We ran a survey this past weekend to collect some feedback on how we’re doing, and demographic data on our readership. We got lots of responses, and a ton of fantastic feedback, and I’ve thrown it all together into this post. Big thanks to everyone who contributed! You’re going to help us make P-mag even better in 2012.
We’ll start with some pretty charts about our demographics, then I’ll respond to a handful of some of the write-in comments.
How Many Birthdays Have You Had?
The largest slices of pie belong to P’neers who are 18-34. We’ve shown a moderate jump in the 25-34s and a little jump in the 35-44s (Team Green Pie Segment FTW!), but we’d like to attract more women with a few miles on our odometers.
How Do You Define Your Sex?
We’re not attracting a lot of fellas, at least not fellas who fill in surveys. I know of several of my own dudepals who read us fairly regularly, and I hear stories of other men who read us. I don’t think we’re doing anything to actively make them unwelcome, but I think all of us would be intimidated joining a community that was 98% not our sex.
Mea culpa: One of the comments called me out for not knowing the difference between sex and gender. You are totally right, anonymous survey respondent, so I did my homework. This question should have been phrased “How do you describe your sex?” and I promise I will remember that on future surveys.
How Do You Define Your Race?
While I’m only slightly concerned we’re a little man-shy around here, we need to actively work to better represent all women. We don’t want to fall in the trap of becoming yet another community for women where everyone’s white, straight, married, has 2.2 kids and expendable income. That ladymarket is more than saturated, and worse, it’s boring. I don’t think we’re boring or cookie cutter now, but it’s going to take active effort on the part of the head bitches in charge to make sure it doesn’t become that way.
*Another mea culpa: I left out Native Aboriginal, per the comments. There is definitely an article in our future on how to construct a demographic survey that allows everyone to participate and be represented.
Who Are You Attracted To?
We’re doing a little better about attracting women who don’t identify as straight. The comments on the survey included several enthusiastic pleas for more coverage on LGBT issues, and we totally agree, so we’re making it a priority.
How Much Formal Education Do You Have?
We represent a pretty broad spectrum of education levels, although we’ve got a lot of degrees between us.
Where Do You Live?
P’neers love cities. Our Google Analytic magic told us that we were pretty popular in the major metro areas in the US. I was somewhat surprised so many live in the ‘burbs. A respondent asked why I didn’t ask if readers were from outside the US. I already have a pretty good grasp on those data from Google. The biggest chunk of our audience is in the US, but we’re pretty hot in Canada, Australia, the UK, and NZ. We’ve got growing numbers in France, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, and China. We’ve maintained a small but loyal group of readers from the Scandinavian countries. Neat, huh? Maybe it’s because I’m a Midwestern hayseed, but I get a little excited when I think of women in China and Brazil reading our little magazine.
What’s Your Relationship Status?
Most of our respondents are partnered up, but we have a lot of singles, too.
How Many Hours Per Week Do You Work?
Fuck this economy, seriously. This is pure speculation, but I bet this chart would have looked a lot different in 2007.
Are You Religious?
This turned out pretty much like I expected.
Do You Feel Welcome in the Persephone Community?
Overall, I think this means we’re doing a pretty good job of making you feel welcome here. There’s always room to improve, so we’re taking all your comments and suggestions to heart as we keep P-mag growing and staying fresh through 2012.
What We’re Doing Right
I put all of these into a wordle, and it turned out pretty!
And we got a limerick. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that one of you took the time to write us a freaking limerick.
They will write of things economical
While informing on anatomical
And there’s no place I’ve seen
That can easily careen
From serious to really quite comical
Here a unique community thrives
One of the contemptuous and of the snide
And while I may be young
I don’t have to hold my tongue
And can quite enjoy running with knives
It hones my unknowing mind
There’s nothing quite of its kind
Where we all get a say
Be you straight, bi or gay
Here where we draw (and cross) lines
Oh internet, you complete me
You have knowledge that teachers don’t teach
Save me from despair
Give me my own lair
My dear, dear Persephone
Your Favorite Features
Again with the wordle. I like word clouds, okay?
