My decision to do my first-ever reader survey was really just a lightning quick notion while I was on vacation. I whipped up the questions without a lot of thought, tossed it on the site, and assumed it would be a somewhat interesting diversion, though I was nervous about the sort of feedback I'd get (or whether I'd get much at all, since goodness knows *I* hardly ever respond to these sorts of pleas for input).
So I'm happy that 428 readers took the time to click a few boxes and type a few words, giving me a bunch of great data to chew over
. A few numbers surprised me, a few confirmed what I've always suspected, and others really helped to refocus me on how people use the site and what is and isn't important. Some bullet points:
* The response that I think might surprise others but which I've always assumed to be the case is that only 41 percent of JDLand readers currently live in Near Southeast. This means that there are two somewhat distinct readerships who have different levels of interest about various goings-on. This is why you'll see additional breakouts for some survey responses by Near Southeast Residents and Not Residents. And this is also why I don't always go as deep into the weeds on neighborhood news and events as some residents would probably like, because I know a lot of readers are looking for more of an overview.
* Not surprisingly, nonresidents are more interested than residents in before-and-after photos (69 percent to 49 percent), since nonresidents (like me!) don't see all the new stuff every day.
* Another shocker: Near Southeast residents are most interested in restaurant/retail news! (The question might be, who are the 2 percent of residents who aren't?)
* This is the one that stunned me: 82 percent of respondents said that the amount of blog posts is "Poifect." Only THREE people said there's too many posts? There were about 60 people who said that there are too few posts, or that information is being missed, with residents feeling that way more than non-residents. While some people recognized that this is more a statement on the lack of actual news instead of my coverage being underwhelming, one critique raised a few times in the "Other" field was the overloaded "Tidbits" posts, which I had recognized as a problem even before starting the survey. You're already seeing a larger number of smaller posts rather than fewer bulleted ones....
* My employer will be happy to know that 87 percent of readers say they get local news from the Washington Post. DCist was the second-highest choice (46 percent), with City Paper third at 35 percent. (This question probably would have benefitted from more options, and people added quite a few in the Other field. Oh well. Next time.)
* Twitter is used by only about 25 percent of respondents to get either my content or local news
. This is an important data point for me, because if you spend as much time deep in the Twitterverse as I do, it's easy to overinflate its importance in the overall news delivery and consumption scheme. (I'd also suggest reading this AdWeek piece
from a few weeks back on how Politico's bloggers are trying to adapt in a Twitter world, where being first and fast is a whole heck of a lot harder than it used to be. It's an article that really resonated with me.)
There's a few parts of the survey I'd change if I had it to do over again (some demographic info, like gender and age, would have been good to know). And doing it after baseball season is over probably skews the results away from the Nationals fans who tend to come by to check out what's going on near the stadium. And of course I'm well aware that this isn't at all scientific, and that it's the most engaged readers who tend to make the effort to reply. Plus, the number of responses is a teensy percentage of what Google reports as my average monthly unique visitors, so a lot of visitors are no doubt unrepresented in these numbers. (And the people who think I'm excessively wordy or post too often or don't do a good job have probably already moved along.)
But, all of that said, I'm so glad I did this, because one thing I never ever expected was the huge number of positive comments (and almost complete lack of negative ones) in the optional feedback field. (I'm not going to post them publicly, because I can only imagine the grief I'd get for such a display of look-how-wonderful-people-think-I-am.) A lot of what I do can feel like "whistling into the wind," because you're never really sure how much people are reading and enjoying the site (page view statistics are nice, but don't tell the whole story), so to get message after message of encouragement was a wonderful surprise.
It's no secret that I go through phases of wondering whether I should really keep at it, and during my week in Florida I was seriously teetering on the edge of "it's time," with a lot of self-doubt about whether a "neighborhood blog" in the area of Facebook and Twitter is something people are still looking for. Most unexpectedly, this survey really ended up reinforcing for me that basically I've still got the right idea after all this time.
In other words, a big thanks to all who replied. You had a lot more impact on JDLand than you might have anticipated.