What I Learned from My 2015 Reader Survey

5 Key Conclusions to Better Serve You

I’ve been doing reader surveys since 2009, and I get excited every time the numbers come in. As far as I’m concerned, a reader survey is the best way to get real, useful, concrete data on the people I want to serve best: you.

Last month I launched my 2015 reader survey. I do a survey almost every year because it helps me gain clarity and improve the content I create. For the past few days, I’ve been pouring over the results.

To my delight, almost thirty-five hundred people participated. I want to share the results with you, along with how I plan to use the feedback to meet your needs and exceed your expectations in the coming year.

What the Numbers Say

Based on the numbers, here’s what a “reader profile” would look like. Since it’s not the complete picture, I’ll add some additional thoughts to fill out the portrait:

  • My typical reader is a male (56%) between the ages of 31-60 (78%), though the gender mix has shifted significantly since my 2013 survey when the split was 62% male. (Nevertheless, I will use the masculine pronoun in describing the other attributes below.)
  • He also tends to be an entrepreneur or business owner (36%) with at least a college degree (83%) and a household income of $70,000 or more (60%).
  • He lives in the U.S. (74%), most likely in the Southeast (31%). In terms of states, he most likely resides in Texas (9%) or California (9%). The size of my U.S. audience has been slowly ebbing as my international audience grows—especially in Canada, Australia, and the UK.
  • He identifies himself as a Christian (84%) and attends a nondenominational church (34%).
  • He’s most interested when I discuss personal development (81%), productivity (73%), leadership (66%), and goal-setting (65%). And he’s recommended my blog to others (78%).
  • He also listens to my podcast (64%), typically on a mobile device (43%). Incidentally, based on my Google Analytics data, almost half my readers now access my site on a mobile device.
  • The biggest challenge he faces is not having enough time (52%), money (37%), or clarity (37%) to accomplish what he wants. These key challenges tie back to his main interests.
  • He sets annual goals (82%), mostly with a focus on his business (46%). After my book Platform, the next product of mine he buys is my goal-setting course, 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever.
  • He reads at least two books a month (71%) and hopes to publish a book of his own (45%), is in the process of doing so (12%), and/or has already done it (12%).
  • He is active on several social media networks, including Facebook (81%), Twitter (73%), and LinkedIn (62%).

The most significant demographic shift I see is the larger number of women readers. I went from 38% to 44%, which is a big jump. Less noticeable but also important is the international growth. More than a quarter of my audience is now outside the U.S. In my last survey the figure was just over a fifth.

If you are a survey geek and want to see the specific responses to each question, including reader comments, you may do so by clicking here. All the responses are anonymous; I can’t tell how any one person voted.

What I’m Taking Away from the Numbers

So what do I think of all this? Based on your feedback, I have come to five conclusions about things I want to keep doing.

  1. Keep focusing my content on your needs. Three of my four biggest categories, personal development, productivity, and goal setting tie back directly to the three biggest challenges you’re facing: the lack of time, money, and clarity to accomplish what you want. By staying focused on these areas, I’m confident I’ll be able to help close the gap for you in the coming year.
  2. Keep things practical. Expanding on point No. 1, I will stick with providing practical answers, hacks, and processes. This was especially evident in response to several open-ended questions. I’ve always done this, but this survey is a good reminder that breaking things down with step-by-step instructions and descriptions removes mystery and provides motivation to make it happen.
  3. Keep my faith in the mix. While trying to reach as broad an audience as possible, I’ve also tried to be open about my faith. Given the overwhelming number of Christians among my readers, there’s evidently a strong resonance when faith informs my perspective. I pledge to always do this in a way that is respectful to those who aren’t Christians.
  4. Keep podcasting. My podcast used to be the single-most challenging thing I produced each week. It’s gotten easier since including Michele Cushatt, and the survey numbers show interest has stayed strong. It’s doubly encouraging to see the iTunes ranking. This is Your Life has become central to what I do each week.
  5. Keep being inclusive. Given the growing diversity of my audience, it’s imperative that I avoid making anyone feel excluded. I intend to be even more mindful of the fact that I am writing for a global, racially-diverse audience. I also want to do a better job serving my female readers.

If you participated in the survey, thank you for taking the time to do it. It’s the most important window I have into what concerns and motivates you. I consider it a gift. Most of all, thank you for entrusting me with your time and attention.

Question: What additional insights do you see from the survey?