Results of the 2023 Down the Road Reader Survey

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!

Favorite subjects

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.

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30 responses to “Results of the 2023 Down the Road Reader Survey”

  1. DougD Avatar

    Well, I guess I’m an outlier on some of that data.

    And what’s a feed reader?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      A feed reader is a service that grabs the RSS feed of sites you ask it to follow, and presents posts from those sites via those RSS feeds. Feedly is the one I use.

  2. Greg Clawson Avatar
    Greg Clawson

    Jim, keep up the good work!
    Every morning I catch up on the news then head “Down the Road” for my daily cup of wisdom.

    When I visit your blog, I compare it to being a guest in your home. What you talk about or share in your home is your business, you spend countless hours writing, taking photographs, and sharing your thoughts with us. The least guests can do is to be kind and respectful when visiting, if the subject matter is not your cup of tea, come back tomorrow for something different. 😄

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Greg, I’m pleased that you can so easily read the vibe I’m trying to create here. I really do want this to be like a casual cookout in my back yard or beers in my family room, but where we are friendly and respectful toward each other. There’s enough conflict on the Internet that if you want some it’s easy to find. And yes, today I might write about something you don’t care about, but come back tomorrow because I’ll have written about something else!

  3. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

    I don’t usually listen to podcasts because there is too little information gained for the time spent listening. An article/essay/blogpost delivers a lot of information in a relatively short amount of time. But maybe most podcasters pad their recordings to optimise monetisation? I’m not sure. But, given your experience in radio, I imagine you would be a very good podcaster. I would certainly give a video/podcast a listen.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m right there with you on reading blog posts. So efficient. Podcasts are a real investment in time. I do follow a couple podcasts but am hit or miss about listening to them because I just don’t always have the 20, 60, or 90 minutes to give.

      I follow one podcast that is 2-3 minutes per. I can knock off a whole bunch of those while on a short walk. Perfect!

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        I’m afraid I’m one of those guys that takes a pass on almost any vid or pod cast that is sent to me over 3-4 minutes, even if my best friend sent it to me and told me if would change my life. So much easier to scan the written word for nuggets. And BTW, ditto for state of the state addresses, state of the union addresses, etc. I’d rather scan the complete transcription the next day in the paper, than Wade through the emotion and pr firm verbiage of live political deliveries!

      2. Daniel Brinneman Avatar

        I usually listen to tech/discussion podcasts at 1.5X or 2X playback speed. Same goes with videos.

  4. DELORIS D Avatar

    For the most part, I do provide feedback for surveys. I feel it’s important to support companies and services that have helped me. I am glad to be one of the 2.6% who responded to your request. I don’t recall how I came across your blog but was fortunate to do so. I enjoy each one of your posts no matter what the subject matter. As a fellow northwestern Hoosier (Mishawaka), may God Bless You.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you for making the time!

      I used to respond to more surveys but I get so many now. I can’t keep up. So I quit trying.

  5. tbm3fan Avatar

    I access you via my Bookmarks which is how I access everything. No automatic feeds of anything especially via email as one of my pet peeves is a flooded email site forcing me to trudge through everything. That has happened to my office email and so I routinely delete everything without reading because it is too much. Probably why I have five email addresses with two kept private. You want me then use my landline.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This is why I love my feed reader — it doesn’t clog my email box.

    2. Daniel Brinneman Avatar

      In my email, I move all my email newsletters to a single folder outside of the inbox using rules/filters. And I use other rules to eliminate the emails I don’t want.

  6. Daniel Brinneman Avatar

    Jim, I switch between RSS and WordPress Reader. It depends if I need to leave a comment and want your reply to show in the notifications. Videos and blogs are my means of learning. Long-form blogs are where I feel connected especially when people leave encouraging comments and positive constructive criticism.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I want to like the WordPress Reader, really I do. It certainly makes commenting and Liking easier. But its usage paradigm just feels alien to me, and after many attempts I just haven’t been able to make it flow well for me. Feedly flows well, but it offers zero help with commenting and Liking.

