Interactive market research: sample subscriber survey

When a market research company conducts a survey, the end result is usually a static, 10-20 page report that includes different slices of data to illustrate various conclusions. All this can be very helpful for a circulation director making tactical decisions on what words, feelings and attributes to focus on in copy, or for a publisher looking at the strategic overview of how a magazine or newsletter fits among its competitors to illustrate key opportunities or threats.

But it is time to develop subscriber survey results into a tool that a circulation director can use herself whenever she needs to brainstorm copy or think brand strategy. Below is an interactive survey report based on a fictitious current events magazine. The interactivity allows our director to delve into results by each segment without sifting through 20 pages. An approximate margin of error self calculates, letting users know when differences are significant within a segment.

1) Attribute determinance

Editors like to pack their magazine with as much content as possible, and then pressure circulation marketers to showcase the entire suite of content in marketing pieces. However, subscribers may choose a particular publication only for a few specific sections of content. Those determinant attributes can change by segment. The below section shows the other publications that respondents read plus a rating of our own magazine vs. those other magazines across different areas of content. Determinance is a formulation of importance and comparison that illustrates why a subscriber choose our magazine over others. In this case, our copy and branding should focus on political, business and financial news while avoiding international, economic and technology news.

2) Competitive threats

When looking at competitors, it is important to know what your subscribers are reading most, and the content they want in those publications. With so much data, it can be helpful to color-code the results to show relative strengths vs. relative weaknesses. Here we see that, while our magazine is relatively strong on the three determinant attributes mentioned above (politics, business, finance), the weaker areas of content fare differently among our competitors. Business Week and Wired seem stronger in technology news while The Economist shows relative strengh in economics and international news.

Note, in this example the graph “Determinance by attribute per other magazine considered” is NOT filterable by the demographics on the side. This is to maintain a large enough sample size per other magazine read.

3) Satisfaction & importance

For a circulation marketer, knowing which sections of content drive subscribers to choose your publication over others is paramount. But for content planning, gauging generic importance and comparing satisfaction for various areas can provide some insight into areas that editors have invested too much time, too little time, or where you could potentially launch a new publication. In this example, it looks like we’re greatly exceeding expecations in financial news, indicating we could potentially cut some investment there. However, we’re missing expectations in the most important attribute covered, technology news. In light of Business Week’s and Wired’s relative strengths in these areas, it may make sense to launch a separate magazine to focus more effectively on this niche.

4) Brand messaging

When considering what your publication means to subscriber, try testing various words or phrases to see if respondents really agree with your own conceptualizations. Ideally this would include some open-ended questions, which you can then filter by text phrases. How do respondents think about your “politics” content? Simply enter “politics” into your filter and look at the actual answers.

Below we can see that respondents agreed with intelligent, easy to read, educational and bold as words that applied to our magazine. The politics sections garnered the most committed readership. Most of the feeling statements tested well except for our magazine’s usefulness as an investing tool.

5) Demographics

Finally, you want to see the overall demographics of your respondents to make sure that they match those of your publication. Also, if your audience is older, wealthier and male (as in this example), that will help advertisers know if marketing with you will reach their target audience.