Results of the CL 2021 readership survey have been compiled and forwarded to Don Morris, USMB national director. The readership survey is the first step in an extensive review of the magazine approved by the Leadership Board and conducted by Morris and the CL Review Team.
In addition to Morris, review team members are district ministers Dan Strutz, Central District Conference, and Jordan Ringhofer, Pacific District Conference; Leadership Board members Brianne Shaw, Luke Haidle and Dave Thiessen; and district representatives Tom Byford, Southern District Conference, Carrie Foddrell, Eastern District Conference, John Goodell, CDC and Jamie Mack, PDC.
According to Morris, the CL Review Team will seek to determine the viability of the CL, review the magazine’s purpose, make recommendations for content changes, review the production process, do a cost analysis, evaluate CL staff, review the CL website and C-Link, discuss the value of printed versus online editions and provide input on the future of the magazine.
In addition to reviewing results of the readership survey, the review team will talk with CL staff members Connie Faber, editor, and Janae Rempel, associate editor. The review team will complete their evaluation prior to the October Leadership Board meeting and will present their results and recommendations at that time.
Survey tracks changes
Since 1985, the CL has conducted a readership survey roughly every five years. Over the years, the readership survey has consistently asked some of the same questions, providing editors and conference leaders with the ability to track changes in readers’ habits and preferences.
Topics highlighted in the 2021 readership survey include media use, perceived bias and readers’ preferences for accessing CL content in print, online or both.
“I appreciate the time readers took to complete the readership survey,” CL editor Faber says. “The feedback and suggestions will be very helpful as we plan for upcoming issues and as the review team evaluates the magazine.”
Satisfaction remains high
The survey results indicate that readers value the CL and are satisfied with the bimonthly publication.
A majority of responders (88 percent) agreed (44 percent) or strongly agreed (44 percent) with the statement, “A regular, free copy of Christian Leader delivered to my home is of value to me.”
Forty-seven percent said that overall, they are very satisfied with the magazine while 38 percent are somewhat satisfied. Nine percent are not very satisfied with the magazine and 6 percent are not at all satisfied.
Fifty-three percent of responders said the CL serves a very important role in the U.S. Conference, 39 percent said the role is somewhat important and 8 percent said it serves a not very important role. These results are comparable to previous years.
Dealing with diversity
“The readership survey reveals the diversity of opinion and theology that U.S. Mennonite Brethren hold,” Faber says. “For example, some readers would like to read more about our Mennonite Brethren distinctives while others think the magazine emphasizes Anabaptism too much. While some readers would like to see the magazine cover current issues and ‘hot’ topics, other readers caution against doing so. There is a general consensus that the magazine should provide a variety of viewpoints when covering such topics, which is helpful counsel.”
When asked if the CL covers issues in a fair and objective manner, 63 percent answered yes, 11 percent said no and 26 percent said sometimes. This question was not included in the 2016 readership survey, and in 2009 the number of people that answered yes was 90 percent, an increase of 27 percent from the 2021 survey.
When it comes to the various departments, feature articles (55 percent) and church news department (43 percent) continue to be among the most valued content in the CL.
Online versus print
The survey revealed that a growing number of readers are interested in reading the magazine both in print and online (44 percent in 2021 versus 23 percent in 2016). The number of readers who want to ready only in print dropped from 71 percent in 2016 to 48 percent in 2021.
A related question asked if responders were in favor of replacing the print CL with an online magazine. Sixty-seven percent said no.
In terms of demographics, of the 268 readers who completed the 2021 readership survey, 39 percent are from Kansas, 30 percent from California, 8 percent from Oklahoma and 6 percent from South Dakota. A total of 21 states were represented.
One quarter (25 percent) of the responses came from pastors.
Fifty-seven percent of the responses came from men and 43 percent from women.
The survey revealed that typically the CL is read by two people in a household.
Everyone who completed the survey by June 2 was eligible for one of three $100 Amazon gift cards. Drawing winners are Jim Gaede, Elfie Klassen and Michelle VanTill. They have been notified by email.