In the Christmas and New Year spirit we thought we would have a look at developments across the UKClimbing, UKHillwalking and Rockfax over the last 12 months, and publish some figures from our readership survey carried out in May and June.
The traffic on UKC has once again reached a new high with us crossing the million visits/month figure back in March (UKC News item), a figure which has been consolidated in several months since. This means that between 20,000 and 25,000 different people visit the site each day. We are really pleased that the independent traffic site SimilarWeb has consistently shown us as the top climbing and mountaineering web site in the world for the last two years, and by a pretty decent margin.
The editorial side of things has seen a few changes with long-standing editor Jack Geldard moving on to a new venture as a (currently trainee) mountain guide and beer brewer (yes, that is correct) in July - UKC News item. This has seen Natalie Berry step into the role as the main news and article editor on the site, a job she has done wonderfully well with some excellent and varied articles in amongst the day-to-day news. The brilliant Pushing Boundaries - Women's Climbing in Iran and the Helen Mort digital feature are examples of articles that we would probably never have considered in the past, and Natalie's interview with Paul Pritchard makes exceptional reading.
Another great development this year was not only entering a film at the Kendal Film Festival once again, but Nick Brown's Run Forever actually won the Judge's Special Prize! This just shows the diversity that the different staff members bring to the site with their various skill sets. If you'd said two years ago that we'd win a prize at KMF I'd have laughed, but Nick Brown is an excellent and talented filmmaker and when you combine that with a great story and a platform to support it, then it shows what we can do - watch the whole film here.
Of course the site is much more than the editorial you see and we wouldn't be able to even exist if it wasn't for the amazing financial support given to us by the advertisers. This year has been another record year for us with plenty of new brands and companies on board and two successful trade show visits - ISPO February reports, OutDoor July reports. The main man behind all this is Rob Greenwood, ably-assisted for much of the time by Nick Brown. On that front we are taking on a second advertising manager, Theo Moore, who will be starting in January 2017 and Nick Brown will move onto a more editorial and digital media role.
Gear reviews remain an important part of our content. In the spring UKHillwalking's editor Dan Bailey took on the additional role of gear editor across both UKH and UKC. Over 2016 the number of gear reviews is up on 2015, and next year we're planning more still. One of the highlights has been the introduction of 'Best in Test', 'Highly Recommended' and 'Good Value' awards for our Group Test reports.
- March - Winter Mitts
- May - Rock Shoes for All-day Comfort
- July - Softshell Trousers
- August - All-round Harnesses
- October - Sport Quickdraws
- December - 35-45 Litre Packs
- December - Mid-range Sport Ropes
Those technical guys have also been hard at work. One of the main jobs has been a complete redesign of the advertising management site. Paul Phillips assures me that there are 11,000 lines of new code on this - it took him a while to count them all! There have been more additions to the logbooks this year, an updated UK Winter Conditions page, a new Alpine Conditions page and better guidebook overview and guidebook info pages. We also added series linking on news, articles and gear posts (example here) and made many additions to the digital features including a home page and more features available to the authors like topos. This is just the highlights and all this was brought to you by Paul working in conjunction with Martin McKenna.
Varied and quality content has been key to this success during the last 12 months with traffic increasing around 8% over the year. Highlights include interviews with fell runner Nicky Spinks on her Double Bob Graham Round and the wardens of England's most remote hostel. We've spoken to Mountain Leaders about the attractions of the job, and found out what it's like to be a search dog handler. By way of both inspiration and information, destination pieces have had a strong showing, ranging from one-off articles like 12 Must-do Grade I Winter Routes to a continuing series of MiniGuides by mountain writer Dan Aspel, such as The Scafells.
2016 has seen a big increase in commissioned content, with regular articles from talented outdoor writers and hillwalking pros. Skills pieces this year spanned a broad range of topics, including collaborations with Mountain Training and Ordnance Survey. Hits have incuded Masa Sakano's 25 Tips for Safer Scrambling Without Ropes, Alex Roddie on Winter Backpacking and mountain first aid specialist Helen Howe on the often overlooked risk of lymes disease (look away if you're squeamish).
