Reader survey: Many still prefer print

We asked 500 people on our mailing list what they think of The Link and other SCS publications. Here's what they said.

SCS Dean Andrew Moore asked me to evaluate the effectiveness of The Link as an outreach tool to our parents, alumni and other friends, so earlier this year, I sent surveys to 500 people randomly selected from our U.S. mailing list.

The questions were adapted from a model survey supplied by the non-profit Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Five people who returned the surveys were then randomly selected to receive Visa gift cards for $50, $25 or $10.

We received 112 responses, for a 22 percent return rate. Here’s what we learned.

Keep it or kill it?

A few respondents questioned the need for a school of computer science to have a print magazine. “Print is dead!!!” someone wrote. “Paper is not my preferred medium for information,” said another.

Yet many more respondents said they appreciate getting something tangible from SCS a few times per year. “The Link is a good idea—don’t get rid of it,” said someone who identified him or herself as a parent of a first-year CS student.

“All is good! I thank the magazine for (making) me feel I am still connected with CMU,” said someone else. “The Link is overall a very nice magazine. Keep up the good work!” said someone else, while another said, “I am more likely to read about SCS and CMU in hardcopy documents than online.”

Amount of contact “about right”: Most respondents recalled receiving The Link (91 percent), while 63 percent also remembered receiving the SCS holiday card, and 48 percent receive our SCS email newsletter, Bytesize.

A clear majority—75 percent—thinks the amount of contact they get from the School of Computer Science is “about right.” Another 14 percent thinks they get “too much” contact from SCS, while 6 percent think it’s “not enough.”

Interests, likes and dislikes

The top five topics in which respondents are interested, ranked in order, are faculty and student research, events they can attend, strategic planning for the future, general news about computing, and faculty and staff profiles. About 44 percent are “very interested” in stories about faculty and student research, while only 5 percent said they were “not at all interested.”

The topics they are least interested in reading about are, ranked in order, stories about donors, fundraising efforts, extracurricular activities, campus life at SCS, and the financial status of SCS. (Only 5 percent are “very interested” in stories about donors, while 41 percent are “not at all interested.”)

Ways, means and methods

Respondents get much of their information about CMU and SCS from email, but The Link is also important.

About 41 percent get “all or most” SCS news from emails, while another 40 percent get at least “some.” About 18 percent get none of their news about SCS from emails.

More than 31 percent of respondents get “all or most” of their news about SCS from this magazine. Another 44 percent get “some” of their information from The Link, while 24 percent said they get “none” of their information from The Link.

Although 70 percent of respondents are on Facebook and 29 percent are on Twitter, only 13 percent receive “all” or “most” of their news about SCS from social media. The majority—58 percent—gets no SCS news from social media.

The SCS website

Also somewhat surprisingly, few of the people in this survey reported using the SCS website for information. When we asked respondents how often they visit the SCS website, 48 percent said “never,” while 46 percent said “a few times per year.” About 5 percent said they visit “monthly” or “a few times per month.”

Only 7 percent of respondents are “very likely” to visit the website to read additional content from The Link; 35 percent are “not likely.”

The quality of the magazine: Respondents are generally satisfied with The Link; 27 percent report reading “all or most” of the magazine, and 55 percent read “some” of the magazine. About 54 percent said The Link is “generally accurate and informative,” while 44 percent had no opinion or were neutral.

Only two respondents ranked the magazine as “poor,” but between 52 and 61 percent of respondents rated the content, cover, writing, layout and ease of reading as either “good” or “excellent.”

About 57 percent of respondents save The Link for a month or more, 22 percent save the magazine for at least a week and 21 percent discard it immediately.

Call to action

Most of the respondents (70 percent) say The Link helps them feel in touch with SCS and CMU, while 57 percent say The Link provides useful information on current topics in computer science.

About 52 percent “agree or strongly agree” that The Link strengthens their personal connection to SCS, but 40 percent were neutral or had no opinion.

