Every month, our staff of 27 editors, designers and production, sales and business people pours all our talent and energy into creating another issue of Sarasota Magazine; then we send it out by trucks, airplanes and cyberspace to readers in every state of the nation and 187 countries all over the world. Independent research tells us that 66,000 people read every print issue, and 30,000 more per month find us on the Web.
It’s thrilling to think of close to 100,000 people having an intimate, one-on-one experience with us every month, and that relationship with readers is the single most important asset we have. We treasure it and we’re always trying to deepen it, and not only through the pages of the magazine.
You know all about us, of course—especially our passionate conviction that Sarasota, Florida, is the most beautiful, blessed spot on the planet—but lately we’ve been getting to know about you as well.
Thanks to several studies we’ve commissioned by MRI, the nation’s leading media research firm, we know that you’re highly educated—94 percent of you have college degrees, and 36 percent did post-grad work—and extremely affluent, with an average annual household income of $355,000, 30 percent more than the average Wall Street Journal subscriber’s. Our average reader (not that any of you are average, of course!) is an active baby boomer who travels frequently—85 percent own valid passports, and 69 percent recently used them—and dines out about 11 times a month. You’re cultured and sophisticated as well; 75 percent of you attend live theater, and 88 percent of you support philanthropic causes, donating an average of $6,900 a year.
And from our circulation and newsstand reports, we know that at a time when many magazines are losing readers and newsstand sales are plunging, our paid subscribers are holding firm, and our newsstand sales have actually increased.
Those are impressive statistics, but nothing compares to talking to a real, live reader, and thanks in part to the astonishing new world of technology, we’ve been doing more of that than ever before.
Once upon a time, in those Dark Ages when we were still typing out our stories on carbon paper (yes, I do remember those days, however dimly), the only way we connected with readers was by bumping into one in person or through phone calls and letters. We still get calls and letters, of course; just this week I received a seven-page missive from a fanatic foodie outlining his favorite Sarasota restaurants in impassioned detail and an irate call from a longtime subscriber who was upset about a recent “Mr. Chatterbox” column. Our circulation director also showed me a renewal form with some scrawled advice: fewer beautiful models and more beautiful Sarasota scenery on your covers! (We talked that over and decided it was exactly right.) But mostly we get e-mails, many more of them than we ever did letters, no doubt because they’re so much easier to send.
What’s really opened up the floodgates, though, are our other “platforms,” as magazine people like to call the new ways we deliver content to readers. Our Web site includes years of archived articles along with blogs, breaking news and other stories, and readers can—and do—post comments on them all. It’s my job to approve those comments before they go live, and they make fascinating reading. In essence, you’ve become part of the Sarasota story, as you tell blogger Judi Gallagher about a great new pasta restaurant, point out a glaring omission from our Best of the Best annual wrap-up, add your own personal experience with Art Nadel to a story about his hedge fund scam, or nominate your rescue poodle in our contest for Sarasota’s Best Pet.
A year ago last month, we ventured onto Facebook, and that’s given us a whole new way to meet and talk with readers. We now have about 1,350 fans from all over—there’s even a little contingent of South Koreans—and nearly every day we share an ongoing conversation about our town. They loved it when we told them how President Bill Clinton said at Ringling College Library Association’s Town Hall that “few people are lucky enough ever to see a sunset like I saw tonight,” enthusiastically relating their own Sarasota sunset stories. When we complained about that cold spell in December, a New York fan scolded us to “be happy you’re down there—it’s 20 degrees in NYC!” They also help us with stories we’re working on, from best meal deals to this month’s hottest bachelors, and when we recently asked them why so few young people attend cultural events here, within an hour we got 11 suggestions on ways to solve that problem.
We’ve also started hosting special parties for subscribers, including one in January at the Ritz-Carlton Members Beach Club on Lido Key. A cold front swept in that afternoon, so the models posing poolside were shivering in their skimpy dresses, but the atmosphere was warm and convivial as we shared drinks and conversation with longtime readers. The comment we heard most frequently? “We subscribed to Sarasota Magazine before we ever came here, and it helped convince us to finally make the move.” We’re planning more events like that, with a different group at every one; let us know if you’d like to receive an invitation.
In the meantime, keep those e-mails, Web comments and Facebook postings coming; we prize every single one.