The Win Column
Accolades from readers and fellow journalists
by David A. Fryxell
It's been a few years since we last surveyed our readership, so it's good to know "the biggest little paper in the Southwest" is still also your favorite paper. In fact, the results of our questions about reading frequency and readers per copy in the 2014 reader survey, just completed, track almost exactly the last time we asked these questions.
Some 88% of survey respondents pick up Desert Exposure every single month, and 86% spend two hours or more with each issue. A whopping 61% save their copies at least all month long, or indefinitely, and several of those who said they don't save Desert Exposure explained that's because they pass it on to friends or family. (In that case, you're forgiven.) All that pass-along readership adds up to 2.3 readers per copy, actually up a bit from our last survey. That works out to about 23,000 readers of our print edition every month.
This was the first time we've asked about readership of our web site, and it was striking how little overlap there is between our "dead-tree edition" audience and online readers. Almost 60% of survey respondents have never visited our website (www.desertexposure.com), except to respond to the survey, or read our digital edition at www.scribd.com/desertexposure. Among readers who mailed in the survey clipped from the print edition, only a couple had ever visited us online.
While we wish more print readers would also enjoy our online offerings (which include searchable back issues all the way to January 2005), this isn't entirely bad news. When we say another 10,000 unique visitors click on the website every month and 1,200 read us on Scribd, those are not overlapping much at all with our print audience. So, yes, we really are reaching more than 30,000 pairs of eyeballs every issue.
We're also being read by a lot of folks advertisers can't reach by other means. Overall, more than 15% of survey respondents didn't check any of the eight other local publications we asked if you read regularly. The Glenwood Gazette, another free paper, had the greatest overlap, at 42%, followed by the Silver City Sun-News (31%), Silver City Daily Press (28%) and Las Cruces Sun-News (27%). No other publication gets read by more than one in five Desert Exposure readers.
We've added several regular columns since we last surveyed readers, so this was the first time to test the popularity of those additions. Obviously you approve: Linda Ferrara's 100 Hikes tied for fourth overall in readership, and second only to longtime favorite Desert Diary (16%) in percentage citing it as their one favorite (14%). Vivian Savitt's Southwest Gardener roughly tied our long-running Arts Exposure section in popularity. And Scott Thomson's Talking Horses column, which admittedly targets a niche audience, found fans even among those who said they don't own a horse — and was cited as the top favorite by 6% of all readers.
Those newcomers aside, your rankings of most-read columns and departments haven't changed a lot. This very Editor's Notebook and Continental Divide by yours truly led the way, followed closely by Desert Diary, 100 Hikes and Henry Lightcap's Journal. Letters, Tumbleweeds and Larry Lightner's Ramblin' Outdoors were just a few decimal points behind.
When asked to name a single favorite, after Desert Diary and 100 Hikes, readers picked Editor's Notebook and Continental Divide, followed by Lightcap, 40 Days and 40 Nights and Marjorie Lilly's Borderlines column (all tied).
Not surprisingly given the strong showings of our outdoors entries, 64% of readers checked that they regularly hike, bike or engage in other out-and-about activities. That trailed only eating out at restaurants (93%) and was tied with daytrips (64%), followed by going to art galleries (52% — a figure far above the national average), and attending live music or theater performances (43%).
Many of you also added kind words, suggestions and other comments. Our favorite, though, given what pays the bills and makes Desert Exposure possible, was this: "For me, it is the greatest little paper in the Southwest and I always read the ads, too, to stay on top of where to shop or get services."
As a thank-you for participating, we randomly selected five lucky readers to receive Desert Exposure mugs. Soon to be sipping their
coffee or tea in style are: Phil Merryweather and Suzanne Thompson of
Silver City; Charles Troutman of Mimbres; and Roberta Flores and Randy
Summers of Las Cruces.
Congratulations to them and thanks to all who responded.
While it's reader opinions that really count, we wouldn't be human if we didn't also enjoy recognition from our peers in the journalism world. So we're delighted to be able to report that the 2014 Top of the Rockies competition, sponsored by the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and open to publications throughout a four-state region, recently honored Desert Exposure with four awards in our circulation category.
This very column won first place in Editorials, based on a sampling of three editorials published in 2013. Tom Barry's feature, "The Coming Water Wars," about how climate change is heightening tensions between Mexican small farmers and expanding Mennonite colonies, published in our April 2013 issue, won first place for Agriculture Enterprise Reporting. (You can read it online and see why the judges were so impressed.) My feature on tamales ("Holiday Wrapping," December 2013) won second place in the News Feature category. And a selection of three of my Continental Divide columns placed third in the Personal Column/Humor category.
This is the fifth straight year Desert Exposure has been honored by fellow journalists in the Top of the Rockies competition. But it's the accolades from you, our readers, that keep us getting out of the bed in the morning.
David A. Fryxell is editor and publisher of Desert Exposure.
PO Box 191
Silver City, NM 88062