Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What Our Readers Want

by Laura Thompson Osuri

After six weeks of vendors passing out yellow survey cards, our reader survey is complete.

From the look of it so far, with about 550 responses, Street Sense readers are evenly divided when it comes to age, income level and how long they have been reading the paper.

The only standout demographics are that we have more female readers (62%) than male, and – not surprisingly – the majority of our readers work for nonprofits (36%) or the government (27%).

Knowing the demographics our readers will be a huge help when it comes to selling advertising in the paper. Advertisers always want to know who they are going to be reaching and now we have up–to–date information on that. Surprisingly, however, little has changed since our first readers’ survey back in June 2006.

Our advertisers will also love to know that 80% of our customers are reading at least half the paper every time they buy it.

Aside from learning about reader demographics, the survey has helped us gain our readers’ input about the paper and its vendors. Nearly all customers buy the paper to support the vendors but about half of our customers also buy it to learn more about homeless issues.

It’s great to see that so many of D.C. area residents want to learn more about this often ignored topic. In the next year, we hope to do an even better job providing this information.

How we provide this information may very well change thanks to your feedback.
I was pleased to find out that the local news section is everyone’s favorite. Often times, I think that the news we are providing may be too depressing or repetitive and that readers may simply ignore it an turn to the moving poetry or amusing editorials.

But it seems people are interested in homelessness and poverty issues, no matter how many somber statistics and stories we report. As I suspected, the vendor profiles and poetry sections are also near the top of readers’ lists, with games and provider profiles falling at the bottom. Maybe it’s time to do away with the crossword and to run intriguing news – rather than fluffy profiles – on organizations helping the homeless.

The most surprising result, to me anyway, is that nearly half the readers think vendors should have “signs explaining the paper.” This is something a few vendors have tried on their own, but not something we have tried to institute organization–wide.

That may change, thanks to your suggestions. We also apparently need more vendors to pass out our brochures, and we can definitely get going on that right away.

Besides the suggestions on how our vendors can improve sales, I really appreciate all the written suggestions on how the organization can improve its outreach. The message from readers was clear: Street Sense needs to advertise.

Hopefully in the spring, you will be seeing public service announcements about Street Sense on and inside Metro buses, on the radio and on cable television.

Thanks to all those that responded to the reader survey. You can be assured your feedback will be put to good use! If you have any further suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at