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14 September 09

Some key findings from the recent reader survey on the Journal, and what might result

by Peter Nicholson

Thank you to all the readers who took part in the recent survey. While inevitably there were a variety of individual complaints, overall the level of satisfaction with the magazine is very high.

Main findings

88.8% of respondents agree or strongly agree that overall, the quality of the Journal is high, and even more (90.6%) that you can trust what you read there. Over 82% also find the design attractive and the magazine easy to find your way around. 76.6% say it has improved over the past three years (the time since the last redesign), and 72.7% believe it is useful to them in their work.

Almost 70% claim to read every issue, and another 18% “more often than not”, though only 31% spend more than half an hour on it. This may be because 73% read it at the office. However 62% keep it for more than three months, and two thirds of these (41.1% of total) for more than 12.

Keeping up to date with what is happening in the legal profession came top of the reasons cited for reading the magazine (81% of responses), followed by keeping up to date with legal changes (77.4%). Professional practice matters were marked by 62.6% and Society matters by 47.4%.

Similarly “News” was the most read section, with 81.1% saying they read it every issue or more often than not. People on the Move came second at 77%, followed by the features, letters and Discipline Tribunal, all between 60 and 65%.

In “usefulness” ratings, legal analysis, legal briefings and professional news all scored in the mid-80s; Society information and legal profession reform at over 75%; and comment and opinion pages at 70%.

Reflecting what is found useful, over half would like to see more briefings (59.3%) and longer legal analysis articles (52.8%). Next most requested were lawyer or firm profiles (37%).

Some comments

Looking at readers’ individual likes, dislikes and requests, it is obvious – and should come as little surprise! – that we will be unable to please everyone. Some suggested that the Journal is oriented towards large firms; others allege a small firm bias. Some want the lighter “Sidelines” section expanded; others the opposite. A number complain about the graphics; and there are those who think the magazine still looks dull.

A few readers accused us of attempting to be all things to all people. That would be well beyond our capabilities; but it is true that given the diverse nature of the profession, there is a challenge in producing a member magazine in which all members will find something of interest.

Can we at least assure readers that we do not use expensive images. The Journal operates on a low budget, and most graphics are sourced from a library which Connect Communications, who produce the magazine for the Society, can access for all its client titles. Thus there is no cost charged to the Society. Choice of image is a matter of taste, and we will take particular comments into consideration alongside the percentage who generally approve of the current design.

Regarding the level at which the content is pitched, current policy encourages contributions from those who are more specialist in particular areas of law, written for the benefit of those who have an interest but not the same specialist knowledge. There is not the scope to carry very specialised articles that are likely to interest relatively few readers – though see the side panel comments on the website.

There was however a majority view in favour of more legal analysis and legal briefing content. As there are relatively few features that can be dispensed with, without disappointing a sizeable proportion of the readership, in practical terms this means looking at ways of increasing the number of shorter contributions in the Professional Briefing section. We will pursue this, and we invite readers to contact us if they wish to help with pra ctice areas not already covered in regular briefings, or offer individual articles to supplement the coverage of those that are.

Peter Nicholson

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