A nationwide study has revealed increased consumer engagement with communities and younger, more engaged readership profiles for local community newspapers.

Conducted for News Community Media by research company The Leading Edge, the ‘Engaging Communities’ study shows that consumers across all age groups are moving from an ‘age of self’ to a growing need for a sense of belonging and strong connection to their local community.

It showed local community newspapers are a trusted source for the majority of people, ranking fourth behind doctors, school teachers and next door neighbours, and ahead of banks, metropolitan newspapers and local councils.

The study was conducted across the five main capital cities over five months in 2008. The respondents were randomly selected by Leading Edge from within the distribution areas of News Community Media distribution areas, covering readers and non-readers aged between 18 and 65.

This is reflected in the high levels of community newspaper readership with eight out of 10 readers consuming every or most issue of their community paper.

The study reveals that when it comes to the biggest group of readers, 37% fit the ‘Family Starter’ profile – couples and singles aged between 30 and 49 years of age who may have young children.

This compares to 22% of those coined ‘Empty Nesters’, that is those who are over 55 years of age, singles and couples, independent and no children at home.

An equal amount (22%) of readers are young singles and couples aged 16-34 years and no children and 19% classified as ‘Family Nesters’ (or ‘Me-timers) – mid-life couples and singles who may have older children and teens still living at home.

“Another key finding was that consumers trust their local paper and this extends from editorial to advertising – 96% of readers have taken action after reading an ad in their local paper,” says News Community Media managing director, Mark Elgood.

“The resurgence in seeking engagement with communities has heightened the relevance and influence of community newspapers.”

According to study, 85% believe that their local community is important to them and more than three quarters say they liked to know what is going on in their local community.

While formal community involvement, such as Neighbourhood Watch, is low, the study found an increase in informal involvement. Nine in 10 indicating that shopping in the local area is their way of being involved in their local community, and 88% saying they always try to shop locally.

Other findings include 64% of people look forward to reading their local newspaper, readers spend an average of 26 minutes reading the local newspaper and 87% agreed that their local newspaper will continue to be important into the future.