by Penny Werthner Baies
Several months ago, questionnaires were sent to 600 readers of Champion, asking for feedback on the magazine. So far, the response has been 126 replies, or 21 per cent, which, we are told by the experts, is four times the norm for a survey of this kind.
I thought those who replied, and maybe even those who didn’t and, of course, those who didn’t receive the questionnaire, would be interested to know just who is reading this publication, how they feel about it, what they like and don’t like, and what their suggestions are. I also thought it important to tell the respondents that their time wasn’t wasted — that their criticisms and suggestions are appreciated and are being considered.
So — who replied?
The ages of the respondents are fairly evenly distributed, with one-third between 20 and 30 and one-third between 30 and 40. Two-thirds are male, one-third female. We were surprised at the high total household income — 43 per cent earned over $30,000 in 1979. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents and their spouses had attended college or university. The majority, 94 per cent, have been active in sport for more than three years, and over half regularly attend national or international sporting events.
And what did the respondents say?
Forty-seven per cent hold a positive opinion of Champion. Another 30 per cent are positive, but temper their comments with some criticisms or suggestions.
A major criticism focussed on the format or layout of Champion, particularly over the English-French editorial mix. Suggestions ranged from printing two editions, one English, one French, to splitting Champion in two, a sort of “flip-flop” format, or, as it’s known in the trade, “tumble turn”. In this case, French is on one side, English the other, with no mix of the two languages.
Some concern was expressed over the size of the publication and the difficulty in reading articles when they are continued on subsequent pages. This practice, say the readers, makes it difficult to cut out or post complete articles on bulletin boards.
Since the format received the most comment, I decided to ask Champion’s editor, Sheila Robertson, how the current format came about.
“We certainly carefully considered all the possibilities before the publication began in 1977”, says Robertson. “Cost dictated the decision to a large extent and I rejected the tumble turn because, to my mind, it is very repetitious and not a particularly effective pictorial presentation for amateur sport.”
She explains that tumble turn gets expensive because, for one, the colour cover would have to be repeated for both the English and French sides. This, she says, would be the case for all the photos. She claims that the present layout, although imperfect, allows for a greater variety of photographic material and also allows fairly substantial articles. As for the size of Champion, Robertson emphasizes that it is largely a matter of cost.
“The tabloid size,” she says, “is considerably less expensive to produce than the smaller and glossier magazine format unless, of course, we resorted to newsprint, which we feel would diminish our product.”
Respondents from schools seem to appreciate Champion being free and view it as a valuable source of information about amateur sport and amateur athletes.
Others indicate that they like reading about national athletes and what they are doing sport-wise. They emphasized that they enjoy hearing about and seeing action photos of these athletes.
At that point, the consensus ends.
Several respondents feel there should be more stories about elite athletes, while others would like more space devoted to the “up-and comers”. Some want more in-depth coverage of events, while one or two feel the articles are too long. A few feel there should be an emphasis on a wider variety of sports, while others feel that there is already enough variety. One respondent said, “Keep up the good, good work” while another said, “Good, but not so much track”.
What do you want in future issues?
A frequent suggestion calls for profiles of athletes, with examples of their training programs. Several indicated that they would like specific articles on how the top athletes train and how they approach competition. Others ask for more articles written by the athletes themselves.
Other requests deal with training related to nutrition (see page 4), strength, and controversial developments such as steroids, blood doping and “how to” articles about long road trips, especially in foreign countries — with advice from members of teams who have “been there” and survived!
Several readers want a greater emphasis on the psychological preparation of athletes — methods of relaxation, dealing with stress, concentration, and motivational factors.
That, briefly, is what the 126 respondents had to say. Of course, I haven’t mentioned everything. Not to be forgotten with the 77 per cent who express satisfaction with Champion are the seven per cent who call it “bland”, “too establishment”, and the one who feels that “there are too many sport magazines around already”.
What I’ve tried to do is bring together the major comments and criticisms for your information. I am assured that all suggestions are noted and will be considered in the preparation of future issues of Champion.
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