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Misleading Fit-for-Print: 'Newspapah' Still a Big Read in the Northeast
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Flacks, if you have been in this business for any amount of time, you have seen people get very creative with how they use their daily newspaper. Wrapping glasses, cleaning mirrors, and wrapping a gift on the fly are among the favorites. For the rest of us old gomers, we choose to, you know, read the damn thing. This used to be all the rage for the cool kids. That is, until the Internet came along and ruined that experience. Now, we play around with paywalls, premium content, and articles that have nothing to do with our clients. I miss the newspaper and will always believe it was a better time when people actually read the thing with a morning cup of Joe. 

It seems that is still the case in the Northeast, thanks to this article by Advertising AgeThe article notes the best and worst cities for the newspapers, and you will not believe this, but evidently the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is awesome, as the Steel City takes top dibs among newspaper subscriptions and reading at 51 percent. (Full disclosure: Being a Dallas boy and stalwart Cowboys fan, I didn't know reading was in high fashion in Pittsburgh, but what do I know.) Speaking of Texas, among the lowest cities with newspaper interaction are San Antonio (San Antonio Express-Newsand Houston (Houston Chronicle) tied for second to last at 24 percent. Dead last would be denizens in Atlanta of Atlanta Journal-Constitution fame at 23 percent. 

Highest Readership:
1. Pittsburgh 
2. (TIE) Albany, N.Y.
3. (TIE) Hartford / New Haven, Conn. 
4. Cleveland 
5. (TIED) Buffalo, N.Y., Honolulu, New York and Toledo, Ohio

Lowest Readership:
1. Atlanta
2. (TIE) Houston
3. (TIE) San Antonio
4. Las Vegas
5. Bakersfield, Calif. 

Admittedly, this report seemed screwy. And expecting more from a publication that hails the fine art of advertising, I decided to don the reporter fedora and dig. Scarborough were the soothsayers of this report, so I went there first. Dated, oh...June 12, 2013...was this report that shines a much-needed light on the aforementioned list. Let's start with "61 percent of U.S. adults still read a print newspaper in an average week (five daily and Sunday)." So there's that. Here's more:

As Gary Meo, Scarborough's head of Print and Digital Media Services [sic] explains: "Understanding a paper's print readership is still important, however, it's only part of the story. There are many ways to show newspaper readership across the U.S. in our digital-centric world; looking across platforms is a must in evaluating overall readership." 

Thanks for making my point, Gary. I live in the number five media market in the country and trust me when I tell you that denizens of Dallas/Fort Worth have a voracious appetite for the daily newspaper. Specifically more than people in say, Toledo, Ohio or New Haven, Conn. Perhaps the rule was per capita? Obviously, these figures aren't taking into account the multimedia explosion of major- and large-market newspapers (like my trusted The Dallas Morning News). So, more digging. The report goes on to say that Buffalo, N.Y. should not be fifth, but first, with 82 percent of adults in that market "read a newspaper in print or online in the past seven days." Directly under that are — wait for it — "top markets for adults who read a newspaper on a mobile device." Ah, there's the rub. This is where the world is going, kids. 

1. Washington D.C. - 23%
2. San Francisco - 22%
3. Austin - 20%
4. (TIED) Dallas and New York - 18% 

More like it, right? I think this article doesn't show the importance of reading the newspaper in smaller markets, as much as it illustrates the importance of the evolution of the newspaper in larger ones. For additional reading pleasure, you will love this March 2013 report by the Newspaper Association of America. In that report, we see more interesting facts about certain demographics and said consumption for news. For example: 
  • 69% of U.S. adults read newspaper media content in print or online, or access it on mobile devices
  • 59% of young adults, ages 18–24, do the same
  • The mobile newspaper's popularity is growing fast at 58% each month compared to last year. 
  • Mobile-exclusive readers have grown by 83% compared with March 2012
In summary, it is no secret that newspapers have learned to evolve their offerings to keep up with technology. That said, newspapers are necessary — arguably more than ever. While online favorites are providing snark and opinion on what political party is screwing up and whatever the hell a Kardashian or a Bieber is doing these days, a newspaper -— print, online, or mobile — is still dedicated to fact-finding and report-generating content. While this make me happy because I am not interested in moving to Pittsburgh or developing a wicked awesome accent anytime soon, I am reminded of one salient truth — before people line the parakeet's cage with the product, the paper still has a substantial home in 'Merica. Thank God for that.

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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