2019 audience survey The War Horse

Informative. Honest. Fearless. The War Horse’s Audience Survey Results

At The War Horse, we value what you have to say. Since our founding on Kickstarter in 2016, we’ve built a community that’s been vital to our success, making every aspect of our newsroom operations possible—research and fundraising, fact-checking and copy editing, media insurance and web hosting, and so much more.

Earlier this year, we asked our readers to help us understand how we are meeting their needs and how we can improve in the future. In a survey, more than 250 War Horse readers shared valuable insights about our community that will be used to inform our strategy and the topics our newsroom will explore in the future. We wanted to share the results.

Overall, reader satisfaction exceeded 91%. Of those who participated, nearly 60% feel they’d lose an irreplaceable news source if The War Horse ceased to exist tomorrow. Some comments about our content included: 

  • “Unbiased, personal and truthful.”
  • “Long form journalism on veteran topics that [goes] beyond the surface treatments from major news sources.”
  • “There is significant nuance to The War Horse.”

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We also learned that we need to better explain to readers our nonprofit business model and our programs, as well as how we utilize corporate, in-kind, and philanthropic support. Many were unsure of how our newsroom is funded or how editorial decisions are made. Readers also expressed a desire to become involved with exclusive events and opportunities with The War Horse, and for our team to expand our newsletter and publish more investigative features.

News habits and media literacy. We learned that more than 43% of respondents do not subscribe to any other military newsletter. One reason, according to participants, is that our writers explore “the feelings and faults of humanity” and provide “an unapologetic view” of military service, war, and its impact. “The War Horse publishes fearless journalism on topics often ignored or neglected by other newsrooms,” wrote one respondent.

Trust in news media. Less than 7% of our participants reported a “great deal” of trust in mainstream media, and 38% said they have “not very much” or “none at all.” Readers felt drastically different about The War Horse:

  • All 250+ survey participants reported that they trust The War Horse.
  • More than 98% of readers find our newsletters interesting and useful.

Through the survey, we were reminded that we have an incredibly generous audience: More than 80% of participants reported donating to nonprofit organizations within the last year, and nearly all participants reported knowing that The War Horse is a nonprofit newsroom. Our commitment is to accuracy and integrity in all our reporting. Additionally, we require all donors to agree to our Editorial Independence and Integrity in Reporting Policy, and we cede no right of review or influence over editorial content to our funders.

Our survey also reinforced our team’s commitment to improve inclusion and diversity across our community, as people of color represented 10.05% of survey participants, and of the 215 people who provided their gender, 39% identified as female. We must do better, and our team looks forward to collaborating with our readers and supporters to become a nonprofit newsroom renowned for inspiring and celebrating people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and talents.

Our community also makes our War Horse Fellows program possible. In October, we will host our fourth event, the Writing Seminar for Medics and Corpsmen at Boulder Crest Retreat, which will feature guest speakers whose experiences range from combat in Afghanistan to writing for The Washington Post. Our 2019 War Horse fellows share a common bond as first responders in combat but possess unique backgrounds as refugees, survivors of trauma, educators, and much more. 

“I’ve met the vets who have come to War Horse Writing Seminars, and it’s fair to say that their lives—some of which have been overturned and swallowed up by traumatic war-related injuries—are altered positively forever by the experience,” said Tom Jennings, an award-winning producer for Frontline and advisor to The War Horse. “More than giving them the skills to take on the serious business of writing, The War Horse is teaching them how to make sense of their world while seeing the world beyond them. And on top of it all their team is providing what’s become a renowned distribution portal that is considered not just important to the vets, but vital by renowned journalists and military officials.”

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To date, we’ve published more than 150 reflections from War Horse fellows, veterans, and civilians. We’ve also published award-winning investigations and multimedia features with industry-leading partners. This year, we’ve focused on business infrastructure and governance—we’re welcoming founding board members and continue to nurture relationships with leading foundations, corporations, and philanthropists.

Our community is growing and so has its support. We recognize that having your trust is a great responsibility. Not only do we expect to hold ourselves accountable to our values of integrity and respect, but we encourage our community to do the same. Thank you to everyone who took the time to take our survey and for lauding our efforts and transparency. We appreciate your time and continued support.

Semper Fidelis,

The War Horse Team


The War Horse Staff

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