About 31 percent of respondents have forwarded an article from The Link to a friend, 24 percent have saved an article or issue, 15 percent have recommended CMU to someone because of an article they’ve read, 8 percent have contacted a classmate, and 4 percent have made a donation to CMU as a result of The Link.


If you were contacted and completed your survey, thank you! Your feedback was terrific and gave me plenty of information about areas where we’re succeeding—and others where we could use a little bit of help.

Reader comments

Here are some other things that respondents wrote:

  1. 1.) I would like to see more SCS organized events in Seattle area. 2.) I would like to get more CMU graduates for my company (Microsoft). Please help referring students!
  2. Thanks for sending me this survey. I hope my answer is useful to help SCS become a better place. I truly enjoyed my days in CMU SCS. Important/connection wise: I am not sure whether it's still necessary to send paper magazines to alumnus. Probably electronic version is better and emails is better. I tend to read emails more. I wish there's a way that I can follow topics/things that's most interested to me, instead of receiving all the information, e.g., my department, my classmates, my research lab. Of course, people can get those information from friends. But I will feel more connected to school if the email and information is more personalized.
  3. I really enjoy learning about the exciting research projects at SCS!
  4. The Link is a good idea – don’t get rid of it. As a parent of a freshman, it was helpful to learn more about SCS. I actually ended up sending it to my student. What I would appreciate is an email version with compelling photos and links to each article. 

And more often would be better. My older child attends a different institution, which actually sends a weekly email with links to articles – a very few written internally, the rest links to major media – about the school itself, faculty in the news, alumni in the news. I typically click on at least one of these articles a week. I also get an email with links to articles from the school newspaper which also makes me feel connected – I’ll click on a few of these a week. 

I also get emails every 2 weeks from the local alumni association. This is all probably too much, but as a result I feel much more connected with this university than CMU. 

As a parent of a freshman, I would love information on the curriculum, the minors offered, etc. I spent 1.5 hours with my freshman on the phone last night with about 8 windows open to the cmu website helping her think through possible minors etc before her advisor meeting the next day.
  5. All is good! I thank the magazine to let me feel that I am still connected with CMU.
  6. Very interesting articles; our oldest of 4 graduated from SCS at CMU in 2007. Our youngest is graduating with a CS degree from Pitt and tried to take a few courses at CMU but couldn't get into any of the courses. Her minor is in neuroscience and many of your articles point out other opportunities those with computer science degrees can pursue. We are always interested in how computer science is assisting in medical research.
  7. I went to CMU, Columbia, JHU for 3 different degrees. My best experience was still CMU. However, I'm still not sure what's the best way to stay and get connected with CMU.
  8. You could cut it down to the highest impact areas with additional online content. I generally toss it in the car or on the table so that others in the family pick it up and read it too. 

Sending it via email means it will get lost in the shuffle. Also, email won't be as image rich, which tends to get my attention. It's the difference between a cookbook with pictures and one without. The pictures one is going to be read/enjoyed more. Actually, an email that reminds me to go to a CMU magazine app on a tablet would be great for my family. If you added in indexing features that would be great. Just make it useful to my whole family. 

