Bugle survey results will help guide paper’s long-range plan

The Park Bugle recently asked readers what they think about the newspaper, and a whopping 600 volunteered to complete our survey. They offered a wealth of ideas on everything from news topics to the design of the paper—suggestions that will help guide us in improving and enhancing our coverage in the coming months.

If one may generalize from the responses, Bugle readers are a strikingly well-educated group, passionate about their community and the people in it. They skew middle-aged, and they prefer to read news in print.

The survey responses affirmed that readers overwhelmingly believe having news of their neighborhood or community is “very important” (71% of those who responded) or “important” (28%). They told us they like the paper, with 50% saying they are “very satisfied” and 46% “satisfied.”

Interestingly, the survey highlighted that the nonprofit, monthly paper has a highly educated readership. Fully 30% of those who responded said they live in a household where the highest level of education attained by a household member is a Ph.D. or professional degree, while another 31% are in a household with the highest level of education a master’s degree. About a fourth (26%) live in a household where the highest level of education is a bachelor’s degree. Thus, 87% of those who responded live in a household where a resident has earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The geographic breakdown is as follows: St. Anthony Park (both North and South), 51% of those who responded; Como Park, 17%; Falcon Heights, 15%; and Lauderdale, 9%. The rest listed Roseville; other parts of St. Paul; various parts of Minneapolis, particularly southeast and Prospect Park; other northeastern suburbs, including New Brighton and Maplewood; and three states other than Minnesota—including Hawaii.

The age range finds that among readers who responded, their households contain a total of 320 residents ages 56 and up, another 211 residents ages 35 to 55, and about 80 residents ages 18 to 34. These households include 104 residents under age 18.

We learned that almost all of those who responded (95%) read the paper in print. Only 1% read it online only; many did not know that the Bugle has a website. Meanwhile, about 70% say they get most of their other news in print, as well, while 21% get half of their news online and half in print. About 9% of respondents get their news online only. About half (48%) said they would like more community news if the paper’s website were updated more frequently.

Nearly all of those who responded (96%) get news of their neighborhood or community from the Bugle. In addition, nearly two-thirds (64%) also get community news from the Twin Cities’ two daily newspapers, the Pioneer Press or Star Tribune, while another nearly two-thirds (65%) get it by word of mouth. The other most common sources of community news were TV or radio (40%), public kiosks and bulletin boards (39%), school or church (30%), city or district council communications (25%), Facebook or other social media (23%) and the SAP Yahoo listserv or other e-mail lists (17%).

When asked where they would get neighborhood news if the Bugle ceased to exist, many cited a source from the preceding list or said, simply, “I don’t know how I would get the news if there wasn’t a Bugle.”

The most popular sections of the paper are clearly the news articles (read by 92% of those who responded), feature articles (86%), the events calendar (67%), the city news column City Files (65%) and Lives Lived, the obituaries (61%).

What would our readers like to see more of in the paper? Among the most frequently mentioned topics: local businesses; people profiles; the arts; crime; issues affecting the neighborhood, such as development, light rail and traffic; gardening and local food; history; youth news such as schools, sports and 4-H; more classifieds; more events; and more photos.

What could the Bugle do to improve overall? Readers praised the Bugle for the job it already is doing, but they also they weighed in with thoughtful ideas for news, features and columns; they requested email alerts and gave website tips; they mentioned delivery concerns; and they asked for coupons, puzzles and—last but not least—humor.

The Bugle has already begun implementing some changes that are consistent with the survey results, such as adding the Business News column and re-defining the layout of the Events section. Look for more changes in the coming months.

Readers could volunteer to put their names in a random drawing for a gift certificate to Tim and Tom’s Speedy Market. The winner of that drawing was Brenda Hansen of St. Paul.

Nancy Olsen is the chair of the Park Press Editorial Committee and led the survey effort.

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