In an area that’s special, Star Tribune thrives

If you hadn’t noticed, the Star Tribune is apparently bucking the trend of dying newspapers in the country and it’s getting love today from Poynter, the journo think tank.

At its peak, it notes, the Star Tribune had 450 people working in its newsroom; now there are 250. But the Strib has survived the worst of what a changing industry and venture capitalists wrought.

Poynter is offering lessons in how the Strib took advantage of the Internet and social media.

But it’s this one that is significant: It still cared about a print edition where newspapers still matter.

Among top-20 markets, Minneapolis is No. 1 in daily and Sunday newspaper readership, according to Nielsen Scarborough Multi-Market Studies 2016. The Twin Cities have high voter turnout, above-average high school graduation rates and rank first among cities where women work outside the home.

Those factors point to an audience that is prepared to read — and pay for — a newspaper.

“Print is still critically important,” Dardarian said.

So, the Star Tribune chose not to go digital-first at all costs. It’s audience-first, she said, and that audience is still reading the newspaper.

A case study in serving both print and online audiences came along when Prince died suddenly in April. They covered the story quickly online. When it was time to put together the next day’s newspaper, one designer told Dardarian it was like a smorgasbord.

Because the Quick Strike team was covering the news as it broke, other reporters in the room had the time to think about what people would need and on day two. The Star Tribune produced a special section that weekend with four different covers. They also dug into the archives and reposted a 15-year-old oral history of the artist. Among mobile readers, the piece had an engagement time of eight minutes.

“We did right by digital, which gave us the opportunity to do right by print,” Dardarian said, “and we were able to see the magic of that.”

It’s not clear in Poynter’s assessment of the Star Tribune whether the success story could translate to all the other struggling newspapers in the country, or whether it would be limited to areas where the audience is special. Like us.

Related (But, really, not at all): The PiPress faces familiar woes, including more buyouts — and the search for a local owner (MinnPost)