The Results of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' 1985 Reader Survey

At long last, Mother empties the mailbag, and the results of MOTHER's 1985 reader survey are in.

| January/February 1985


We've heard our readers loud and clear! Here are the results of our recent survey.


This story really began about a year ago, when MOTHER'S editorial staffers decided that the time had come to go to our real bosses — you, the people who buy and read this publication — in order to find out just how effectively we'd been doing our jobs. That decision eventually evolved into a reader survey that was received by every subscriber (it was bound outside the regular cover of MOTHER NO. 87). As we reported in last issue's News From Mother column, the completed survey forms were soon coming in hot and heavy, and continued to arrive in these offices over a period of nearly six months. In all, approximately 7,000 of you took the time, trouble and expense (for stamps) to fill out and return our questionnaire.

Now, since there were 18 separate questions on each of those 7,000 survey forms, the task of tabulating the responses turned into quite a piece of work: We broke down the answers to each question to reflect the ages, number of years subscribed, and so forth of the readers responding, and, while we were at it, we passed along the changes of address and article ideas that were often added to the basic questionnaire. The job was only completed as we approached deadline for this issue. And you can be sure the folks here are going to be spending a lot of time studying the 47-page summary, the bulk of which consists of detailed statistical breakdowns (such as the fact that seven 26- to 35-year-old female respondents thought we gave too much emphasis to alternative energy). We'd like to take this opportunity, though, to go over some of the high points of the survey results with you, to share a sampling of the ideas that your fellow readers provided us with and to address a couple of the concerns that surfaced.


In answer to questions 1, 2 and 3 (which asked what subjects you'd like to see discussed that we're not covering now, which topics are given too much emphasis and which receive too little attention in our magazine), most of you indicated that you like our editorial mix just fine as it is. In fact, a good many people had no comments at all on the question asking what you'd like to see less of. And when a proportion of our readers did say that some area was overexposed in MOTHER, as often as not, a similar-size group wanted more articles on that same topic. A number of you did, for instance, feel that the Plowboy Interviews are too long...but, then again, another hefty share felt that those same interviews represent the most valuable feature in our book! One minor but notable exception was tofu: Quite a number of people were tired of hearing about it. (More than one simply said, "Tofu — yuck!") So OK, we promise to leave that soy food alone for a while...after this issue.

Among the subject areas that you indicated you'd like to see more of were many that (both through happy accident and as a result of our reading the early-arriving surveys) either showed up in our last issue or are featured in the copy you're holding right now. A lot of you wanted alternative energy information for mobile home dwellers, for instance. Similarly, we received a goodly number of requests for articles on basic furniture making, which were answered in MOTHER NO. 90 with the features on easy-to-build "truss-worthy" chairs and our beautiful spalted-oak cradle.

A lot of you said you wanted to see more on greenhouses and gardening. We hope you were pleased by the "Greenhouse as an Ecosystem" mini-manual found in MOTHER NO. 90. As old-time readers of MOTHER know, our November/December and January/February issues are traditionally low in total gardening pages. Our 1985 horticultural season will really get into full swing with MOTHER NO. 92, when we'll have some real treats for you...including a definitive "course" on seed starting taught by our own Eco-Village master gardeners!

Two other oft requested subject areas were back-to-basics homesteading skills and workshop projects, both simple and complex. Well, we started the Homestead Handbook series one year ago to make sure we didn't neglect the self-reliance fundamentals, but we'll now promise to include other articles covering entry-level homestead skills, as well. And concerning build-your-own projects, we're not sure we really can squeeze too many more into the magazine than we do now (this issue alone has bunk beds, a woodbox, dump truck, solar collector, set of garden tools, emergency power plant and mandolin!). But we will do our best to make certain that our offerings cover a wide range of skill levels.

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!