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Inner urban conservation and development - An independent panel report on a proposal for Smith Street, Collingwood, under Melbourne 2030. Edited by Miles Lewis, August 2004. Order your copy

Community Weblog Survey Report

Conclusions

The data can be cautiously taken as a fair representation of Visitor and Non-visitor sentiment as they might exist in the population beyond those sampled. This position is informed by the response-rate, which is appreciable for studies of this kind. That the targeted research market of local traders among Non-visitors was adequately sampled can be noted, additionally, from the representation of traders' views in the data. Recognising the limitations of the convenience sampling used, however, no generalisations can be made beyond a cautious characterisation of Visitor and Non-visitor attitudes. Of course, the proportions of Visitors/Non-visitors in the sample (.60, .40) do not reflect the population levels of this factor.

On the basis of the results, and considering the exploratory nature of the study, the following points can be noted in conclusion. The points are numbered according to the seven stated objectives of the study (Section 1.1, p. 3).

1. Level of awareness of smithstreet.org

About a third (29%) of the Non-visitors indicated that they had heard about the site through means other than the survey itself (Table 2, p. 12); i.e. about 70% of the Nonvisitors were not, prior to the survey, aware of the site. Also, 12% of Visitors had only visited the site on the basis of the survey, suggesting some divergent levels of awareness of the site among this group. What do the data tell us about how this level of awareness might be best increased - in terms of turning awareness into visitation?

Word-of-mouth, and, to a lesser extent, the poster about the site, appeared to be key in turning awareness of the site into visiting the site. Email, on the other hand, appeared to have been almost as effective in informing Non-visitors about the site as it was for Visitors. This suggests that a variety of strategies are useful in order to reach potential visitors, but that word-of-mouth will - at the present stage of the site's development - be key to best increasing level of awareness.

Strategies to encourage word-of-mouth communication about the site could, then, be recommended. This might, for instance, take the form of personal emails, where the site might facilitate present visitors to "send an email" to encourage colleagues to visit the site, with information about the site included in the body of the email.

2. The site's most important values/goals

Some substantial differences were yielded between Visitors and Non-visitors in terms of the benefits or outcomes they considered were valuable and realisable through the site (Table 3, p. 15). Community awareness and local history were key for Visitors, while Non-visitors appreciated a more varied range of outcomes, with no particular outcome clearly dominating.

These differences no doubt reflect differences in familiarity with the site between Visitors and Non-visitors. It could also, however, reflect different needs and priorities between those who already patronised the site, and the potential audience. The potential market for the site could be seen as having more varied concerns than present Visitors. The data suggest that, compared to Visitors, the potential audience is less concerned about the role the site could play in community awareness and local history, and are slightly more interested in the benefits the site could offer to local traders.

This suggests that marketing the site, and packaging and development of its content, could be usefully developed in terms of these varied interests. Marketing messages that promote the site's role in community awareness (over other possible outcomes) would not appear to be the most productive strategy. Ready navigation of the site to content that satisfies interests in community, arts, and trade information could be usefully explored.

3. Level of interest in the potentia potential audience, and the contribution they might make

The suggested interactions of linking the site with respondents' own websites, personal pages, and paid advertising each had at least a moderate level of support among both Visitors and Non-visitors.

Paid advertising was somewhat more popular among Non-visitors than Visitors (Table 7, p. 20), suggesting a clear advantage in increasing awareness and visitation of the site.

Sponsorship of content was relatively under-supported among both Visitors and Nonvisitors, suggesting that this option would require some particular marketing development, such as in communicating its perceived benefits, and likely cost.

Contributing content to the site was also popular, and then mostly in the form of text (Table 12, p. 28). This did not, however, predict intention to visit the site. It appeared that simply visiting the site in the past was related to an interest in contributing content.

A mix of personal and altruistic motivations appeared to guide these means of being involved with the site (Table 11, p. 26). Respondents tended to indicate that making contributions would be both personally rewarding, and good for Smith Street in general. When adding outcomes for a personal business, about 3/4 of respondents indicated some form of personal benefit.

Clearly, then, there are a variety of workable options for encouraging involvement with the site, in both financial and content-related terms. Personal benefits in making these contributions were indicated as important to promote, together with benefits to Smith Street in general.

4. Creative ideas; 5. Desired development of the site

The site had multiple values for respondents, spanning community, business, arts, political and historical interests. The desired developments of the site were, accordingly, diverse. This ranged from a relatively simple suggestion to better reflect Smith Street's vibrancy in the design of the site, to developing some form of network among local traders.

As visitor-numbers grow, therefore, it can be expected that a rather exponential increase in the diversity of interests - and disinterests - will occur. It is, accordingly, suggested by the data that the site should remain dynamic in objectives and content, planning for multiple interests, maintaining flexibility, and performing multiple functions.

6. Barriers to using the site

The most significant factor in becoming involved appeared to be knowing about the concept behind the site (Table 10, p. 24). Time was nevertheless a relatively strong factor, and cost and mutual involvement were not negligible.

In developing communication strategies to increase awareness of, and visitation and contribution to, the site, it was, therefore, indicated to be important to raise information content about the concept behind the site. The degree of endorsement of this interest indicates that it was not adequately satisfied by current communications. In promotional material, in word-of-mouth communications, and homepage content, for instance, it appears to be important to further outline the site's objectives, achievements, and target audiences. The challenge here is to succinctly communicate the site's objectives, while also being able to appeal to diverse interests among potential and current visitors.

7. Intention to visit and be involved with the site

Visitors were somewhat more likely to indicate that they would be unlikely to visit the site for information than were those who had not visited the site (39% vs. 24%). This suggests that, among the Visitors, were a sizeable proportion who had not visited the site in the past, i.e. prior to undertaking the survey. This is also indicated by the difference between Visitors and Non-visitors here being about the same proportion as those Visitors who had heard about the site only on the basis of the survey itself (12%) (Table 2, p. 12).

However, this finding, together with that of past visitation not predicting future visitation, suggests that it is important to develop strategies to maintain interest in the site. Promoting awareness of the site in order to encourage visitation did not appear to secure a long-term interest in the site. Offering means to contribute to the site also did not appear to be directly relevant to maintaining interest. It was more important, it seems, to clearly articulate the objectives of the site. While appeals to those who saw themselves as community-minded was key to reaching those with a potential long-term interest in visiting the site, it also appeared that this was an heterogeneous group with a variety of needs. In this sense, promoting the site might be profitably restricted in focus to those for whom community-mindedness is important, but the content being delivered, and the means of delivery, clearly had to efficiently satisfy multiple interests and styles.

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