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Editorial: Readership survey shapes new ‘I-T’ initiatives, features

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed,” began Mark Twain in one of his most famous quips. “If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”

Well, the “Huckleberry Finn” author would have done well to get himself to Sonoma – where the readership is quite well-informed indeed.

That much was made clear earlier this year when the results of our second annual readership survey were tallied and, like last year, Sonoma seems able to, well, read us like a book.

Like last year, readers said they had the highest interest in stories about “art and entertainment; things to do” and “city and county government” – followed by “food-and-drink” and “environment/outdoors stories.”

Most encouraging was our big leap in something the survey calls a “net-promoter score” which measures the degree to which readers would recommend the paper to others.

The survey, of course, won’t exist in a vacuum – we didn’t ask folks to spend 15 minutes answering a flurry of questions just to pat ourselves on the back that 75 percent of respondents “frequently” read the opinion page. We want to continue to improve the paper.

To that end, we’ve combined information provided in the survey with feedback from our editorial advisory board and staff brainstorming sessions to develop a plan to introduce several new features and directives for the coming year.

A few new items we’ve already launched. You may have seen “Sold in Sonoma,” a snapshot of recent property sales in the Valley. And “Sonoma’s Bestseller List” tallies the most sought after local adult and children’s books, with help from stats from the folks at Readers’ Books.

Also enjoying a soft launch on the opinion page is “Glass Full/Glass Empty,” which features reader-submitted tales of triumph and/or impropriety – think of it as cheers-and-jeers, Sonoma style. (Email submissions to jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.)

Survey respondents professed a seeming insatiable appetite for art-and-entertainment content – they were “highly satisfied” with our coverage of A&E, and still they said they wanted more. So we’re planning a “5 things to do” hit list of the weekend’s most appealing entertainment, we’ll ramp up the regularity of our “Outdoors” column of hikes, nature tours and parks events, and launch Q&A-style profiles of interesting community members. We’re also planning more dedicated coverage of wine news – whether it’s business openings and closings, tasting events or local trends, Sonoma’s place in wine country warrants going full throttle on the bottle.

From a broader news-coverage perspective, we’ll also steer our gaze toward areas where state and national trends affect Sonoma at the local level – whether that’s the housing crunch, new federal directives, or changes in environmental, education or healthcare mandates. Sonoma may sometimes think of itself as an island, but the island’s edges are increasingly connecting to the world beyond the Valley, and we want to be there to present that news when it happens.

The Sonoma Index-Tribune has been scouring the Valley for all the news that’s fit to print for more than 137 years now – and it’s been a constantly evolving journey in journalism and community engagement.

We thank the nearly 400 readers who filled out our survey – and look forward to even more respondents next year. And of course community feedback is welcome year round. Because, despite what Mr. Twain said, our readers are neither uninformed nor misinformed.

And, as the survey further implies, we depend on them to keep us informed.

Email Jason at Jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.