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Communications’ Annual Report Card

  1. Article
  2. Footnotes
ACM Group Publisher Scott E. Delman

The quality of the editorial content, as well as the new research papers and introductions, is the reason I plan to remain an ACM member. Communications is a vastly better magazine as a result of these changes.—Software vendor

This issue marks the first anniversary of the completely revamped Communications, so I thought it would be appropriate to report on how we’re doing so far. There are two main ways to gauge the magazine’s performance. The first is by asking our readers what they think of the new magazine and comparing that feedback to past results; the second is by examining actual current usage patterns, primarily online. Of course, sometimes what people tell us is different than how they really behave, so by comparing these two types of data points we can gain insight into our progress and gather enough valuable information to serve our readers even better in the future.

While this is not an exact science, I am very pleased to say that our readers response is overwhelmingly positive regarding the direction Communications is taking, but the proof is in the details. Over the coming months, I will share some of those details for interested readers by highlighting comments we received in recent months (some of which are peppered in these pages) and by sharing some of the up-to-date usage statistics we continue to pull off the new Communications Web site.

Communications has become a top scientific journal again, with quality standards similar to Nature and Science.—Researcher

This past April, ACM conducted an extensive readership survey that was sent electronically to 5,000 of our readers around the world. It garnered a response rate of 12.16% or 608 completed surveys. Any experienced market research professional will tell you that a double-digit response rate is exceptional and is usually a strong indicator of definitive results, either positive or negative. In this case, the results are very positive. The last such survey ACM conducted several years ago indicated that 37.9% of all respondents rated their satisfaction with the editorial focus and format of the magazine as either "satisfied" or "very satisfied." The same question posed in the most recent survey yields a result of 94.8%, a startling increase in overall satisfaction. There is, of course, an enormous amount of detail behind this general improvement in satisfaction, and for those interested, we are placing the entire survey results online at http://cacm.acm.org/2009ReadershipSurvey.pdf. From my own perspective, I think several key statistics are worth noting as strong indicators of a trend in ACM’s membership and Communications’ readership. They are:

  • 41.3% of respondents described their current job responsibilities as Software/Applications Designer, Developer, or Engineer, followed by 23.2% as Systems Architect, Designer, or Engineer, followed by 19.9% as Academic. Indeed, we are watching an increasing slant among the magazine’s readership toward practitioners and researchers in industry and the types of content that appeals to them is driving some of the changes we are making with Communications.
  • The average reader is male (88.8%), down from 91.7% in the previous survey, 43.1 years old, down from 45.6 years old in the previous survey, has an average of 18.1 years of computing experience, down from 19.9 years in the previous survey, and has been a member of ACM for 9.8 years, down from 13.1 years in the previous survey. All of these statistics indicate that more women are entering the field (although not as quickly as many would like) and Communications is attracting a younger overall readership.
  • The average respondent looks through 3.1 out of every 4 issues of the magazine and spends an average of 60.9 minutes reading each issue. By comparison, based on research conducted by Harvey Research, Inc. from 1996 to present, the median time spent reading business-to-business magazine titles is 38 minutes for computer titles (based on 12,500 respondents over 131 studies) and 38 minutes for non-computer titles (based on 29,700 respondents over 351 studies) with the average time spent reading over all business-to-business magazine titles being 30.7 minutes (based on 1,796 studies conducted to date over 456 different magazine titles).
  • 68.6% of respondents noticed the editorial revamp of the magazine that started with the July 2008 issue and of those who noticed the change 89.9% felt it had a positive effect on the magazine.
  • 58.7% of respondents read at least half of an issue’s total editorial content.
  • Of those who noticed the editorial revamp, 78.8% felt the changes make it more likely they would recommend the magazine to a friend and 77.3% felt the magazine is more relevant to them now than in the past.
  • The most frequently read "department" that appears in the magazine is the Editor’s Letter (85.2%). The most frequently read "section" is the Research Highlights: Main Article (93.4%). And the most frequently read "column" is Viewpoints (86.4%).
  • In contrast, when asked to select their three favorite departments, sections, or columns, 53.1% of respondents selected the Research Highlights: Main Article, followed by 44.7% for Contributed Articles, 35.9% for Practice articles, and 35.9% for the Research Highlights: Technical Perspectives. For the most part, what people are spending their time reading is not always their favorite material, so more investigation is certainly warranted.
  • Related to the new Communications Web site, which launched several months ago, 46.2% of respondents were aware the Web site was being redesigned and 39.5% have visited the redesigned site. If you have not already visited the site, please do so at http://cacm.acm.org and login with your ACM Web Account information.

I feel the new structure, sections, and content provide a richer experience… perhaps with a broader scope.—Practitioner

The editorial staff and editorial board for Communications will spend the coming months reviewing and analyzing all of the data compiled in the 2009 Communications of the ACM Readership Survey and in future issues will begin implementing many of the most frequently suggested changes. While the work is really just beginning, we at ACM are very pleased at the initial steps taken and very much appreciate your continued feedback and support of the Association’s flagship publication.

Scott E. Delman

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