TidBITS 2019 Reader Survey Results

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2019/09/06/tidbits-2019-reader-survey-results/

We’ve graphed and averaged and pondered the results of our recent reader survey, so read on to learn more about who reads TidBITS, what they think of our work, and much more, including the two topics we’ll be writing a lot less about in the future. And look, no featured image!

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Interesting results. I can’t remember exactly my responses but something struck me when reading about the survey results. The TidBits web site was listed as a major method of reading the TidBits articles. I never go directly to the website but in effect use it to access the content: I use a RSS reader (igHome) as my Safari home page. So I see five articles listed and it is a convenient way to select the articles I am interested in. This refreshes every 10 minutes so I should see everything you publish. But when I get the email listing I find articles there that I never saw via the RSS feed - sometimes articles I wish I had seen earlier. I’m not sure why this happens and I gather that RSS feeds are not so popular any more. I’m gland TidBits still supports them.


Thank you for offering the survey and for your analysis - which I am still digesting lol. I visit the website daily and the Tidbits Talk frequently. I am a long term fan of TidBITS and find it the simplest way to get breaking info and excellent resources on what is happening in Apple’s ever evolving (many times of late frustrating) activities. I especially value the ability to be aware of what programs have updates as some of my most used apps are not from the App Store. Please keep up the excellent work. Your openness to new ideas and the support of input that comes from your readers really helps me!

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Huh! That shouldn’t happen, of course—the RSS feed is all programmatic—so let me know if you can identify an article that never appeared in RSS so I can try to track it down.

Thanks so much for the kind words, which echoed many of the comments in the survey itself!

I’m also a little surprised that Home Automation was so low on the list but I guess that means the rest of the TidBITS readership is as unimpressed by HomeKit as I am. Personally, I use Indigo and am really happy with its power and flexibility. The downside is that it has an interface only a programmer could love. I think it would be impossible for a normal person to use it. But HomeKit swings too far in the other direction.

And as far as Entertainment, look at your demographic. This isn’t the demographic any network or streaming service is aiming for. I’m not surprised your readers are left cold by what’s happening with Apple TV+ and by Apple Arcade.

In case the above comes across harshly, I want to be clear that I am really happy with TidBITS and am looking forward to continuing to be a supporter for years to come.

Snap on Automation. Hmm.

I wonder if you map the level of engaged reader to the areas of interest, whether there’s any buried trends in there. It might shift or inflect your take if a deeper participant was keener on certain areas. Just pondering…

Disappointed I have to say on the podcast and video front. I know text has high value per effort expended in production but the young folk (and this reader) like video and listening while doing other things, might shift the demographic perception if that was a concern.

And as far as Entertainment, look at your demographic. This isn’t the demographic any network or streaming service is aiming for. I’m not surprised your readers are left cold by what’s happening with Apple TV+ and by Apple Arcade.

Netflix achieved its massive global scale because it has produced content for every demographic and psychographic group and has made it clear they will continue to do so. If they weren’t concerned about the 50+ demographic, they wouldn’t have spent $80 million for the exclusive rights to stream Friends in 2019. And they wouldn’t be in negotiations to try to get them to extend the deal to share it with the soon to be released Disney streaming service that recently acquired Warner/Hulu. Netflix has a ton of content aimed at adults 45+.

Apple has made it very clear that they will also producing content for all ages. They’ll be starting with general content. I think that once the service is released, readers might be more interested in it. There have been articles and discussions here about MoviePass, Sinema, Netflix (an article in TidBITS about the just released DVD service convinced me I should subscribe), Tivo, Hulu, YouTube TV, etc.

I’m not sure the survey answers could tease out such subtlety, but I will note that some of the non-HomeKit home automation stuff we’ve talked about such the Wyze cameras and sensors, and the Wireless Sensor Tags I use, has garnered more engagement in the comments.

Perhaps we need to focus more on home automation articles that solve more common problems than we have been doing apart from the pieces I mentioned above.

As Marilyn suggests below, I’m not sure it’s quite as simple as our demographic not being targeted. One common discussion when we have dinner with both sets of our parents is what everyone’s found to watch on Netflix recently. (Personal recommendations trump weak algorithmic suggestions any day!)

However, as much as people in this demographic may be interested in watching the content, I think it’s safe to say that we’re not interested in reading about it. I know almost no one my age who pays attention to entertainment industry goings-on. We’ve felt the need to cover some of them because it was Apple, and because Netflix is such a cultural driver that came out of the Internet, but it seems that readers aren’t that interested in the meta discussions.

I think what it comes down is that we’d need to find a way to make such a project sufficiently different from everything else out there and fun for us to produce. The low level of interest says to me that people wouldn’t just flock to anything we did purely because we were doing it.


For some of us, it is that we have little to automate. For example, I live in an apartment building withe the entrance on an interior hallway and no street facing windows. So using home automation for home security needs are pretty much a non-starter for me. I also live in a temperate climate, don’t have air conditioning, and haven’t needed to use my heating system in sevral years. When the apartment gets too hot, I either leave or use floor fans.

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A while ago, I set up two WeMo outlets so we could turn the lights above our bed on and off with Siri. It felt a little forced, until I did something while testing iOS 13 that messed everything up in the Home app, requiring me to set it up again from scratch. I didn’t get around to that for a few days, though, and having to go back to controlling the lights manually (their switches are in awkward positions) proved to be quite annoying.

My point in sharing this is that security cameras and thermostats are perhaps lousy things to think about when it comes to home automation. Lights and outlets are much easier to start with and more fun.

