Our reader survey results
On demographics, new community features, advertising, and events
I’m going to be honest, this week’s second edition of Local Authority is not the one I intended to send out. It’s meant to be a big deep dive into the crime stats of Medway, and let me assure you that is one cheerful read. Unfortunately, late last night I realised there was no way I was going to complete it in the remaining time, so instead, I’ve had to change course.
This edition is going to look at the results of our recent reader survey, and introduce a couple of new community elements I’m going to experiment with on Local Authority. Sorry that this one is a bit naval gazing rather than direct Medway news, but I promise that a big edition full of more crime stats that you can shake a stick at will be along next week.
Last month, we asked readers of Local Authority to complete a short survey to help us understand exactly who our readers are. While we may have educated guesses about the kind of person that might read this thing, in reality, we’re shooting off this newsletter to over 1,100 subscribers every week, as well as others that find our work on the web, and we don’t really know much about who is reading.
So what does the average Local Authority reader look like? Truth is, it’s complicated, and we have a fairly broad and diverse audience that we’re immensely proud of. Nearly 300 readers completed the survey, which was way more than expected. Thank you so much if you were one of them!
Our audience is divided fairly well across Medway, with Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, and Rainham breaking fairly evenly. Special shout out to the not insignificant number of readers who don’t live in Medway. We’re not entirely sure why you’d want to read this incredibly niche publication but we’re happy that you do! We do have a baffling lack of readers in Strood though, so please do share Local Authority with your Strood-based friends so we can better break the west side of the river.
Again, when it comes to the age breakdown of our readers, things are pretty even across most groups 35+. We have a surprisingly older demographic than we would have expected. While this is a group that tends to be engaged with local news, we thought our audience might skew a little younger. Instead, barely 10% of our audience is under 35. Who knew the kids aren’t massively into hyperlocal email newsletters?
We’re happy to report that the gender split for this publication is fairly even, which is great. The local news space is often dominated by men, and we’re aware that we aren’t necessarily helping in that regard ourselves, but we’re delighted that our audience is somewhat representative.
Recent census data recorded Medway as having a 91% heterosexual and 3% LGBTQIA+ community, so 10% of our readers consider themselves part of that community.
My my, you’re a super educated bunch. More than half of our readers have a degree or higher! Recent census data showed that around 29% of Medway residents have been educated to at least a degree level.
We asked about voting intention to get a rough sense of who our readers are politically. It doesn’t make any difference to what we do, and we’ll continue to hold whoever is in charge to account as best we can. But we were fairly amused here to find that our poll created something not a million miles away from the national polls. Nearly half of our readers intend to vote Labour, but just 9% say they will vote Conservative. If we assume some of the prefer not to says might split in their direction, you get something more representative but still not quite there. Maybe Conservatives aren’t big fans of email newsletters? Still, the rest of it was pretty much spot with on 7% planning to vote Lib Dem, 6% Green, and 3% independent. While voter apathy is quite wide in the electorate, only 6% of our readers don’t intend to vote, which suggests you lot are pretty engaged in local goings on. Of course you are.
The vast majority of you also get local news from KentOnline (fine, guess we can’t do it all), BBC News (sure), and social media (no, stop doing that). 21% of you still read the Medway Messenger in printed form, which was surprisingly high in this digital world, and less than a fifth of you use KentLive despite it being the other main local news site beyond KentOnline. Pour one out for KMTV and BBC Radio Kent who about 10% of our readers also use for local news.
Finally, we asked what you’d like to see more of in Local Authority. The categories were deliberately broad, and it’s clear that further original reporting is the most requested expansion. This is something we are working on, and we have some big plans for how to do this, but it might take us a little while to get there. But we hear you. Similar for commentary and event coverage, both of which we’re looking to expand in the coming months. It’s clear most of you aren’t really fussed about media content in the form of audio or video, and that’s fine, as we have no real idea how to deliver those anyway.
Substack recently rolled out a new chat function to their platform. It’s existed within their app for a while now, but as we asked about that on the survey too, we know less than 3% of you actually use that. They’ve now expanded it out to the web for everyone though, so we’re going to give it a go.
To kick us off, we’ve started a chat below that should just work? Not entirely sure how, you might need to sign in on the web or if you have the app it’ll open that? Please play around with it and let us know how it goes!
The chat tool is pretty flexible, and even gives the option to let subscribers start their own conversations within it. That’s switched off for now until we can get a little better understanding of how it works, but it’s definitely something we’d like to roll out going forwards.
I was playing around with this yesterday, and I think Substack sent out an email to everyone about it, which was entirely unintended, so sorry about that.
Substack also recently added the ability to insert polls directly into these posts. Please take part in this poll so that we can see how they function.
Since its launch, Local Authority has been entirely advertising free, with all income being raised by paid subscriptions from readers like yourself. Unfortunately, economic reality is catching up with us and we need to look at options to keep this thing sustainable.
As such, in April we will be experimenting with a limited amount of advertising. To be clear straight away, this will only be in newsletters received by free subscribers or those viewing on the web. Paid supporters receiving Local Authority in their inbox will never see an ad. Secondly, ads won’t be giant animated popups or anything horrible like that. Instead, it will be a small amount of text with an image promoting selected local businesses. We’re not selling space via Google or anything like that, so hopefully, it won’t be quite as annoying.
We understand this might not be something you are happy about, and for that, we can only apologise. As time goes on, the work required to keep Local Authority growing and being the useful service we know some of you consider it to be is taking more and more, and the number of paid subscribers (while great) isn’t keeping pace with our ambitions.
So some limited advertising will be visible to free subscribers and on the web from next month, but again, if you are a paid supporter, you shouldn’t ever see any.
Tickets are flying for our local election debate taking place on April 19 at MidKent College. We’ve also received a lot of great questions to put to the speakers, but you can still submit yours when booking a free ticket. Don’t sleep on this if you intend on joining us as it seems increasingly likely this will be fully booked before the night itself.
We’re super excited that so many of you are interested in joining us for the event, and we are planning to run other live events later in the year. These won’t all necessarily be super politics-based, and plans are still being shaped, but hopefully, we’ll be able to share some news with you soon.
That’s about it for this housekeeping edition of Local Authority. The regular Friday edition will be with you tomorrow as usual. As ever, thanks for reading and allowing us to do this thing!
I love to hear from readers of this thing, and you can always contact me by hitting reply on any newsletter or emailing email@example.com - I try and reply to everything. Alternatively, drop a comment below if you’ve got any comments, feedback, or ideas for this newsletter.
Albums that soundtracked the creation of this newsletter: Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa, and Repent Replenish Repeat by Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip.
It might not be a horrible thing for paid subscribers to have ads; as a paid subscriber, if they are just local business ads, I might be interested in seeing what those local businesses are offering. Supporting local business is a great thing to do.
it would be great if we could advertise Medway events, for me I would advertise that on Tuesday 11th April (World Parkinson's Day) between 11am - 3pm the Medway Neurological Network have organised a community day on the Paddock aka The Brook Open Space in Chatham - we are excited that over have over 20 Voluntary & Community Sector (VCS) organisation will have a stall and The Queen's Gurkha Engineers (QGE) will be at the opening ceremony when the The Mayor of Medway, Cllr Jan Aldous cuts the ribbon. Also in the evening from 6pm to 22pm at the Gurkha Brothers Restaurant, Whiffen's Avenue in Chatham there will be a fundraising meal for both the Nepalese Parkinson's Disease Association in Kathmandu & the University of Kent's new Parkinson's Centre for Integrated Therapy in Canterbury - see www.medwayneuro.org.uk