THE MAINSTREETER’S NEWSPAPER READERSHIP SURVEY – Loud and clear – Our Readers Want More Local News, Dining Out and Health & Fitness Content

Lorne Abugov
Editor, The Mainstreeter

Readership estimate pegged at 7,050 per issue

The Mainstreeter’s first opinion survey in almost 15 years has already yielded a fascinating profile of who is reading the community newspaper, how they are accessing it and what types of content they want to see more and less of in the months ahead. Moreover, since almost 90% of the survey respondents live in Old Ottawa East (OOE), the results of the poll also offer some interesting insights into community-wide demographics and readership preferences.

When The Mainstreeter last sounded out its readers on their preferences, the year was 2010, and responses were handwritten, clipped from the pages of the paper and mailed back to the editor to be tallied by hand.

This time around, over a four-month period between December 2023 and March 2024, readers were asked to click on a QR Code to respond digitally to our 21-question survey using The Mainstreeter’s new Survey Sparrow polling platform.

The bottom lines

And respond you have! As we went to press, 159 readers had started the survey, and 123 had completed it – for a very respectable 77% completion ratio.

Overall, The Mainstreeter Board of Directors and editorial staff were delighted by the volume and information content of the responses to the readership survey. Incoming Board chairperson, Dianne Wing, thought the readers’ response was “insightful and heartening.”

“The big takeaway from the readership survey, for me, was that community news and information is so highly valued, by readers of all ages. The appeal of the newspaper is based on attitude rather than age, as evidenced by the fact that multiple people in most households read The Mainstreeter,” Wing said.

Lorne Abugov, Editor of The Mainstreeter, observed that feedback from the readers “has finally given us the chance to gauge how we are doing, and to learn how our efforts to produce a quality community newspaper are resonating with our readers. We’re pleased that so many readers participated in this survey and that they seem generally to be enjoying The Mainstreeter. But there are a few areas where some changes in the mix of coverage are suggested by our readers’ opinions, and we are going to move on those,” Abugov said.

So what are the survey’s bottom lines? While we don’t want to pump our own tires, – we’re proud to report that 94.3% of all respondents have rated The Mainstreeter overall as either “excellent” (“Proud to have it serve the community” – 46%); “very good” (“It keeps me informed of things I need to know” – 33.3%); or “good” (“It ticks most of the boxes for me” – 15%). And, as for the 5.7% of respondents who rated us as “satisfactory” (“Does a decent job on some things, could improve on others”), well that’s exactly what we’re going to strive to do going forward!

On one topic in particular, our readers were certainly single-minded – namely, the type of content they wanted to see more of in The Mainstreeter. When we asked readers to rate 10 different content features, more than 93% of you said that you “always read” or “usually read” John Dance’s Community Update column of local news and events coverage. And, when specifically asked if readers wanted to see more OOE community news in The Mainstreeter, 92% of respondents voted “yes” – fully 24% more than the next most popular content category, food/cooking/dining out content, which polled 68%.

Some key demographics

Among many other things, the survey results have helped The Mainstreeter to get an accurate estimate of how many people read each issue of the newspaper, the age and gender demographics of our readers, and whether you read newspapers these days, including The Mainstreeter, in hard copy print format or in digital/online formats.

The big takeaway from the survey is tha community news is highly value by reader of all ages, according to Dianne Wing, chairperson of The Mainstreeter's Board of Directors. Image Supplied

The big takeaway from the survey is tha community news is highly value by reader of all ages, according to Dianne Wing, chairperson of The Mainstreeter’s Board of Directors. Image Supplied

For example, of all respondent households in Old Ottawa East, 59% of households reported two resident readers per issue, 35% of households reported one resident reader per issue, and 5% of households reported three resident readers per issue. Based on these figures, and since The Mainstreeter currently prints and distributes 4,200 copies of each issue, an estimated 7,050 people read all or part of each issue of the newspaper.

As for demographics, 54.4% of survey respondents identified their gender as female, 40.3% as male and 5.3% as other. An equal percentage of respondent readers (9.8% each) were from the two ends of the age spectrum – 25 to 34 years of age and 75 to 84 years of age. Similarly, an equal percentage of readers were in the two largest groups of respondents (25% each) – 55 to 64 years of age and 65 to 74 years of age. Readers aged 45 to 54 comprised 17.4% of respondents, while those aged 35 to 44 made up 12.4% of all survey respondents.


Distribution of The Mainstreeter

One of the more revealing aspects of the survey involved asking our readers how they typically read newspapers these days, whether in hard copy print form or else in digital or online form. The results reflected a readership base in transition from hard copy readers (40%) to digital/online readers (41.5%), while the remaining 18.5% of respondents currently read their newspapers in both formats.

Image Supplied

Image Supplied

As for The Mainstreeter specifically, only 6% of readers responding to our survey accessed their copy of each issue via digital pdf emailed to them or through the webpage. More than 13% of respondent readers accessed The Mainstreeter from the four community newsboxes, while 7.4% obtained their copies of the newspaper from local stores and other businesses. Not surprisingly, fully 73.3% of reader respondents benefitted from home delivery of The Mainstreeter, courtesy of our phenomenal army of volunteer distributors under the supervision of distribution manager Dan Racicot and his team of zone captains. When we asked readers to rate the quality of our home delivery, fully 75% of respondents considered their distribution service to be either “excellent” or “very good.” And of the total 136 readers who responded to this question, not a single respondent rated our home delivery in the “poor” or “very poor” categories.

We were anxious to learn whether our readers enjoyed the editorial content of The Mainstreeter – our news articles, our feature stories, our interviews, and even our advertisements. In addition, we wondered whether readers felt the length of the stories were generally about right and whether there was a good balance between articles and local ads. Your responses were revealing, and they provide us with a good road map for future.

Content and Advertising

About 78% of respondents told us that each issue of The Mainstreeter contained a good balance of editorial content and advertisements, whereas only 7.5% of respondents felt that the newspaper contained too many ads and 14% offered no opinion on the matter. More than 91% of respondents considered our articles to be “just the right length,” while 7.5% felt our stories were “too long” and 1.5% felt they were “too short.”

Image Supplied

Image Supplied

We expected survey respondents wouldhave a few surprises for us when it came to their specific content likes and dislikes – and they did.

For instance, of those who completed the survey, fully one-third offered no opinion on whether The Mainstreeter should publish more bilingual content, and of those who offered an opinion, 37.3% of respondents said “no” and only 20% said “yes.” Even more telling, of 123 respondents, 93 (73.8%) said “no” to more religious or faith-based content, 25 respondents (19.8%) had no opinion, while only 5 respondents (4%) wanted to see more. While more than 68% wanted us to publish more food/cooking/dining out content and 46% asked to see more health and fitness-related content, only 31.8% favoured more coverage of schools and students in the community and an even smaller percentage of respondents, 27.8%, wished to see more coverage of sports and athletics.

For those readers who missed the chance to give their feedback to The Mainstreeter, the readership survey poll will remain open and accessible until the end of May. To access the survey and provide your opinions, simply scan the QR Code to below.
Mainstreeter Survey QRcode 4


Filed in: Community Links, Front Page, Opinion

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