WEN Reader Survey Results and What’s New for the West End News in 2017
by Tony Zeli, Editor
In the summer of 2016 we conducted our first WEN reader survey. We captured demographics, interests and creative ideas from 134 of our readers. The survey occurred online between June and August and as a street canvas in downtown Portland.
Readers were asked to rate their favorite sections and to list content that they’d like to see added to WEN. We asked them what was one thing they loved most about the West End News, and what was one thing WEN could improve. And we asked them to tell us a little about themselves.
Who is reading?
Almost half of our surveyed readers were over the age of 45, 49% to be exact. There were plenty of millennials, too. Twenty-five percent were between the ages of 25 to 34 years old. Twenty-one percent were between 35 and 44, and the smallest age group represented were those ages 18 to 24, who made up 5% of our surveyed readership.
How are they reading?
WEN is grateful for our regular readers. In fact, 60% percent of those surveyed said that they read the West End News at least monthly, and 18% read weekly or more often. The print edition is still king. Thirty-two percent reported that they primarily read the print edition, 41% read both print and online more or less equally, and 27% mostly read online. You can follow weekly updates on thewestendnews.com and sign up for our email newsletters: the Daily Digest, Sunday Flyer and Monthly E-mag.
What is WEN doing well?
What was most important to the readers was clear: neighborhood news. In fact, the two words that came up most often when asked what they loved about WEN were “local” and “news.”
As one reader wrote, “I like that the WEN is hyperlocal and hope it stays that way!” Another responded, “It’s relevant, local and honest.” And still another responded, “I like that it focuses on local issues and news. The local political coverage is always great.”
One reader delved a little deeper into specifics, relaying that they loved the West End News’ descriptions of City Council meetings, “that help [readers] understand the tone, attitude, and atmosphere of the proceedings… If I can’t be there, I like to understand how the councilors reacted to the discussion.”
Readers wanted more coverage of crime, politics and development.
They also enjoyed reading our political commentary. And many consider the event listings that that can be found on our Community Calendar and What’s Going On pages as their top reason to read.
Regular political commentators Adam Marletta and Wells Lyons got plenty of shout outs from readers. One reader summed it up, “Adam Marletta writes excellent, thought provoking articles.”
Also, Leo Knighton Tallarico was praised by many, and our regular column from Portland Adult Education English language students, “My Story,” was singled out by many as a favorite.
What could WEN do better?
Surveyed readers definitely had some suggestions on improvements. More photos, more “good” news and less political bias were wanted.
One reader said, “Keep the content balanced – left/right, older/younger, richer/poorer, etc. Something for everyone and no snakiness.”
We hope we’re nothing like a snake, but the point is well-taken. West End News will always strive to improve our content balance. It is no secret that our editor and commentators come from a politically left perspective. So do most residents of the West End. Of course, all sides of every story should be explored fairly and we strive to tell the news straight.
While Leo Knighton Tallarico’s astrology column was favored by many, others were not so enamored. One reader declared, “The astrology thing is super weird. I’d ditch it.”
Sorry, but Leo is here to stay. Some folks don’t like astrology at all, but WEN seeks a variety of content, and many readers appreciate Leo’s unique look at the stars.
And one reader thought WEN was a bit too casual, warning, “Don’t assume the readers know your friends by name.”
As a community paper, maybe we sometimes forget our role and are a bit too neighborly in our reporting style. WEN will continue to work hard to ensure fair coverage that is well-explained. It is important to be clear to all readers without the need for specific knowledge and to avoid inside baseball.
What new content can readers expect in 2017?
The Dumpster is WEN’s version of a gossip column. It is sort of like a Twitter feed for the West End, only it started about five years before Twitter. One reader thought it would be cool to have a Dumpster tip-line, “For any juicy bits?”
Done. Email your Dumpster lines to email@example.com.
One suggestion was for outdoor news boxes to make it easier to find your free copy. We hope to introduce these by summer of this year.
Readers are most hungry for reviews. Food, theater and music reviews and tips are the most requested new content for the West End News. Your wish is our command, and WEN will introduce reviews in the months ahead.
Also, many readers asked for more stories of neighborhood people and the things they do. One reader specifically asked for a local artist feature section. Others wanted more stories from the neighborhood’s immigrant community.
As such, WEN will provide more regular West End People stories and will try to feature artists and immigrants as often as possible.
Finally, one reader summed up WEN’s mission well, and their words stand as a standard bearer for the paper, “Big ideas on making neighborhood/city better, creative activities, what are other cities doing, articles on local people and work they are doing.”
Reach Us Anytime
WEN looks forward to the year ahead. Thank you for reading. Contact us anytime with your suggestions, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tony is publisher and editor of the West End News.