In September, Dan and I ran a women’s cycling audience survey. We did it because, like so many other things we’ve done together, we wanted to see what would happen, and we thought it would be fun. We had a podcast conversation about the whys and hows, and things that surprised us from the results, but we also wanted to put up a series of posts about what we found. These will be short posts about different aspects that caught our attention, and at the end I’ll put links into one post, for ease of reference. But it’s probably a good idea to start with what we did, why, and who responded.
Dan deals in social media marketing as part of his day job, and I’ve worked with stats to a certain extent, but I’m pretty much coming at this as an amateur, so it was interesting working on this together, and challenging each other’s assumptions.
We hosted our survey on SurveyMonkey, and we ran it over the 2014 Road World Championships, because we wanted to catch the wider audience, as our stats naturally have peaks when there are events that are easy to watch (and that’s told us some interesting things, over the period we’ve been ‘casting and blogging).
We wanted to use the survey to get us answers, and also to get an idea of our social media reach – so we posted it here on our website, on my tumblr, and on Podium Café, where I post a lot, but we mainly publicised it on twitter, and asked a couple of our friends to RT it. We had considered putting out a press release, and posting it on other fora, but we wanted to get an idea of how far we could get with this minimal approach. We opened it on Tuesday 23rd September 2014, when the women’s ITT was on, and we stopped it on Sunday 29th, after the men’s road race. To be honest, we stopped because we’d passed the free 1,000 response mark, and it got too expensive to continue, but it also felt like once we’d hit the 1,500 mark, we were in statistically significant territory, and could be confident our results had meaning.
We tried to make it as easy as possible – stressing that people only should answer the questions that they wanted to, and allowing anonymous answers. Our survey was a mix of tick boxes and open-ended questions, so some things are hard numbers, other things have been analysed by hand.
So who replied?
We had 1,645 answers over all – because people chose which questions to answer, that doesn’t mean everything is a percentage of 1,645 – but there were at least 1,000 replies to each question, so they’re definitely statistically significant results.
Gender of respondents
60.58% of respondents were male, 39.42% female. This changed over the life of the survey, as we started off with more of a 55% male/45% female split until we got somewhere near the 1,000 responses mark, when it had spread beyond our networks. That was interesting to watch, and it would be fun to look at it over time, if we ever did, say, a month-long survey. It was also satisfying, as I’ve been told that the cycling/women’s cycling audience is general 80% male, 20% female, so this idea that “women don’t like sport” turned out to be as false as we’d assumed. Obviously this is something we had guessed from our social media interactions, but it was great to see it confirmed.
- 17 or younger: 1.41% (16)
- 18-20: 2.46% (28
- 21-29: 18.38% (209)
- 30-39: 28.06% (319)
- 40-49: 31.93% (363)
- 50-59: 15.54% (154)
- 60 and over: 4.22% (48)
Where did respondents come from?
1,137 people replied to this one, and it’s not really surprising, the country split – I’m British, Dan’s Australian, I tried to hit major timezones in my tweets, but it was an English-language survey, so if I was going to do this again, one thing I’d look at is going into partnership with women’s cycling sites that are French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and German (as an example), get the questions in different languages, and try to get more of an international flavour. But we always said this was a starting point survey, not a definitive answer. But it’s still interesting to see who we reached this way, and we still have some great numbers in there.
The other thing I learned was if I do this again, I’m definitely having a drop-down menu on questions like this, as working out the figures by hand was a long job!
For those who are wondering, the question was “Which country do you currently live in?” (I absolutely love that someone answered Sufferlandria!) and because it was an open answer, as a Brit, I was interested in the break-down of how people replied about the UK. For the respondent who stressed they are NOT from the UK or Great Britain, they’re in SCOTLAND, I’m including this breakdown of the 456 UK respondents
- United Kingdom/UK: 67.98%
- England: 20.61%
- Scotland: 4.61%
- Great Britain/GB: 3.29%
- Wales/Cymru: 3.09%
- Northern Ireland: 0.22%
- Isle of Man: 0.22%
1,440 people answered this question, but they could tick more than one box, so the figures add up to a larger number than that – the percentages are of overall respondents, not the total answers, for eagle-eyed readers who’ve spotted they add up to more than 100%!