You like the Ladyguides, Perspectives, rants/takedowns, humor, feminism/activism, politics/current events and food the most, which is pretty on par with last year’s survey.
Where We Need to Improve
Hold on, I’m going to need another cup of coffee. FYI, I’m leaving out anything that called out specific writers, because this isn’t the space for individual feedback. I’ll filter and pass on the stuff that I think will be constructive. If you were just an asshole, I shitcanned your reply. (Honestly, I was surprised that there were only a couple jerks, tops. Our readers are the best readers.)
Tech stuff – I’m right there with you. I’m the chief technical unicorn as well as being the EIC/writer, and I’m only about half as smart as I need to be about some of our issues. Most of the time, my limited knowledge is sufficient to deduce and solve most of the everyday issues on the site. That other little bit can be a real stickler. Chances are about 90% that whatever issue you’re having is:
1. A caching problem – We use a third-party caching service that serves up cached versions of all our static resources, which saves strain on the server we pay for, and speeds up the site in general. Part of the responsibility of having a caching service is purging their cached files periodically so they fetch a new version. When I forget to do this with the diligence it requires, things go all wonky. I’m more on it.
2. A problem with commenting. I called in the big guns, our old friend Platy, and she’s taken the problem to Platypus Labs for fixing.
On it! We’ve stepped it up a lot in the past few weeks.
Done! Look in the sidebar, there’s a new drop down that will take you to the individual category archive pages. If you want to read all the Morbid Curiosities back to back one day, that’s your ticket to paradise.
Hahahaha! Right now, we’re working at maximum capacity for our current resources. This is code for: as soon as your P-mag staff can quit our day jobs, your wish is our command.
More candy sparkles!
I’m pretty sure this is one of the editors.
the idea of a “must join and sign up to comment” is really alienating. I just don’t join in.
While I’m sad you feel alienated, there’s no way in hell we’re doing anonymous commenting. It’s not the assholes I fear, it’s the spambots.
more voices of women of color (not that they are not represented, they’re just underrepresented everywhere, so this is a global opportunity, not just here at Pmag)
Holding my interest for an entire article
Aw, someone needs a unicorn hug!
Maybe releasing the articles in a more spaced manner, as opposed to all at once.
Are you using a feeder? We post over a ten hour period every day, on the hour and some of the half-hours. The feeders will sometimes do a dump of an entire day’s worth of content, which is on my list of things to fix.
While I love it here A LOT, I’ve heard from other people that Persephone can feel a bit cliquey – that it’s all friends writing for friends, and you’re either a part of it or you’re not. I don’t know if this was the unique opinion of the two people I spoke to about it (both of whom were active on Tumblr, former Jez commenters, and follow some writers here), or a common sentiment, but I think it’s something worth keeping an eye on.
That’s always a risk for any Internet community. We do try to avoid it, but I can see how all the unicorn, glitter and David Tennant jokes could make us look a little insulated. We certainly want everyone to feel welcome here, and to use all our shiny whatchamabobs and thingamahoodles. The staff is all pretty friendly, but most all of them were staff before they were friends. When I go on a recruiting bender, I try to reach out to people I don’t already know. I agree, though, it’s good to know that we can be perceived as cliquish, so we can do a better job of making newbies feel as at home here as the regular crowd.
Getting the distinction between sex and gender on surveys!
I’m really sorry, I totally hosed that. It won’t happen again!
My #1 pet peeve here: when talking about alterna-health/food options, referring to a product/substance as “chemical-free” or using similar language. As a chemist, it’s hard to see that and not write off something that might not have been a bad piece if it didn’t stray into “fear of chemicals” territory. (p.s. – everyone should drink 8-10 glasses of the chemical dihydrogen monoxide every day. It is 100% chemicals.)
That’s a pretty good point.
