1030 words • 5~8 min read

Reader Survey: Who reads Southern Fried Science?

Introduction

Who are our readers? That is the question we wanted to answer at the beginning of this year. Are you scientists, students, or interested laypeople? Where are you from? What do you like and what don’t you like? Is anybody out there?

So last month we launched a survey to help us find out.

Methods

We asked a series of 18 questions to try and determine who our readers are and what they’re interested in. These questions can be broken up into basic demographics, how you access the blog, what you like about the blog, and what other blogs you enjoy. To entice people to take the survey, we offered a series of awesome prizes which will be announced and shipped out shortly.

Results

Our average reader is female, in their late-20’s or early 30’s, has a PhD, lives in the US, found out about us through a link on another blog, and never comments.

Here’s more detail on the basics:

How old are you?

  • 25-34 49.4%
  • 35-54 26%
  • 18-24 19.5%
  • 55+ 5.2%

What is your highest level of education (or currently enrolled)?

  • PhD 34.6%
  • Bachelor’s degree 30.8%
  • Master’s degree 25.6%
  • some college 7.7%
  • Associate degree 1.3%

Your gender?

  • Female 55.1%
  • Male 42.3%
  • Trans 1.3%
  • Undecided (or prefer not to answer) 1.3%

What country are you from?

  • US 79.5%
  • Canada 9%
  • UK 5.1%

How you access the blog:

How did you first find Southern Fried Science?

  • Link from another blog 26.7%
  • Twitter 21.3%
  • Google Search 14.7%
  • Facebook 13.3%

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Deep Sea News was the most frequent referrer followed by Observations of a Nerd, A Schooner of Science, and Not Exactly Rocket Science.

How do you access Southern Fried Science?

  • Visit webpage 57.3%
  • Follow authors on Twitter 37.3%
  • RSS feed 34.7%
  • Facebook Fan Page 16.0%

How often do you read us?

  • A few times a week 41.9%
  • A few times a month 33.8%
  • Whenever it’s updated 9.5%
  • Every day 9.5%
  • Rarely 5.4%

How often do you comment?

  • do not comment 57.3%
  • have left one or two comments 25.3%
  • occasionally 10.7%
  • only comment on specific issues 4.0%
  • frequent commenters 2.7%

What you read on the blog:

We asked what your favorite posts were and no two people shared a favorite! Favorite types of posts, though:

  • 59.7% Conservation Issues
  • 55.2% Research Blogging
  • 55.2% Humor/Parody
  • 52.2% Ethical Debates
  • 46.3% Opinion/Editorial.

Many other categories were well loved, but those were the top 5.

Least favorite types of posts:

  • 34.1% 365 Days of Darwin
  • 20.5% Finding Melville’s Whale
  • 20.5% Weekly Dose of TED
  • 20.5% Political Activism
  • 13.6% SFS Gear Reviews

Here, readers were more undecided (note the lower percentages, nothing near a majority), and many of these least favorites garnered almost equal support in the favorites question.

Which authors do you follow?

Perhaps a slightly silly question, as 49.3% of you don’t follow anyone in particular. But those who do follow Southern Fried Scientist (44.8%) and Why Sharks Matter (40.3%) more than Bluegrass Blue Crab (20.9%).

When asked what other blogs you read, again uniqueness reigns. Nobody said the same thing twice. Also, 15.9% of you don’t follow networks, but for the rest of you that do, it’s another long list of no shared names.

Results on general websiteyness:

Easy to navigate? 68.7% agree, 19.4% strongly agree, 10.4% neutral, 1.5% strongly disagree. We seem to be doing ok here.

Visually appealing? 62.7% agree, 22.4% neutral, 7.5% strongly agree, 7.5% disagree.

Discussion

For the most part, the results of this survey are unsurprising. The average reader is young, educated, and American, with female readers slightly outnumbering male readers. Most people find us through links from other popular science blogs and for the most part visit the site slightly less than a few times a week. About a third of respondents follow the author on twitter, but this is probably biased by the fact that we tweeted “Take the survey!” several times.

In terms of what people like and don’t like, there wasn’t anything unexpected. More niche topics like Gear Reviews and Finding Melville’s Whale were the least popular (though, to be fair, almost everything on the dislike list was proportionately represented on the like list, suggesting that the niche topics simply cater to a smaller audience). We’ve already made some adjustments to keep the spice flowing, including posting Finding Melville’s Whale once weekly on Sunday instead of twice weekly, and cutting back on the gear reviews. The only topic that received proportionately more dislikes than likes (other than 365 days of Darwin, which is done and dead anyway) was Political Activism.

Things get a little more interesting when we start looking at who comments on the blog. Only 2.7% of respondents comment frequently. This means that the vast majority of the readers we interact with on a daily basis, our comentariat, are not representative of our overall readership. Digging deeper into the data, we discover that of our frequent commenters, 100% are male, and of our occasional commenters, 75% are male. Despite having a majority female readership, our commenters are predominantly male. Granted, we don’t have that many commenters overall, but this leads to two interesting conclusions: 1. tailoring blog content to posts that attract the most comments is not necessarily in the best interest of the majority of your readers and 2. Despite being the majority of the readership, women are not commenting as often on the blog.

I’ll leave it to better minds than mine to speculate on the deeper causes and effects of the second point, but my immediate reaction to that data is “Is Southern Fried Science creating an environment that is hostile or unwelcoming to women commenters?” Do any other bloggers have similar data sets for comparison? Do any of our female readers have an insight into this phenomenon?


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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