Scott Stanford: Reader survey helps guide newpaper decisions

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Scott Stanford

Scott Stanford is general manager of the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Call him at 970-871-4202 or email sstanford@SteamboatToday.com

— Routt County residents are big fans of the Steamboat Today newspaper, but they don’t want to pay a quarter to get the print edition, and they’re not going to pay a fee to access it online.

That’s one of the things we learned in the reader survey we conducted the last two weeks in August.

It is the third consecutive year that we have conducted the survey, which included more than 50 questions. The survey was conducted online and is not scientific. But considering that 678 Routt County residents ages 18 or older — nearly 4 percent of the county’s adult population — completed it, the survey is a pretty good sampling of our readership.

Here are some of the highlights:

■ Sixty percent of county residents surveyed said they read the Steamboat Today in print yesterday. Seventy-six percent said they pick up the newspaper at least three times per week, and 91 percent said they pick up the paper at least once per week. Those numbers are down slightly from 2010, but our print readership remains remarkably strong within the newspaper industry.

■ Seventy-seven percent of county residents surveyed said they would not be willing to pay as much as 25 cents per issue for the Steamboat Today, and 63 percent said they never would consider paying for online access to SteamboatToday.com. No worries — we’re not planning to charge for the newspaper in print or online.

■ Only 42 percent of county residents surveyed said they read the most recent edition of the Sunday Pilot & Today and just 36 percent said they get the Sunday newspaper at least once per month. But 67 percent said that if we made the Sunday newspaper free, they would go out of their way to get each edition.

■ Our online readership continues to grow. Seventy-three percent of county residents said they’ve visited SteamboatToday.com in the past week, and 51 percent said they visited the site the previous day. Twenty-eight percent of county residents said they spend more time reading the newspaper online than in print, up from 20 percent two years ago.

■ Nothing is growing faster than mobile readership. Of the county residents surveyed, 59 percent said they own a smartphone, up from 34 percent in 2010. Further, 52 percent say they have a tablet computer such as an iPad in their home, up from just 18 percent last year.

■ More than half of county residents (54 percent) said they have accessed our website on their phone or tablet computer, up from 14 percent two years ago. Another 21 percent said they have downloaded and used our Steamboat Today mobile app for Apple or Android.

We asked readers to rate content on a scale of 1 (never read) to 5 (always read). Readers gave the highest ratings to local News in Brief and the Happenings calendar.

Also scoring high were human-interest stories and features, local crime coverage and local business coverage. Local editorials, letters to the editor and Tom Ross columns were the highest-rated opinion pieces. Liberal syndicated columnists slightly outscored conservative syndicated columnists, but neither scored particularly well.

Readers rated the weekly horoscopes as well as the crossword and Sudoku puzzles as the least-read content in the newspaper.

Ultimately, the reader survey is just one of many tools we use to make newspaper decisions. But it is certainly helpful in identifying strategies to better meet the needs and interests of our community.

If you have questions about the survey or other feedback you’d like to offer, don't hesitate to call or email me.

To reach Scott Stanford, call 970-871-4202 or email sstanford@SteamboatToday.com

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