February 2022: Survey results

Many heartfelt thanks to those of you who completed the survey I put up last Friday. I have now closed it, having received about 400 responses, because it was clear that each new tranche of responses was returning the same pattern of opinion.

I appreciate, of course, that a survey of this sort has several in-built biases – principally that it will only be responded to by people who already read the blog, and a self-selecting group within that. However, as I wanted to capture the views of existing readers (and especially of long-term readers) it was good enough for my purposes.


The main thing I wanted to know was what readers thought of moving the blog to Substack. About half the respondents say they don’t care, and of the other half about 80% say ‘don’t move’. Where reasons were given, the most common was that the present platform and format works for them so ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’. So my decision (for now, unless anything changes) is that I will NOT change platform to Substack (or anything else).


I also wanted to test the water about charging for the blog, although as I mentioned I wasn’t really considering this very seriously. The responses were split almost exactly 50-50 as to whether they would pay or not. Unsurprisingly, amongst those who were willing to pay, the numbers willing to do so declined as the price propose rose. It was quite an interesting result, because even making the most stringent assumptions about whether this would actually turn into payments made, and even at the cheapest rate proposed (50p per post) it suggested it would be quite lucrative.

However, charging doesn’t really appeal to me, not least as maximizing reach is far more important to me than making money from it. I was also very strongly struck by the number of respondents, many amongst the most long-standing and regular readers, who said that although they valued the blog, they simply couldn’t afford to pay for it. So my decision (for now, unless anything changes) is that I will NOT charge for this blog and it will be free to all who want to read it.

Response to comments about charging

Of the various comments made by respondents about the idea of charging, I just want to pick up on one made by a few people along the lines of ‘I thought you did this blog as part of your job’ or, in one case, and rather ungraciously, ‘I already pay your salary through my taxes’.

In fact, as stated in my profile, this blog has always been written on a personal basis. It’s true that, in a very indirect way, some of the time taken to write it was subsidized by my employer. However, that has not been so since I took early retirement from my University post in 2020. The fact is that it has always been, and remains, a labour of love.

Response to general comments

I took the opportunity of creating the survey to seek some more general feedback about the blog, and I want to record my thanks for the many kind, and often very moving, comments made. I read them all. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated them because it is, as some of you mentioned, a lot of hard work to produce, and because of my no-comments policy (see below) quite a lonely occupation. Of course, as noted above, I recognize the inherent bias in a survey of this sort, so I have not become too big-headed.

Again it is undoubtedly a reflection of the sampling bias that on the various aspects of the blog I asked about in most cases 95%+ of respondents thought I am doing things about right. The only slight exceptions were on length of posts (about 8% think they are too long) and use of humour (about 10% think there is too little). On length – I agree and constantly struggle to prune them! The flip side is that almost every week someone on Twitter criticises me for not mentioning this, that or the other. On humour, it just comes when it comes so I can’t really control it.

Response to comments about Scotland and Wales

Amongst the various comments, quite a few people said that I don’t mention Brexit issues in Scotland enough (and one person said the same about Wales). It’s an entirely fair criticism, and something I was already conscious of. It’s mainly because of my ignorance and, knowing my ignorance, I think it could be more offensive for me to discuss things I don’t understand than to not discuss them at all (though I have covered the impact on Welsh ports quite a few times).

For the same reason, although I cover Northern Ireland quite extensively as regards the Protocol, I rarely make comments about Northern Ireland’s internal politics per se. To be honest, I’m inclined to think that the last thing that Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland need is yet another ignorant Englishman pontificating about them. Even so, I’ve taken on board that I ‘could do better’ and will try to do so.

Actually, although this wasn’t mentioned in the survey responses, it’s not just my coverage of those countries which is deficient. The fact is that Brexit reaches into so many different parts of life that it’s impossible for one person to be on top of it all. For example, apart from passing mentions, I hardly talk about VAT, or space, or environmental issues, or even that much about things like fishing or agriculture. It’s both a strength and a weakness of the blog that it’s fairly ‘big picture’, though I do try to give links to specialist areas.

Response to comments about comments

Finally, on the subject of comments, a few people commented negatively in the survey on the fact that I don’t allow comments on the blog. I completely understand the criticism but I’ve set out my reasons for this elsewhere. For the reasons given there I’m not going to change my policy on this, although of course I recognize its downsides.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.