Generally, I use this space to write about us. Today, I’m using it to write about you.
Last fall, the TNT commissioned a readership study. We hired American Opinion Research, based in Princeton, N.J., to conduct a telephone and online survey of people who live in our circulation area, primarily in Pierce County. Some respondents were TNT readers. Others were not. Thank you if you were among those who participated.
The research gave us insights into how our online products are performing but is particularly helpful in making decisions about what to put in the printed paper. We can track page views on our website, so we know what kinds of stories are most popular online, but we can’t look over your shoulder while you read the paper. Aside from anecdotal calls and conversations with readers, it’s impossible to know how many of you are interested in which kinds of stories. We also know that our readership differs between the two formats and that some kinds of stories work better in print.
AOR last conducted a newspaper readership study for us in 1999, eons ago in the media world. We received the results of this latest study earlier this year. Here’s some of what it told us about our newspaper:
• The image of The News Tribune is high in the areas of providing local news and information; providing news that is up to date; and helping to save readers money with advertising and coupons.
• Some of our newspaper content is not well-read. The Sunday stocks page, for instance, rated poorly. Actually, that didn’t surprise us. Over the past several years, we’ve cut back from several pages of Sunday and daily stocks listings to a single page on Sunday and a small daily report on stocks of local interest. Few readers have complained. Most people get that information online these days. We probably can repurpose the Sunday stocks page into content readers would enjoy more.
• The survey asked residents to rate their interest in 17 news topics. Their top three, in order, were news about the specific community, town or city in which they live; world and national news; and local activities. Some of that news they expect to get from us, some from other media. Our readers were particularly satisfied with our coverage of sports, state government and politics. While they gave us high ratings for our coverage of community news, readers would like to see even more. They’d also like more education stories.
• We have work to do in reaching younger working people with children at home. Their busy lifestyles leave them with little time to read the paper. Among the topics they’d like to see more of: local activities and places to go, and outdoors and recreation. We’re talking now about how to improve in those areas.
AOR, which conducts media research across the country, found Internet use relatively strong in the South Sound. About 1 in 6 local adults accesses the Internet every day or almost every day. About 1 in 4 has read news stories on a cellphone, a number that surely has grown since the survey was conducted last fall. Thenewstribune.com received high ratings for providing local news stories of interest, for frequent updating and for local crime coverage.
We’ll keep mining the research for information on how to serve readers better in print and online.
Thanks to those of you who called or emailed me last week as I manned the reader representative desk.
Several readers called to complain about the change in our obituary type that first appeared in Tuesday’s paper. We didn’t change the type face, but our move to a new advertising computer system unintentionally changed the word and letter spacing. We’re continuing to fine-tune the spacing to improve readability.
Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434