Nothing! It is so perfect that my heart explodes into multicolored ribbons when I think about it, blinding me so that I’m unable to go on the site until the debris clears. Thankfully, I still have an intact heart to explode since the real life readers I know do indeed run with scissors. A lot. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Persephone is my Prometheus’s eagle. ‘Cause, y’know, my heart grows back and stuff…..
I fucking love you people.
Maybe more feature writers with a bit more variety. I am a first-time mother so I love the baby articles and would love more. Maybe from different voices.
More people in the Open Threads.
Fostering a better back and forth between the writers and people who comment on their articles. Good dialog builds great communities. I wish there was a better comment notification system.
We all need to do a better job of commenting on our own and our peers’ posts. We’ve kicked it up a bit recently, and the points have really helped. I am working on the comment notification thing. I put out a couple of requests for bids (they were ignored, assholes.) with pros, and when that didn’t go anywhere, I started taking classes in the stuff I’d need to know to build it my damn self. It’s on the horizon, but I’m not ready to commit to a deadline.
Possible reconsideration of the “all voices deserved to be heard” position. While great in theory, it doesn’t always lead to the best content, most thought out positions, or decent writing. I think that’s just a mission consideration: are we solely a platform for any voice that wants to speak, or are we crafting a “persona?” If it’s the later, we may need to consider what we want that persona to look’like. (Are we a feminism 101 blog? A general issues blog? A feminist-oriented general issues blog?)
I stand by my decision to give anybody a chance who wants one. (Within reason, we have rejected several pieces.) Not every writer is going to appeal to every reader, and not every first-time writer is going to actually like writing for a vocal audience. Many, many of our newbies have gone on to become fantastic (and sweet CJ, dependable) writers, and in the end, I’m almost always glad I choose to publish someone. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s made a pretty big group of people better writers than they were before they hooked up with us.
As for the “face” of Persephone, I’m hesitant to pigeonhole us. Labeling ourselves as a feminist blog is like hanging a sign on the door telling Women of Color, gay women, women with disabilities, trans women, etc. that they’d be on the fringes here, and that’s not at all what we want for P-mag. General interest sounds a little bland, but it’s probably more apt than a feminist label.
I wonder how many of your readers don’t fit in the 20s-30s single girl in the city demographic? As a 46-year old woman with adult kids (and grandkids), there isn’t much here on my demographic.
Co-signed. Tell your friends about us! MOAR OLDS IN 2012! (I’m 40)
Stick with a layout long enough for me to get used to it, please (though I do like that you’re constantly improving as you go)!
There’ll always be little tweaks, but we’re never moving themes again. Ever. I swear on whatever you might find sacred.
Keep broadening the scope of inclusivity.
Reach out to various other lady-focused websites in order to increase traffic, commenting population (The Mary Sue, anyone?)
I do this quite a bit. The Mary Sue wasn’t on my radar, but they’re awesome!
Be more active on Twitter! Consistently tweet stories in case I forget to come to the site! Also, author links should be live in the bios to take you to author blogs and pages!
We’ve got a pretty kick-ass Twitter team, I’ll let them know you want more. : ) The second part is a little more complicated. Each of the writers has two pages, their archive page, which lists all of the things they’ve written; and their member page, which is where you can do all the normal user-user interactions. The author bios at the end of each post links to both pages for the author, but I haven’t figured out how to automagically add author archive links to user pages.
I really enjoy the articles relating to history (Badass Ladies from History, etc.) and would love to see more of those.
Me too! We’ll try to do more of those.
I miss the old groups (and the Garamond!).
The groups are back! I’m not sure Garamond works with this theme, although I’m a big fan, too.
Be recognized by everyone else as the awesome site it is!
Could use a bit more snark/acerbic wit. Maybe try to streamline things a little more, or organize more concisely according to type or subject.
Heh, noted. And this comment inspired me to completely unfuck our archives. The categories have all been made to make sense, and every post in the archive was put in the proper category.
Even though I love the mix of content, there are A LOT of articles every day. I want to read all of them but if I miss a day or two, there is no way I’m catching up.
