5 Insights from My Reader Survey and What They Mean for You

Last November, I launched my most recent Reader Survey. This is the fourth year I have gone through this exercise. I have benefited enormously each time. Ultimately, I think it also benefits you, because it helps me improve the content I create, whether on this blog, my podcast, or elsewhere.

More than twenty-eight hundred people participated in the survey—almost double the number that took my last one. This was particularly surprising given the fact that I asked almost twice the number of questions (fifty-three as compared to thirty).

If I boiled the results down into a “reader profile,” it would look like this.

  • My typical reader is a male (63%) between the ages of 31-50 (55%).

  • He has at least a college degree (79%) and household income of $70,000 or more (59%).

  • He lives in the U.S. (79%), though this number is declining and my audience is becoming more international.

  • He identifies himself as a Christian (89%), attending church at least once a week (78%), and his faith is very important (87%).

  • He has been reading my blog for a year or more (65%) and prefers to read it via email (59%). He reads most of my blog posts (78%) and is especially interested in those related to the topic of personal development (85%), productivity (75%), and leadership (74%). He has recommended my blog to others (86%).

  • He also listens to my podcast (60%), most likely on a mobile device (49%). He prefers the podcast (36%) over the blog (30%).

  • The biggest challenge he faces is not having enough time (59%) and money (40%) to do what he wants to do.

  • He is very active in pursing personal development, reading at least one book a month (96%) and listening to at least one podcast a week (71%). He also attended one or more webinars (71%) or conferences in the last year (68%).

  • He has his own blog (51%) and posts at least once a week (53%). The biggest challenge he faces is building traffic (58%), followed closely by publishing consistently (58%). He is active on several social media networks, including Facebook (90%), Twitter (82.1%), and LinkedIn (63%).

  • He hopes to publish a book in the future (64%) and even has an idea for it (51%) but hasn’t gotten much further than that (76%).

Not much has changed demographically since my last survey. However, three items are worth mentioning. My audience, as compared to two years ago, is:

  1. More international;
  2. More affluent; and
  3. More mobile.

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

Based on my readers’ comments, I have come to five conclusions:

  1. Keep podcasting. Nothing I do takes more work than my podcast, and, to be honest, I have considered quitting. However, the survey assured me I must continue. Of those who both read the blog and listen to the podcast, more prefer the podcast. In terms of sheer numbers, I currently have more blog readers, but this will flip in the next eighteen to twenty-four months.

  2. Focus more on personal development, productivity, and leadership. Since publishing my book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, I have written on various aspects of platform-building and publishing. I will continue to do that, but I plan to shift the mix this year and focus more on what my readers told me they prefer. This will be a natural fit with the topic of my next book, The Life Plan Manifesto with my good friend, Daniel Harkavy.

  3. Stay personal, honest, and practical. One of the consistent themes I picked up in the comments is that my readers like it when I tell personal stories, especially of some challenge or failure I have facing or have faced. It makes them feel they are not alone. They also like it when I share how to accomplish something specific and break it down into step-by-step instructions.

  4. Be more open in sharing my faith. This has been a tough one for me, not because I am afraid to express my faith, but because it is not my specific calling. I have wanted to reach as broad an audience as possible without making anyone feel excluded. But the truth is, I have throttled my expression back, and that doesn’t feel quite right either. As a result, I plan talk more about this part of my life this year. (Don’t worry, I won’t start preaching!)

  5. Don’t try to please everyone. It was amazing how many contrary opinions there were. For example, some think I post too much; others, too little. Some think my posts and podcasts are too long; others, too short. Some want more on technology; others, less. In the end, I have to follow my own compass. As I often tell people who complain: “Feel free to unfollow me. I’m not for everyone.”

I got scores of great ideas from reviewing the comments. We are already working away on several of them. I think you are going to like the changes I have planned for the rest of 2014. If you participated in the survey, thank you for taking the time to do that. I consider it a gift.

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