      1. Daniel Brinneman Avatar

        I know I used Google Reader, Feedly, and now Reeder, I would click on the title to get to the post on the website, then fill in my WordPress information that is connected to Gravatar to leave a comment. For whatever reason, doing the latter would not show up in the WordPress notifications, so I started using WordPress Reader to leave Likes and Comments.

  7. Johanna Rothman Avatar

    I’m glad you’re listening and considering podcasts. Now, do it! 🤣. Which RSS reader do you use? I use NetNewsWire. I like it, but just realized I have it set up based on Feedly. And Feedly is still claiming some blogs are broken. Makes me nuts.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I use Feedly, and have since Google Reader shut down. I’ve had no problems with it thinking particular blogs are broken. (Yet?)

      1. Johanna Rothman Avatar

        If you’re like me, you can’t tell when Feedly (incorrectly) thinks a feed is broken. It doesn’t report a broken feed. It doesn’t show you the feeds. Very irritating.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Probably 95% of the sites I follow are on WordPress, Blogger, or SquareSpace, and I’ve yet to encounter one of those sites where Feedly couldn’t find a feed. I’ve only had trouble with custom sites. Whenever I can’t find a feed, I look for contact info for the site owner and ask if they’d put adding a feed into their work backlog. The people who respond have never said, “Oh but I have one, can’t you read it?”

          I’m not trying to invalidate your experience — I’m just saying I’ve never had the same experience! I’d be curious to know one of the sites you’re trying to follow that doesn’t work.

          1. Johanna Rothman Avatar

            For several months, Feedly stopped showing my WordPress feeds. I complained to them, and finally, Feedly now shows my feeds.

            I suspect you are correct re the custom sites. I will contact one of those nice folks and check. Thanks.

            1. Jim Grey Avatar

              Well that’s alarming. I will go back through your feed and see if there are any articles that I missed.

              1. Johanna Rothman Avatar

                Don’t do that! I fixed the problem about a year ago. Maybe a little longer. Let’s continue from here!

  8. -Nate Avatar

    My attitude is gratitude that you’re willing to share your thoughts and ideas .

    DO NOT change, if some are unhappy go else where .

    I really enjoy informal ‘Tail Gate Sessions’ and that’s the vibe I’m getting .

    FWIW, I was a farm boy, Milking Shorthorns & Alfalfa, then they discovered I could fix the old broken down 1930’s machinery and tractors we had and I rarely left the barn after that .

    I only included this because for some reason many are embarrassed to have farm / country roots, to me it is hat and who I am .


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s an odd place to be, not wanting to change what I do, but also both wanting to attract more readers and not alienate the ones I have. I guess I can’t have it both ways!

      1. Daniel Brinneman Avatar

        Jim, don’t wear yourself thin. Quality is better than quantity.

  9. ronian42 Avatar

    Hi Jim, I have an Instagram account (although I seldom post, I sometimes react). I stopped following some “contributors?” because all they posted were reels (the video thingy). There are some contributors (if that’s the right term) who just post stills and comments and I continue to follow these. So don’t think you need to generate a lot of video content for Instagram (unless that’s what you really want to do). I agree with the comments above, quality over quantity every time.
    Keep up the good work.


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Ian, I appreciate the perspective. We’ll see whether I make time for video or not. But most of this audience probably won’t care — it’s the younger audience I hope to attract.

  10. J P Avatar

    Wanting to be yourself and also seeking growth among a younger demographic is a tough piece of real estate to find, and I predict it will get tougher as you get older. When in doubt, be you.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      True, I’m not going to appeal to the whole wide range of younger people. I just want to find the nerds who like the same nerdy stuff I do and who are looking for community, regardless of age. I think they’re out there! I plan to just be me as I do it.

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