What's black and white and misread all over?
Local fans of traditional print publications were thrilled Tuesday when an online report in Advertising Age proclaimed Pittsburgh tops in "The Best (And Worst) Cities for Newspaper."
Among U.S. cities, Pittsburgh had the highest percentage -- 51 percent -- of adults who claim to read a newspaper daily.
Following Pittsburgh were: Hartford and New Haven, Conn. (49 percent); Albany, N.Y. (49 percent); Cleveland (48 percent); and Toledo, Ohio, Buffalo, N.Y., New York City and Honolulu (all 47 percent).
The link was quickly shared on social media because good news travels fast. Yes, we do like to see all the news that's fit, in print. The downside: it's common knowledge that print media are in decline; Pittsburgh happens to be losing readers at a slower pace.
At the same time, the AdAge report chose to focus on a very narrow chunk of data that doesn't quite tell the whole story.
Scarborough, the market research company that compiled the information, noted that print readership has dropped 20 percent since 2001 across the United States, and 35.7 percent of adults claim to read a newspaper daily.
The worst cities were in the South, including Atlanta (23 percent), Houston and San Antonio (24 each).
Scarborough measures lifestyles, shopping patterns, media behaviors and demographics in 77 U.S. Designated Market Areas. It constantly gathers data in various ways, including interviews, throughout the year and makes it available each spring and summer.
This particular set of data was culled from interviews spread over a year, from August 2011 to September 2012.
When a client such as AdAge requests specific information such as newspaper readership, sometimes variables are left out. For example, the recent report that puts Pittsburgh first in newspaper readership did not include figures for Sundays.
"I would have included Sundays; Sunday is the biggest read day of the week," said Gary Meo, senior vice president of print and digital media services at Scarborough. "When you add in Sunday, the rankings do change a bit. They don't change much, but Pittsburgh would not be No. 1 in the ranking."
Despite the fact that the Pittsburgh demographic is growing younger (35.5 to 33.2 during the past decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), we still are a community entrenched in the tradition of picking up a newspaper.
The AdAge article stated that among the city's adults, "19 percent said they read the Post-Gazette, which is owned by Block Communications, and 12 percent indicated they read the Tribune-Review. About 9 percent said they read a newspaper website daily."
The report came as no surprise to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
"A lot of people have the habit, and we certainly like that habit," said Mr. Fitzgerald, who said he has been a newspaper reader all his life.
Traditionally, newspapers also appeal to the better-educated populace. "In the 25- to 35-year-old demographic for post-graduate degrees [by percentage], we are No. 1," Mr. Fitzgerald said.
A big factor in attracting readers to print is advertising, where the ads themselves are deemed less intrusive than on the web, according to Stephanie Satterfield, vice president/director of media operations at MARC USA, the area's largest ad agency.
What is important to remember in looking at the overall health of any print publication, Mr. Meo said, is its collection of products. This report focused on just the print versions of newspapers.
"The basic fundamentals of what [AdAge] was talking about are still true: that print is declining... but [it] didn't include all the other products newspapers are publishing in print and digitally that really changed the whole way everybody looks at audience."
Maria Sciullo: email@example.com, 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.