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Readers weigh in

November 15, 2019

Summary of regional findings

The Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association conducted a survey of readers of member publications September – October 2019.  Members promoted the survey to their readership and MDDC provided a unique link for each participating publication.  Hyper-local news is critically important to readers in Maryland, Delaware and DC.  Readers engage with the content and advertisers found in print and online, reporting that their buying decisions and lives are impacted by the items they read and see.  News media publications in our region are excellent or good sources for local news and widely trusted.  Readers view breaking news, state and local government news, and police and crime coverage as the most important topics to cover.  Readers are generally satisfied with the level of coverage provided. 

Demographics and sample size

Overall, MDDC received 1913 survey responses.  Participating publications included: Herald-Mail (828 responses), Frederick News Post (412), Delaware State News (275), Washington Informer (170), The Daily Record (111), Salisbury Independent (71), Dorchester Banner (38), Catholic Review (29) and Crisfield-Somerset Times (8).  Respondents (Q1-Q2) were generally regular readers (63.09%) of the publication, 48.74% reporting that just one person typically reads the publication copy and 43.1% reporting that two people read the publication.  Sixty-six percent of respondents heard about the survey through an email invitation (Q3). 

Demographically, 45.88% of respondents were aged 65 or older (Boomers and Silent Generation), and 26.24% were aged 55-64 (Boomers).  Eighteen percent of respondents were ages 35-54 (Generation X) and Millennials (ages 18 – 34) comprised 5.13% of respondents (Q15).  More females responded to the survey (55.97%) than males (Q16).  Twenty-two percent of respondents had a household income of over $100,000 (Q17) and 57.48% attained a bachelor’s degree or higher (Q18).

Perception of publication

When asked to rate specific aspects of the publication, 77.65% of respondents thought that the publication rated Excellent or Good as a Source for Local News.  On the same scale, 68.74% rated the publication Excellent or Good for Trustworthiness.  See below for the full chart of responses.

Publication Aspect % rating Excellent or Good % rating Poor or Very Poor
Source for Local News 77.65 4.64
Trustworthiness 68.74 6.33
Quality of Writing 65.40 5.82
Design and layout of print pub 64.59 2.38
Distribution Methods 62.47 6.97
Range of content covered in print 60.36 4.94
Range of content covered online 53.78 5.51
Design and layout of website 53.34 4.57
Cost 48.17 10.85

Importance of various topics

We asked respondents to identify the topics most often read, how important topics were to them and whether they would prefer the same, increased or decreased coverage in particular topics.  Unsurprisingly, the topics[1] most often read were the topics most important to them.  Breaking News topped the news category most often read (Q4) (weighted score of 4.29 out of 5), followed by State and Local Government (3.95), Police & Crime (3.92), National (3.7) and Politics (3.63).  The least often read category was Jobs (2.74).

When asked “how important are the following topics to you” (Q6), respondents rated Breaking News as most important with a weighted score of 4.43 out of 5. The responses tracked the categories most often read with State & Local Government coming in at 4.14, Police & Crime at 4.07, National at 3.84 and Politics at 3.72.  The least important topic was Lists & Surveys (2.65).

Overall, respondents are content with the level of coverage offered across topics.  When asked which topics respondents preferred coverage to remain the same, increase, decrease, or eliminate coverage (Q7), more than half of respondents preferred coverage to remain the same in all topic categories.  The single exception was in Breaking News, where 56.65% of respondents preferred increased coverage.  The topics that are most important to respondents are the ones where most would prefer increased coverage.  A full chart is below, sorted alphabetically.

Topic Increase coverage Keep coverage the same Decrease coverage Eliminate coverage
Agriculture 9.28% 75.40% 12.33% 3%
Breaking News 56.65% 41.57% 1.33% .44%
Business 13.82% 76.69% 8.20% 1.29%
Classifieds 9.39% 74.36% 13.07% 3.17%
Entertainment / Things to do 28.40% 64.79% 5.58% 1.23%
Environment & Energy 20.25% 67.28% 10.63% 1.85%
Finance 12.42% 74.83% 10.84% 1.92%
Health Care 26.01% 66.44% 6.94% .62%
Hospitality & Retail 10.86% 76.02% 11.54% 1.58%
Jobs 15.24% 71.10% 11.56% 2.10%
Law 16.15% 70.91% 10.97% 1.97%
Lists & Surveys 3.13% 62.10% 27.73% 7.05%
Manufacturing 5.69% 73.48% 17.59% 3.24%
National 29.43% 60.27% 8.95% 1.34%
Police & Crime 38.24% 56.94% 4.22% .61%
Politics 22.33% 64.09% 11.47% 2.12%
Public or Legal Notices 7.08% 73.13% 17.09% 2.70%
Real Estate / Construction 8.28% 74.87% 14.83% 2.01%
Religion 11.50% 64.27% 16.43% 7.80%
Small Business 18.31% 72.73% 7.61% 1.34%
Sports 15.13% 64.24% 15.58% 5.04%
State & Local Government 44.51% 52.96% 2.14% .38%

