Qualities revisited

Date of publication: November 1, 1995

Author: Chris Minter


In April 1993 I presented a paper at the Worldwide Readership Symposium in San Francisco, reporting on our Quality of Reading Survey among 2,5 adults in the UK. Using the CAPI technique pioneered by RSL, we evaluated more than 30 magazines and newspaper supplements in terms of the relationship their readers had with these publications. We aimed for a portrait of the publication depicting the satisfaction, standards and values which the reader attributes to it, supplementing the basic questions on recency and frequency of reading (as asked in the British NRS) with questions on the number of separate reading occasions, the total time spent reading, and the amount (proportion) usually read. These were followed by 18 statements where respondents were asked to say to which if any of a number of publications they applied. The research showed that magazine images were invariably better among their more committed readers - subscribers, almost always readers, and those spending longer with the publication, reading more of it and picking it up on a larger number of occasions. This led me to consider several issues which the present paper hopes to clarify: Quality of reading is measured up to a point in many surveys, including official national ones, but there is seldom time for more than a few dimensions to be included and, to say the least, these are usually controversial. There is no agreed best practice, and different parties have different interests. Too often we fall back on qualitative research which is interesting and often colourful but which can’t clearly indicate priorities. What this paper will try to do is to suggest how, at least in a subscriber survey (in this case one originally designed for editorial purposes), it is possible to quantify in part the relationship between the components of reading and interest in both editorial and advertising and the image of the publication on a number of characteristics.

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