Thank you to the 231 people who made time to answer my recent reader survey. I know we’re all surveyed to death these days, and so I appreciate that you were willing to give me your feedback.
I asked for your feedback to either confirm or refute some beliefs I’ve had about your demographics and the kinds of articles you do and don’t enjoy. I got that in spades.
Most of you left comments in the “other feedback” box. There you overwhelmingly told me not to change the subjects I write about, even those you don’t enjoy. I’m really grateful that you feel that way. This being a personal site, I write about whatever is interesting to me. I’m going to keep doing that.
I also am grateful for the many kind things so many of you wrote. I am a lucky man indeed to have found a kind and enthusiastic audience for what I share about the melange of things that interest me.
I’m a little blown away that over the years my writing and photography have attracted so many people. As of 8 September, the day I’m writing this, 8,116 people subscribe to this site through WordPress (email or reader), and 595 people follow this site via its Facebook page. I have no way of knowing how many others follow this site using a feed reader or just by visiting it.
Let’s look at the survey results together. In this analysis, when I say “readers,” I mean “readers who answered the survey.” I can’t know whether this sample is representative of the entire readership, but I’m going to assume that it is reasonably so.
At the end, I’ll share my reflections and conclusions, and how they affect this site’s future.
Who readers are
Overwhelmingly, readers are male. I felt sure that would be the case.
In asking the gender question, I tried to be sensitive to the variety of sensibilities and beliefs on this subject. Of course, it’s impossible to do that perfectly, and a handful of people made comments to that effect in the “Other” box. In the end, I counted as male everyone who said they were male, and as female everyone who said they were female. I’ll have more to say about this in an upcoming article.
Half of readers are baby boomers. The next largest generation of readers is my generation, Generation X. Together, these two generations make up more than 80% of this site’s readership. When you add the Silent Generation, 90% of this site’s readers are middle aged and older.
I have some thoughts about why the readership skews older. Younger people might not be as much into following blogs. Also, when I was 25, say, I’m not sure I would have been excited to follow the blog of someone more than twice my age. (Not that there were blogs when I was 25, but you get my point.) Heck, maybe younger readers are simply less likely to answer surveys!! Whatever the case, I hope to attract more younger readers to help ensure that there’s an audience here for as long as I want to keep doing it.
The largest group of people in this blog’s readership is retired. The sum of both white-collar groups (management and individual contributor) is next. All other groups combined represent less than 25 percent of readers. They don’t show up on the chart below because there are so few of them, but thank you to the service members who read my blog. No farmers answered the survey!
Unsurprisingly, most readers live in North America, with Europe a distant second. The tiny slice with no label below is South America.
How readers follow my site
Many people follow Down the Road in more than one way. Almost half of readers get it via email. I was surprised to find that almost as many readers just visit the site directly! Many respondents wrote in “WordPress reader” — I added those responses to the Feed Reader category. A handful wrote in “Analog News” — this is a site that shares the latest posts from film-photography blogs around the world. This was significant enough that I gave it a category.
I am surprised more people don’t follow my site using a feed reader, but that’s because I love my feed reader and am strongly biased to this way of following sites.
Whether readers also subscribe to my newsletter
I also write a monthly newsletter, an insider track to what I’m working on. You can subscribe here if you like. I was curious how much this site’s audience overlaps with the newsletter audience. Answer: plenty of people read this blog who don’t read the newsletter.
What readers enjoy most and least about this site
Don’t worry, I’m not changing the topics I write about. Lots and lots of respondents said, “this is your blog, write about what you want, I’ll just skip the stuff I don’t care about.” That’s exactly what I’ve hoped readers would do!
Most readers like most of the things I write about. The two subjects that got the least love were essays and Christianity. I’m not surprised by that — the number of views and comments those articles get correlates to their popularity score here.
Least favorite subjects
I asked this question from the other perspective and learned that almost half of readers don’t enjoy my posts about my faith. There weren’t similar strong feelings about any of the other subjects.
One subject readers wish I’d write more about
I asked which subject readers wished I wrote about more often. Road trips and film photography were most represented here, with None coming in third.
One subject readers wish I’d stop writing about
I asked which subject readers wished I’d quit writing about. The vast majority of readers answered None, even though there were subjects they like far less than others. I really appreciate that readers are willing to stick with me even though sometimes I write about something they don’t enjoy.
Net Promoter Score
I asked, on a scale from 1 to 10, how likely readers are to recommend my site to others. This is the classic Net Promoter Score question, which gives some insight into audience loyalty. It’s not a perfect method for this, but it’s easy enough to administer. Scores range from -100 to +100, and higher scores are better. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of how NPS works here (follow this link to learn more). I’ll explain that the second column below is the number of respondents who chose each score on the 1-10 scale, and an NPS of 35 isn’t bad. It means that readers are generally loyal and will keep coming back.
Reflections and conclusions
I don’t plan to change what I write about and photograph. Respondents were clear: keep doing what I’m doing.
I always wish to attract more readers, but I especially wish to attract younger readers. I’d like this site to stay vital, with high engagement, for as long as I want to keep doing it.
To attract younger readers I need to go where they are to promote this blog. Those are places like TikTok and Instagram, and maybe Snapchat and YouTube. In other words, video platforms. I’ve avoided video hard, because it’s not my strength and I am reluctant to give up some of what I already do to make time to build a strength in video.
It’s easy to share my posts on Facebook. I probably spend 20 minutes a week at it. Last month alone, Facebook generated more than 1,300 visits to my site. That’s a decent return on my investment.
But on video sites, I’d need to create special content that is interesting and valuable on its own. There’s a lot to learn about how to do that. I fear that could turn into a real time sink, especially should video turn into another beast that needs to be fed. I don’t want to divert too much time from the beast that is this blog.
TikTok is a guilty pleasure for me. It’s not impossible that I could create some quick videos with my phone about cameras I’ve written about on my blog, share them on TikTok, and invite people to click through. I follow a few other film photographers there, so I know there’s an audience. It’s worth an experiment.
Another option is to guest on podcasts, as I think those appeal to a wide audience. Mike Eckman has been after me for months to be on his Camerosity podcast, and I ought to take him up on it. Mentor and friend of the blog Johanna Rothman has been coaching me for a couple years now that I need to do this and I keep resisting. Perhaps it’s time to relent. Guesting on a podcast is a pretty straightforward thing to do: show up at the appointed time and talk about stuff I like talking about anyway.
Again, thank you to everyone who answered this survey.