents to indicate on a scale of one to seven how often they read public notices in their community newspaper, where one equals “never” and seven means “very often”. The mean score of their response was 3.93, with a full 21 percent saying they read notices in the paper “very often” and 81 percent indicating implicitly they read newspaper notices at least some of the time.
Using the same scale, the Susquehanna/NNA survey also asked respondents how often they visit local government websites. The mean response was 2.4, with only five percent saying they visited government websites “very often” and an astounding 46 percent indicating they never go to such sites.
The size of the difference between the two mean scores actually minimizes the extent to which newspapers are a more effective medium for public notice than government websites. That’s because the 3.93 score on the first question focuses on how often respondents read public notices in their newspaper, while the 2.4 score on the second question measures the frequency with which they visit government websites for any reason.
Pulse of America’s (POA) survey tracks fairly closely with the Susquehanna/NNA poll regarding the number of people who regularly read newspaper notice. Twenty-five percent of POA respondents said they “always” or “frequently” read “legal notices” in a local newspaper. However, the two surveys diverge on the percentage of people who manage to avoid newspaper notice. Almost 34 percent of POA respondents said they “never” read notices in a local newspaper; the percentage falls to 21 percent in the Susquehanna/NNA survey.
The POA survey also asked respondents directly whether they prefer “important public notices to be published in the local newspaper or posted on the web at a government operated website”. The number who prefer them published in a local newspaper outnumbers those who would like to see them moved to government websites by a five to one margin.
The Susquehanna/NNA survey conducted telephone interviews with 1,000 U.S. households between March 6 and April 5. The margin of error is 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. POA’s national purchasing survey was an online poll of 4,332 U.S. adults who were directed to the survey via online and newspaper advertising. It was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2016 and the results were issued in February. Several state press associations participate in POA’s annual survey.
The public notice questions and data from both surveys are posted on the PNRC website along with other public notice survey data.