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Who reads papers on the Net?

Anand Parthasarathy

Survey by Pune University Journalism department unveils online habits of Indian readers


Bangalore: You thought most readers of the online editions of Indian newspapers lived abroad? Think again: Two out of three readers of English language newspaper sites are based in India, reversing the percentages of just 8 years ago. You thought they would be interested mainly in sports and entertainment? Wrong again: Business is big on readers' minds — followed by politics and science.

You assumed that matrimonial advertisements would be popular? Times have changed; Less than 3 per cent look at them. Perhaps they go to the dedicated sites such as shaadi.com.

These are some of the interesting findings of a survey of online newspaper reader habits in India carried out by the Department of Communication and Journalism of the University of Pune and funded by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Details of the work carried out by Kiran Thakur, head of the department, and principal investigator for the project with Ujwalla Barve, lecturer, were shared with The Hindu on Saturday.

Dr. Thakur said the survey was carried out by sampling the responses from1,625 readers of English newspaper sites and 493 readers of Marathi language web newspapers. He revealed that in a similar study carried out by him in 1998, nearly 62 per cent of the readers of Indian newspapers were non resident Indians based in the U.S. and only 10 per cent were based in India.... showing that increasing Internet penetration since then had created a new desi market for online newspapers.

Readership was higher in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh compared to other States — but these were also the states with highest Net penetration.

The majority of readers were in the age group 21-40. Almost half were professionals in education, IT and media. They read the online editions mainly for news (95 % and 98% for English and Marathi); and for views (92.7% and 85.5 % respectively); interest in advertisements was quite low (8% to 9 %) and business news came on top of their preference, followed by politics and science. A striking finding: 47% of English readers and 36% of Marathi readers visited archived material — that is back issues... an interesting pointer for newspaper web planners who often tend to limit archives to a week or a month at most ( The Hindu archives go back to 2000). Survey details will be posted shortly on the website of the department: www.unipune-journalism.org/

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