[Note: Due to our deadline, this tally only reflects information from surveys received on or before September 30. However, feedback received after that will still be given careful attention.]
Last year, as a newcomer to Access Press (AP), tallying the responses to the Reader Survey was a good overall introduction to the paper’s place in the community. Now, after a year of being involved in all aspects of the production of the paper, reader input is even more meaningful to me. Below is a sampling of what we learned this year.
We did have fewer respondents than last year. (I think one reason for this might have been the absence of incentives in the form of State Fair and Renaissance Festival tickets.) However, those who did respond provided many useful comments. And almost half of the respondents were people who’d also given us feedback last year. Their consistent evaluation means a lot as does that from first-timers.
A strong majority of survey participants are persons with disabilities. Over half reside in Minneapolis and its suburbs. We did get one response from out of state (Wisconsin) and two from greater Minnesota.
All respondents are AP “regulars” who have been reading the paper from 18 months to 12 years. The average length of readership represented was about five years. All who responded plan to keep on reading the paper some reasons why are: to get the wider view of disability issues (beyond one’s personal situation); its usefulness as an advocacy tool; and the relevant, informative, interesting, and enjoyable articles not found elsewhere. However, my favorite response to the prompt Do you plan to continue reading Access Press? Why or why not? was “why not.”
A few readers checked all of the regular/semi-regular features listed as enjoyable to them. Among those who didn’t check everything, the most popular items were legislative updates and Pete Feigal’s column in fact, one fan gave Pete four checks! A new favorite, developed after last year’s survey, is Assistive Technology by Jeni Mundl. Social Security updates not only received a lot of votes, but were also mentioned as very important in several comments. Features receiving the fewest nods were Accessible Performances, book reviews, In Brief, and sports news. As the writer of the two book reviews this year, I will try not to take this too personally.
Big favorites among types of coverage listed were legal, political, news releases, and breaking news. In comments, Kathy Hagen’s legal articles were specifically mentioned as helpful. Human interest was rated strongly as well; this preference was supported by the general popularity of all the columns (in features) and other comments added throughout the survey responses. Arts, employment, and international coverage received the fewest votes in this category.
Once again, our readers were very supportive of the advertising in AP. Most thought the ad to text ratio was about the right mix. Nobody requested fewer ads, but a couple of respondents wanted more ads. One person explained why: the ads are pertinent to the needs of the readership.
Finally, it was in the “Going Beyond” section where we requested open-ended comments and suggestions that we got the most creative and inspiring feedback. Here we received ideas and requests for articles, such as: features on service providers, profiles of columnists (and more personalization in general), information on a larger variety of disabilities especially those that are less visible, alternative health care, senior information, and a gay section or article.
This last section is also where we got our pats on the back. Examples included: thanks (from two readers) for mentioning a fragrance ban at conferences in the August editor’s column, agreement with the supportive comments [recollections] in our anniversary issue, and appreciation of seeing each candidate’s views presented so that readers can make up their own minds. An especially glowing comment included the phrase “fantastic work” and called AP a godsend to the community.
In general, the responses were overwhelmingly supportive and positive. Even the suggestions we received were nothing but constructive. These included: add more pages and put an expiration date on our mailing labels.
So, thanks to all who took the time to share their input. Please remember that any of you may do the same at any time via fax, e-mail, snail mail, or phone.