January 3, 2011KR BlogKRNewsletter

What KR Readers Tell Us

By David Lynn.
Every few years we send out a reader survey. It’s important that we know who you are, why you read The Kenyon Review, and what you’d like to see in our pages or online. I thought you might enjoy some of the findings.

David H. LynnThe last time we did this was four or five years ago. We printed and mailed the forms with assistance from the United States Postal Services to all the readers of our journal. Doesn’t that seem a quaint and ancient practice? That’s how much the technology of publishing has changed over the last five years.

So a few months ago came time again to reach out and learn about you and your thoughts. This time, however, both to save those significant costs of printing and postage and to make use of the widely expanded list of people who visit us at kenyonreview.org, participate in our writing programs, as well as our subscribers, we designed the survey for distribution through our monthly newsletter.

So what did we learn?

First, you’ll be glad to know that you’re growing younger all the time. (I wish I could claim the same for myself.) Our readership is more evenly distributed by age than before, with 21% between the ages of 26-35. I’m very glad to see this because it means our efforts to reach younger readers, particularly through our electronic initiatives, is increasingly successful. After all, “keeping the flame of literature alive” is more important than ever.

You’re also smart and well educated. OK, you knew that. Did you also know that we have readers in nearly every state, and plenty more scattered across the globe?

One striking result of the survey was to affirm that most of us now inhabit both the print and the electronic worlds. For example, over two-thirds of respondents to a survey received via an electronic newsletter are also readers of our print journal. That’s great news! Yet at the same time there’s a fair bit of confusion about the relations between the print Kenyon Review and its electronic cousins. The newsletter is our monthly email message that you’re reading now, full of content and information, which reaches out to the entire KR community. And don’t forget that we also publish KROnline, an electronic literary journal of completely new material with a slightly more experimental aesthetic, at our website kenyonreview.org.

But perhaps even more telling is that three out of four readers of The Kenyon Review say that they are not themselves active subscribers. In other words, most read copies in local or school libraries. I’m just fine with that! After all, my primary goal, the one towards which we strive ceaselessly, is to have as many people read and enjoy KR as possible.

Yet there’s a troubling dark cloud here as well. Many librarians have found their budgets for periodicals slashed. Even The Kenyon Review has begun disappearing from many shelves. How can we reach, how may we serve, those many KR readers whose primary access to our pages has been via a lending library? I have no easy answer. No doubt you’ll hear more from me on this topic, this considerable challenge, in coming months.

And you’ll be seeing more frequent surveys in our newsletter as well. They’ll be shorter, sharper, more focused. The size and all-but-instant response in the fall proved to us that our readers want to be engaged. And we really do care about your thoughts and advice. We’ll be in touch!