Within the Family
And the Survey Says...
Many years ago, I was walking down Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village on a sunny Saturday morning when a tall, balding man ambled up to me, smiled, stuck out his hand and asked in a booming voice, “How am I doing?” Actually, in his distinctive accent, it came out more like “How’m I doin’?”
Ed Koch, mayor of NYC from 1978–89 and for a brief time a judge on one of those daytime TV courtroom dramas, was famous for his impromptu political polling. He would roam the city streets and ask passersby for their opinions on his tenure in office, to the point where “How’m I doin’?” became a catchphrase in New York in the ’80s.
Knowing your constituency, your audience, is one of the principles not only of politics but also of marketing, public relations, sales and just about all aspects of business. It surely applies to magazine editing and publishing, including our niche here at Columbia College Today. What do our readers want? What do they like about CCT and, equally important, what do they dislike? What are their expectations and their desires when our quarterly arrives in their mailboxes, or when they open our latest issue online?
This year, to supplement the Koch-style anecdotal evidence-gathering that we do at alumni events, we conducted an online readership survey. Distributed in March, the survey consisted of 22 questions, most in multiple choice or short-answer formats, followed by an open-ended request for comments, and was designed to be completed in about five minutes.
We sent the survey to every College alumnus/a for whom the University has a valid email address, and we sincerely thank the more than 1,000 of you who responded. I have read every one of your comments, and all have been shared with the CCT staff. The survey was conducted anonymously to encourage respondents to be forthright in their answers; two questions regarding age and gender enabled us to confirm that we’d heard from a representative sample of our alumni population.
We are pleased to report that 91 percent of respondents read all four issues of the magazine each year, and 60 percent spend a half-hour or more with each issue. More than 61 percent of respondents said they receive most or all of their information about Columbia College by reading this magazine.
Confirming what we have long believed from Koch-style polling, Class Notes was rated the first-read and most-liked section of the magazine. When asked, “Which section do you go to first?” one alumnus said simply, “Class Notes — who doesn’t?” While 76 percent of respondents said that the length of Class Notes is “just right,” 21 percent said it was “not long enough.” As our Class Notes section is among the most robust of any in the field and regularly fills nearly half the magazine, we take it that the latter were referring specifically to their year’s Class Notes, and not the section in its entirety.
Slightly more than half of respondents said they had at some point submitted a note to their class correspondent. I encourage more of you to do so, as it’s the easiest way to stay in touch with classmates. Many respondents said they were unaware that we had an online Class Notes submission form, so here’s the link. Your note will go right to your class correspondent.
As for method of distribution, 76 percent of respondents said they liked getting CCT in print and another 15 percent said both in print and online. We have no plans to eliminate the print edition; however, keep in mind that if you prefer reading the magazine online and would like to save a tree (or at least a limb) and lower our mailing costs, you can opt out of the print edition by clicking "Manage Your Subscription" and following the domestic instructions.
We asked how you felt about the statement, “CCT strengthens my connection to Columbia College,” and more than 91 percent said you agreed or strongly agreed, with only 3 percent saying you disagreed or strongly disagreed. Thank you for validating college alumni magazines in general and for the vote of confidence in CCT in particular
What do you like most about CCT? As mentioned earlier, Class Notes was the runaway leader with an average value of 4.46 on a scale of 1–5, followed by the profiles and photos in the Class Notes section, Obituaries, Alumni Corner (back page), features and Around the Quads (news) — all receiving a mean score of 3.5 or higher.
How can we improve? We asked you to rate CCT’s coverage in 11 categories, and more than 80 percent of respondents said we cover each “very well” or “adequately,” with alumni news, profiles, college news, alumni events and campus events leading the way. But 18 percent of respondents said we did not cover the Core Curriculum well enough and 14 percent said the same about academics in general; student activities and athletics were next on the list.
These are things we plan to address. We’ve already done so with athletics, introducing a redesigned Roar, Lion, Roar section of athletics news in this issue. We are planning a themed issue based on the Core Curriculum for the coming academic year and are working on ways to introduce more information on academics, the Core and student activities into each issue.
Remember, CCT is your alumni magazine as well as ours. We welcome your feedback. Get in touch with us or send us a letter the old fashioned way — we love getting those.