One-Question Surveys Are Latest Way Publishers Can Get More Feedback

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One-question surveys, in the style of the Net Promoter Score, are becoming a trend with some of the bigger publishers today—especially in regards to their content. Digiday reports that Business Insider Prime members are asked how "valuable" the article was. The Athletic readers are queried, "What did you think of this story?" And a couple years ago, Mic readers saw a widget at the bottom of the article that asked, "Was this story worth your time?"

The key then is to follow up to collect more information. "BI Prime readers who answer are given an anonymous feedback form where they can leave additional details, and many respondents have used that field to share questions that the story they read did not answer. That has yielded several ideas for follow-up stories."

Here are some more survey tips:

1. Ask your most important survey question first. In fact, SurveyMonkey suggests that you include that question right in the email itself. That "lede" question should be both easy and compelling to answer. For instance: Overall, how satisfied were you with this event? "Placing your first survey question in the email is a practice that can increase your opens by up to 22% and the number of people who finish your survey by 20%."

2. Make it short and personalized. I like the surveys that tell you how long they should take. But then you must stick to that. I've often gotten on a survey that looks quick, but then I answer the first question and the bar below says like "3% done." This does not encourage completion. Eventbrite recommends a maximum of 10 questions. Also, they write: "Avoid sending one blanket survey [to different audiences]. Use conditional formatting so that respondents only have to answer relevant questions. Tailoring your survey for each audience will help you get the most useful data."

3. Make your survey items actionable. "The majority of employee experience or engagement surveys I've experienced, whether built in-house or from a vendor, become a laundry list of questions," wrote Laszlo Bock, CEO of Humu. "Every leader has a pet initiative to measure, making the survey bloated and impossible to act on. When deciding on survey items (or eliminating others), ask yourself: What would we do immediately if this item scored low? If it's not actionable, it's not measuring something that matters."

4. Make feedback as essential as oxygen. Bock encourages us to invite feedback at all times. "Wherever the feedback comes from, the power lies in connecting any action taken back to its source," he writes. "You want to go back to people after they've given you feedback and say, 'We heard you, and this is the actions we've taken.'" Bock says that builds loyalty in the workplace, and probably in an event audience as well.

5. Use your survey data to further personalize your communications. From that question—What did you think of this story?—The Athletic began using the data to determine which kinds of stories specific readers like, then sending those types of stories to subscribers through their newsletters and mobile push notifications. "A reader that prefers biographical back stories on athletes, for example, might be sent more of those than a newsier or more analytical item, using their story feedback as a signal."

6. Ask the right questions. When creating the survey questions, ask yourself, "What do you want to know?" For example, do your subscribers want an app version of the brand? Is there price sensitivity? What topics do they want covered? It's important that the surveys are timely (don't contact an expired reader about why they didn't renew two years later). Also make sure that at least one question is open-ended, although with that one-question survey, those publishers are counting more on follow-ups.

Give a new method time. "We had a decline when we went to the online survey but we now get around 65%," wrote Lynn Freer of Spidell Publishing. "What we did notice is that the online survey generates more comments. The paper one, they checked boxes but didn't really provide information that is as usable."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…