Studies rank publications’ popularity

Ever wondered why your favorite magazine seems to disappear from dining halls immediately, while others linger in piles for weeks? Why your favorite Yale College Council candidate never wins?

Two new studies aim to shed new light on the relative popularity of student publications and how students vote in Yale College Council elections. Researchers from Maya, a three-year-old student-run consulting, marketing and design group, polled hundreds of undergraduates last year and spent the past few months analyzing the results, before releasing their findings last week.

Joshua Tan ’09, executive director of Maya, said the studies grew out of a curiosity to see how student government and publications operate as well as a desire to give fellow Yalies some insight on how to better achieve their extracurricular goals.

“We hope the general student body finds [the data] interesting to read,” Tan said.

The study concerning student publications, which surveyed 715 students, found that more than 70 percent of undergraduates read a student publication a few times a week and more than 90 percent of students read a student publication at least once a week. Although results indicated that most only read these publications for a few minutes, Maya researchers said they were surprised by the high percentage of readership.

The five most popular student publications on campus, in order, were the Yale Daily News, The Yale Herald, Rumpus, Yale Daily News Magazine and the Yale Record, according to Maya. Most students surveyed said publication content is far more important than writing quality or entertainment value when they choose something to read.

Students ranked the residential colleges and Commons as the most common locations to pick up and read campus publications.

Mike Schmidt ’08, managing editor of The Politic, said the magazine’s editorial board found the Maya report methodical and comprehensive. Schmidt said he is now considering producing more copies of the magazine to boost readership.

“Based on the results, it seems that the more magazines you print, the more likely they are going to find themselves in random places in the school where people will pick them up and read them,” he said.

The elections study, which surveyed 550 students, reported that a candidate’s experience is most important to voters, followed by the personal recommendations of friends and the student’s campaign platform. Campaign e-mails and group endorsements were ranked by students as having the least influence on their decision-making.

A high percentage of students also think that publicity and name recognition are key aspects of the best campaigns.

“Many of the responses cited the prevalence of posters, T-shirts, stickers and table tents for the purpose of spreading the candidates’ names around campus,” the report reads. “These students cited the fact that they based their choice primarily on the quality of advertising and prominence of each candidate’s name on campus and online.”

Students who ran in last year’s YCC election said they thought the elections survey was well-conducted and could be useful to future candidates.

YCC Secretary David Narotsky ’09 said he agreed that name recognition plays a big role in elections. But Narotsky said while he found the elections survey innovative and its results informative, he doubts that students who run in future elections will change their campaigning strategies based on Maya’s conclusions.

Tan acknowledged some flaws in the research. The publications study asked students to rank 24 student publications based on how likely they are to read them, and Tan said he regrets picking publications to include in the survey based on which came to mind first. Tan said this method caused researchers to unintentionally omit magazines such as The Yale Free Press and The Misfit Magazine.

“We tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but that approach was a pretty big mistake,” he said.

Tan also said the results of both studies may be skewed because they were conducted on a voluntary basis, meaning that the students polled may be those on campus most involved with publications or the YCC.

Maya research director Michael Truskowski ’08 said the group is planning a more comprehensive study on student readership this fall and is currently meeting with editors from some of the leading campus publications to discuss the research.

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