Keeping in Touch with Readers
It's no secret that AFP is a success, but how does AFP stay at the top of the reading list for family physicians? A key factor is the ongoing effort by AFP's editors and staff to gather and analyze readers' opinions. Throughout the year we administer various surveys, including mailed questionnaires and a questionnaire given out at AAFP's annual assembly. We also solicit comments from readers when we attend meetings, and we encourage comments made via letter, phone, fax or e-mail. As another way of keeping in touch with readers, AFP has started something new this year—focus groups.
We just completed the first in a series of focus group sessions aimed at getting readers' reactions on a variety of topics. Here's how a focus group works: Readers are selected at random to participate in a 90-minute discussion led by a moderator. Each participant is encouraged to respond to a series of questions and feel free to make additional comments. Participants are informed that the discussion is being videotaped and that the discussion is also being observed by a group sitting behind a transparent mirror.
Topics discussed in the recent focus group included AFP's recent design change and increase in frequency from 16 to 20 issues per year (which translates to two issues a month except in June, July, August and December). We asked readers how they use AFP, when and where they read AFP and how long they spend reading AFP. We asked which articles readers like and their impressions on accompanying patient information handouts, which departments they enjoy reading and what sorts of topics they would like to see more of in AFP. Observers in the recent focus group included a number of editors and other staff, as well as AFP's art coordinator.
We have found that while large-scale surveys provide data that are vital in directing editorial decisions, contact with individual readers keeps us in touch with our readers' personal experiences—and that helps us give AFP a personal touch. That's why we'll keep on seeking contact with our readers at every opportunity.