We don’t have any current plans to change the number of posts published every day.
Be more encouraging/tolerant of debate and discussion in comment, as sometimes comments which aren’t agreeing with the article get shut down.
I think we do a pretty good job of relying on our guidelines instead of personal feelings. We’ve got a lot of people with mod powers, but we rarely do any modding. I’ve seen a couple pile-ons, which aren’t cool, and I talked about it with those who were piling on. The hard and fast rule is that we step in when people go from lively debate to calling each other names. We’re learning, too, though, so if we make a moderating mistake, we’ll try to fix it.
One thing I’d suggest for future surveys is adding options for asexuality (not interested in sex) and pansexuality (interested in people of all genders, not just same-sex and opposite, includes trans* people and non-binaries). In fact, more articles by and about sexual/gender minorities would be fab.
Noted, and agreed.
The content is great, but the site doesn’t look as lovely as it could. I loved the site back in February/March of 2011 (I think?) when there were all of these profiles of women that you could scroll through at the top of the page. It looked sophisticated and interesting whereas now it’s lacking just a bit.
There were people who HATED that banner. They hated it a whole bunch. It did slow down the load time ( a constant issue for us), but I was really sad to take it down. There were enough people who didn’t like it (and told me so) that it made sense to switch to a more typical blog style.
When I first started reading Persephone Magazine there were more thought provoking articles that dealt with serious issues. I really enjoyed reading then. But these past few months there have been more “fluff'” articles (food, style, tv recaps) than articles about serious issues. It takes away from the “”Clever”” in the “”Clever and Bookish”” bit.
Hmm, looking back through the last few weeks’ schedules, I think we’ve put out a pretty good mix of serious v. fun. As much as the surveys request more serious content, the stuff that gets the most interaction is the lighter stuff.
Also, Persephone consistently states that it strives to be a platform that welcomes the voice of every woman. I haven’t always seen that to be the case. There is definitely a liberal shading to some of the commentary, which is fine since everyone’s opinions should be welcomed. But it seems to me that when someone offers a comment that contradicts popular opinion, they are not given equal consideration and dialogue or worse they are criticized for not going with the flow. I’m not talking about trolls looking to be nasty or pick a fight, or those commenters that are just being rude. But if Persephone truly were a place where everyone’s voice is welcome, then everyone’s comments would be given consideration: liberal and conservative, popular and unpopular alike.
Yeah, we’re pretty liberal, I’ll give you that. You’re always welcome to write a piece of your own to submit, if you think your viewpoints aren’t as represented here as they should be. I’ll keep a better eye on the comments, I’m sorry if you’ve felt shut down.
I’d like to see more features covering current news. Kind of like the “Get to Know a Country: Libya” story you did way back when. I found those informative and helped me put current events into perspective in ways that Wikipedia never could.
Sometimes I feel that articles are written that make me feel a little excluded for my political/economic feelings. I am very socially liberal and fiscally conservative but I have read a few articles on here that seem to take the position of “a liberal view is the only way to think about all things.” I enjoy reading about other beliefs than mine and keeping an open mind, but I also would appreciate the same courtesy. I wish I had a specific example to point to but I can’t think of any exact articles right now. I think there could be a little effort put into trying to write articles that express a belief with evidence and employ some tact in acknowledging the validity of other viewpoints, but at the same time maintain the spirit of P-mag.
Well, our writers are pretty passionate. There’s no requirement that you agree with them, I don’t always agree with them. I’m not sure I can ask them to quantify their passion on opinion pieces, though. Like I said above, I’d love to read anything you’d like to submit from a different perspective than we usually cover.
The layout isn’t my favorite.
It’s actually not mine, either, but it’s the only one that gives us 90% or more of the features we need to bring you the magic every day. We’re tweaking it bit by bit to make it our own.
Thanks everyone for your great and thoughtful responses! Keep us on our toes with the areas we need to improve, don’t be afraid to let us know when we slip up.