Every day, the editorial staff at the UK wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A weekly look behind the scenes.
In December, the Universiteitskrant conducted an extensive survey among readers (and non-readers) about their satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the UK in terms of content and choice of topics. Nearly 1,000 people made their way through it and answered dozens of questions.
Nearly 1,000 is a lot, and we were very pleased with that response level. It is apparent that the UK matters, which is encouraging (see last week‘s At the UK about how yet another university magazine is being closed down).
I can’t say anything about the results of the survey because they are currently being processed. Once that is done, we’ll have to interpret the numbers before drawing conclusions from them. We hope to get a clearer answer to questions like, ‘What are we doing well and what should we improve?’, and ‘Which topics speak to people and which do not?’ There is a handy term for this: an ‘editorial formula’.
A logical question would be: Are we completely clueless about this right now?
Of course not; the online era allows you to monitor a lot of things. For instance, we know that sex, drugs and rock & roll is not necessarily always a success (often it is assumed to be). Human interest stories do very well, as do background stories on science. Stories on student life and more in-depth pieces are popular.
So, why do this survey? Because these bare bones online statistics say very little about how the quality of the pieces is rated. The numbers also do not provide insight into what our readers are missing and would like to see.
Translating all data into an editorial formula will not be easy, by the way. It is said that a university newspaper (not this university newspaper, but in a general context) has it fairly easy, because it works within a so-called niche market, a clearly demarcated field. In our case, this is the RUG.
Looks can be deceiving, though. A university is a microcosm with an enormous diversity in interests and experiences; we serve both the first-year student and the emeritus professor, both of whom have an entirely different outlook on life. As such, it is far from easy to keep everyone fully satisfied. But for now, our message is: we take our readers seriously and will listen to them.
I do need to clarify one thing: we do not let the ‘ratings’ decide everything. We do not and will not ignore something that is good in terms of content, but does not score well initially.
After all – and this is especially applicable to a university – there needs to be space for a different voice, and that space must remain.
Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief