Subscriber survey – feedback

Recently we asked all our subscribers to take part in an online survey, partly so that we could learn more about them and partly so that they had the opportunity to give us some feedback. Here, Cranked founder and editor Seb responds to some of the comments and queries:

“More feature articles each issue even though they’d have to be shorter.”

One of the things that makes Cranked different is that we don’t allocate space, or set word counts, in the way that other mags do. We ask writers to write what they think an article warrants, then we read that and look at the images and make a decision on how much space the feature warrants. The only way of running more features would be to make arbitrary decisions about cutting great images and running fewer words per feature. We don’t want to do that. What we would like to do, if circumstances ever allow, is to add more pages (and more features with the extra pages). But we’re not there yet…

“Release it more often than quarterly. But then, if you did then the quality of the mag would probably suffer. Sod it, just ignore all the feedback and keep doing what you’re doing. The mag is great as it is!”

This was a popular request, but the question has already been answered here. We come to each issue fresh; it’s not a production line. We’re genuinely interested in the stories our contributors bring to us and we have the time to make the best of them. Six issues a year would be nice, but we don’t have the resources. At the moment…

“Do a feature on mtb cycling clubs, can be either full on organised clubs, or just a bunch of mates who meet up on a Tuesday, ride bikes, have a pint, take the piss, then go home and do grown up shit.”

The ‘cover what ordinary riders do’ request is one that keeps coming up. We do it occasionally, if the story is strong enough. And there’s the rub – to earn its space in Cranked a feature has to appeal to more than the half dozen (or however many) people in the story. There’s nothing to stop clubs or riders contacting us and inviting us over to run a feature, but we’ll be looking for a compelling angle that broadens the story’s appeal.

“Stickers in subscriber copies at least once a year because I need more.”

It’s on our radar.

“More downhill and enduro racing features.”

“More XC.”

I think these two comments (from different subscribers) are self-explanatory in this context. Cranked is a broad church. The only off-road cycling discipline we’ve not covered (yet) is unicycling. I try to ensure that each issue reflects a range of interests, but it’s never going to be possible to please all of the people all of the time. Riding bikes off-road is great – hopefully that comes across in every single feature, regardless of which niche of mountain biking it happens to cover.

“Maybe some recommendations for more unusual/testing routes in UK/Europe?”

We made a decision early on to steer clear of anything resembling a route guide, for the same reason that we don’t do reviews – there are plenty of places (including online) that that information is freely available. We do however cover unusual and interesting routes all over the world, where there’s an interesting enough story to accompany it.

“Mint Sauce.”

I’ve asked. Jo feels Mint’s home is where it’s been for the last 30 years. And we probably couldn’t afford it, anyway…

“Type face is sometimes a bit small for my 50 year old eyes!”

Fair point, well made…

“Maybe a small amount of reviews. Independent of course. Maybe form some of the amazingly interesting people you write about, have them do a bike check, or what kit/what’s in my bag type thing?”

When we interviewed Guy Kesteven a couple of issues back, we effectively ended up with several mini reviews as part of the feature. But it’s generally tough to justify review space in a printed quarterly magazine.

“Would try and reduce the amount of travel rides and get some more from around the UK.”

If the story is strong enough we’ll run it, irrespective of its position on a map of the world. We run UK-based stories when they have a compelling angle, and we’ll continue to do so. 

“Articles about custom or artisan bike builders.”

We already do this. We’ve covered BTR, Olsen, Robot Bike Co, Sick!, Ra Bikes and Airdrop, for example. As with everything we do, we’re always looking for a strong angle. If your favourite artisan or custom frame builder hasn’t been featured, it’ll either be because we don’t feel there’s an interesting enough story to tell, or that they’ve already been widely featured elsewhere. Or, possibly, that we haven’t discovered them yet…

“Less e-bikes.”

I think we’ve covered e-bikes four or five times in over four years, out of a total of around 200 features that we’ve run during that period. Funnily enough, that roughly corresponds to the level of e-bike ownership amongst our subscribers. The only way we could have given them less coverage, realistically, is to ignore them. Since they’re part of the off-road riding fabric now, I don’t really see how that’s possible. They’ll continue to earn their place in Cranked in the same way that every mountain bike genre does – on merit.

“Less navel gazing – riding bikes is fun, it doesn’t have to have a higher purpose!”

Spot on. The thing is, we need something to write about. Our contributors write what’s on their mind – we don’t direct them one way or the other. “We rode bikes all day, it was rad!” is a fair summary of a great deal of what we all do, but it doesn’t fill the pages of a magazine…

“Price increase – 50% cost increase in packaging! You need new suppliers – that’s a joke or lie.”

There are several factors that played into the 50% increase in our UK shipping costs, but they’re real and we’ve been absorbing them for several years now. We were very reluctant to increase the price of a subscription and, because of that, we put off the decision for months. But ultimately we had a stark choice: protect our slender margins or gradually go out of business. Luckily the overwhelming majority of our subscribers have responded positively, for which we’re very grateful (and relieved). 

“Keep up the women’s content.”

We intend to! We have several fantastic female contributors and we’re always looking for ways to make our content as inclusive as possible.

“Articles that explain in layman’s terms the engineering and design developments behind bikes, and what impact they have on the ordinary rider. Something to convince me it’s not just all marketing hype!”

This is something we’re considering – it’s in the mix.

“More text. Photos are great but becoming a disproportionately large percentage of content.”

There’s about 30,000 words in every issue of Cranked, give or take a couple of thousand. It doesn’t vary all that much from issue to issue, so I’m not sure where the perception of photo overload is coming from. But we’ll continue to give photos the space we feel they deserve. In many other bike mags eight pages is a long feature. In Cranked we don’t really get started much below ten pages, and we’ll run over 20 pages if we feel the story warrants it. Great images are part of the mix and I make no apology (perhaps it’s the ex pro photographer in me) for giving them space that other mags can’t or won’t. Equally, our writers aren’t constrained by arbitrary word counts, so the extent of a feature – in terms of words – is determined solely by the writer, not by us.

“Free beer?”

Funnily enough we did have a plan around this (seriously), but it got kicked into the long grass earlier this year as other priorities emerged. But never say never…

3 Responses to Subscriber survey – feedback

  1. ChasingTrails June 3, 2019 at 8:49 am #

    Valid suggestions and equally valid responses!
    Love the mag, there are others I read but Cranked is unique!

  2. Vinay August 12, 2019 at 7:15 pm #

    You covered CX once, explained that a big deal of the fun is in the challenges it brings up. I don’t ride CX but I do ride a mountain unicycle (MUni) and I feel the same applies here. Plus it is cheap (you may even have a good hydraulic rim brake kicking around that finally gets to serve a purpose again), it takes massive skill to even get to the level that you’ll be able to break it and it just gets you giggles every step of the way. So yeah, just an idea, why not give that a shot and write up a diary of how it goes?

    • Seb Rogers August 17, 2019 at 5:14 pm #

      Hi Vinay, we’re big fans of CX here but it got a mixed reception when we covered it in the mag first time around. I’m sure it’ll feature again at some point, though! Seb

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