A year ago, Metro asked Our Big Backyard’s readers to tell us about themselves, why they read the magazine and what they think of the content. Firstly: the magazine has dedicated readers who came out in droves to provide their opinions, which were overwhelmingly positive.
So the magazine is providing readers a good experience. But who are the readers? Our Big Backyard’s readers are older, whiter, more educated and richer than the region as a whole. At least 63% of readers are 55 or older (only 7% are 34 or younger), and a whopping 39% hold master's degrees or higher (nationally, about 13% of people do). Respondents were 85% white, compared to about 71% in greater Portland.
Metro also gathered four focus groups composed of Black and Latinx community members, two communities Metro knows it needs to serve better and build better relationships with. The participants in those focus groups liked the content and said it made them want to visit Metro’s parks, but they were unlikely to pick up a copy of Our Big Backyard. Social media was how they wanted the info.
The focus groups appreciated stories and images that show people of color in the outdoors because it pushed against the stereotype that Black and Brown people aren’t outdoorsy.
Metro had already begun shifting more storytelling to digital media, and the audience research argued for continuing that trend so our content would reach an audience that looks more like greater Portland. Except for unforeseen budget cuts, Our Big Backyard will remain a key part of Metro’s storytelling.
The stories that appear in Our Big Backyard are often the foundation of web stories and social media posts. The articles allow us to dig deeper into issues like those explored in this edition's two featured stories, which examine the very different ways two Black people connect to nature.
As COVID-19 continues to define our lives, we’ll use Our Big Backyard and our digital platforms to offer ways to experience nature in a safer way, something that’s more important than ever. And as part of Metro’s ongoing commitment to racial equity, a commitment that has been redoubled in the months since George Floyd’s murder, we’ll continue to examine the ways race and the outdoors are woven together.