Go on. Prove it

This is the last of these articles which I will write as editor. Given that the owners wish me to continue to contribute, I dare say that examples of my matchless prose may continue to grace this magazine, but not as head honcho. 

I must say that it has not come a moment too soon. There is hardly a subject over the past 20 years or so upon which I have not expressed an opinion and in recent times the search for something to say has led me to recruiting topics to the cause, whose relationship to the outdoor industry has at best been tenuous. Indeed, it was one of these that produced the greatest response from readers. This related to my musing on the business by which we are now expected to prepare our own toast when staying in a hotel. It struck a resounding chord with those who, like me, can remember a time when a suitably attired flunkey or flunkess would fetch and carry breakfast to one’s table. Of course this was before hotels ‘improved’ their service by getting you to fetch it yourself. These ‘improvements’, which are by no means restricted to the catering sector, are frequently explained and justified by those making them quoting the findings of ‘a survey’.

In this regard the ‘survey’ has become a useful tool for those who need to mask cost-cutting measures. For example, apparently the makers of Mars bars, surveyed customers and found, incredibly, the majority were happy to see the size of the bar shrink whilst the price remained unchanged, although somewhat mysteriously Mars carried out the change before coming up with the survey.

Surveys can also be used to explain what might otherwise seem like (and actually is) a business simply exploiting an opportunity. A great example of this was provided by The North Face’s Timo Schmidt-Eisenhart, then head of TNF’s EMEA region. During that 2010 conversation, I challenged him on the then growing number of North Face own stores. How did he justify competing with his indies in this way? Indies should be grateful, he told me, because The North Face knew that a brand shop nearby actually boosted sales for its indie neighbours. And apparently North Face knew this because it had carried out a survey.

So, naturally enough, I asked if I could see the survey? Apparently I could not. And neither could I see the questionnaire nor indeed know the dates when the survey was carried out.

Of course it is all very well for me to lampoon the evasiveness of those involved, but one must acknowledge the degree to which we, the media, are responsible for this state of affairs. It was newspapers and then broadcast media later, who were first to understand the value of surveys in creating news features. Not only that but how to amortise the cost by getting others to do the work. 

So it is, for example, that a woman’s magazine might survey its readers about their sex lives and agree a deal with a tabloid, allowing the latter to publish the more salacious results in exchange for which it will heavily reference that magazine’s latest issue to be published, say, the following day.

Thus it is that surveys are now designed to produce an intended outcome. I know this to be a fact, of course, because nine out of 10 editors say so.


The real cost of mobility

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 7:00

There is nothing of the Quango timeserver about Jenny Price. The Sport England supremo is an engaging speaker and her turn at the recent Outdoor Industries Association conference was both compelling and sobering, as she laid before her audience the likely consequences should the nation fail to get off its burgeoning backside and participate in some form of physical activity.

One way satire?

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 7:00

Delegates to the OIA Conference were shown an amusing short feature by black American comedian Trixx, which took as its subject why camping is a pursuit followed by white people. 

The Camel wanders off course

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 7:00

In 2011, struggling to stay afloat, Lafuma sold its Le Chameau brand  to UK venture capital business Marwyn and Partners. 

Not such good PR for Pelican

Friday, 18 March 2016 7:00

One wonders sometimes how Mick Jagger feels about his first wife Bianca, still bearing his surname.

Black Magic

Friday, 18 March 2016 7:00

At its best blogging can bring the world some insight from the heart of darkness, typified by the on-the-spot brave souls who bear witness to activities of terrorists such as the Taliban and ISIS.

Another few grand going nowhere

Friday, 18 March 2016 7:00

Any money that is invested directly or indirectly in getting the public ‘out there’ has to be a good thing and so last month’s news that the Ramblers has landed a £200,000 grant from the Postcode Lottery is to be welcomed. 

Just Guilherme

Thursday, 17 March 2016 7:00

Over the coming months we are likely to be faced with a blizzard of propaganda aimed at swaying us – assuming that we are there to be swayed – into voting yes or no for continuing membership of the EU. 

I hope you really are busy

Wednesday, 27 January 2016 10:00

Britain has one of the lowest productivity rates among the developed nations. France, with its highly centralised economy, a working week eight hours shorter and a penchant for lengthy lunch breaks, still manages to squeeze a bit over 7% more productivity out of its workers than we do in Britain.

What do I know?

Wednesday, 27 January 2016 9:00

For the most part trade journalism is conducted in a vacuum. Material is produced and unless it is libellous or plain wrong, those writing the copy have to assume that it is being read because feedback is infrequent.

There’s no promotion like self-promotion

Wednesday, 27 January 2016 7:00

Among the outdoor blogging community which, let’s face it, is fast becoming more of an overpopulated new town, Fiona Russell is both well known and well regarded.