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The circulation of printed newspapers is falling dramatically. Worldwide newspaper sales are down. With only a handful of exceptions – often related to low prices – newspaper sales are falling off a cliff and the industry is in turmoil about what to do about it.

Much of the discussion has centred on the web and how this has “stolen” readers. Newspapers themselves have responded with websites offering up-to-the minute news and apps for the iPad, for instance. Yet, in spite of having this massive shop window in which they can sell their printed version, their sales are plummeting.

So, the newspaper executives are putting all their efforts into trying to improve their online product while they go to conferences where they hear discussions about the “death of print” and how in five years time no-one will be buying newspapers any more. It is all doom and gloom.

However, amidst all this discussion few people appear to have attempted to answer the question “why do people prefer online news to printed news?” Until now. New research has shown us the reasons why people have given up printed newspapers and it tells a completely different story to the assumptions which have surrounded the newspaper industry for a decade.

It seems that people are not interested in newspapers much because they are not stimulating enough. Online news has plenty of additional stimulation – video, audio, interactivity and so on. But in the printed version it is just words and pictures on a page. Of course, words on a page can be made stimulating; if that were not true the Harry Potter novels would not have sold 450m copies. Print does not have to be boring. Unless you are a newspaper editor who has given up the fight because you assume you cannot win against the Internet.

The research shows that people want to engage with what they read, they no longer just want to be told something matter of fact. They want to be made to think, to laugh, to cry, to have their emotions tickled and they want to take part. Newspapers in printed form do not offer the extent of stimulation that leads to such engagement. If they did that, their circulation would rise no doubt.

However, the research also has a hint or two for anyone writing blogs. It shows that to get loyal readers, to ensure that your blog is recommended and to be certain that it will succeed you need to stimulate your audience. You need to do all those things which truly engage them such as make them think, make them cry, laugh, shout and take part.

The only problem with that is, if you make your blog so amazing those newspaper editors will have another reason to moan about their falling sales figures.