Monday, 2 June 2008

Survey says . . .

Back in the day, when Toronto Sun editors cared what readers thought about the content of their tabloid, thorough annual readership surveys were conducted.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there were full-page surveys to measure the response to content from Monday to Friday and separate surveys for Sunday Sun content. Saturday Suns didn't arrive until 1986.

The published surveys were detailed, to say the least. Readers by the thousands took the time to complete the surveys and many included additional remarks about the paper.

Here are a few results from a 1979 Sunday Sun survey we found among some clippings.

Page 6 columnist Gary Dunford had 84.4% readership, topping all of the columnists. Page 6 is no more in Toronto, although still a popular read in other North American tabloids.

Crime Flashback columnist Max Haines had 80.8% readership. Today, no Max and no crime theme column to replace his column since he retired.

Paul Rimstead came in third for columnists at 80.6%. Sadly, he left us early. Mike Strobel's unique offbeat fare would probably score close to the Rimmer's figures.

News Followup, a weekly feature updating stories from previous years, was rated highly at 85.8%. That popular read was abandoned in the 1990s.

The TV magazine was used by 80.1% of Sunday Sun readers. We shudder to think what the readership is today, with sparse features and 36 pages, down from 80 or so pages.

The Lifestyle section had 90% readership.

All of the above were reader favourites and key segments of the Sunday Sun formula that saw circulation peak at 550,000 in 1993.

On the positive side, Andy Donato, whose editorial cartoon scored 91.6% in 1979 is still with us, as is Mike Filey and his The Way We Were (79%), Mark Bonokoski's column (76.2%), the SUNshine Girl (82.2% on Page 3).

But the Sunday Sun has lost its edged in abandoning features that were part of the proven formula, along with readership surveys that kept the tabloid on course.

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