“Consistently interesting and enjoyable.”
“My copy usually goes straight into the recycling bin.”
These are reader comments about the same magazine. This magazine.
Viewpoint diversity was to be expected when we asked alumni to complete a reader survey last fall. More than 10,000 of you participated, providing thousands of datapoints and written responses. Many are productive and helpful. Others … let’s just say the word “woke” appeared 147 times.
PAW’s challenge is analyzing and drawing actionable conclusions from this information. Since starting as editor in July, I have been working with the staff to change our approach in a variety of ways. We’re focusing on breaking news, recruiting new student writers, boosting participation in Class Notes, and increasing reader engagement, among other shifts.
In some ways, this survey confirms what we suspected. But in many ways, it is challenging PAW’s staff as we consider the future. Let’s examine some of the results.
Readership: 73% said they read at least seven of PAW’s 11 print issues each year. That drops to 35% for alumni who graduated from 2012-22. In 2016, when PAW last conducted a reader survey, 68% of all participants said they read at least nine of the 14 issues published at that time.
On the digital side in this most recent survey, 42% said they visit PAW online at least once a month, as opposed to 51% of more recent alums. Back in 2016, we asked whether you were aware PAW had a website, and 45% said they were not.
Our takeaway: PAW maintains strong readership in print — which is not something most publications can say — and most of you don’t visit or know we have a website. For the record, we’re at paw.princeton.edu, and we hope you’ll check it out.
More or less: You’d like to see more coverage of courses/campus life (29% of responses), the physical campus (22%), University history (21%), and student life (20%). You’d like to see less about sports (20%), eating clubs (14%), and the University administration (13%).
Speaking of the administration: We asked you to rate PAW’s coverage of the University and issues surrounding the administration, and 2% said we are too critical, 35% said somewhat or too favorable, and 63% said fair. (Let’s also note that 35% said they are not aware PAW is editorially independent of the University. We are.)
“Often lacks critical opinion of the administration; clearly designed to promote continued alumni support of the University,” wrote one participant. (All responses were anonymous.)
This sentiment was echoed by many readers, which is why it should be said PAW’s journalists are not here to write opinion pieces. That is where you come in. We devote several pages in each issue and unlimited space online (Did I mention, we have a website?) to your letters. You can be as opinionated and critical as you like — within the boundaries of our commenting policy.
Meanwhile, PAW — as it has for many years — will work to cover the University without bias and hold the administration accountable through our reporting. Your ideas and tips are welcome contributions to this process.
The good stuff: Your comments and ideas were much appreciated. We are listening. And if you’re doubtful that Princetonians can agree on anything, consider this: 89% said PAW is doing an excellent or good job. As one of you put it: “I enjoy PAW and like it much better than my husband’s Harvard alumni magazine, which I find pompous and over-serious.”