Omicron Delta Kappa conducted a readership survey for the Society’s magazine, The Circle, in September and October 2022. A total of 338 responded to the survey. In addition to specific questions about the magazine, the survey also included several items related to general member communications and demographic information. A previous survey was conducted in 2019. Below is a summary of the data from 2022 and some comparative notes regarding the data from the 2019 survey.
The methods in which members acquire information about Omicron Delta Kappa were identified in the following order (highest at the top):
- Emails from O∆K
- The Circle
- Social media
- Word of mouth/communication with other members
More than half of the respondents (56%) indicated that reading The Circle strengthens a connection with Omicron Delta Kappa. This figure is up from the 2019 survey, where only 48% of the respondents indicated this opinion. In 2022, only 6% responded that reading the magazine does not enhance the bond between members and the Society. This figure was 7% in 2019.
- Gender of respondents: female (51.03%), male (45.21%), non-binary (1.37%), and prefer not to answer (2.4%)
- Age: under 25 (16.32%), 25 to 34 (18.75%), 35 to 49 (23.26%), 50 to 64 (16.32%), 65 to 79 (17.71%), and 80 and over (7.64%)
- Classification of member: lifetime member (initiated as a student but no longer enrolled – 48.97%), alumni/honoris causa initiate (34.83%), current collegiate (14.48%), donor (11.38%), advisor (5.17%), and other (4.14%%)
Magazine Readership Habits
Of the respondents, 56% indicated that they primarily read The Circle online. Another 27% indicated that they only read it in print. The remaining 17% noted that they read the magazine both in print and online.
The most popular actions taken as a result of reading The Circle are as follows:
- visiting the website,
- saving an article or issue,
- discussing or forwarding an article or issue,
- making a donation,
- or submitting an information update.
Below are some additional results regarding magazine readership habits:
- Typical retention of issue: do not receive in print (46.73%), discard immediately (3.87%), keep up to one week (9.82%), keep up to one month (17.86%), keep for more than one month (21.73% – up from 15.59% in 2019)
- Amount read each issue: none (18.51% – down from 24.68% in 2019), some (40%), most (29.25% – up from 22.58% in 2019), and all (12.24% – up from 7.86% in 2019)
- Time spent reading: do not read (19.7% – down from 25.25% in 2019), 1 to 9 minutes (14.33% – down from 17.5% in 2019), 10 to 29 minutes (32.24%), 30 to 59 minutes (25.97% – up from 18.89% in 2019), and one hour or more (7.76%)
- Frequency of reading: never read an issue (19.58% – down from 25.65% I 2019), read occasional issues (29.67%), read most issues (19.88%), and read every issue (30.86% – up from 19.94% in 2019)
Most individuals found the quality of The Circle to be satisfactory. The following are the percentages for those respondents who indicated that an aspect of the magazine was either excellent or good:
- Content (78.25%)
- Cover (73.68%)
- Ease of reading (79.35%)
- Layout and design (76%)
- Photography (76.8%)
- Writing (80.25%)
These results are consistent with the percentages for the 2019 evaluations in these same categories.
Compliments and Concerns
- The top compliments from the respondents focused on how the publication makes members feel connected to the Society, one’s circle, and one’s alma mater. Ease of reading and availability, overall content, and recognition of member achievements were all identified as well-liked aspects of the publication.
- The top concern is that the publication is primarily seen as a fundraising tool and that it does not reflect the experience of many members. There were also many responses that indicated that there needs to be greater balance in the representation of circles profiled in each issue.
- These compliments and concerns were consistent across the 2019 and 2022 surveys.
Content Analysis by Age
All respondents noted that leadership topics, feature stories, member news, and circle updates were of the most significant interest. Across all respondents, the donor honor roll, organizational financials, and fundraising updates were identified as the least popular topics. Both sets of these results are consistent with the results from the 2019 survey.
As was the case with the 2019 survey, some distinct preferences were identified in relation to responses from the current collegiate and recent graduate respondents (individuals under the age of 25) and all other individuals.
