‘Murder, She Read!’ Taking A Deep Dive Into Mystery With Nielsen

Image - iStockphoto: KrivosheevV
Image – iStockphoto: KrivosheevV

Do We Have A Clue What’s Happening In Mystery/Crime Reading?

Their safe and secure lives rocked by a shocking revelation!
Their routines turned upside down!
Their world wracked by fear of the unknown now stalking them all!

No, not the characters in a Dorothy Sayers mystery.

I’m talking about the publishers.

As I wrote in my executive summary of Murder, She Read…Understanding The Mystery/Crime Buyer — a special “deep dive” study made by Nielsen Market Research of American Mystery/Crime readers — the publishing industry today can seem as terrorized by the twists and turns of the digital dynamic as the genre’s’ typical sweet, small town menaced by a dark threat. (On Nielsen’s UK site, the same report is here.)

I was as curious as the folks at Nielsen were about what would come up when the research team began its own special brand of sleuthing. Not only is Mystery/Crime one of the most visible fiction genres in the US, of course, but it’s thought by many to surpass even romance for popularity in the UK. And yet — as would be borne out by Nielsen’s findings — it’s not a genre that seems, so far, to be as attractive to younger readers as to older ones.

By the way, let’s be sure we’re on the same page of that page-turner: When we say “Mystery/Crime” for purposes of Nielsen’s study, this is the working definition we used:

Mystery fiction is a genre of fiction typically focused on the investigation of a crime. Mystery fiction is often used as a synonym for detective fiction or crime fiction — in other words, a novel or short story in which a detective (either professional or amateur) investigates and solves a crime mystery.

Nielsen went to work. My good colleagues Jo Henry and Carl Kulo and I worked out an extensive line of questioning. Poirot would be proud of us. We used 75 questions to uncover a detective’s notebook of data in terms of who is buying and reading Mystery/Crime in the States today. Our goal was to be sure that the results would generate actionable insights for publishers, who face a mounting challenge from the electronic media, of course, not just from the allures of other genres in the books world.

  • We looked at the demographics of the genre: exactly who is reading this work?
  • We looked at the reading patterns of those consumers.
  • We studied how readers acquire their books — this proved to be one of the most fruitful parts of the inquiry.
  • We asked for readers’ preferred authors in the field, for their favorite types of mystery…what turns them on, basically, to a type of entertainment that almost routinely involves human death? (I mean, when you stop to think about it…you don’t want to stop to think about it, right?)
  • We also looked to update our understanding of the field: how is Mystery/Crime “going social”? — are its readers engaged with each other and with their authors as avidly as other genre readerships are? How is e-reading going down with Col. Mustard with a Twitter handle in the drawing room?
  • What’s more, we wanted to find out what was going on in Mystery/Crime in terms of serials, subscription services, and self-publishing.
  • And — here comes the “d” word: discoverability. We wanted to know how new authors and titles are discovered in the Mystery/Crime world. Howdunnit, if you will?

I know, if curiosity killed the cat, it’s a damned good thing we’re not feline. We had a lot of questions.

Sample Demographics from Nielsen's "Murder, She Read...Understanding  The Mystery/Crime Buyer.
Sample Demographics from Nielsen’s “Understanding the Mystery/Crime Reader.”

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There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether: Murder, She Read!’ Taking A Deep Dive Into Mystery With Nielsen

Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com



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