You know the province – the one whose inhabitants would be most likely to appreciate and explore so-called “alternative” forms of spirituality, like labyrinths, meditation and yoga. It’s that province out west.No, not that one.It turns out that the area of Canada that claims the most Anglican Journal readers who practice alternative forms of spirituality is … Alberta.Alberta?That was just one of some surprising findings of a recent readership survey conducted among a random sampling of Journal readers. The survey, our first in more than 10 years, will serve as a benchmark study and help us to track trends in our readership: what you like to read about, what you could live without seeing in our pages, how long you spend with one of our issues and your general satisfaction with the newspaper. And yes, it will help us target our advertising to your interests and needs. Some respondents to the survey objected to the questions about their age, income and other personal details, arguing that they were too invasive, even rude. The reality is, though, that the Journal relies in part on advertising revenue to publish and distribute the newspaper to our 200,000 subscribers’ homes. The information that the survey asked about will help our advertising department seek out ads that will be of service to our readers. The survey was anonymous and no reader’s personal information will be divulged.What kind of information did we glean? Well, for one, our readers are a peripatetic lot. An impressive 61.7 per cent of respondents reported that they planned between one and three trips outside the province in the next 12 months; 43.9 per cent have travel plans outside the country in the next year.Less surprising, perhaps: our readers read a lot of books. Some 42 per cent of our female readers and 36 per cent of men read 6-20 books each year. An impressive 11.4 per cent of women respondents read 50-100 books in the same time period.Some other encouraging statistics:
- eight out of 10 respondents think the length of articles in the Journal is “just right;”
- 18.2 per cent turn to “Letters to the Editor” first;
- a third of readers under age 50 would like to see more book, film and music reviews in the Journal;
- three out of five women who responded to the survey (and just over half of the men) say they read the Journal because it “provides me with a link to the rest of the Anglican Communion worldwide;”
- third of the respondents who currently use a broker or financial planner for advice have inquired about socially-responsible investments;
- nearly half of the respondents – 48.7 per cent – list volunteering as an activity they, or a member of their household, enjoy doing in their spare time.
But not all is rosy. Our demographics are those of the church at large (the Journal is mailed to all identifiable donors to the Anglican Church of Canada) and those numbers are skewing older and older each year. Our challenge is that of the church, and indeed, most mainline denominations in North America: how to attract and keep a new and younger audience while still honouring the needs and expectations of the long-time faithful.
PSI Inc., the company that completed the readership survey, reports that older Anglicans make up the bulk of the Journal’s readers (less than a third of survey respondents were under 50), and, on the whole, we are “giving them what they want.” So, the trick will be to continue to deliver the product that our loyal readers have come to expect, while introducing new elements and features aimed at a younger demographic.
We thank the readers who completed the survey, and we thank too those readers who did not receive a survey but sent their analysis anyway. In the meantime, our letters pages are open to you and we welcome your comments about what we are doing that pleases you and what seems to be missing from the paper.