Opinion

Our reader survey

One hundred Islanders took the time to complete a rather arduous online survey for the Mercer Island Reporter a few months ago.

The survey offered readers the chance to give feedback on the content of the paper. But as many soon found out, the survey was also to learn about readers’ consumption habits. Data collected from the survey is being analyzed along with responses from the surveys of five other Reporter newspapers. The information will be used to attract advertisers. Advertising is the lifeblood of a newspaper.

Here is some of what we gleaned from the survey.

Who responded to the Mercer Island Reporter survey?

Sixty percent of the Mercer Island responders classified themselves as having professional or managerial occupations, 13 percent are retired, but 16 percent are looking for new work. More than 80 percent hold at least one college degree. The average annual household income reported is $102,000. The vast majority said that they have lived on the Island for more than 10 years. Nearly 80 percent own their homes.

Half of respondents have children under 18 living at home. The median age is just under 50, with one quarter between the ages of 18 and 40. Sounds like a profile of a typical Islander, but there is plenty of diversity in tastes, attitudes and interests.

These statistics might seem to describe the residents of any Mercer Island neighborhood. But Islanders are a diverse and independent lot.

The kind of radio that Islanders listen to reveals a cross-section of tastes. Respondents said they often listen to local public radio and talk radio, but a good portion tune in regularly to alternative Seattle radio stations such as KEXP. There are more than a few old rockers who listen to KZOK.

Where do they shop?

Taken around the holiday season, the survey indicates that 90 percent of respondents had visited Bellevue Square within the last 30 days to shop, followed by Factoria (73 percent) and Crossroads (32 percent). Many shopped in Seattle and 25 percent spent money in University Village. Just over half had used a dry cleaning store in the past 30 days, 71 percent visited a coffee shop, 32 percent and 36 percent shopped at gift shops and pet supply stores, respectively. Two-thirds of all respondents said that they regularly shop at Nordstrom and Macy’s; half at Target and more than one-fifth at a thrift store.

What was read first and most often in the Reporter?

According to the survey, the most-read section in the paper (after the front page) is the Opinion page. The next most-read areas of the paper are, in order, business stories, school news, obituaries, entertainment news and sports. The Reporter is read by more than one person in a household, three quarters of the time.

Several readers specifically objected to the amount of space for sports coverage and wish to have it exchanged for more news of the arts: dance, theatre, music and visual arts. Others polled praised the sports coverage and want more.

What did readers say about the Opinion page?

Some want more letters. Others want shorter letters and no political commentary. One reader wants to do away with the Opinion page.

What else was said about the Reporter?

Comments came from both those who love the newspaper as is and those who still refer to it derisively as the Distorter. Some like the look of the paper, while others do not. A few said that errors are a source of frustration to them.

Some wondered why there is not more advertising and information on businesses. (We must reply to that by saying we print whatever advertising comes our way.)

Some want only “good news,” while others want more investigative news pieces. One respondent wants the pet of the week or first baby announcements reinstated. Others want news about former Islanders. Some say more features about local people and a column about Mercer Island history would be welcome. Others want more news from outside the Island — regional news that affects everyone.

What will the Reporter do with the survey results?

Data regarding demographics and consumer preferences has been summarized for use by the marketing staff. Each and every comment has been reviewed by the Reporter staff and management. We are always working to improve the newspaper. We want to thank everyone who participated. We value your input.

What other changes are ahead?

The Reporter will be printed on higher-quality paper later this spring. The Web site is also undergoing change and will soon be linked to the larger Sound Publishing family of publications.

Who owns the Reporter?

The Mercer Island Reporter is owned by Black Press Ltd., a privately held publishing group based in Victoria, British Columbia. In Washington state, Black Press owns Sound Publishing, based in Poulsbo. Sound Publishing publications include 32 weekly, biweekly and daily newspapers, and 18 network partner newspapers.

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