We also included an “other” box, for people who didn’t fit into one of those categories, or wanted to add supplementary information. 109 people used this, and the answers fall into clusters.
Other categories of people included:
- 11 people (0.76%) just called themselves a cycling fan, and made the point this was regardless of gender. This had both positive phrasing (“I just love the sport!“) to seeing the idea of diving by gender as negative.
- 9 people (0.63%) friends/family/fiancé/ex of a pro; 3 former pro riders (0.21%); 5 (0.35%) women who want to start racing, or rather as youths and want to turn pro; 4 (0.28%) were parents of kids who race & want to go pro; 2 (0.14%) specifically watched/wanted to watch women cycling with their kids; and 2 90.14%) women race domestically and both said that if it wasn’t for their age, they’d want to give everything up and go pro.
- 3 people said they’re women, and relate more to women’s sport than men – and 1 man said he relates far more to men’s cycling because he’s a man.
- People from other parts of the bike industry included 4 coaches; 3 people who run women’s teams, 3 people who sponsor them; a woman who runs a bike shop with her husband; a woman who’s a bike mechanic; a press officer at a UCI women’s team (“doing it for fun, not getting paid“); and a race organiser.
- There were also 4 bloggers/forum writers, and 2 of them said they also are paid to write occasionally for cycling publications
- 3 people said they’d become disenchanted with men’s cycling and had turned to women’s (in 1 case because “women’s cycling is potentially cleaner“)
- 7 people specifically said that they follow/promote women’s cycling because they’re a feminist, are interested in the sociopolitical issues in sport, or started because they have a commitment to equality/wanted to change things
21 people (1.46%) included additional commentary about how they’d be more of a fan if they could see more. Comments included
- Fan equally of women’s & men’s cycling, but it’s more difficult being the former!
- Bit difficult to answer ,when media coverage so bias-generally 90% show men’s racing
- TV coverage in America is bad enough for the men, it is non-existent for women. I would watch it if it was available.
- There’s a limit as to how much we can follow due to poor coverage
- I actually prefer watching women’s racing, but as you know, can’t see enough of it.
- re: the above answers I gave. I couldn’t care less about the gender and women’s racing tends to be fantastically aggressive but the TV coverage just isn’t there to enable me to follow it as much, plus most of my friends who love cycling don’t follow it so much so it’s harder to discuss it with them
- I mostly watch men’s cycling, because women’s races are so rare to be seen. (Fortunately UCI Channel provides at least the World Cup races).
- I’m mostly a fan of men’s cycling, but I follow women’s cycling whenever I can get access. More access = more of my attention.
- I watch more men’s because women don’t get a chance to do the best things like Tour de France
This was a theme throughout the whole of the survey – the single thing people want more of is the chance to see more, but it’s not just the hard-core fans who want more, it’s pretty much everyone.
In the next post in the series, I’ll focus on why people said they love cycling – and over the next month or so, we’ll work through the survey, talking about things that struck us as well as the stats – and sharing some of our very favourite comments. If you have any specific questions about any of it, please leave a comment below, or ask me on twitter.
I’ve also been inspired by this to start a new social media-based research project – just one question, “when did you get into women’s cycling and why?”, so I can make a timeline or some over kind of visualisation. If you could give me a quick reply, eg “Nicole Cooke in the 2008 Olympics”, that would be wonderful – leave it in the comments, or tell me on twitter. Thank you so much!
I’m able to carve out the time it takes to do all this because of my wonderful Patreon supporters – thank you so much, each and every one of you, I can’t tell you how much it means to me.