Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sky and Telescope Readership vs. USA Demographics: No Surprises

I stumbled across this page that reports the demographics of S&T readership to advertisers. It's interesting to compare the demographics to that of the United States population. This is S&T's statement about the source of these numbers:

Simmons Research, Inc., June 1998 — all other data from Publisher's Subscriber Survey, May 2005, and ABC Publisher's Statement, June 2012. 

So most of their numbers come from either 1998 or 2005. Probably only the circulation numbers are current. And one must wonder about how meaningful the other numbers are if they were collected from survey cards. I've tried to match the statistical years where it might matter.

The numbers taken from the S&T page are colored RED.

S&T: Male: 95%, Female: 5% (probably from the 2005 subscriber survey)
USA:  Male: 49%, Female: 51%
This statistic varies considerably by age, but a 50-50 split in the general population is a reasonable assumption for the pool from which S&T draws its subscribers.

S&T: 51 (probably from the 2005 subscriber survey)
USA: 35.5 (median, males, 2010 estimate)
Not really a surprise, the S&T readership is older than might be obtained by random sampling of the population.

S&T: 70% (1998)
USA: 57% (2000 est., U.S. Census Bureau)

Graduated from college or higher:
S&T: 77%  (probably from the 2005 subscriber survey)
USA: 41% (2012 est., U.S. Census Bureau)

Professional/technical careers
S&T: 60% (1998)
USA: 38% (Sept. 2013 est. Bureau of Labor Statistics. I might not be comparing apples and oranges here.)

Average household income
S&T: $94,400 (probably from the 2005 subscriber survey)
USA: $46,326 (2005 est.. U.S. Census Bureau)
The 80th percentile in the U.S. for household income is $92,000.

Time in Hobby
40% have been involved in the hobby an average of 20+ years (1998)
26% have been involved less than 5 years (1998)

Experience Level
beginners: 10%, amateurs: 49%, advanced amateurs: 38%, professionals: 3%

So Time in Hobby and Experience Level say that 26% have been in the hobby less than 5 years, and only 10% consider themselves beginners. So for about 15% of the subscribers five years of astronomy moves them past the beginner stage.

Total paid circulation

Pass-along readership
This is the number of people with whom an average subscriber will share an issue. Some publications (such as newspapers) tend to have a large pass-along. The estimation and value of pass-along readership is debated.

Grand total readership

So, what's the bottom line? In general terms, S&T subscribers are older affluent males, well-educated and engaged in professional careers. Few consider themselves beginners in the hobby. They're ready for high quality gear and they can afford it.

Is it any wonder that the upscale portion of the Amateur Astronomy marketplace has blossomed in the last couple of decades?

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