It's a good news story: print readership is up, print and online readership up even more! The recent survey released by NADbank shows newspapers across Canada holding a very strong readership position.

In the one-million-population-plus Canadian markets, print and online newspaper readership has grown by more than 500,000 readers since 2005. Those top markets show total weekly newspaper penetration levels of between 75% to 80% of the adult population. That's an impressive reach.

When looking behind the numbers, we see very strong print products, supported by significant online offerings by all publishers. In Toronto, Canada's largest market (population 4.5 million), print newspapers reach roughly 70% of adults over 18, online readership represents roughly 25%. Combined, they reach 76% of the adult population, an impressive reach indeed.

Toronto remains one of the toughest competitive markets anywhere, with seven English-language daily publications (one not measured in NADbank) reaching roughly 3.5 million adults every week. Over the past year, weekly print readership rose 2% in Toronto, online grew 4.5% and combined the print/online combination grew by 3%.

Who says people are not reading newspapers anymore?

The Toronto Star, Canada's most-read newspaper, fared well in this most-recent release, with print weekly readership growing by 4.6% and the print/online combination weekly reach up 5.3% to just over 2.3 million readers per week. That's a nice showing for a large North American metropolitan newspaper.

The emerging story in Canada is the strength of Metro, a free weekly newspaper that is published in seven Canadian markets. Metro Toronto, first published during the summer of 2000, now has more than 500,000 daily readers, making it Toronto's second most-read newspaper after the Toronto Star. Of the seven newspapers published in Toronto, four are paid and three are free. The free publications now represent roughly 30% of total readership in the Toronto marketplace. While some readers are definitely opting for online content offerings, the desire for print in Toronto remains strong. Some of the readership may be going to free alternatives, but it is still print nonetheless.

Across Canada, newspapers remain strong. Also, it appears that while online readership for news continues to grow, it is not replacing the print habit for most newspaper readers.

The challenge for traditional media operations will be in attracting younger users. While the overall readership levels released in this study are indeed impressive, it is an aging demographic. Even the free-distribution newspapers tend to have a slightly older audience. The same can be said for traditional online news sites.

The good news, though, is that Canadian newspapers remain relevant to readers and a great vehicle for advertisers to reach consumers. The demise of newspapers is greatly exaggerated. But it is critical that we take longer-term trends seriously. We must continue to reinvent ourselves and better evolve to meet changing consumer habits.

It's a great time to be in newspapers.