Research, Readers and Reinvention

A look at what surveying our readers taught us about Oregon’s Agricultural Progress.


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regon’s Agricultural Progress (OAP) has a 66-year legacy of award-winning reporting on the research taking place in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State. That research has led to breakthrough discoveries that have saved agricultural industries, improved policies that govern production, and unlocked new possibilities in health, sustainability, and technology.

This past year, we put ourselves under the microscope.

In the fall of 2018, we launched a comprehensive research project to better understand our readers and what they want to see from us. This involved both an online survey and individual stakeholder interviews held in-person and over the phone. We also explored the reach of the magazine by conducting a data analysis based on the zip codes where print copies get mailed.

This research came on the heels of our pivot to a digital-first (not digital-only) platform and a website redesign. These shifts gave us an opportunity to look at ourselves through fresh eyes, and reimagine our future.

One thing we knew would remain the same: OAP will always be a high-quality magazine dedicated to strong storytelling, compelling design, and impactful photography. We expect OAP to stand on-par with other leading research universities’ agricultural sciences and natural resources magazines. More than that, we expect it to be one of the best.

So, what did we learn from 288 online survey respondents and more than 20 in-depth one-on-one interviews?

Key Research Findings

An overwhelming majority of readers place a high value on the visual design and photography. When it comes to the stories themselves, people enjoy reading about subject areas that are close to them, or stories that feature their own research. Another common theme was the importance of being intentional about demonstrating the diversity of our agriculture and natural resource community matters.

Further, student stories carry special meaning. Our readers enjoy learning about research that involves students, and the impact our work has on student success.

We were surprised to see a number of readers interested in seeing OAP start to tackle more controversial issues — showing two sides to issues such as GMO’s or wolf impacts. Another area of interest was directed more toward urban populations, helping people better understand where their food comes from.

The value of OAP is rooted for many in the value placed on OSU and the College of Agricultural Sciences in general. In fact, some even confessed that they got the magazine confused with Terra and other OSU publications, noting that they might not even notice it was missing if it didn’t appear in their mail box. Clearly, we have opportunities to further differentiate our content for these readers.

That said, a good number of respondents indicated that they typically read the entire magazine, cover to cover. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most readers (75%) remembered stories that featured their work or special interest. Others noted stories that stood out for the exact opposite reason — that it was something new and different, a new discovery in an area of research outside of their field.

In addition to reading the publication themselves, many readers shared that they also derived value in sharing the magazine. Many indicated they would give the magazine as an informational piece to other stakeholders or influencers, such as alumni, elected officials, or industry leaders.

On the website, people want to see what they already value in the print — high quality visuals. Respondents also noted that digital provides more video opportunities and more multimedia generally, and they were interested in seeing this develop. Several respondents also emphasized the need for easy navigation. Some indicated they wanted to be sure all the stories were of substance, while others recognized the opportunity for shorter, less serious, snippets of information.

The final phase

So, this is our final phase of research. And we need you to complete it.

In the process of conducting our survey and interviews, we recognized some confusion about the current name of the magazine. Some people referred to it as Oregon’s Agricultural Progress magazine, others as Oregon’s Agriculture Progress, still others just OAP.

Perhaps the most common concern we heard was, where’s natural resources? Fisheries and wildlife does not necessarily see itself reflected in the word “agriculture.” Yet, they are a huge part of the work we do and are regularly featured in the magazine, like the story on ocean acidification in this innovation-themed issue.

There’s been a lot of change this past year. A digital first model, new editorial leadership, a new dean. If ever there was a time to invest in change, it’s now.

We have three working names for the magazine moving forward. Each name is also accompanied by a subtitle that communicates the scope and purpose of the magazine and the research it features:

Progress

Advancing agriculture and natural resources in Oregon

Contours

Shaping the future of Oregon’s agriculture and natural resources

OAP

Oregon | Agriculture and Natural Resources | Progress

 

Here’s where you come in. Let us know which is your favorite! Inserted in the latest print issue is a pre-paid postcard with the three names (and an additional space to write in an alternate option). Just mark your vote and drop the postcard in your mailbox. This will help us see which option resonates most with our readers. Thank you in advance for your responses. Deadline to return the postcard is November 1, 2019.

Vote Online

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