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Retail advertising is the most read feature in community newspapers, a new National Newspaper Association survey reveals.

The NNA commissioned its first-ever national study of community newspaper readers to help its 4,200 members-mostly weeklies and dailies with circulations of less than 30,000-competitively sell advertising against other local media, said NNA President-CEO Tonda Rush.

The study will also be used by the NNA's national rep company, American Newspaper Representatives, Minneapolis, to sell national advertising.

When readers were asked what they read always and frequently, retail advertising won out with 65%. Local government news was second at 62%, followed by school news at 59%, classified ads at 55%, ad inserts at 53% and sports news at 46%.

For the survey, Pulse Research of Portland, Ore., randomly contacted a representative nationwide sample of 800 community newspaper readers last September.

The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points. Free shoppers weren't included in the study.

Community newspapers, which include paid and non-paid papers, scored significantly above the national average in readership penetration and reader use of advertising, including classifieds, said John Marling, president of Pulse Research. Seventy-one percent of residents in non-metropolitan areas regularly read a community newspaper, he said. Eighty-nine percent of households in markets where community newspapers distribute read either a daily or non-daily newspaper in the past week.

The survey showed most community newspaper readers (79%) are homeowners and 43% have children under age 18 living at home. Forty-three percent have incomes greater than $35,000 a year, while 25% have incomes greater than $50,000.

Forty-five percent of community newspaper readers are age 45 or younger.

On another front, the survey found community newspaper readers spend about 32% of their dollars out of town.

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