Inside AASA What We Know as You Read This

Type: Article
Topics: School Administrator Magazine

November 01, 2018

Jay P. Goldman
you may recall receiving an electronic survey that asked about the publications you receive from AASA, as well as your engagement with the association’s website and social media use. We’re grateful to the 647 of you who returned responses to the outside research firm we hired to conduct this readership study of AASA members, our first in five years.

I am using this opportunity to share with you what we learned about the way you view our monthly magazine, School Administrator, as we consider how to improve its value to you. This column will address only the study’s aspects related to School Administrator. I don’t want to speak for my colleagues who are responsible for the various online resources at AASA.

With a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points, I hold considerable confidence in the overall findings that emerged. I’ve organized what follows around my impressions and how some findings reflect changing patterns of your reading habits.

Fifty-eight percent of you reported reading four of the past four issues, and 71 percent said you read half or more of a typical issue. About 45 percent of readers spend an hour or more with an issue of the magazine, and another 36 percent commit 30-60 minutes to reading a typical issue.

What are the best-read sections of the magazine? In order from highest, the top five are Legal Brief, Board-Savvy Superintendent, State of the Superintendency infographics, feature articles and Ethical Educator.

We wanted to know how many of you consume the print edition versus one of the online editions. School Administrator is read on paper by slightly more than 79 percent. The other 20.8 percent who read one of our digital options reflect little change from five years ago. This admittedly came as a surprise (though not an upsetting discovery for an editor who still finds pleasure in the tangible product with its texture and occasional ink stains).

More than 60 percent of you said you have discussed an article with a colleague. More than half of our readers had e-mailed an article to someone, retained an issue of the magazine for future use and clipped or copied an interesting article.

For our benchmarking purposes, the study measured our readership against 29 association publication studies conducted by Readex Research in the past two years. On all five comparative factors, School Administrator’s passionate readers’ evaluations of our magazine greatly surpassed how others’ readers rated their professional publications. For instance, our average reader reported passing along his or her copy of the magazine to 2.1 other readers. At 16 other association publications that asked about this, the pass-along figure was 0.9.

While gratified by the overall findings of support, my staff and I are committed to continuous improvement. The study points to several opportunities for growth. Those who read us in print tend to be more engaged than those who follow the online editions. That suggests much work to be addressed on our social media channels. Disaggregation of the survey data points to more thorough reading by those members who are older and whose tenures are longer.

Our readers had no shortage of suggestions when asked for a single improvement that would increase the magazine’s value. About 300 of you offered feedback. The responses, some contradictory, asked for more attention to small, rural districts; more attention to high-poverty urban communities; greater depth to topical coverage; more use of story summaries; addition of sections on work/life balance and transitioning superintendents; and better instructions for sharing articles in the digital edition through e-mail.

At least a half dozen offered variations of this admission: “If you could find a way for me to have more time to read it more thoroughly, that would be great!” And one reader apparently cannot get enough, commenting: “Would love for it to be published more frequently.”