Our readers have spoken

A few weeks ago I mentioned we were in the process of conducting a survey of Ohio State Alumni Magazine readers. The survey itself (which was conducted using the CASE magazine survey template) is just another piece of the groundwork we’re doing to set the foundation for the overall magazine re-design scheduled for completion in November.

I want to emphasize the survey is just one piece of information we are considering as we examine ways to make the magazine better. No one piece of data is going to entirely direct our thinking, because it’s important to assess a wide range of inputs before moving forward. And I think that survey results can be misleading in some cases. From my time in newspapers I know that what readers say they want in a survey does not always square with reader behavior measured by pageviews to particular stories. So the proverbial grain of salt is in play here.

With that said, it is always good to take the temperature of your readership to see where they say they stand. We had 1,229 respondents, 59 percent male and 41 percent female. The age of participants skewed to the older end with 75 percent of respondents aged 50 or older. To take a closer look at some information from the survey, you can review a presentation I shared Wednesday with our UC editorial staff: OSAM readership survey.

I don’t believe we discovered anything terribly earth-shattering in the results. Readers generally have a favorable view of the magazine and think it is fairly objective when reporting on the university. There were a few items that did pique my interest, however.

In the quantitative portion of the survey many readers indicated they are interested in coverage of athletics. However in the qualitative portion many felt that there is too much athletics coverage. Our recent magazine content audit indicates that athletic content makes up less than 10 percent of all content, so perception may differ from reality here. It’s also possible that readers are taking ads into consideration when assessing overall content, and many ads that appear in the magazine have an athletic theme.

Another piece of info that was interesting to me is that more than 85 percent of respondents said they are very or somewhat interested in content that covers the changing landscape of higher education. I’ve always felt this type of story was more internal than external, but many in our audience want this type of information. This makes some sense since many of our readers likely have kids or grandkids who want to attend college some day. In that regard, I’ve adjusted my thinking on our coverage. It isn’t navel gazing, but instead practical and useful news that has a real-life influence on peoples’ lives. Color me better informed.

The survey itself gives us a nice snapshot of our readership and will be helpful going forward. If you’re interested in taking a look at the full report, just contact me via email and I’d be happy to share.

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