Last December, PAW surveyed about 5,000 readers to find out what you thought about our double issue on campus life, and about the magazine in general. You told us.
Our goal was to gather information that would help us make decisions on content and frequency. Should we attempt to produce thicker magazines with more substantive articles, even if it means producing fewer PAWs each year? What kind of articles do you like? What section do you turn to first?
About 18 percent of those contacted responded to the survey, which was conducted by an independent polling firm. Not surprisingly, the varied body of Princetonians offered a variety of opinions. Recent grads, but not older alumni, wanted more articles about student life. Graduate alumni, but not undergrad alumni, preferred more news on faculty research. More than two-thirds of male respondents wanted PAW to run at least the same amount of sports coverage; fewer than half the women felt that way, and nearly a third wanted sports coverage scaled back.
Forty-one percent of all respondents said they preferred thicker issues such as our December magazine, while 20 percent wanted the standard PAW. Those who preferred thicker issues liked the depth of longer pieces and the greater variety of articles. Those who preferred smaller magazines said they don’t have time to read more or longer stories.
A crucial question for PAW concerns the frequency of publication. Recently, PAW has been published 17 times each year, believed to be more than any other alumni magazine in the nation. This year, we produced 16 issues, including our double issue. We asked alumni whether they would prefer to receive the standard PAW 17 times each year, a thicker PAW 12 times each year, or a mix of thicker and thinner PAWs 14 or 15 times.
More than two-thirds of responding readers preferred fewer but thicker magazines, although they were divided over how that should be done. Thirty-five percent wanted a mix of PAWs 14 or 15 times each year. Another 35 percent preferred to receive 12 thicker magazines. One-quarter of respondents wanted to continue with the current publication schedule. Opinions broke down along generational lines: Alumni who graduated before 1960 wanted the magazine 17 times each year, while younger alumni strongly preferred fewer, bigger issues.
Over the summer and fall, the PAW staff and board will discuss how frequently PAW should come out, and what kind of content any larger issues ought to include. There are implications for all aspects of the magazine, from design and production, to the subjects of our coverage, to the number of pages devoted to Class Notes (shown by this survey and others to be the most frequently read section of the magazine).
In addition to the survey, we have received written comments from many readers. As we enter our planning period, I encourage you to send us your thoughts about the sort of magazine you hope PAW will become. You may reach me at email@example.com or by snail mail to PAW, 194 Nassau Street, Suite 38, Princeton, New Jersey 08542.