How do you know which comics readers want?

Question: Thanks for asking us to respond. A few days ago one reader commented on the comic strip section. It's hard to know what comics your readers want. So why not survey your readers? Have three categories:
Good!, Mediocre, Dull & Duh. Grade the comic on artwork and humor or drama appeal. I'm used to comics from the past that are well drawn and they were really funny. Now they are getting dumber, with Mutts at the bottom of the list. -- Larry Clark, Spokane

Answer: Oddly enough, the selection of comics is often one of the more challenging and even controversial tasks we face in the newsroom. Simply put, there's no easy way to determine which comics are widely popular and which ones should be replaced. We've asked readers to rate our comics in the past, but as InLife editor Jamie Tobias Neely notes, such surveys are unscientific. "Respondents are self-selecting, which means we're going to only hear from those readers who have the time and interest to fill out a survey," she says. "Most surveys are answered primarily by older readers, which leaves us still in the dark about which strips would attract younger and new readers."

Neely also explains that "without formal polling, we rely on a number of methods of evaluating our comics pages. We listen to feedback from readers, we pay attention to comics poll results from other papers, and we search for comic strips that have been particularly popular elsewhere. In the end, it usually comes down to editors relying on their experience and best judgment in selecting new comics that will appeal to our readers." -- Gary Graham, managing editor

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