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As the newspaper industry evolves and becomes much more of a multi-platform news industry, it's important for us to keep a close on the demographics of our readers.

At the heart of the print circulation losses the industry experienced over the past decade and a half has been the stark reality that print newspaper readership has skewed to an older audience. And as older readers pass away, there have been far fewer younger people picking up the habit of reading a print newspaper.

For many years, this translated into a major disconnect between newspapers and a younger generation of readers. But with the efforts newspapers have put into developing digital products in recent times, we're seeing some encouraging trends.

As I've noted before, overall newspaper audience is as big as it's ever been when you consider readership across all platforms.

And now data is showing an important development for the future: young readers are coming back to newspaper content, as long as they can get it when and how they want it.

A study by Nielsen Scarborough released this fall found that 169 million adults in the U.S. read a newspaper product in a month, translating into a 69-percent reach of the population. That's a huge chunk of the market that any media company would love to have.

What excites me more about the Nielsen Scarborough data, though, is that younger readers are increasingly connecting with us. People ages 21 to 34 account for 25 percent of the American population and 24 percent of newspaper readership in a month.

"Based on the shift in age of the newspaper reader, it’s clear that the newspaper industry’s adoption of digital distribution has allowed it to reach adults of all ages," Nielsen wrote in a press release with the study.

It concluded with this: "There’s no doubt that the newspaper industry has seen its fair share of change and evolution over the past decade or so, some of which has resulted in a loss of confidence from agencies, marketers and even researchers. But based on the recent Nielsen Scarborough survey, it’s clear that newspapers remain a thriving and viable medium, and they continue to engage a larger portion of younger, affluent readers."

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Schools are an integral part of communities, and the strong response to education stories we publish in our market reflects that fact.

Unfortunately, we've been without a full-time education reporter for a good portion of the past year. Our small staff has done admirable work keeping tabs on the districts in our area, but there's no doubt that there's been more to do.

That's why I'm thrilled to announce the newest member of our newsroom, Kelly Rocheleau, who started this week on the education beat. Kelly and his fiancee have moved to Auburn from Michigan, and they're excited about getting to know the community.

If you have story suggestions for Kelly or just want to say welcome, send him an email at kelly.rocheleau@lee.net, a call at (315) 282-2244 or follow him on Twitter @kellyrocheleau.

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* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Executive editor Jeremy Boyer’s column appears Thursdays in The Citizen and he can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or jeremy.boyer@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer

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