In our six years as H2Open Magazine, and now as Outdoor Swimmer, we’ve always been guided by the principle that we’re a publication for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We publish stories and articles that interest and inspire us and, for the most part, assume that you, our readers, are interested and inspired by the same things.
However, we also believe it’s important to check our assumptions from time to time, so between December 2016 and January 2017 we ran a survey asking what you want to see in the magazine. The response was amazing as more than 500 of you took the time to complete the survey and leave detailed written feedback.
We started by asking what type of outdoor swimming did you want to read about, on a scale of 1 to 5.
Wild swimming was the clear leader here. In fact, 84% of you ranked it as 4 or 5. If that’s you, then check out our new ‘My Favourite Wild Swimming Spot’ column, where reader Ed Richards tells us about his favourite wild swimming spot in Dorset. Once you’ve read that, please email us with your favourite spot. Also, take a look at our articles on swimming the River Wye and exploring the Outer Hebrides.
Second was mass participation events and races (up to 10km), followed by long distance swimming (eg the English Channel) and winter swimming. Fifth was ultra-endurance swimming, followed by multi-discipline sports.
While news about elites came in last, 30% of you still ranked it as 4 or 5, so although we’ve decided to drop the dedicated section we had for it in
H2Open, we will still report on these races in the general news section.
We then asked a more detailed question about the type of articles you would like to read.
In this case, general news about outdoor swimming scored highest, followed by training and technique advice, practical guides to wild swimming locations and features about inspiring, regular swimmers. However, the difference between the most and least desired type of article is actually very small – from just under 3.5 on average to just over 4.5. Even for the lowest rated (interviews with elite, professional swimmers), 49% of you ticked 4 or 5.
Regarding articles about training, we asked a subsidiary question: should those articles include plans for specific distances, such as a mile or 5km? Exactly 90% of you said yes, so check out our May issue for 1 mile, 5k and 10k training plans.
The written comments you provided are fascinating. A few of you asked for more of the same, which is great as we’ll now be publishing monthly. Some of the suggestions are contradictory. For example, some of you would like more content about swims outside of the UK while others want less. We’d love to keep all of you happy all of the time, but clearly we can’t. However, increasing our publication frequency gives us scope for a wider range of content.
The strongest theme to emerge is that you want articles aimed at people who “complete rather than compete”. Outdoor swimming is about the experience, the journey and the joy of being in the water. You are not triathletes whose primary goal is to get out of the water and on your bikes as quickly as possible. Instead, you want to savour the swimming experience.
That’s not to say you don’t want to swim faster – you’ve told us you want training advice on how to get quicker – it’s just that speed is not your primary goal. If you get quicker, that’s great. If not, it doesn’t really matter as long as you enjoy the swimming.
Thanks again to those of you who completed our survey. We really value our communication with readers. If you missed the survey and want to suggest something, please get in contact. And remember, we always enjoy seeing (and sometimes publishing) your swimming pictures or send us your swimming story and we might print that.
Email Simon at: firstname.lastname@example.org