Survey Said: Expert Tips from Niche Publishing Pros

How often should you do it? Should you do it more? What do you do after? We’re talking about reader surveys, of course. Most niche publishers say they know they can do a better job of getting audience feedback. And just as importantly—are the results being leveraged to their full potential?

We asked three niche publishing pros for their expert tips on where to start, how to create better surveys and if the results led to improvement and change. Read on:

If a niche publisher wants to do a better job with reader surveys, where should they start?

Nancy_New_HeadshotNancy O’Brien, Associate Publisher at Aviation International News“First, choose a way to build and distribute your survey. I use Survey Monkey but there are many other services. You can even get add-ons for Facebook and other social media sites. Plumb your various email lists, distribute through your Facebook page, or use your website to reach the target the group for your survey. Keep them simple and short, and make sure to let participants know how much you appreciate their time!”

Can survey analytics help to drive increases in newsstand sales, audience engagement, etc?

21dec7fBryan is CEO of B The Change Media and former Publisher and editorial director for Ogden Publications : “About 10 years ago, Mother Earth News began surveying audiences regularly to ask their opinions of just about every facet of their products: topics, terminology, headlines, sell lines, photos, cover design and others. When using the survey results to direct decision-making, they saw immediate results at the bottom line in the form of improved newsstand sales and engagement metrics.

Here are some examples: Since 2007, newsstand sales nearly doubled, during a period when total national newsstand revenue declined by 37 percent. This was achieved largely due to the effective use of customer feedback to direct editorial efforts. During the same time period, the average circulation grew 41 percent and total audience, including online audience, grew 211 percent.” 

You have learned to really tune into your niche audience. Can you tell us more about what works really well for you in the survey process?
picture-192Bill Thompson III, Editor and Co-Publisher of Bird Watcher’s Digest: “We really work hard to come up with questions that spread illumination (information and data) into the darkest corners of our understanding of our audience. In other words, we try to focus on stuff we know that we don’t know. Then we fill in around those survey questions with some others that are aimed at confirming our suppositions about our audience: such as basic demographic info. When we get the answers typically we toss out the top and bottom 5%—those folks who love us to death and those folks who seem to want to beat us to death. The true center of our customer base lies somewhere in between. Our surveys—especially the print ones we mail out—get a phenomenal response rate. Our last one was 55%. Wish we could get direct mail to perform like that!

Devote some time and attention to your current survey process. If you want to roll-out a whole new survey system or improve your response rates or use the data better, there’s plenty of ways to do it. Determine what works best for your publication and specifically for your niched audience…..then just do it!


P.S. Katie Carlin HeadshotHere’s a nifty how-to for post-survey results by Katie Carlin at Hubspot:  Leveraging Behavioral Intelligence to Improve Audience Engagement




About this blogger: Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Niche Media. A former sales director and corporate marketing hack, she has now found nirvana in writing and wrangling quality content. Diana is a food, wine, art and SF Giants enthusiast…who sometimes gets carried away.


Niche Media has created super niched-out events specifically for magazine publishers for over 12 years. We’ve helped pave the way for the era of boutique events that connect specific audiences and provide great educational, friendly and super-fun environments! Plus, Carl Landau–Niche Media’s Grand Poobah–also created a blog all about creating and marketing targeted events:  Check it out!

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