Take this comic book survey

If there is one thing the comics industry of late is lacking, it’s demographic info we can all sink our teeth into and shake around like a chew toy. Valerie D’Orazio hinted about a study a few years ago (maybe buried somewhere in Marvel’s SEC filings?); Johanna alludes to a 1995 DC reader survey; Diamond also conducted a recent reader’s survey. But the results of costly surveys in recent years are not really available to the general public because a) they are costly and b) that is proprietary info right there. However, we just received an email from one Megan Milliken, and she is running an online survey, which is opt-in and thus less reliable, but, what the heck. Megan explains:

I am a University of Chicago graduate student conducting research on comic book readership. I’m interested in demographic trends of comic book readers as well as the medium’s effect on readers’ consumption of other cultural goods and participation in civic activities.  I’m motivated to do this research first and foremost because I am an avid comic book fan who has derived a great deal of pleasure and inspiration from both the content itself and the community. I’m interested in how comic books have impacted readers and hope to see what it is about a comic book that keeps a reader coming back month after month.  That said I have two surveys (the first is for under 18 respondents, and the other is for respondents that are 18 and over) that I have assembled. It is intended for comic book readers as well as non-comic book readers as I would like to compare responses between these two groups (so please pass it along to the norms as well).


We took the survey ourselves and it doesn’t take long, so help Megan out and maybe we’ll find a thing or two about why we are reading these darned things anyway. So pitch in and pass it along:

18 and Over Under 18

Comments

  1. The easiest and most accurate way to obtain accurate demographic information about comic book readers would be to cross reference credit card sales information from POS systems of comic book stores with information from general databases.

    I suggest a non-profit organization where the major publishers donate money while comic book stores donate the information, so the industry as a whole gains a better perspective. There has to be a guarantee of privacy for the comic book buyer, along with a promise not to raise prices for 2-3 years [because hopefully the advertising revenue would rise with the new data].

  2. Geez, that is one poorly designed survey. Terminology is not clear (“comic book” means what exactly?), some questions don’t provide an “other” yet force you to answer them… I wouldn’t trust the data that comes out of it.

  3. I agree that the survey was semi-poorly designed. Right off the bat she was asking whether you read “trade paperbacks” OR “graphic novels.” These definitions are incoherent. Watchmen is both, and any number of manga are neither, unless you count the original Japanese serialization as “several issues collected”. Also hardcovers like, say, The Punisher Omnibus, end up classed as trade paperbacks. Is there anyone who would read a “trade paperback” (which she defines as “several issues collected”–a truly weird definition) but not a graphic novel (which she calls a self-contained story), and vice versa? In short, for the survey to be meaningful, the distinctions between formats should be meaningful. For example, there is a meaningful distinction between a comic book and a squarebound book–price.

    So that was irritating. But aside from a few irksome details like that (her question about genre was for me completely meaningless), this kind of research should be encouraged. As imperfect as the survey is, it is likely to produce interesting and perhaps provocative results.

    And the results she gets will not merely be demographic (which are simultaneously the easiest but least interesting results), but also psychographic and behavioral. But at this stage, I think Megan Millikin should use the results from this survey to get ideas on how to write a better survey on the same subject.

  4. Tommy Raiko says:

    “The easiest and most accurate way to obtain accurate demographic information about comic book readers would be to cross reference credit card sales information from POS systems of comic book stores with information from general databases.”

    Still, would that method alone provide sufficiently accurate information? Might there still be significant number of comic book stores without POS systems, whose data would therefore be excluded if you were to rely on this method? Are a significant number of comics book transactions still done in cash, whose data you’d exclude if you were relying on credit card data (particularly if you want to learn anything about young readers less liekly to have credit cards)?

    “I suggest a non-profit organization where the major publishers donate money while comic book stores donate the information, so the industry as a whole gains a better perspective.”

    Out of curiousity, is there any similar non-profit organization in any other media, on whose model one might build this theoretical comics-researching organization?

  5. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    Three words, Point Of Sale. Just look at all the good (and surprising) data they got in that School Library Journal article from looking at check out records of GNs. Case Closed is huge! Who knew? If you don’t look at what actually gets bought, how will you know what people want?

  6. Took it. Forwarded it. Fully support it.

  7. briguyx says:

    Took slightly longer than I anticipated from what you said. I did think the author of the survey missed an important point. The important thing is not when I started to read comics, but when I started to buy them (which was when I started reading them on a regular basis)…

  8. “Out of curiousity, is there any similar non-profit organization in any other media, on whose model one might build this theoretical comics-researching organization?”

    The Audit Bureau of Circulation does something similar for magazines and newspapers. As per their website [www.accessabc.com], “ABC is a forum of the world’s leading magazine and newspaper publishers, advertisers and advertising agencies. The organization provides credible, verified information essential to the media buying and selling process. ABC maintains the world’s foremost electronic database of audited-circulation information and an array of verified readership, subscriber demographics and online activity data.”

    There is also BPA Worldwide [formerly the Business Publications Audit of Circulation] which evidently has less stringent auditing standards than the ABC. I also believe that both DC Comis and Marvel use BPA Worldwide.

    Nielsen is the for-profit version for television, an independent third-party auditor of tv stats.

    As for that actual working out the data from POS systems, the more accurate the data, the better educated the guess about demographics and statistics of the consumer audience.

    The big problem is that the comic book industry doesn’t know exactly who is buying their products. When a comic book title sells 100K copies, it doesn’t mean that 100K individual people bought copies, it just means some 2,000 comic book stores in North America bought copies. We don’t know how many copies are lying around in the stores or if someone bought 3 copies [one for each variant cover].

    The number given to advertisers is an educated guess, whose details and accuracy are not as detailed or accurate as internet traffic where they practically know who is looking at their website and if there are click-throughs.

  9. Wayne Beamer says:

    Non-functioning links to the survey. Try this one: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=U3RdP8YU4i41uSTJbGBaCg_3d_3d

Trackbacks

  1. [...] talking about comics. « Tekken 6: King of Iron Fists, Online Manga, and Paper Stories Comic Book Survey November 24th, 2009 by david brothers Heidi MacDonald has the details on a new survey forcomics readers, masterminded by Megan Milliken. A bit of cut-n-paste: I am a University of Chicago graduate student conducting research on comic book readership. I’m interested in demographic trends of comic book readers as well as the medium’s effect on readers’ consumption of other cultural goods and participation in civic activities. I’m motivated to do this research first and foremost because I am an avid comic book fan who has derived a great deal of pleasure and inspiration from both the content itself and the community. I’m interested in how comic books have impacted readers and hope to see what it is about a comic book that keeps a reader coming back month after month. That said I have two surveys (the first is for under 18 respondents, and the other is for respondents that are 18 and over) that I have assembled. It is intended for comic book readers as well as non-comic book readers as I would like to compare responses between these two groups (so please pass it along to the norms as well). [...]

  2. [...] Beat pal Robert Simpson saw our post on comics surveys and was inspired to recall comics reader surveys of the past. DC Comics surveyed their readers in both 1970 and 1978 — possibly confounded by the emerging youth market and Marvel’s much higher Q. Both are archived online. [...]

Speak Your Mind

*