Albany is the Most Average City in America

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Annie Lowrey asks: What is the most perfectly average place in America? Tyler Cowen nominates Knoxville. Matt Yglesias nominates Jacksonville. As a former marketing weenie, I say we should let the free market decide. Back in 2004, Acxiom ranked the top 150 consumer test markets in the United States based on their overall characteristics: age, marital status, home ownership, estimated income, etc. America’s Fortune 500 companies put their money where their mouths are by conducting expensive and critical tests of their yummy new products in these aggressively average cities. Here are the top ten:

  1. Albany, NY
  2. Rochester, NY
  3. Greensboro, NC
  4. Birmingham, AL
  5. Syracuse, NY
  6. Charlotte, NC
  7. Nashville, TN
  8. Springfield, OR
  9. Wichita, KS
  10. Richmond, VA

In fairness, there’s more than just averageness that makes for a good test market. You also want a place that’s not too big and has reasonable advertising rates. Here is Neeli Bandapudi of Ohio State University explaining on NPR why Columbus is a pretty good test market:

So Columbus, Middle America, it was the idea that it truly was representative of the broader trends of the nation. And, of course, it’s not just that. You want to make sure that it’s a location where it’s not dominated by one employer or one cause, because you want to get a variety of opinions there. Maybe it’s the demographics of the people that you’re trying to reach and also a variety of shopping outlets and a variety of media outlets, so you can see how it would actually play.

Because advertising — there’s no point in just putting it in the store. You got to let people know it’s there.

Indeed. Without that, you know, you might not be very successful.

Anyway, there you go. The free market has answered this question for us. Isn’t the free market wonderful?

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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