People who call at dinner time

A number of weeks ago I answered the phone at home in the middle of dinner knowing that the only people who call at dinner time are telemarketers, pollsters, and family members requesting a return plane ticket from some place with an unpronounceable name somewhere in Eastern Africa.

In this instance, it was a pollster. My chequebook breathed an audible sigh of relief when the pollster proceeded to tell me that he was with Ipsos-ASI and they had been commissioned by the BCMA to do a readership survey and would I be willing to participate? My immediate response was to quickly inform the professionally pleasant, querulous dinner disturber in a voice dripping with confidence that the BCMJ was without a doubt the best-read, most reader-friendly, professionally informative publication in Canada. Before the pollster could actually start polling me however, I made it clear that my participation just might be construed as a conflicted polling result as I was in fact, the editor of the BCMJ. The pollster agreed with a nervous laugh and as he signed off I think I heard him mutter, probably to no one in particular, some barely audible comments about statistical validity, T-test scores, and something that sounded like Bob Goodenow should be fired.

All of us at the BCMJ have been more than a little interested to see if our confidence in the value of the magazine wasn’t a sign of some DSM-IV diagnosis. The findings of the Ipsos-ASI 2005 BCMJ Readership Survey were released at the end of February, and although my comments don’t seem to be noted anywhere, the results do confirm that the BCMJ remains the most read and appreciated medical publication among BC physicians. There are a number of interesting results from the study that will direct our priority planning for the next few years, as well as clarifying for us that our rapidly changing professional demographic should be the primary driver in all future publication/communication technology decision-making.

One of the most interesting things (to me) resulting from the survey was that an extremely high percentage of respondents made it clear that they did not read the e-version of the Journal. The survey does suggest that readers who did visit the e-version of the BCMJ tended to belong to a younger demographic but the total numbers in this cohort was quite small and as a result, not statistically significant. However, it is statistically valid to say that based on this survey, it is clear that a majority of practising physicians in BC still want a printed magazine to read irrespective of their age, gender, or clinical focus. Although our survey did not involve large numbers of physicians (n = 207; N = 8930), I think this preference for a hard copy is most likely a reflection of physicians’ attitudes from around the planet, and I wonder if this has been the survey experience of other publications with a larger readership base (sounds like a project for a journalism intern to me).

It was gratifying to see that our readership numbers are equally divided between specialists and generalists, but on brief reflection this result ends up being self-evident with the BCMJ being the most frequently read medical publication in BC among all physicians and the fact that there are about equal numbers of the two broad categories of practising physicians in BC.

There is certainly some variability in the perceived educational value of the scientific core of the magazine between specialist and generalists, but this once again was expected and comes under the heading of “you can’t be everything to everybody.” However, we are going to look at how the BCMJ might be able to address some of the educational needs of a wider spectrum of our readership in the future.

There are a number of other very interesting results from the survey, but my managing editor has been threatening to slash my editorial word count with demonic deleting if I don’t do it myself. A detailed report on the survey will appear in the May issue, but if you want to see the full results now you can contact the BCMJ and we will be glad to provide you with an e-mail attachment that may threaten your remaining hard drive capacity.


James A. Wilson, MD. People who call at dinner time. BCMJ, Vol. 47, No. 3, April, 2005, Page(s) - Editorials.

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