DC Comics can’t handle how many women are reading their books

DC is having a “you can’t handle the truth!” moment. In the face of conflicting survey results, they dismissed their online survey because it revealed a much larger percentage of female readers than the in-store and digital samplings.

In a Publishers Weekly interview with DC’s Vice-President of Sales and Marketing John Rood, The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald asks some hard questions that reveal some very interesting answers.

The survey was released in three different forms. In the online survey 77% of respondents were male and 23% were female. That sounds a lot more accurate than the 93 % / 7% breakdown of the statistically meaningless in-store and invite-only digital reader surveys (seriously: meaningless). Yet DC chose to publicize ONLY the 93/7 number because they believed them to be more “accurate”. When faced with large numbers of women they couldn’t ignore, they literally wrote us out of the press release.

Publishers Weekly: DC’s Rood Breaks Down Reader Survey

John Rood: The in-store and the online exclusively —group 1 and group 3—those were both 93-7 in male/female skew. The middle survey, online only which was open to any self-identified shopper, was 77-23 male/female. So was there a glut of activity specific to wanting to register certain feedback? I can’t say whether females found their voice in that survey or whether they had specific female related issues to report on, but this is something that stood out.

Notice how Rood automatically assumes the online survey is the “skewed” one, rather than questioning whether the in-store survey that only took place on Wednesdays in September is all that representative. DC just can’t wrap their minds around the idea that female readers make up a large percentage of their readers.

Rood is correct in that women have a lot more incentive to make our voices heard than male fans — DC constantly ignores and belittles our existence. Rather than dismiss the online survey results out of hand (which they did when they initially publicized “93/7”), they could have questioned the other surveys which resulted in such an extreme skew.

Many more people responded to the online survey in part because it was the only one they heard about. One commenter only participated because she heard about the online survey from the female-focused DCWKA site — she was never told about it by her comic shop.

To me one of the biggest issues DC has had with the whole campaign has been the lack of a forward facing PR and advertising person who understood the ability to focus to audiences on a large spectrum. I took part on the survey because I found the link information through here, it wasn’t supplied by my comic shop.

SilverLocust @ DC Women Kicking Ass

DC doesn’t know we exist because the industry doesn’t consider us in the first place. They’re so surprised by our high participation in an online survey that they chalk it up to a sex-driven mobilization focusing on so-called “special” interests, rather than realizing that, hey, it’s 2012 and the internet is a widespread mode of communication that’s far more effective than sampling comic shops which the majority of people don’t even know exist. Rood even noted that both the in-store and online surveys drew a high percentage of self-identified “avid” readers, in contrast to the digital survey, so again, why so quick to dismiss the online survey as less valid?

So those who identified as female and took the survey online voluntarily were three times higher than those who took in a store.

And as for the question around “why?”, another question could be, “are women not buying their comics through the direct market? Are they getting their comics in other ways? Mail order? Were the shops we selected diverse enough?”

DC Women Kicking Ass: DC Comics’ John Rood on those Survey numbers

Many people only go into a comic store every few weeks to pick up their pull list of comics. (I seldom went on release day because I wanted to avoid a crowd.) By only polling on Wednesdays, DC guaranteed a large percentage of “avid” readers.

John Rood on the study’s accuracy:

Publishers Weekly: One of the things people noted right away was that only 5% of the survey was new readers. Were you surprised? Do you think it’s low or high? Are you satisfied?

John Rood: I think the study is not indicative of the actual system wide performance, in light of the fact that I would imagine that avid fans are more apt to participate in a survey in the first place than a new fan, whether that survey is through the in-store recruiting, or the website that was solicited to the in-store and digital shoppers, and the digital buyer list we targeted specifically. Of those three samples I think you would get greater compliance from passionate ones. I don’t think that 5% is an absolute. I think it’s interesting that self-identified new fans were right at 4-5% regardless of the three samples. It was very consistent.

Publishers Weekly: DC’s Rood Breaks Down Reader Survey.

Rood calls this a “hastily gathered survey and relatively short survey time” which kept them from “getting a better sense of individual intent, history and change in behavior”. At the end of the interview he says that DC will be doing another survey in 2012 “for sure”. That’s good to hear.

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