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IDA members prefer print, survey concludes


The majority of Indiana Dental Association members prefer print over digital communications, results from a recent survey conducted by the IDA Council on Communications show.

More than 900 members responded to the Council’s 15-question survey, representing over 31 percent of the IDA membership. The survey came at the direction of a resolution from the 2011 House of Delegates, which tasked the Council to determine whether members are receptive to transitioning IDA print publications to an online format.

“We believe we received wise direction from the House to do a survey, because some of the results are surprising,” said Dr. Lorraine Celis, chair of the Council on Communications.

The findings, just released by the Council on Communications, show that a large majority of respondents said their primary source for all news is television. Twenty-four percent opted for newspapers or magazines. When asked how they prefer to receive IDA-specific news, Indiana members said they are more likely to read it in print.

More than half of the respondents said they would be less likely to read either the Indiana Dentist newsletter or Journal Indiana Dental Association online. 

The Council also asked in the survey whether members have utilized the new IDA website for accessing IDA news. Only 53 percent of members have visited the website, with the majority of them visiting 1-5 times. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they were unaware of the new website The Association’s revamped online presence launched in June 2011.

“We have to keep working hard to promote the capabilities of the new website,” Dr. Celis said, “and we have to continue to make the website offer added value to IDA membership so more members will utilize it.”

The Council also chose to include survey questions to address growing financial concerns about producing printed member publications. Over the last several years, the Council reported a rise in printing and postage costs, as well as a decline in advertising revenues.

According to the survey results, members are not willing to pay more to help offset the increasing costs. More than 69 perent of respondents said they do not want to pay any additional fees to receive publications in print.

IUSD student survey results show generational shift in communication preferences

The Council on Communications distributed a separate survey to all students at the Indiana University School of Dentistry. Seventy-nine students (nearly 20 percent) responded to the survey.

Unlike their future colleagues, the students prefer online newsletters or websites over television or printed periodicals as their primary source for news.

When asked if they would opt for a free digital version of a dental textbook over a costly print version, 87 percent chose digital. In a related question, 43 percent of students said they would be more likely to read an online version of scientific journals than a printed version (21.5%). Thirty-five percent had no preference.

Also in contrast to IDA members, 92 percent of students said the new website contains information helpful to them as a dentist; only 78 percent of members concur.

Students’ opinions aligned with IDA members on other preferences, however, as neither group is willing to pay an extra fee to offset increasing costs of producing print publications. Both groups also said they only read articles that appeal to their individual interests.

“We know that communications in every area of life are in transition,” said Dr. Celis, “and young dentists are going to have different preferences than dentists at the end of their careers. Our job is to make sure the IDA is able to communicate effectively with all groups, but also to be efficient with our finances as well.”

Council on Communications prepares resolution for 2012 IDA House of Delegates

The IDA House resolution also tasked the Council with researching the communication approaches of other state dental associations, and then to make a recommendation for how to move forward with transitioning publications from a print to digital format. The Council heard from more than 20 state dental associations, and found that Indiana has more modernized communications program than most other states.

“We know our active members prefer print, and we want to maintain print communications for them,” said Dr. Celis, “but the Council unanimously agreed that we have to address the financial challenges of print production.”

Dr. Celis presented the Council’s recommendation to the IDA Board of Trustees Jan. 14, as follows:

  • Continue production of the Journal Indiana Dental Association as a print publication for all members. In addition, publish the Journal online for those who prefer it electronically.
  • Discontinue the Indiana Dentist newsletter, effective January 2013, but continue to produce the same volume of content exclusively for placement on the website.
  • Change the monthly IDA Update e-newsletter to a bi-weekly e-newsletter, helping members to stay aware of IDA news in a timely manner.

“If any member feels we are going in the wrong direction with this recommendation, I would ask that they please get in touch with us,” Dr. Celis said. “There is plenty of time before this year’s House to refine our recommendation.”

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Will Sears, Director of Communications

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