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There’s nothing like an anonymous website survey to learn what people really think about your work. That’s why I did an online survey to help give me an idea of what direction to take PBS MediaShift in the coming year. Have I done a good job? Have I covered the right type of stories that appeal to you? Is there something else I could be doing to improve the site?

After having the survey open for more than a month, and tallying 127 responses, I want to share some of the results with you — as well as some preliminary conclusions. First off, I really appreciate you all taking the time to fill out the survey. Second, you really blew me away with your thoughtful ideas, your strong support for what I’m doing, and your sense of humor about it.

If there’s one overriding emotion I had when reading through your responses it was heartfelt gratitude that I have such a loyal, smart following of readers. I’ve been a freelance writer for most of the past 13 years, and I’ve never experienced this level of engagement and community with my readers before. No, really.

So before I get out the hankies, let’s get down to the brass tacks of the survey results and find out where MediaShift is going right, what you’d like to see change, and exactly who the heck you are. (Keep in mind that this was not a scientific survey, with self-selected participation online.)

What You Like

One of the themes of the survey results is that many of you work at media companies and are interested in reading more about the changes in the mainstream media (MSM) wrought by digital technology. That’s cool, as that’s really one of the main reasons I started the blog.

When I asked, “What topics on MediaShift interest you most?” the top reply was “changes in mainstream media” by 75.9% of respondents (note: people could check off multiple answers on this). That top response was followed by “learning more about the technology behind the media changes” (58.9%), “commentary about societal change” (58.9%) and “Q&As with well known media thinkers” (57.1%). In the write-in field, people also mentioned topics such as DRM (digital rights management) and intellectual property issues.

Conversely, for the question, “What topics on MediaShift interest you the least?” the top reply was “How-to or Guide articles” (29.9%), followed by “international news about free speech” (27.6%). But what was heartening was that people didn’t overwhelmingly reject any of the main topics of the blog. If only about 30% of people don’t like How-to articles, that means that the other 70% probably don’t mind them.

I was a bit worried that people didn’t like the longish blog posts that I make here at MediaShift, but you put that largely to rest. A full 75.5% said that blog-post length is “perfect as is” with 19.4% saying they are too long, and 5.1% saying they’re too short (imagine that).

What You Want

Many of the survey questions related to new subjects MediaShift might cover, as well as possible podcast subject matter and citizen journalism initiatives. In general, respondents were interested in more business news related to media, and were a bit more interested in a podcast than contributing as a citizen journalist.

Answering the question, “Which of the following features would you like to see in MediaShift?” the top two responses were “group blog with other writers contributing” (46.1%) and “live-blogging of new media events” (46.1%). I think those are two things that should be relatively easy to add. I’ve already had some guest bloggers contribute, but I could try to make that a more regular feature, perhaps with correspondents reporting from outside the U.S. And there are plenty of new-media events to blog, as well.

As for “What subjects should MediaShift cover that it isn’t currently covering?” the top replies were “business news for online media” (54.8%) and “reviews of websites” (46.4%). Again, these would be pretty easy to add to the mix. Others wrote in that they’d like gadget reviews that focused on usability, that they want me to look beyond the U.S. to other countries, while others said they were happy with the subjects already being covered.

As for a potential MediaShift video or audio podcast, about half of you would subscribe to one or both of these, with the vast majority of you favoring an audio podcast length of less than 40 minutes (92%). As for what you’d like to hear or see in such a podcast report, many of you wanted the same MediaShift topics from the blog covered in the podcast. Other subjects you’d like to hear about on a podcast: “interviews with media insiders,” “policy issues and their implications,” and “politics of the media.”

And some nice advice on the podcast came in, too, including this nugget:

[There are] lots of podcasts out there with engaging topics but hosts with the personalities of pancakes. Obviously the subject matter behind MediaShift is of interest to me, but I wouldn’t continue to subscribe to a podcast that wasn’t also enjoyable to listen to.

Point taken. I promise not to bring a pancake personality to any podcast produced here.

Meanwhile, on the question of a citizen journalism project, 55.1% of you were not interested in participating in such a project. But on the bright side, many of you explained how you might contribute to it:

“I would like to comment more on posts, maybe even contribute a longer piece now and then on topics I’m knowledgeable about, like digital music.”

“Giving the Brazilian point of view of the topics.”

“I would love to take on assignments that could allow me to post on MediaShift and my blog simultaneously. My blog is similar to MediaShift in content and I would love to have some sort of collaborative effort.”

Who You Are

Many of the questions asked you to provide more details about your interaction with MediaShift and also to share your demographic info. Here’s a rundown of some stats compiled from these questions.

> 32% of respondents were answering the survey on their first visit to MediaShift, while 21.3% have read the blog “more than 30 times.”

> 62.6% of respondents considered themselves either an “expert” (22.8%) or “very knowledgeable” (39.8%) about new media.

> 47.5% of respondents write their own blog, while 16.6% produce a podcast, and 70.4% use RSS readers.

> 67.3% of survey respondents are male.

> 60.6% of respondents are between the ages of 25 and 44, with 18.3% between 45 and 54.

> 71.8% of you live in the U.S. with others mainly living in Canada and the U.K., as well as Israel, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, India and even Liechtenstein.

> 63.2% of you have an income of $60,000 per year or less, while 36.8% of you make more than $60,000 annually.

> 83.2% of you have either a bachelor’s degree in college (52.5%), a master’s degree (25.7%) or a doctorate (5%).

> 24% of you work for a media company, 10% for a technology company, 8% are students, and 20% of you are self-employed. Others work for non-profits, libraries, media foundations — and there was even a voiceover artist in the mix.

So now you have almost all the information I have from the reader survey, and you can expect that I’ll take much of it to heart when considering the future direction of the blog and new projects. If you didn’t get a chance to fill out the survey but have some constructive criticism, ideas or feedback on the blog, please share it in the comments below. And the Feedback Form is always hungry for your suggestions 24 hours per day.