I'd like to extend our thanks to all the readers who participated in last fall's Reader Survey. You've provided valuable information that will be most helpful to us as we chart the course of our magazine's future. The demographic information will be especially helpful when we apply for arts grants, and many of the other details will help us determine where best to spend our advertising efforts, and how we can best serve your tastes as readers. Thank you very much.
We thought you might be curious to hear some of the results; I've gone through the raw data and below are some rough summaries of how the survey turned out. A little over a hundred of you responded; that's not a high enough percentage of you to know anything for certain about our full readership, but it's enough to help us figure out some broad trends, at least. I've skipped over some of the picky departmental details, and have focused on the larger issues raised.
Only two readers heard about Strange Horizons from a print source -- most of the rest heard from a friend or another website. This just emphasizes how important word of mouth is to our growth -- please, if you like our magazine, tell a friend. Tell lots. And if you have a web page, or know someone who does, consider linking to us. We'd really appreciate it.
Most of our readers visit weekly, with a significant percentage coming more than once a week, and a significant percentage coming a few times a month. This is about what we'd expect. About three-quarters of you read two to five pieces per visit. Most of you use the frameset, though about a fifth don't. (That's particularly useful for us to know because sometimes we put graphical links in the frameset to various items of interest; we'll be sure to keep putting text links on the main contents page as well, to accommodate those who prefer to navigate without frames.)
There's been a lot of concern about people's reading comfort on-line; we asked if you thought stories can get too long to read on a screen. Sixty-four of you said no, while thirty-nine said yes. Make of it what you will -- I'm not sure whether to just put that down to individual preference or if it's a sign of a trend towards more comfort with on-screen reading. Of those who did think that stories could get too long, there was a lot of discrepancy regarding what exactly was too long. Most of you didn't particularly like breaking up stories, but preferred to have us break them up rather than only having us take shorter stories. Part of our breaking longer stories is for budget reasons -- since we pay by the word for fiction, longer stories cost us more. To be able to maintain our weekly schedule and our budget, we need to break the longer stories across weeks if we're going to take them. We'll probably continue with our current policy, breaking up longer pieces and usually not accepting pieces over 10,000 words. At least for now. . . .
About a quarter of you felt that a handheld device might alter your perceptions of length -- but interestingly, some thought a handheld would make it easier to read long stories (portability, no need to be online), and some thought they would make it harder (screen resolution and size, weight). If you have a handheld and want to try it, remember that you can download every month free from our Fictionwise partners. The month's issue usually goes up within a week from the end of the month.
Almost ninety percent of you visit our archives. Yay! We're very proud of our archives, and happy you enjoy visiting them. A little less than half of you use our archive search -- if you haven't tried it, please do. It works pretty well, I think, and after a year and a half, we have a real wealth of material stored there for your reading pleasure.
Unsurprisingly, Fiction was the most popular department -- almost all of you read our fiction. But Articles come close behind, with about four-fifths of the respondents reading it regularly. About sixty percent of you read our Reviews, and about a third of you read our Poetry. A third seems like a small percentage -- until you realize that most people (in America, at least) don't seem to read poetry at all. We're happy that some of you are enjoying the poetry we publish. We're happy to keep publishing it.
Only about a quarter of you look at our Art, which I admit surprises me a little -- one of the big advantages of the web is that it does provide the opportunity to display a lot of wonderful art without high print costs. I'd be curious to know if there's anything in particular you'd like to see in our art department that's not currently there -- if so, please drop our art department a line and let us know what you'd like to see. Most of you do seem happy with the monthly frequency of our gallery and illustrations; you're quite divided, though, on what type of art you'd like to see more of, whether you want images to be bigger or smaller, and whether you'd like to see more or less of them. Ah well. Consensus is not always possible. Most of you enjoy the cartoon, and would prefer that it continue. That's the plan -- we've been having a few technical difficulties with it the last few months, but we should be back to our normal schedule on that shortly.
- Sex: 39 female, 58 male, 2 other, 3 prefer not to answer
- Orientation: 19 bisexual, 64 heterosexual, 3 homosexual, 1 other, 13 prefer not to answer
- Race: By far, mostly caucasian/white, with a few self-identifying in the following categories: afro-american, asian, jewish origin, anglo-australian, cherokee, hispanic, black/mixed, very mixed
- Income: A third of you at 20-40K, with only ten of you under 20K, and most of you a fair bit over 40K
- Age: We forgot to ask -- oops!
Demographic conclusion: You're mostly fairly wealthy straight white men. (Actually, that's not so clear -- we can't tell if those categories actually correlate. It could be that those of you who are wealthy are not white, or those of you who are straight are not men, etc. But given the way these categories generally correlate in our society, I'm guessing they correlate at least a fair bit here.) Which would be lovely for advertisers, but not so great for arts committees. Hmm. . . Interesting, at any rate. It is nice to know that we have so many female readers; even if it's less than half, it's still enough that we can help to counteract the generally-held assumption that SF is just something boys like. And we don't think there's anything wrong with straight white men, by the way -- we'd just like to see our magazine serving a wider readership. Part of the great potential of the web is, in my opinion, that it can reach a tremendously broad audience, reach people from all walks of life. As we grow, I hope that we can spread into areas beyond those we already cover.
Well, we definitely learned some things with this survey -- if nothing else, how to better tailor our questions to find the kind of information we'd like to know. But really, we learned quite a lot, and we hope that you find the results as interesting as we do. In another year or two, we'll probably do this again -- if you didn't respond the first time, we hope you will then. The more of you who respond, the clearer our understanding of your needs and desires will be.
Mary Anne Mohanraj is Editor-in-Chief of Strange Horizons.
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