CMU is so inspiring to me, but it's not easy to make CMU a family affair in a meaningful (academic) way. Our eldest is applying to colleges for CS and CMU isn't even on his list. Our other son loves EE, but I can't figure out any way to leverage CMU to fuel his passion. It seems like such a loss.
  9. I haven't received the magazine and hence, not able to provide information about the magazine.
  10. I have switched careers and am now a psychotherapist. I am no longer as interested in topics of CS.
  11. Paper delivery is not my preferred medium for information. I use blogs / RSS feeds for topics of regular interest and facebook for social discovery, and generally don't keep paper around long enough for it to be available when I might want to read something.
  12. The Link is in general very well done.
  13. Do a better job of getting national attention. Every time I see some software or robotics breakthrough, it's from Google or MIT. Never CMU.
  14. i enjoy reading and learning about research at SCS
  15. The Link is overall a very nice magazine. Keep up the good work!
  16. The tone of CMU publications sometimes comes across as "insecure". CMU is a really strong institution: comparisons to other research institutions are fine but usually not necessary, especially when there is an attempt to one-up other institutions' contributions. CMU's work can stand on its own. To imply otherwise is a distracting disservice.
  17. Unfortunately, I find myself so busy with other tasks/works/activities that I don't take the time to read The Link. I am interested in it, but I just never seem to be able to find the time to read it.
  18. SCS didn't exist when I was on campus in the late 1950's. I like to keep in touch with CMU just to be aware of what is happening. I was an art/design major graduating in 1959. My son was an EE/Math major, graduating in 1985. I am a board of trustees member.
  19. Would like to see events in So. Cal. area - Hold more career events w/significant companies
  20. I haven't been following the Link very much until I was in one of the recent articles on (redacted). Looks like a good tool to keep in touch with the community.
  21. Every time I am addressed as "Mrs. [Husband's_Last_Name], I am offended. We both graduated from CMU, but only I was SCS. This practice is out of date.
  22. When I was at CMU, the Link magazine covered cliche stories, basically just following whatever/whoever was deemed hot/interesting, usually a select few individuals over and over. Whereas most SCS researchers were overlooked. For this reason today, as an alumn, I don't trust the magazine to be representative of SCS. Need to work harder to identify the ones that make SCS truely great.
  23. You should let respondents know (or full d-list if blind completes) who wins drawing
  24. I enjoy Link more than Stanford Engineering Magazine. It is too stuffy & dry. Link does better at storytelling and building a connection, plus has CS humor.
  25. What's The Link? Never heard of it.
  26. The correspondences are definitely a huge value-add. I'd love to see more content on trends that see research impact industry/start-ups. As an RI alum with a start-up and over a dozen RI alums working with us, some of these trends (like Google robotics work, Uber moved into Pittsburgh) are top of mind. Keep up the great work!
  27. SCS homepage, question 8: Links to faculty/staff/student homepages in old news articles are sometimes broken question 14: Thankfully I have access to PDFs of archives issues
  28. How can WE help make use of better PR? How can CMU's contributions be made more well known? How do places like Stanford and MIT get so many references in popular media and movies?
  29. I generally skim the magazine because I don't have time to sit and read it end-to-end.
  30. SCS was created after I graduated in 1982 with BS. I am not really familiar with the scope of activities and research topics undertaken by SCS. Constant overviews of the major and minor research groups are important. Also: What classes are being taught now? I am also interested in interdisciplinary efforts by SCS. Thank you for reaching out.
  31. I keep the Link around because I do want to read it and find out more about SCS, but I just never find time to read it. I wish it had less content so I can just read the most important things and not spare too much time to go through the magazine.
  32. I appreciate the connection. I am not terribly likely to give to the school considering my life circumstances. But I understand that fundraising is part of what the school has to do.
  33. We are both CMU undergrad alums but neither are SCS alums. We made a donation which is why we are on your list! :)
  34. I don't like the covers of the magazine with the large head shot.
  35. I am more likely to read about SCS and CMU in hardcopy documents than online.
  36. I enjoy each issue of the magazine. I get ideas from each one, or I follow up an article or link. I display the Christmas/holiday card each year. Thanks!
  37. I went to school for one year in the MSE program so I feel little connection to the school at large. I did my work and then I left. As such, I don't care to hear what's going on. I don't even work in software engineering any more so research advances are irrelevant to me. I'd like to be able to unsubscribe to "The Link." I also am offended by requests for money as I got ZERO financial aid. You've gotten all of the money you'll ever get from me, so please stop asking!!!!
  38. I appreciate engagement from CMU, however, I don't feel a strong connection with the SCS. As a MHCI grad, I never really felt like the HCI program was very much part of the SCS. It's almost like CMU put HCI with the SCS because they didn't know where else to put it. Additionally, as stated before, I don't believe that I receive The Link magazine so I really can't answer questions related to the magazine.

For More Information: 

Jason Togyer | 412-268-8721 |