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.
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.
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%
- 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.
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?
weird on the commenter gender thing. I can’t think of anything of the top of my head that causes it, but I comment elsewhere all the time (some would argue too much). Just not here. So maybe there is something different?
I know that I comment on average 1-2 times/year because I regard it as an invitation to get chewed out/told I’m an idiot. This may be because I frequent Pharyngula and the comment section there is an infamous pit of vipers. Amusing to read, but I’m not sticking my toes in there.
However, I’m aware that SFS is very much not Pharyngula and has an entirely different vibe. Why don’t I comment then? I guess I don’t have anything worth saying most of the time.
Additionally, I feel more comfortable commenting on Twitter because I can avoid other commenters, if that makes sense.
Probably relevant in this context: I ID as an androgyne and am the 1.3% of the survey that responded with gender as “undecided”, as it was the most accurate option available. Thanks for that again, btw.
Perhaps you should ask your regular commenters why they comment and how many other blogs (if any) they regularly comment on. How many regular commenters do y’all have? Someone should do a study, this is interesting.
“Tailoring blog content to posts that attract the most comments is not necessarily in the best interest of the majority of your readers” is an interesting observation. Not the conventional wisdom, is it?
Speaking of conventional wisdom, maybe I’m showing my age, but I am used to an internet where men do most of the talking, and a world where men do most of the talking about science. So I am not sure that you should feel bad that the relative silence of women here means there is anything especially wrong with your site.
Interesting results. I don’t get many comments on mine, Brave Blue Words either, so although you may feel lonely, you’re not alone. 😉 Truth is, while I read a lot of science blogs, I rarely comment on any. And as you might know from twitter, I’m hardly the silent type, so it’s not shyness.
As for the overall almost-silence: while the tone is friendly, blogs like ours might not really invite interaction. Perhaps they come across as more of an interesting lecture than a conversation. In fact, most of the comments I get are questions for clarification or additional info (and a few climate denier challenges, but not too many).
As for the gender spit – very interesting but unfortunately consistent with much of the web. Did you see the recent NYT article on wikipedia? Definitely food for thought: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/business/media/31link.html?_r=1
Congrats on doing the survey and having such a great online presence. Keep it up!
I can’t think of anything of the top of my head that causes it
Bias in the data set? Are women more likely than men to fill out a survey and share personal information?
I read the posts in Google Reader – I pretty much zip through a whole bunch of blogs and just try to absorb as much as possible. Don’t often have time to engage with others – it takes enough time to simply get through all the material!