- Individuals under the age of 25 indicated that their top four readership preferences were leadership topics, awards, scholarship recipient profiles, and feature stories.
- For individuals above the age of 25, the top four readership preferences were leadership topics, feature stories, member news, and circle updates.
- In a notable change from the results of the 2019 survey, more respondents over the age of 25 expressed an interest in learning about conferences through the magazine.
Content Analysis by Topic
- The following topics were identified as the top three preferred subject matter or theme categories: education, arts and culture, and medicine/health/healthcare.
- The following topics or theme categories were considered somewhat less important for The Circle: science/technology/engineering, business and industry, and environment.
- Topics related to religion were identified as the least important. This result is consistent with the 2019 survey data.
- Profiles of the scholarship recipients and collegiate award winners were consistently identified as the most memorable and appreciated topic.
- In addition to more circle-specific content, the following other topics were frequently suggested by the respondents: social issues (i.e., diversity/equity/inclusivity, climate change, campus culture, etc.), O∆K history (now and then articles), career and leadership advice, and how to benefit from membership or being engaged in O∆K after graduation.
- At the same time, several survey respondents indicated that there was too much emphasis on social justice issues.
- As was the case with the 2019 survey, political leadership was identified by some as a topic of interest. However, anything remotely political was also identified by others as a complaint about The Circle.
Recommendations from the 2019 Magazine Readership Survey and Status Report
There were two production-related recommendations from the 2019 survey:
- In recognition of the preference for digital communications, discontinue sending to collegiate members in print.
Beginning in FY 2020, The Circle has only been distributed to a limited number of individuals in print for budgetary reasons and because of the stated preference by many members to receive it only in digital format.
- Evaluate font (potentially switch to a serif font in the interest of readability).
The font was changed in early 2020 to a serif font to enhance readability.
There were nine significant recommendations from the 2019 survey:
- Include more circle content (using annual reports to create up to 50 2-3 sentence profiles in each issue on a rotating basis and/or adding features about how circles make a difference on their campuses and in their communities).
Additional circle content has been added to each issue beginning in 2020.
- Increase recognition of the circles of scholarship recipients.
Scholarship recipients are now identified by their circle of initiation first, before the institution they are attending for graduate or professional school.
- Expand member achievement notes.
The Member News section of the issues published beginning in 2020 has been expanded to include four to six pages in each issue.
- Continue with the thematic approach to issues and add more feature stories if possible.
Of the four issues published between Spring 2020 and Summer 2022, three issues were based on a theme: leadership in the arts, entrepreneurial leadership, and military leadership.
- Change the back page to be a member or circle profile or another type of advertisement; move the giving advertisement inside the publication.
Giving advertisements have been relocated inside the publication, and the back page has been used to promote upcoming events and the search for the next President/CEO.
- Reduce columns from three to one and produce on a rotation (Board Chair, President, Student Vice Chair).
The number of columns from officers on the Society in each issue has been reduced to one.
The following recommendations have yet to be fully implemented.
- Add info-grams with fun facts profiling the collegiate membership (majors, areas of leadership such as athletics/student government/arts, other aspects of campus and community involvement).
- Add smaller features and sidebars (more like news briefs) related to theme topics throughout each issue.
- Consider reducing the number of pages in the honor roll of donors.
Notable Recommendations from the 2022 Magazine Readership Survey
- Consider a major redesign of the layout to make the publication more visual and less text heavy.
- Significantly enhance the cover design and composition.
- Improve the system for online distribution of the publication, including increasing awareness of email announcements of new issues.
- Expand content related to leadership development and research.
- Continue to increase information on circle activities and current collegiate members.
- Consider providing a directory of circles and contacts in the annual report issue.
- Provide clear instructions regarding submitting information updates and qualifications for member updates included in the publication.
- Include information about how to benefit from membership or being engaged in O∆K after graduation (volunteer opportunities).
- Balance the need for financial support for the Society with the readership interests of the organization; moderate the emphasis on fundraising.
- Offer greater insight into the work of the Board of Trustees.