How do Australians living in regional areas feel about life in their community and what the future holds?
How connected do they feel to what's going on in their town or city or region, and how do they prefer to stay informed?
And what role do they see local news playing in bringing their community together?
These are some of the questions we're asking in our 2023 Heartbeat of Australia survey, a special collaboration between Australia's largest independent media company ACM - the publisher of this masthead - and the University of Canberra's News and Media Research Centre.
The online survey takes 15 minutes to complete, is confidential and individual responses will not be identifiable. Participants go into a draw to win one of five $500 Eftpos cards.
ACM research director Alex Mihalovich said the Heartbeat survey was an opportunity to take the pulse of Australians, especially the more than 35 per cent of the population living and working in regional Australia.
"We know how important regional Australia is for the economy through agriculture, mining and industry as well as tourism but business leaders and government decision-makers at the national level need to understand consumer sentiment in the regions, including how people are feeling, their aspirations, their concerns and how they stay informed and connected," Mr Mihalovich said.
"ACM's trusted mastheads serve highly engaged audiences in key regional centres and we want to give people in those vital communities a voice and ensure we are continuing to deliver the products they trust for their news and information."
Professor Sora Park, of the News and Media Research Centre, said the Heartbeat of Australia survey would explore how Australians feel about how information is shared within their community.
"We know that news has an important role to play in delivering the information that people need to be able to participate in society," Professor Park said.
"The Heartbeat study aims to deepen our understanding of how regional Australians prefer to stay connected, what they care about, what they are concerned about and how news affects their sense of belonging and the wellbeing of their community."
Professor Park will lead the survey, with colleagues Dr Jee Young Lee, Associate Professor Caroline Fisher and Professor Kerry McCallum.
Australia's only research centre specialising in news consumption, social and digital media networks, and the legal, ethical and social impacts of communication technologies, the News & Media Research Centre produces Australia's annual national Digital News Report: Australia, which monitors news consumption as part of a global study of more than 40 countries.
Professor Park said the inaugural Heartbeat of Australia survey in 2022 complemented the centre's other studies by providing unique insights into regional Australian communities, their needs and how they stay connected.
"We are delighted to once again partner with ACM as a leader in the provision of local news in Australia so we can expand our understanding of news consumers around the country," Professor Park said. "Being able to track the sentiment in regional communities over time is important for researchers, businesses and governments and this year's survey promises to extend our insights across regional populations."