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Editor’s Note: What We Learned From Our Reader Survey

9:49 PM EDT on June 12, 2023

Last winter, we asked our readers to fill out a survey about our coverage – what we're doing well, and what you think we could do better.

We'd like to extend our gratitude to everyone who filled it out – your input helps us set our priorities and serve our readers better.

You also had a lot of kind things to say about us: "I've been very pleased with the coverage - particularly MBTA issues," wrote one respondent. "I hear things from this blog which I would never hear from the Globe," wrote another.

What we learned about our audience

One key finding (and a caveat for the overall survey's results): the readers who filled out our survey are not representative of the general population of Massachusetts, which is the audience we're trying to reach.

First, there's a significant gender imbalance: only about one quarter of survey respondents identified themselves as women or non-binary – the rest identified as men.

And only 13 percent of our survey respondents identified as being non-white. That's significantly lower than the proportion of non-white residents for the state as a whole (30 percent), and it's especially low when you remember that most of our readers come from the Boston region, where there are even higher populations of people of color.

We also asked our readers to give us their ZIP codes to get an idea of where they're from. In terms of geographic representation, we did pretty well: about three-quarters of respondents told us that they live in the Boston area, in cities and towns that touch the MBTA's rapid transit network. That's a little higher, but not wildly different from, the proportion of the state's total population that lives in the same area.

These results suggest one goal we'd like to work on (and it's a goal we've been working on for a while): to be better advocates for a safer, more sustainable and less car-reliant communities, we need to reach out to new audiences who aren't familiar with Streetsblog yet.

Expanding our coverage

Luckily, that goal dovetails with a lot of the open-ended responses we got when we asked readers to suggest topics and issues that you'd like us to cover more.

One of the most common requests was for more coverage outside the Boston area: "The site feels very Boston-centric even though it is a statewide site. While there are a few articles once in a while about places other than Boston, I would like to see more of them," wrote one reader.

Another asked for "more individual project successes from mix of small and large communities; rural, suburban, and urban."

You also asked for more political coverage: one reader asked for "nitty-gritty policy like who is voting for what, why, and WHEN." Another respondent asked for more detailed reports on the "state legislature's influence on transportation and funding."

Another common (and related) request was for connecting readers more often with specific advocacy opportunities.

"Sometimes I'm not sure how to really advocate for more projects, funding, etc.," wrote one reader. "It would be great to get some coverage on ways to get involved more."

How we're responding

We've had these survey results for a few months now, and even though we're only just now getting around to writing them up, we've already been taking them under consideration in how we pick stories to write about.

For instance, we've been increasing our coverage of the Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) that operate transit outside of the greater-Boston MBTA service area, with stories like this one:

The RTA coverage also overlaps with our goals to increase political coverage and calls-to-action for our readers, as legislators in the State House consider budget proposals that could give RTAs a major boost in funding.

This spring, we've also ventured outside the Boston area to write about the Major Taylor Association's film screening of 'Biking While Black' in Worcester, Northampton's big Main Street reconstruction project, and the uncertain future of the Connecticut River Valley's bikesharing system.

We plan to follow up with another reader survey this winter so that you can tell us how we're doing on these goals.

In the meantime, we're always open to feedback. A lot of our stories originate from our readers who write in and ask us to cover something happening in their neighborhood, so we want to hear from you. You can reach me anytime by email at christian@streetsblog.org.

And as always, thanks for reading StreetsblogMASS.

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