June 17, 2013

Dear Reader | You spoke, we listened in updating Kicks magazine

Any successful business person knows you have to re-examine even successful longtime products and ask customers what they like and what they don’t like or risk losing relevancy.

Any successful business person knows you have to re-examine even successful longtime products and ask customers what they like and what they don’t like or risk losing relevancy.

That applies to news businesses as well, and with the dramatic changes in technology and lifestyles, it is even more important. That’s why we asked readers to take an online survey and provide feedback on our weekly Kicks entertainment publication.

We were pleasantly surprised in how much the more than 400 participants said they like what we’re already doing. But they also offered lots of good ideas, and beginning this week we put many of those ideas in motion.

For example, respondents weren’t thrilled about the weekly television column, but did want more information on movies and on upcoming events.

So we’ve replaced the television information with a monthly look-ahead by editor Caroline Evans of the best entertainment options on tap for the future. On the other three weeks of the month, you’ll find a review of an opening film.

Speaking of film, we’ve also added stars to the capsule reviews to give prospective viewers an at-a-glance idea of what the critics thought.

Perhaps the biggest item on the survey wish list was more information about restaurants and other food news, not surprising because eating out is high on the to-do list for visitors and for residents. If you are one of them, you’ll want to check out the new KicksQuicks feature, which will include among other things, a quick look at what’s new in area eateries. This week, writer Tory Tall checks out a spot in Conway, Cleat Chasers Restaurant & Bar.

Another request was for more coverage of culture activities, such as art exhibits and theater productions, so we are seeking to give a higher profile to those topics, and using a new label to make it easier for you to find them.

Crime and publishing

Jon Bourne of Conway sent this suggestion by way of the Letters to the Editor feature, but I’m publishing it here so I can elaborate on our thinking about this important topic and how it fits with our longer-term news coverage goals.

He wrote: “Please take all the Police/Crime News off of the front page of this website and report on some important news story(s). If I want to know about crime, you could put it in a special Police Report section. Your staff of reporters should earn their pay by reporting news worthy of reading. How about a survey on this topic?”

Crime news, aka bad news, has long been a topic of journalistic hand-wringing, and the instant access the web provides to the number of people reading any given feature has only made it more contentious.

We always knew readers were interested in crime, but that was largely anecdotal. Now, we can literally see how the numbers stack up, and if you look in the “Trending Stories” column on the right side of our homepage, you’ll see that crime stories fill most of the spots. As I write this, eight of the 10 trending -- or top-clicked -- headlines are crime-related items.

That does not mean I believe we should be all crime all the time. I believe, in fact, that would be a crime. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) More accurately, it would go against our reporting goal, which is to provide depth and context to the issues that most matter to our readers.

That said, it can be tough to argue with numbers, especially when you are talking about numbers that drive revenue. (The more online traffic, the better response for advertisers.)

Our daily, in fact hourly, challenge is to provide the immediate news that people want to know, whether crime-related or otherwise, and then pick the most important of these to dig into more deeply. On any given day, there are an infinite number of items we can report on, and a finite number of people and hours with which to do so. Some days, we get it right. Some days we don’t.

We do have a special section online for crime news ( //www.myrtlebeachonline.com/crime-news/), but most items also spend some time on the homepage too.

Mr. Bourne, thank you for writing, and for your idea about the survey. I’m going to give that some serious thought. Meanwhile, thanks to all for reading, clicking and sharing your views.

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