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Local newspaper market penetration: pretty darn high

The Twin Cities metro area finished 31st of 81 U.S. markets, with a still-impressive 77 percent of respondents saying they’ve read a paper or its online version in the last seven days.

Scarborough Research, a national market research firm, is out with city-by-city measurements of newspaper readership — in print and online.

The Twin Cities metro area finished 31st of 81 U.S. markets, with a still-impressive 77 percent of respondents saying they’ve read a paper or its online version in the last seven days. Rochester, New York, of all places, finished first with 87 percent market penetration, while Bakersfield, California and Las Vegas were last at 59 percent.

A few caveats:

Our 77 percent figure reflects all papers — not just the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, but smaller dailies, weeklies, shoppers and even national papers (though the latter are a small part of the mix). I’ll have specific stats about the Strib and PiPress in a bit.

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Scarborough — which of course wants to keep earning money measuring things like this — frames the news as “come on, buy ads!” Here’s the money quote from the news release:

“This data begs the question: is the constant negative news feed on the industry warranted when newspapers are actually being read by three-fourths of the adult population? When you look at audience data, it seems irrational that advertisers are leaving newspapers because the numbers speak for themselves,” said Gary Meo, senior vice president, print and digital media, Scarborough Research.

“If you are an advertiser seeking to reach a large, upscale audience, newspapers are among the most effective media for doing so. Further, readership rates vary market-by-market and frequently defy local generalizations about declining audience. In order to obtain an accurate, in-depth portrait of newspaper health, in print and online, one needs to drill down to this local level.”

Even if the local audience is steady — and again, expect an update on that — structural problems remain. Besides the crummy economy, advertisers don’t need media companies to reach customers like they used to, the print-to-digital shift has lowered revenues, the multiplicity of non-newspaper websites lowers online rates. And of course, readers won’t pay because, these days, they still don’t have to.

Still, it’s a sign of hope that so many people still want what papers pump out. Perhaps the only way the financials will stabilize is when the supply of news truly falls below the healthy demand.