June 16, 2020 / Ed Rutkowski

Lessons from Our Reader Survey

In February, AIHA conducted the latest in its series of Synergist reader surveys. The survey asked respondents to assess both the print and digital versions of The Synergist magazine, as well as the Synergist Weekly and Synergist Newswire newsletters, and the SynergistNOW blog. In this post, I’ll focus on what survey respondents had to say about the magazine.

Distributed to 8,200 AIHA members, the survey received over 1,500 responses. This response rate of 18 percent was a significant increase from the previous survey conducted in 2016, which had a response rate of around 12 percent. Here are a few valuable findings from the 2020 survey:

  • More than nine in ten respondents (93 percent) indicate they agree (53 percent) or strongly agree (40 percent) that The Synergist delivers essential information, insights, and ideas. In addition, more than nine in ten (94 percent) rate the accuracy and reliability of information as above average (45 percent) or excellent (49 percent) and nearly nine in ten (86 percent) rate the relevance of information as above average (44 percent) or excellent (42 percent). These are the highest ratings The Synergist has ever received in these areas.
  • More than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) indicated they have discussed or shared Synergist articles with a colleague. More than half (56 percent) reported having changed their thinking or gained new insight after reading The Synergist, and nearly half used articles as a training tool (44 percent) or visited the AIHA website (48 percent) after reading.
  • It is increasingly difficult for our audience to find time to read The Synergist. Between one-quarter and one-third of respondents (29 percent) indicated they have read two or fewer of the last four issues, and 10 percent of those respondents indicated they have not read any of the last four issues. Readership across most other industry publications has decreased as well.
  • Readers are becoming more comfortable with accessing the digital Synergist. Nearly two in five (39 percent) respondents indicate they read the digital Synergist, a 10 percent increase since 2016. In addition, more than four in five of those respondents (81 percent) rated the digital Synergist as above average (50 percent) or excellent (31 percent), an increase of 20 percent from 2016.
  • Meeting readers’ expectations regarding the depth and breadth of topics of interest is a challenge. Responses indicate that some readers want more content on specific topics, more relevant content, or more technical, in-depth content.

Responses to the question “What could The Synergist do better?” yielded feedback that will guide our staff going forward. Some of this feedback criticized the range of topics and depth of Synergist articles. Generally, concerns related to relevance and depth are difficult to address because of the diversity of our readers and the limitations of Synergist staff resources.

Suggestions for article topics are as varied as our audience; an article that one reader considers a superficial treatment of a topic may be exactly as technical as other readers require. Similarly, our duty to responsibly manage the magazine’s budget limits the number of pages we can devote to any one article or issue.

However, we are actively seeking out opportunities to publish longer articles in the magazine. Our May cover story on COVID-19, for example, is the longest article we’ve ever published, finishing at over 4,400 words, including references and the authors’ biographies. And the just-published digital version of the June/July cover story on respiratory sensitizers includes sidebars and other additional context that we couldn’t fit in the print magazine. This hybrid print-and-digital approach may be the most cost-effective way to address concerns about length and depth.

Finally, I’ll address a few more concerns uncovered by the survey.

PDF availability: Survey comments suggested that some readers aren’t aware that PDFs of each issue from 2009 to the present are available in the Member Center on AIHA.org. A handy tool for accessing these PDFs is within the Synergist section of the AIHA website: on this page, you’ll find links to the tables of contents for each issue. Clicking on a year will show you the contents of each issue published that year, with links to each PDF, shown in the screenshot below.

Also, each digital issue of The Synergist includes a link to that issue’s PDF, right above the table of contents. Here’s a screenshot of the PDF link for the May digital Synergist:

We have plans to digitize issues older than 2009 so readers can access the full set of Synergist archives.

Search capabilities: To search the digital Synergist, click or tap on the menu icon in the upper left corner, select the magnifying glass icon, and enter your search term. This search encompasses all issues going back to our digital debut in October 2014. Results will appear below the search field:

Thanks to all who participated in the Synergist reader survey: your feedback is essential to improving the magazine and keeping it one of the most valued benefits of AIHA membership. I’m always available to hear your ideas and answer questions, so please don’t hesitate to send me your thoughts or leave them in the comments.

Ed Rutkowski

Ed Rutkowski is editor-in-chief of The Synergist.


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