Wick Communications

What do they want?

In Ideas on October 5, 2012 at 7:42 am

In 2011, a unit of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism partnered with the Knight Foundation to survey news consumers in different kinds of communities to see how we differ based upon our environs. They separated respondents into four camps – city dwellers, suburbanites, those in small towns, and rural residents.

It turns out we are more alike than you might think.

For instance, we all (or most of us) use three or more sources for news over the course of the week. A surprising percentage of Americans – regardless of where they live — participate in the dissemination of news. Forty-one percent of adults surveyed email news story links, post news on social media sites, comment on news blogs, contribute to online discussion groups or send in articles or photos to local news sources. More than half of suburbanites do so, but a third of rural residents do as well.

There are differences in our audiences and some of those differences are well known to Wick editors. Suburbanites are more connected. The survey confirms that papers in places like St. Tammany Parish, La., are most interested in weather, commutes, restaurants and life in suburbia. Rural and small-town residents are most connected to their local newspapers and care most about local governance and schools. City residents, interestingly, don’t seem to care much about taxation. The survey suggests that is because so many residents are young and renting. …

It’s interesting to see how “wired” are small-town and rural residents. The survey is further proof that all of our readers are connected to the wider world. Even those who are most apt to get their news from their local newspaper are sampling the goods elsewhere.

Any good newspaper editor should have his finger on the pulse of his community. Small towns are not all alike. Half Moon Bay, adjacent the hyper-connected Silicon Valley, is different from Bogalusa, La. Our constituencies seek their news in different ways. It’s incumbent upon all of us to recognize the differences and cater to our readers’ needs. That is obvious. The Pew study may help you focus on that need.

Clay

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