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February 25, 2013

The Tribune-Review showed the highest gains in readership over the past five years of any newspaper in America's top 48 markets, which were dominated by sinking readership.

According to surveys by International Demographics Inc., an independent media research firm in Houston, the number of Tribune-Review readers jumped 17.8 percent from 2007 to 2012.

In stark contrast to all but five other markets, the number of average daily Trib readers ballooned to 464,256 from 394,009 in that span.

"People in Pittsburgh love their news. It's a city full of news junkies," said Mike Bustell, executive vice president of marketing and sales for International Demographics.

"I would feel good about that report. It's contrary to the conventional wisdom that newspapers are fading," said John Morton, a media analyst and consultant in Jessup, Md.

"The only exceptions to that are the iconic newspapers, like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal," said Morton. "Even the Washington Post has not escaped the down trend."

Neither did the Trib's main competitor, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Its readership dropped by 14.5 percent over the last five years — to 732,126 from 856,600 — according to International Demographics' Media Audit report.

Randy Waugaman, the P-G's director of audience, downplayed the drop in print-edition readership and emphasized the newspapers' gains in readers online. The P-G's online edition grew to 3.8 million viewers last year from 2.8 million in 2008, he said, citing data from the Alliance for Audited Media.

"Certainly, print is an important part of what we do every day and will continue to be," said Waugaman. "But we're trying to serve our readers in the best possible manner."

The Media Audit laid out a flood of sinking readership at other newspapers in the last five years. For example:

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer fell 23.8 percent.
  • The Chicago Tribune dropped 15.6 percent.
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution plunged 26.7 percent.
International Demographics has produced its Media Audit report for 42 years. It conducts phone surveys of one in every 1,000 adults in the nation's 48 largest media markets each March/April and September/October, then estimates average daily readership. The company polled 1,881 people in Western Pennsylvania.

It first asked people if they had read a newspaper in the past week. Those that did then were asked which newspaper(s) they read. Only print-edition versions of newspapers, not on-line versions, were counted. On that basis, the Trib picked up 17.8 percent more readers in the past five years.

"The result reflects the efforts of our circulation team, and now the digital team, over the last six years," said Ralph Martin, chief executive of Trib Total Media Inc., the Tribune-Review's parent company.

"Our strategy has been to reach more and more people in the Greater Pittsburgh region, and this report supports the notion that we've done that and more," said Martin.

Bustell called Pittsburgh "a phenomenal market” for newspaper reading, including many people who read both the Trib and the P-G. "Pittsburgh has a great newspaper battle. Anybody new coming into Pittsburgh knows there are the two players," he said.

"You have more people spending 60 minutes or more reading a newspaper there than in Baltimore, Phoenix, Seattle or Denver," said Bustell.