One of the most important aspects of an integrated communications plan is knowsing if a diocese’s limited resources are, in fact, achieving the objectives of the bishop and his leadership team. Especially when it comes to a diocesan publication — typically one of the largest line items in a diocesan communications budget — it is imperative to know if the expense is worth the investment.
Diocesan leaders want to know: Do recipients of the publication actually read it? Do they find the publication interesting and attractive? Do they spend time with it and engage with its content? Do they share it with family and friends? Do they act on what they find in the pages of the publication? Does the content help them understand their Catholic faith and explain it to others? These are the kinds of questions FAITH asks the readers of its publications in order to provide evidence that a diocese’s financial commitment to its magazine is achieving its goals and expectations.
“Measurement is critical,” says FAITH president and CEO Elizabeth Solsburg. “As far as we’re concerned, we wouldn’t recommend that a diocese publish any type of publication without also conducting regular research to assure that it works. And by that, I mean, is it achieving the bishop’s pastoral goals for his people? Is it evangelizing?”
According to Solsburg, FAITH’s readership research reassures its publishing partners for two reasons. “First, we make sure we get an adequate sample size to be able to draw statistically significant conclusions,” she says. “And second, we’ve continued to ask the same questions year after year so that we have confidence in our results. There’s nothing like a longitudinal study to demonstrate that you’re getting it right.” Solsburg notes that FAITH has conducted readership surveys since 2002, making this the 20th year the company has surveyed the readers of its diocesan publications.
Here’s what we learned in the 2022 Readership Survey:
Readership of FAITH’s diocesan publications is extraordinarily high and consistent. Ninety-four percent of respondents reported they read or looked into the most recent issue, while 83 percent read all of the last three issues. Another 11 percent read two of the last three.
Interest and appeal
FAITH’s diocesan publications rank very high on the two key factors known to draw readers into a publication — its aesthetic appeal and the degree to which its content interests its audience. Ninety-five percent of respondents say their diocesan magazine is attractive, and 87% of respondents say the publication’s content is interesting.
An overwhelming majority of recipients of FAITH’s diocesan magazines at least browse the pages, and a vast majority spends a significant amount of time consuming its content. Sixty-four percent of respondents reported they spend between 15 and 60 minutes reading their diocesan magazine, and another 25 percent say they spend between 5 and 15 minutes looking at the publication, which means 89 percent of recipients are at least browsing the content.
Eighty-six percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “my magazine helps me understand the Church’s mission and teachings.” In addition, 79 percent agreed with the statement, “the magazine moves me to be more interested in spiritual growth and development” and that “the magazine content supports my spiritual growth.”
The survey proves magazines from FAITH create the potential to promote discipleship. Sixty-eight percent of respondents agreed that their diocesan magazine helps them communicate better about their Catholic faith, and about a third of readers use the magazine as a tool for conversation with family and friends, an indicator that it helps people to evangelize. In addition:
- 37% of respondents saved an issue to read again later
- 31% discussed an issue or article with someone
- 12% made a donation based on something they read in the magazine
As a Catholic membership magazine, a diocesan publication appears to help readers consider or reconsider the priority they place on parish engagement:
- 87% agree that the magazine builds their awareness of the Church’s programs and ministries.
- 67% feel encouraged toward parish stewardship because of the content of their diocesan magazine.
- 65% agree magazine content inspires them to engage with parish life.
- 63% agree that the magazine promotes their interest in parish life.
Considering that roughly 80 percent of self-identified Catholics do not regularly attend Mass, diocesan magazines from FAITH are reaching a large percentage of people who may not be particularly engaged with the practice of their faith. These publications appear to offer the possibility of reconnecting people with Jesus and his Church.
FAITH’s 2022 Readership Survey was conducted from February to April of this year via direct mail to readers of 26 of its diocesan magazines. Results of the 5,930 completed responses presented here are cumulative across all publications included in the survey. Individual magazine results, which are proprietary to the publications themselves, vary.