Print Thrives Among The Affluent

By Steve Smith

Both old and new media executives may be talking more openly about the inevitability of print’s decline, but for one demo dead trees and ink remain vital. The well-off. According to the 2012 iteration of the Ipsos MediaCT Mendelsohn Affluent Survey, in households making $100,000 and up, 82% of the “Affluents” read at least one of the 150 print titles the study tracks. (143 magazines and 7 national newspapers). This well-heeled and well-read segment of 59 million Americans is reading 18.7 issues across 8.2 titles. Despite the digital onslaught, this group showed only a tiny decline in their devotion to print since last year (-1.3%). The Ultra-Affluents ($250,000 a year and up) read 25% more than the Affluents, generally 23.5 issues over 10 titles.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of Affluents read national newspapers in hard copy, and this actually has gone up 3.9% to 11.3 million. The engagement in newspapers again goes up even higher as the segment reaches the higher income levels.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the survey is that analog and digital media experiences are not mutually exclusive or an either/or proposition for the upper classes. In fact, this is the most wired segment, with 26% owning a tablet and 47% living in a home with one. Smartphone ownership among the Affluents (55%) is ahead of the typical penetration of these devices, but only by a small margin. Most mobile metrics studies now put smartphone penetration in the US at close to 50%. And Internet use is on the rise sharply among the higher income audiences, up 14% from 2011, now at 37.4 hours weekly.

The analog and digital worlds cross over in this segment’s taste for digitized print. This year the rate of downloading magazine apps among the Affluents more than doubled, from 2 million users to 4.7 million.

If anything, the Ipsos study points to the wisdom of aiming upscale titles to both print and digital platforms at once. The adoption of digital does not suggest a rejection of print in these demos, and the persistence of their taste for print is not at all indicative of reticence about digital or devices.