Within the Family
And the Survey Says …
A year ago, as the stock market was bottoming and the economic outlook was at its bleakest, we at CCT were asked to reduce our spending in Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010. After considering several options, we chose to publish our July/August 2009 issue online only and save approximately $80,000 in design, printing and postage costs, thus meeting our two-year savings goal.
As a lifelong print person who has resisted buying a Kindle, still gets home delivery of two newspapers and myriad magazines and values the sight and feel of the printed page, I was not happy about going online-only, even if just for one issue. To me, a printed magazine has a shelf life; it sits on your coffee table, beside your favorite lounge chair, on an end table by your bed. A printed magazine is passed from one reader to another, extending its reach beyond the initial contact. A printed magazine has a different impact from pixels on a computer monitor; the photos of President Barack Obama ’83 from Damon Winter ’97’s Pulitzer Prize-winning portfolio, featured in our September/October issue, are far more powerful on paper than on screen.
But that’s just my opinion. To find out how you feel, in late July — about two weeks after the online-only issue was posted and a blast e-mail was sent announcing its availability — we sent an online survey to alumni and parents for whom we had valid e-mail addres-ses. We received 1,218 completed responses from July 29–September 16, with more than two-thirds of those coming in during the first two days after the survey was sent. We kept the survey brief to encourage responses, but we included a place for comments so those of you who wanted to be more expansive could express yourselves.
The results of the survey, as well as letters we received in response to a request for feedback in the most recent printed edition of CCT, reaffirmed my belief in the importance of the print edition. Asked how frequently you read the print version of CCT, a whopping 74.3 percent of respondents said “every issue” and 16.9 percent said “frequently,” for a combined 91.2 percent. Only 1.9 percent responded “never,” with 6.9 percent saying “occasionally.”
Asked if you read the online-only July/August issue, only 25.4 percent said “yes” — even though the survey was conducted online. So whereas 91.2 percent of respondents read CCT frequently or every issue, nearly three-quarters did not read the online-only issue. After a question about preferences for various sections of CCT (more on this later), we sought to verify the previous response by asking how often you visit CCT’s Web site. While 74.7 percent said “never,” only 1.4 percent said “every issue,” with 3.4 percent responding “once a month” and 20.4 percent responding “every few months.” These responses were consistent: Roughly three-quarters of respondents never visit the Web site and (despite the blast e-mail and print announcements) a similar percentage didn’t see the online-only issue.
Given four options for future delivery of CCT and five responses ranging from “like a lot” to “dislike a lot,” the “bimonthly print and online” option was by far the most popular, with 63.8 percent responding “like a lot” and an additional 14.9 percent marking “like a little,” with only a combined 7.7 percent in the two negative response categories. “Bimonthly online issues only” was least popular, with 52.2 percent responding “dislike a lot” and an additional 17.2 percent “dislike a little,” and only a combined 17.9 percent marking the two positive categories. Two other delivery options, “quarterly print and online issues” and “bimonthly online issues with opt-in for print,” both scored in the middle.
These results are consistent with those obtained by schools using a survey developed by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. When more than 24,000 survey respondents were asked how they would prefer to read their alma mater’s magazine, 65 percent chose “print,” 14 percent chose “online” and 21 percent chose “both.” That means 86 percent want to continue receiving a print edition.
Although our survey focused on delivery, we did include one question asking for impressions of each section of CCT. Affirming the response to a similar question in an alumni survey conducted two years ago, Class Notes proved most popular, with 76.4 percent responding “like a lot” and another 15.3 percent “like a little.” The next most popular sections, ranging from 51 to 43 percent responding “like a lot,” were alumni profiles, cover story, obituaries and features/Forum.
Thank you all for your responses. We hear you. Your responses will help shape our decisions on publication schedules, content and methods of distribution, which we will report on in future columns.