The Results Of DC’s Nielsen Survey OR Surprise!! It’s Middle-Aged Men

DC is rolling out some data from the Nielsen survey that ran last fall, and their Source blog and ICv2 have the details.  All told, roughly 6,000 readers participated in the survey, which isn’t huge considering that 250,000 people or so bought Justice League #1 but it’s definitely a decent sample size.  The results are everything that I expected but didn’t want to see.

The first thing DC announced on their blog, as if it were big, exciting news was this:

The launch of DC COMICS-THE NEW 52 galvanized the traditional fan base for superhero comic books: male readers, who were already—or have at one time been—comic book fans.

So basically, the people who are buying their comics now are mostly the same people who were buying them before.  This isn’t great… in the lead up to the relaunch, there was a lot of talk about reaching new readers, and all of the effort they were putting into advertising and previews in non-traditional places to bring them in.  All told, only 5% of the survey participants were new readers.  Plus 70% were “avid fans” who hit the shop every week, ie. the readers they had already.  The relaunch was the biggest move DC’s ever pulled, and while it brought back a few lapsed readers, 5% new readers has got to be a big letdown for everyone at DC.  What else can they do to get in new readers?  Relaunching everything again seems a little silly.

Maybe they could appeal to women, the 50% of the population that comprised only 7% of the survey participants.  That is flat out ridiculous.  There are SO many ladies out there, and DC’s doing nothing to reach them.  Maybe the 5% new readers stat will be the swift kick they need to realize that just marketing to men isn’t going to cut it, but I’m not holding my breath. 

DC also pointed out that:

More than 50% of DC COMICS-THE NEW 52 readers were between the ages of 13 and 34.

But that’s not the full story.  Of this “more than 50%”, only 2% were below 18 years of age, so it doesn’t sound like DC’s getting them young.  This is hardly encouraging for long term growth.  These middle-aged men aren’y going to be around forever… DC needs to bring in a new generation of readers behind them.  DC’s sort of terrible at reaching a younger demographic though… my nieces and nephew have been raised to be HARDCORE DC fans but now they’re getting into Marvel.  Why?  Because Marvel cartoons are ALL OVER Netflix, and there’s no DC shows to be found.  I’m indoctrinating them as best I can, DC, but you’ve got to help me out!!

Overall, the numbers we have so far are really disheartening.  I expected a lot of the same old, but not this much same old.  DC’s prospects for long term growth in the comics market are looking pretty grim right now.  I’d really like to see the entire survey results, as I’m sure there’s a lot more fascinating information in the details, but DC will likely keep a lot of it to themselves.

I will say that I was encouraged to see that DC is planning to conduct more surveys in the future, and use this first survey as a baseline.  They definitely need to follow up on these numbers, and hopefully they’ll learn something from them.  The current system just doesn’t seem at all sustainable, which worries me because I’d like to be reading new DC comics until I’m old and grey.  Get to fixing things, DC!!

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7 Responses to “The Results Of DC’s Nielsen Survey OR Surprise!! It’s Middle-Aged Men”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Yeah, any way you look at it it blows.

    Though the one thing that really bothers me about the whole survey was its methodology. The ICV2 article announcing the results said that there were under two hundred in-store surveys completed, while they got like five and a half thousand results from the online survey which the article says was handed out in stores but then spread widely over the internet. I certainly saw it linked about the place, mostly in places that are hangouts for existing comic fans. Hardcore, opinionated comics fans who aren’t going to say no to the chance to tell DC what they think.

    Like I said, it sucks any way you look at it, especially since DC are likely to use this to make business decisions, and the relaunch just demonstrably hasn’t managed to singlehandedly save the industry, convert the kids and stop offending the women, but I can’t help but think that the survey is probably hella biased towards hardcore fans who jumped on it after having seen it online.

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      I see what you’re saying about the bias, but amusingly bias had me expecting more female participants!! When the survey came out, damn near every female comic book fan’s blog/twitter/etc. that I follow linked to it and encouraged female readers to make their voices heard. It definitely made the rounds, ladywise, but I guess that didn’t make much of a dent in the overall numbers. But yeah, the methodology is bizarre… you’d think what with hiring a big firm and such that they’d make more of an effort to hear from more average, less hardcore, fans.

  2. Rebecca Says:

    Yes that was initially my thought too – and in itself is kind of a sad statement actually, if it was advertised in all the places it COULD have found female comics fans and still only got a 7% total.

    Also just because Neilsen is such a large firm there’s a part of me that figures they MUST be using some kind of sound methodology because, well, they were paid MONEY for this. Which again makes me depressed again.

    But…I want to cling to some sort of potentially positive take on the fiasco. Even though I’m not convinced I’m right to do so. *le sigh*

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      Yeah, women seemed to be actively participating and were still only 7%. It’s just depressing.

      I’m curious to see what their future surveys show, but I’m not optimistic. With print slowly dying in general right now, the industry’s painted itself into a bad corner with this limited audience.

  3. Rebecca Says:

    Interesting article:

    Seems a lot of women did fill out the online survey; perhaps even a disproportionate number because of where it was advertised, but it really irks me that they only quoted the 7% figures from the other two portions of the survey and not the 23% figure from their largest sample. Even if they think the online survey was skewed to the point of being unhelpful because the link spread virally, (a) how naive were they not to think of this before issuing a generic link to the survey for people and (b) it’s disingenuous not to explain that your figures actually only come from *part* of your survey.

    So while I’m glad that the 7% figure is likely to be an underestimate, DAMN YOU IRRESPONSIBLE DC PRESS RELEASES! *shakes fist*

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      Yeah, I saw that!! Some days, I really despair about the brain trust that’s running DC right now. I’m super pleased that the 7% is probably low, but this is just a muddled mess. It’s 23% BUT it might be skewed? I thought they hired a professional firm to do this. It’s bizarre.

  4. sewersaint Says:

    Rebecca – “Also just because Neilsen is such a large firm there’s a part of me that figures they MUST be using some kind of sound methodology because, well, they were paid MONEY for this. Which again makes me depressed again.”

    I’m just hoping they weren’t paid a lot. I mean a survey in which you go to 6 comic shops, mostly (completely?) in LA is hardly a lot of leg work. In fact the whole manner of the survey seems a little half hearted.

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