Results of this year's Journal reader survey: we can't please everyone, but most people are happy most of the time
Thank you to those who took the trouble to complete this year's Journal reader survey, following the members' email from the Society. Overall, the results showed a strong consistency with last year's positive ratings. Of course, it is impossible to please everyone, and some subjects divide readers.
The Journal is well read. More than 58% of respondents say they read every issue, and a further 23% read it "more often than not"; 14% replied "only sometimes" and only 3.9% "seldom or never". Keeping up to date with changes in the profession is seen as the Journal's most important role (nearly 95% agree this is important), followed by keeping up with legal changes (85%). Features on these areas are the best read of any content in the magazine.
General legal news is important to 85%, keeping up with Law Society of Scotland matters to 83%, and providing a forum for the profession to 72%. More than 80% agree that the Journal carries useful legal briefings and good information/advice on professional matters; 75% rate it for Society matters and 65% for news coverage.
On the "forum" function, more than 41% neither agreed nor disagreed that the Journal is a good platform for debate and members' views, compared with the 48% who agreed. Despite the airing of recent controversies over legal aid and the like, it is still seen by some as tending to follow the official Society line.
Overall, 76% agree that quality is high (only 3.6% disagree);
79% that articles give good information (2% disagree); and 75% regularly find something of interest (6% disagree). Inevitably, there are those who find little of interest to their specialism, but given the range of practice areas and the constraints on page extent, it is notable that 61% agree that it is useful to them in their work.
Online? What online?
Depending on your point of view, the new monthly "advance look" email is a "useful addition" or an " unnecessary and irritating interruption". At least it only comes in once a month (perhaps the reader who complained that it spoils the surprise of the paper version can try to resist the temptation to peek).
While some people ask why retain the magazine when the content is now online, there are many who prefer a paper copy and/or don't use the website. Some feel they spend enough time looking at a screen as it is, or are deluged with online material, but there are still also those who claim they were unaware of the website. (Seriously?)
Around twice as many users of the website (www.journalonline.co.uk) go to it for the news (74%) as do for the magazine, the online exclusives, the archive or the recruitment pages. One or two questioned the lack of a search function – look for the "Search" button at the top left of the screen, which opens up a text box.
The Briefings section attracted fewer individual comments, but yes, we mainly rely on, and are very grateful to, our regular contributors – who do attempt to choose topics of wider interest, as to which we trust their judgment.
No regular feature polarises reader opinion as much as "Ask Ash". For those who say: "should be a double page spread", or "particularly useful", there are as many who fulminate: "ridiculous and has no place in the JLS", or "you'd be better off resigning". We think it helps to meet a need, albeit one of which some solicitors are unaware.
Magazine design is another controversial topic. Although 55% say they find it attractive (9% disagreed), others find it too cluttered, too little/too much colour (we had both), and we will never get everyone's agreement on the use or choice of images. It is worth restating that the current format was adopted to provide a modern look while minimising the cost to the Society and preserving as much of the content as possible; there is more material online.
Given the emphasis readers place on the magazine as a source of information and advice, we have to prioritise in selecting content, and we realise we are not going to meet everyone's needs. However, readers who bemoan the paucity of articles on subjects such as immigration should remember to search online, as there are a few there.