It has been a record year for Rockfax with more books sold in 2016 than any previous year. We now have 27 guidebooks in print, 18 of which are less than 6 years old. A lot of this year's success has been down to the extremely popular Chamonix book which we published in October (after some delay over the Summer it should be acknowledged). The main author Charlie Boscoe has done an amazing job on this - you can hear him chatting about it in this video. Other books published were a new edition of the Mallorca Rockfax and the new book to South Wales Sport Climbs published in November. Mark Glaister made a big contribution to these latter two.
This has also been the first full year of the Rockfax App. We have now added the majority of our back catalogue of books and also created a few App-only guides including Chris Craggs' full guide to Kalymnos and a Catalunya guide. Initial usage and sales have been excellent with nearly 20,000 crag packages being downloaded since launch. Main App Developer Stephen Horne has continued to improve the app throughout the year with updates going through versions 1.0 to 1.4. We are very close to releasing a major upgrade bumping it up to version 2.0 which will bring full integration with UKC Logbooks and geo-located offline maps (this means that you will be able to see yourself as a blue dot on the maps in the app, even if you don't have a good 4G signal) amongst many other smaller changes. Work has continued on the Android version but we must confess that unanticipated difficulties have added a delay and this isn't likely to be out as soon as we had hoped. From early next year we will have two developers working on it though, so hopefully we will be able to make some progress soon.
New books for 2017 include a big new edition of Chris Craggs' Lofoten Rockfax which sold out earlier in 2016, a full guidebook to Southern Sandstone, a new guidebook to the Finale area of Italy and a new edition of the Côte d'Azur France guide.
Each year UKC/UKH/Rockfax seems to go in new directions and achieve new highs in terms of traffic and publishing which is testimony to the diverse skills of the staff. Without you readers though, we would have nothing, so many thanks to everyone for your presence and continued input on the forums, logbooks and photo galleries making the site a fantastic resource and community for climbers in the UK and abroad.
I'll leave you with some facts and figures from the 2016 Readership Survey. In the meantime have a great festive season and let's hope for a successful 2017.
Alan James, UKClimbing Limited Director
During May and June this year we carried out an extensive Readership Survey across both UKClimbing and UKHillwalking. The response was amazing, not least due to the excellent set of prizes offered by our generous sponsors.
In total we received over 4,300 completed replies, which is equivalent to over 5% of our registered user database. Considering that there were more than 50 questions, this represents an amazing effort by our readers and we are very grateful to you all.
Who are UKC Readers?
- You are mostly male (87%) and live in the UK (74%)
- You are employed or self-employed (80%) and earn more than £20,000 (67%)
Where do you live and where do you travel?
We were able to assess where the UK-based UKC Readers live and the results show a wide spread across the entire country from Cornwall to Caithness.
We also asked where you travel to for climbing, mountaineering and hillwalking. The result was an impressive list of destinations (in fact the full list was quite a bit longer!)
How often do you climb and what about other activities?
UKC readers seem to be just as active as ever with more than half climbing once a week or more outside during the season and most also being wall regulars during the winter.
We extended the range of activities you can choose from in this year's survey and UKC/UKH readers didn't disappoint. Nice to see traditional climbing still the top spot, but horse riding, golf and BMX are also popular among a small number of our readers!
What do UKC Readers think of UKC?
We'll let the figures do the talking here.
And finally, a contentious question for forum debate about what features you want added/removed from the forums. As ever it seems the status quo is the winner!
What do we do with the data
The different sections of the survey have different uses for us. The UKC section is extremely useful for us to ensure that the site is giving you the content you want, in the format you want. The Personal and Climbing sections help us build an accurate demographic of our readers - numbers only, no names or email addresses were collected. This is extremely useful for us to market the website to advertisers. The Gear section helps us illustrate to our existing advertisers how effective advertising on UKC is. The Media section shows us how well we are doing compared to some rival sites amongst other things.
Overall the 2016 Readership Survey has been a great success and I would like thank everyone who took the time to fill it in, also thanks to the prizes sponsors: DMM, La Sportiva, Leki, Rab, Alpkit, Boreal, Climbskin, Deuter, Edelweiss, Friction Labs, Grivel, Joe Browns, Lowe Alpine, Montane, Moon, Organic, Overboard, Primus, Scarpa, The Climbers' Shop, Therm-a-Rest and Vertebrate Publishing