Respondents suggested in short answer what other coverage, feature, data or information they would like to have provided (Q8).  Although not a topic, several respondents commented on grammatical errors and lack of proofreading in articles and photo captions.  A summary of responses grouped by subject is below.

Local, state & national government: “More individual township coverage (events)”; “Thoughtful historical pieces that explain development of Maryland legislative issues such as the movement to abolish cash bail or movement for education reform”; “State and National legislation---# of Bill. synopsis, outcome of vote, names of those voting for/against”; “MD General Assembly Hearing Schedules”; “state and federal legislation votes in the Sunday paper”; “Specifics about proposed Maryland legislation, bill numbers, who are the sponsors and supporters, analysis”; “DC Government; “transactions, public facilities”; “more in-depth investigative reporting, especially on things like local government”

Features: “Biographies of well-known African Americans”; “people who do good things in our community”; “Area residents that promote and create a positive image of the community”; “More human interest stories”; “section for and about the senior citizens”; “Local travel, history”; “Ask Black America with Roland Martin”; “Activities and information for seniors citizens”; “Craft project or needlework pattern”; “more coverage in local social events, such as weddings, engagements, anniversaries, etc.”; “Recipes”; “"foodie section" of the paper. Every week one of your lucky employees would try out a new restaurant and critique it! (and make sure they take pictures of their meals!)”

Traffic & weather: “Updates on proposed and existing road construction”; “expanded weather coverage”; “coverage of local weather and historical weather events”; “Include humidity in weather report”; “traffic incidents covered when it leads to more than usual traffic congestion even if it is just caused by a breakdown on the side of the road”

Events: “More information about other things happening in the area within a 60 mile or so radius”; “Calendar of events in all categories”;

Business: “new businesses coming to area”; “Business news, new developments especially in black neighborhoods”; “Non-profit support and resources”; “Zoning issues”; “Local, regional, national, global black- minority owned enterprise success stories in STEM, Arts especially African Continent, and the USA African Command expansion-presence”

Environment: “constant building on wetlands which is hurting the environment”; “Climate crisis”; “How climate change is impacting local business/environment. how to garden for climate change/protect environment. how to recycle with changes to recycling”

Sports: “more University of Maryland sports such as lacrosse, soccer. Emphasis is usually on football and basketball”; “women's events should be increased”; “coverage of college Hockey, girls h.s. soccer”; “Local sports of all the teams”; “motorsports events, i.e. motorcycle racing”

Education: “More on charter schools please, or just education in general”; “education”; “It would be cool to see editorials by students from local high schools. I really enjoy the articles about stand out students”

Police & Crime: “More and Better local crime reports. A lot more happens than ever covered in this town”; “Breaking crime news”; “Breaking Police News”

Other: “Social Services coverage needs an increase”; “Information and Communications Technology , STEM education policy”; “Status of affordable housing in the District”; “Hbcu news”; “include more new science innovations”; “literary supplement”

Effect of publication on habits

Over 46% of respondents reporting regularly visiting or making purchases from a company advertising in the publication (Q9) and 45% reported that their buying decisions are “influenced by advertising or content” seen in the publication (Q10).  Overall, over half of respondents (51.75%) felt that the news reported in the publication affects either major aspects or some aspects of their daily life (Q11).

Events provided by publication

In terms of the events provided by the publication, only 30% of respondents reported attending an event over the last year (Q12).  Of those who did NOT attend an event, the most significant reason was that the respondent did not know about the event (33.35%), followed by timing (25.87%) (Q13).  Generally, respondents preferred to attend community events (65.81%), followed by concerts (55.85%), with educational seminars coming in third at 29.45% (Q14).



[1] Topics were presented randomly for each respondent.  The alphabetical list is as follows: Agriculture, Breaking News, Business, Classifieds, Entertainment / Things to do, Environment & Energy, Finance, Health Care, Hospitality & Retail, Jobs, Law, Lists & Surveys, Manufacturing, National, Police & Crime, Politics, Public or Legal Notices, Real Estate / Construction, Religion, Small Business, Sports, State & Local Government

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