In a year in which newspapers themselves made headlines for shrinking audiences and unsustainable profits, readers renewed their support for The Tico Times and its sister paper The Nica Times.
Results from a reader survey published in four paper editions and posted online for a month show that respondents spend on average 53 minutes with The Tico Times and read it for all news, but are primarily attracted to political-, economic- and fraud-related articles, as well as restaurant reviews and tourism information.
They praised the papers for “unbiased reporting,” “good balance” and for offering a news source in English.
And they made suggestions for improvements such as offering more coverage on the coasts or more help finding services.
“I was pleased with the survey because enough people responded to make it a good sampling of our reader base,” said Abby Daniell, associate publisher of the Tico and Nica Times.
The results of the survey also help define the characteristics of the average reader. According to responses from 165 individuals out of an audience of roughly 8,400, Tico Times readers are generally male (69 percent of respondents), have a university degree or higher (86 percent) and make more than $50,000 a year (49 percent).
Due to a survey error, The Tico Times was unable to get accurate figures regarding readers´ average age.
Tico Times readers live in all provinces of Costa Rica, but 59 percent of the respondents to the survey within the country reside in the Central Valley. Respondents also represent 22 states in the U.S.
Roughly six percent of readers are non-native speakers, a trend that Daniell wants to maintain or expand.
“We want to be a tool for English language learners, but also be an alternative news sources for Costa Rica,” she said. She pointed to numbers which indicate that 17 percent of readers also get their news from the Costa Rican daily La Nación and 37 percent say they watch television news.
The survey also reached out to Nica Times readers who praised the paper for courageous and hard-hitting journalism under a president who has restricted freedom of the press.
Currently, The Tico Times reaches 2,385 readers through paper subscriptions (up from 2,148 in 2007). Roughly 667 subscribe to The Tico Times online and 5,342 are purchased off newsstands every month.
“We are not suffering the fate of daily newspapers. We are a niche publication and niche publications are the ones that are surviving,” said Daniell, who views The Tico Times as a “community paper with a worldwide reach.”
To broaden the reader base of The Tico Times further, Daniell said The Tico Times will undergo a Web site makeover in the next year, creating interactive features and posting additional information to compliment the print product.
She said the primary reason for conducting the survey is to adjust coverage in order to provide the articles that readers want.
The Tico Times reader survey has been conducted on a regular basis since 1995.