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Tribune-Review tops competition’s readership, according to figures

Tribune-Review
| Saturday, November 15, 2014 9:00 p.m

The Tribune-Review is the preferred newspaper among Pittsburgh-area residents, topping the Post-Gazette’s readership for the first time in the two newspapers’ history.

The Tribune-Review and its branded editions reported 746,331 people who said they’d read Trib print publications in the past seven days, compared to the Post-Gazette’s 716,310, according to the latest figures filed with the Alliance for Audited Media, which are subject to audit.

The numbers highlighted the gains the Trib has made on its in-town rival. Since 2010, the Trib has expanded its print readership — which counts subscribers and non-subscribers who say they read the paper in the past week — by 48,759, a 7 percent gain, compared to the Post-Gazette losing 192,528 print readers, or 21 percent.

The news was a surprise to Timothy Groseclose, a professor of economics at George Mason University who has studied media issues.

Groseclose was a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University in the early 1990s when the Tribune-Review made its push into Pittsburgh during a newspaper strike at The Pittsburgh Press, which the Post-Gazette later purchased and closed.

“I think the perception, at least, was that for a decade or two the Tribune-Review was the weaker sister,” Groseclose said. “It doesn’t appear that way now.”

The Trib has gained ground online. The number of people saying they read the Trib’s websites every month increased 45,428 from a year ago to 247,607. Online readership fell at the Post-Gazette by 36,894 from the same time last year to 313,203.

Combined, the Trib came out on top with a total print and online audience of 852,743 compared to the Post-Gazette’s 851,117. The figures are adjusted to avoid duplication between print and online readers.

“We are very thankful and pleased that our readers continue to find that what we’re doing editorially to be what they want to read, and that’s evidenced by our continually growing readership numbers,” said Ralph Martin, president and CEO of Trib Total Media, the parent company of the Tribune-Review.

Despite overall declines in newspaper circulation, readers still seem willing to pay for quality journalism, said Russ Eshleman, head of Penn State University’s journalism department.

“I think if it’s an important story, I think people still appreciate good journalism,” he said. “If you have a good newsy story in Pittsburgh going on, I think that’s what generates the excitement and people are going to go out and buy a paper or maybe even more than one.”

Both papers had gains in overall circulation, which counts print and electronic editions, but the Trib still outpaced the Post-Gazette. The Trib’s Sunday circulation was 327,263, up from 222,252 a year ago, compared to the Post-Gazette’s 285,851, a slight increase from 279,765.

The Trib’s Sunday gain was due mostly to a change in the publishing date of several community editions, which contributed to an 8 percent decline of its weekday circulation to 182,919, while the Post-Gazette’s Monday-Friday circulation rose 1.7 percent to 155,700.

“In totality, we were pleased that on the same AAM report of September 30, we showed year over year circulation gains across the board with our weekday, Saturday, and Sunday editions,” Randy Waugaman, director of audience for the Post-Gazette, said in a statement.

Newspaper readership overall continues a long decline, with circulation nationwide having been cut in half over the past decade, said Alan Mutter, a former newspaper executive who teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.

Unlike many mid-sized cities, Pittsburgh still has two daily newspapers. In metro areas where competition exists, readers may be benefiting from lower prices and higher quality, he said.

“In a market where two publishers are still battling for market share, they’re going to tend to keep their prices lower,” he said. “I think you probably have stronger circulation than the national trend because you have publishers that are willing to keep costs down and arguably quality up.”

Chris Fleisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or cfleisher@tribweb.com.

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