I know an awful lot about you now, stuff I didn’t know a few months ago, stuff a columnist cannot find out just by reading the Letters to the Editor, or the online Comments, or by answering your phone calls or meeting you by chance in front of the frozen foods at Stop and Shop or in the teller line at the bank. Not to suggest that I don’t enjoy all of that.
But now, your deepest, most private thoughts are mine. Oh, I don’t mean the personal revelations on your Facebook page or your nutty, gossipy off-the-top-of-your-head Tweets, your photos of the latest debauch you enjoyed at that club in New York or the pictures you posted of that knockout girl at Offshore.
No, I mean, what you like and don’t like, what you want more or less of, and how you use The Times and its website, mvtimes.com.
A few months ago, you’ll remember if you’ve been paying attention, The Times hired a professional polling company, one of the nation’s largest publication research firms with some particular experience in surveys for newspapers, to conduct scientific opinion research of a random sample of you. Some of you may remember receiving phone calls from pesky interviewers asking lots of questions. This outfit, based all the way across the country, delivered the goods a little while ago, and it’s been illuminating and instructive to review the data. The questions were designed to elicit your opinions, mostly of the print newspaper and incidentally the website. (You may have noticed that we’re about done with an unscientific, online poll that’s been going on for more than a month now, looking for responses to questions about mvtimes.com and only incidentally about the print newspaper. We’ll have the polling company’s analysis of those results soon.)
Why bother, you ask. Well, these days many newspapers, nearly all websites, and all social media reflect what interests you, or rather what you suggest is all that interests you. That way, they can sell you, or rather your expressed interests, to advertisers who will target you precisely and narrowly with their come-ons. It’s what cable news channels do – MSNBC feeds its viewers on one political fringe what they love to hear, what reinforces their opinions; and FoxNews does the opposite for its listeners who inhabit the opposite fringe.
Some newspapers prefer to walk the line between what readers and the newspaper’s editors think you’re interested in and what they think might be worthwhile for you to know, although you haven’t begged for such information to be delivered to you. We wanted to know where that line ought to be drawn, so that you got a lot of what you liked and some of what you couldn’t possibly know you would like until you had tasted it.
We wanted to know where you get your news. Ninety-three percent of you have read or looked into a copy of The Times. That’s about one-third more than have looked at the nearest competitor for Vineyard readers. The next three print newspapers circulated here accounted for only about six percent of the possible readership.
For online news, 42 percent of Vineyarders visited mvtimes.com for news and information. That was more than double the share of respondents who visited the other Vineyard based news site. Sixty-six percent of Islanders, six times more than the nearest competitor, reported that the MVTimes is their primary source of local Vineyard community news.
So, obviously, it’s fun to report these discoveries to you. I hear you saying that if the results were different, I probably would be writing about something else this week. I say, you may be right. I cannot possibly comment on such speculation.
What are you interested in? Seventy-nine percent say they are extremely or moderately interested in events and activities on the Vineyard; 73 percent are similarly interested in conservation issues; 63 percent are interested in health, wellness, and spiritual well being; and a like share are interested in information on what’s available or on sale in local stores.
The next largest share of interest – I’m gratified to report – reports a love affair with The Times’ editorial and opinions, 61 percent by the numbers. The court report gets a thumbs up from 55 percent of readers. (By the way, I understand that you are responsible for the material we include in the court report, so, in this case, we won’t take the lion’s share of the credit.)
Education and school news attracted 51 percent of extreme or moderate interest. City and county government get a 77 percent interest rating; classified ads and the Bargain Box 69 percent; business news 58 percent; sports 39 percent; and religion 58 percent.
What do you want more of? Sixty-four percent report an appetite for more reporting on alternative energy, taxes, and cost of living; 63 percent say more land use and conservation; 62 percent more education and health care; and 55 percent on affordable housing.
In sum, pleased with you as we certainly are, we’ve got our work cut out for us.
Oh, and we wondered how you get your weekly fix of MVTimes. Fifty-two percent get it from the print newspaper. Forty-one percent get it from a combination of web and print versions of MVTimes. Barely two percent got the news from mvtimes.com alone.