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NEWSPAPER EVOLVES TO MEET WANTS AND NEEDS OF READERS

EVERY DAY HUNDREDS of news stories and features arrive at the Deseret News. Reporters and writers turn them in after covering their assignments; syndicates send us features ranging from Dear Abby columns to tips on investing; and people call us with ideas for articles they would like us to write.

In addition, the wire services - Associated Press, United Press International and supplemental wires like the New York Times Wire and the Washington Post-Los Angeles Times service - drop their articles from space to our satellite dish. (One service alone, The Associated Press, sends about 500 stories daily on a variety of wires - news, regional, feature, sports and the like.)So if you are an editor these days you have an obvious problem. How do you choose which of the many stories to use? Where are you going to put them in a paper when space is at a premium and is jealously guarded by other editors? Which story should get bigger play? How important is each story to your readers?

At the Deseret News we spend a lot of time worrying about those questions. Often our answer comes down to simple news judgment - the experience of years in the business coupled with an intuitive feel as to what makes news and what doesn't.

But fortunately, we also have a pretty good idea of who our readers are and what they want to see in the paper. Through the years a number of readership surveys have drawn a fairly sharp portrait of our typical reader. Some of that information is contained in the graphics on this page.

For example, we know from a study by the prestigious Wirthlin Group that, regardless of which paper comes into their homes, fully 34 percent of Utahns have read or looked at a copy of the Deseret News in the past month.

We also know from several surveys that our readers rate us high in coverage of local news and that this is a major reason they take the paper.

A demographic profile of Deseret News readers shows they are well-educated: 72 percent have at least some college education. They also tend to be fairly evenly distributed among age groups, except for the 45-64 age spread, where the numbers drop for some reason.

We also know that more women read the paper than do men - 56 to 44 percent. Most of our readers (89 percent) are affiliated with the LDS Church, not surprising, given our ownership by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While most of our readers live in Salt Lake County, we have a penetration of households in Davis County and a strong penetration in Utah County.

An afternoon newspaper has a major challenge capturing its readers' time. The papers have to be printed before 3 p.m. in order to be on the doorstep by the time people come home from work. And in the evening they have many other things to do, so our window of exposure is pretty defined. That's why our current marketing campaign emphasizes that the paper is designed to be read on your terms (or, as the campaign says, we're written in the interest of time - your time).

For the same reason, we are very interested in knowing what time of the day the paper is read and how much time people spend with it. Not surprisingly, the surveys show most people read it in the evening (64 percent) but quite a few read it both in the morning and evening. And we find that most of you spend between 15 minutes and an hour reading the paper on an average weekday.

What are readers interested in? A survey in late 1988 by Belden Associates found that interest in news of Salt Lake City rated highest, with news of the state and region rating second and national and international news third. (However, men are more interested in national-international news while women are more interested in local news.) After that, reader interest spreads across a whole smorgasbord of features in the paper, from TV logs to sports.

We've compiled much more information about our readers, of course, and you'll see our response to that showing up in the paper in the future. If anything is clear from looking back over the past 140 years of publication, it is that readers change, interests change and the newspaper changes. That's been our guiding standard for 14 decades.

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(CHART $1)

Our readers

EDUCATION AGE

High school or less...28% 18-24...19%

Some college...39% 25-34...21%

College grad...23% 35-44...22%

Post grad...10% 45-54...9%

55-64...9%

65 & older...19%

INCOME

Under $20,000...25%

$20-$29,000...20%

$30-$49,000...27&

$50 or more...17%

SEX

Male...44%

Female...56%

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(CHART #2)

Reader's interest in newspaper content

A recent survey indicates that Deseret News readers are "very interested" in reading about the following topics.

News of Salt Lake City.....76%

State and regional news.....67%

National and international news.....62%

School and education news.....55%

Human interest stories.....54%

Consumer protection information.....52%

Health, fitness and medicine.....51%

Places to go and things to do.....50%

Television listings and information.....49%

Obituaries.....46%

Food, cooking and recipes.....44%

College sports.....43%

Entertainment events and reviews.....43%

Sports in general.....40%

Editorials and commentary.....40%

Business News.....34%

Home and gardening.....32%

Environmental news.....31%

Stock market listings.....22%

Fashion.....19%

SOURCE: Belden Associates, 1989