I am also surprised about HomeKit… but on reflection, less so. The reason is that the set-up so quickly becomes highly specific. I did a fairly comprehensive remodel so that all my lights and blinds are connected to Lutron Casseta, and I very much imagined I would be controlling things by voice. In fact, I almost never do this. What I have found to be the primary use-case is actually timers, especially related to sunset, and in particular geolocation. So, I have a small hallway, and have set the light to come on, at sunset, when I approach home. I have a few more like this: certain blinds raise when I leave in the morning, and not before: and I cannot imagine now living in a home without blinds controlled in this way because it’s so obviously better. Christmas tree lights is another actually: it’s so micro but not having to reach around and get covered in pine needles every evening, and have the lights on a schedule, and controllable, is so worth a HomeKit plug I wouldn’t know where to begin.

So, what to conclude? Well your survey is its own conclusion, but I would guess that the “install” part is as interesting to many people as your choice of washer and dryer. There are two things that might be interesting. First, is new equipment, and maybe not gadgets, but systems? The Caseta system recently increased the number of devices, and now goes head-to-head with professional systems. Second, is use cases, and ways in which HomeKit can support those use cases?

Or not!

Personally, I think you guys are doing a hella great job and I’m very happy with TidBITS just the way it is. I realize that’s somewhat of a duh response because obviously you guys are trying to improve things so you want feedback on what to improve, change, etc. I can’t help it, I think TidBITS is just fine. I’m very grateful for the work you guys put into it every week. The fact that we can also come here to ask about other issues or discuss topics raised by the articles just makes it even better IMHO.

Re: automation, I have little interest in home automation myself. The things I do at home usually are of so little complexity (lights, heating), that going to automation and getting involved with software, using/training Siri, applying updates, keeping things secure, etc. to me adds a level of complexity that I simply cannot offset by any foreseen convenience benefit. Plus, I kind of like the idea of not controlling everything from one device or through one protocol. Just smells to me a bit like too many eggs in one basket. I’m fine with analog switches for lights. I could get a timer, but so far I haven’t even felt the need for that. My furnace is programable but I don’t use that either. The Bay Area climate is so moderate, it’s usually just set and forget for me. :wink:


Some might say we should be trying to attract younger readers, but from watching our son Tristan and his friends, it seems unlikely that we’d be able to succeed at that.

Perfect segue if I ever saw one - recruit Tristan into the family business and let him target younger generation.

Here’s a suggestion: Have “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons (or analogous text links if that wouldn’t work) in the email newsletter for each article. Then you could get more granular feedback on what people like. Clicking the link would take you to the Discussion for that article as well as register the vote. For instance, I really enjoyed the very next article, “Less… Is More? Apple’s Inconsistent Ellipsis Icons Inspire User Confusion,” and would like to see…erm…more interface articles, as I’m something of an interface nerd.

P.S. Or maybe just “thumbs up.” I wouldn’t bother to hit “thumbs down” the vast majority of the time; I just scroll past articles that don’t interest me.

Interesting to witness this in another site, quite a fractious handover (at least on their already difficult forum) to a son in Luminous Landscape, a very different site and community, but similar in the blend of passionate amateur to professional practitioners focussed on photography.

What has been interesting is the focus shift the younger team bring, what was good and valued before, leaning toward the technical, is probably leaning more to the aesthetic and the individual practitioner. Not that both aren’t present either side of the transition just a shift in emphasis.

Snap, just to say it.

I do welcome articles on automation, I have no HomeKit hub, my interest is more in the Automator/Hazel/Keyboard Maestro/Applescript end of things.

Seems to me that Tidbits’ prime demographic, weighted in the 50-70 age group, explains most of the survey results. This “older” demographic–people like myself–have a more traditional view of how things should work, and how to handle problems (as Adam points out). We like to use our primary computers for many functions and just want them to function as expected. We have less tolerance for time-wasting nonsense, and are more concerned with privacy and security. We are less likely to adopt new technologies unless we think the benefits outweigh the hassles. Those last few items might explain the lack of interest in “home automation,” which is full of hassles and security issues.

Older, wiser, more weary, and more cynical means that I, for one, am not endlessly intrigued by every little thing that Apple does. I can see past the marketing and hype; just give me something that works and doesn’t make me suffer for it! So maybe it’s a generational thing…

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Funny you should mention that. I belong to the younger part of that age bracket yet often I feel as if I’m the one looking for more ‘conservative’ methods or tools. I’m heavily invested in desktop and work, iOS to me is not a huge concern. I also find that often I’m more critical of Apple’s latest changes than what I perceive as the median around here. I always figured it’s because I might be an older member. Obviously that’s not right. :smiley:

As the author of “Take Control of Apple Home Automation,” I’m a little disappointed in the lack of home automation interest, but not surprised. Home automation has a “chicken and egg” sort of problem. You won’t understand how great it is until you use it (or have it taken away, in Adam’s case), but to use it you have to make an initial investment. It’s a leap of faith.

I think the main friction point is cost. We get excellent responses to our WyzeCam articles, and whenever the home automation book goes on sale, it flies off the virtual shelves. But of course HomeKit gear is more expensive than non-HomeKit gear. So maybe the takeaway is to do an occasional home automation article when we find something good and cheap, which is a rare combination.

I was more disappointed by the lack of interest in the Terminal! Oh well.


Hehe. :smiley:

I have to admit, I can’t help you with automation, but when it comes to Terminal I promise you’ll have my full attention. :wink: