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Results of Our Readership Survey

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 8:05 AM

Many thanks to all of of those readers—all 505 of you—who took the time to fill out our readership survey. While the survey is not a scientific instrument, the data it collects will be hugely valuable to us as we contemplate the next phase of Lawfare‘s expansion. In addition, people’s written comments, which are not included in the data summary, were hugely interesting and mostly insightful and helpful (though I’ll confess to being mildly alarmed by the one that began, “I am the son of God come again, and should replace Benjamin Wittes as Editor in Chief.”)

Here is the data summary, compiled in a set of slides:

A few takeaway points of high salience to me:

First, our readership is—no surprise here—highly weighted toward government practitioners. More surprisingly, it is also weighted towards law students, which seems to me a very promising fact for our future.

Second, the readership is remarkably loyal: More than half of respondents say they read the site at least daily, and more than 80 percent say they read it at least a few times a week. There is, granted, a certain self-selection bias in who responds to a survey of this kind, but it’s still a remarkable degree of readers intensity. Lawfare is also a deeply trusted source—with more than 70 percent of readers choosing one of our top two indicia of trust on the survey’s scale. What’s more, more than a quarter of respondents say they would donate, if asked, to support the site as it becomes a non-profit organization of its own.

Third, Lawfare readers are quite traditional for new media consumers. Respondents prefer to access the site by visiting it directly; many fewer say they access it through RSS, Kindle, email subscription, Facebook, or Twitter. A surprisingly small percentage of readers listen to our podcast. On the other hand, our analysis, book review, and news aggregation features—Today’s Headlines and Commentary and The Week That Was—enjoy much wider reader use. This suggests to me that people engage Lawfare as a kind of traditional magazine, not really as a multimedia site. Over the coming months, I’m going to give some serious thought to the question of how to break the podcast through to a wider group of the readership.

Third, there is a lot of appetite in the readership for the site’s growth, including into material for which we would have to charge. Significant percentages of readers say they would pay for live events, CLE materials, specialized publications, and professional networking services. In addition, there is remarkable enthusiasm for our work in areas (like Pakistani and Middle Eastern politics and robotics) that are not themselves national security law but which inform people’s work in the discipline. Fully 86 percent of respondents encouraged us to keep plying these spaces—with only 14 percent suggesting that we should “stick to the law.”

Once again, thanks to everyone who took the time to fill out the survey. It gives us a lot of food for thought.

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