Happy Birthday Swimwatch

 Today was a Swimwatch birthday; not in terms of years, but in readership numbers. You see today the number of unique visitors to the Swimwatch page reached 500,000. It is probably appropriate to celebrate the occasion discussing some of the data behind the total readership.

The biggest annual number of unique readers was in 2011 when the blog had 123,806 readers; an average of 339 a day. The popularity of the site in 2011 was the result of all the controversy surrounding the Moller Report, when Peter Miskimmin outsmarted Brian Palmer and Bronwen Radford to impose a new authoritarian constitution on the sport. That failed model is still in place and is no more successful today than it was then.

The lowest annual readership was in 2016 when the blog had only 15,728 readers; an average of 43 a day. The lack of popularity in 2016 was because I was coaching in Saudi Arabia and stopped writing stories. Freedom of expression is not high on the Saudi list of priorities. I suspect Steve Johns and Bruce Cotterill probably agree with the Saudis.

The single biggest reader is someone from Lower Hutt in Wellington. He or she has read the blog an impressive and loyal 961 times. That’s a pretty impressive 93% of the 1039 stories posted on Swimwatch. For readers with an interest in statistics the 1039 stories have involved 924,710 words. The average length of each story has been 890 words. Most readers (67.1%) visit the site for less than 20 minutes on each occasion. An amazing 32.9% stay for longer than 20 minutes – unless they have fallen asleep and left the computer running of course. The two most popular stories were both written by Jane – I wonder why? If you are interested their titles are – “Every Swimmers Most Feared Decision Knowing When to Quit” and “How not to be a Fat Ex-Swimmer”.

In 2018 the average number of daily readers is a pretty consistent 193. Understandably the greatest number of readers come from New Zealand. But I have been surprised at the variety of countries that read a blog that deals almost exclusively with New Zealand issues. The table below shows an analysis of the readers countries of origin.

Country Percent of Readers
New Zealand 79.80%
United States 7.00%
Australia 5.20%
Sweden 1.40%
Saudi Arabia 1.40%
Canada 1.40%
United Kingdom 1.00%
Not Known 0.80%
India 0.40%
Vietnam 0.20%
Singapore 0.20%
Netherlands 0.20%
Japan 0.20%
Ireland 0.20%
Croatia 0.20%
Spain 0.20%
China 0.20%

A feature of readers that has amazed me is the number of people who deny ever reading the blog and yet appear to know every printed word. Frequently I have come across those who say, “I never read your blog but why did you say that about Swimming New Zealand last week?”

When I’ve asked how they knew when they had never read the blog, the usual explanation is that someone has told them. One guy in Napier was a classic. Every time we met he would say, “When are you going to stop writing that terrible blog. I would never read it.” What he didn’t know was the computers in his work office had a very unique server name. Every morning at 10.00am this guy’s computer would pop-up on the Swimwatch analytics report. Swimwatch and morning coffee were a staple part of his daily routine; Swimwatch, like porn, delivered in a plain brown envelope

The idea of a swimming blog was first thought of by Edward, who at the time was a computer science student at the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) in Hawke’s Bay. Edward was a computer genius. He got into trouble as a teenager for emailing all Telecom’s customers to explain a complaint he had against the company. It was brilliant but Telecom did not appear to appreciate his talent. Edward also built our first family computer from parts being discarded by the EIT computer department. Jane and I typed out a thousand stories on that Edward hybrid.

Anyway Edward knew all about technical stuff like servers and website registrations and with Jane’s help in designing what the page would look like Swimwatch was born. The only marketing we have ever done was in the first week. We sent an email to everyone we could think of announcing the news that Swimwatch had arrived. We included Swimming New Zealand in the proclamation. As usual we never got a reply.

On two occasions Swimwatch has received lawyer’s letters, threatening legal action unless a post was removed.  On both occasions we published the letters and left the posts in place. Truth and fair comment has always been our defence.

Why do I continue to write the blog? There are two reasons. First, I like the mechanical process of putting words together on a page. I’m not as good at it as gifted writers like Jane or Roger Robinson. Oh, I wish. Nevertheless I enjoy the process of trying to match their skill. Writing is a bit like playing golf. Ten bad shots are forgotten when a chip from thirty metres drops into the hole. One good sentence in a Swimwatch story gives me the same thrill.

Second, I do believe that swimming is in need of reform. It is not being well run. Results are not good. Young swimmers are being hurt by the policies followed by Swimming New Zealand. Money is being wasted. It is important that Cotterill and Johns are held to account. To escape sanction they rely on the fear that swimmers are going to be hurt if Swimming New Zealand decisions are questioned. Although there is no need to worry about that, remember Swimming New Zealand need good swimmers far more than good swimmers need Swimming New Zealand.

Swimwatch, I hope, is a small cog in the wheel of holding Johns, Francis and Cotterill to account. I realise the effectiveness of the blog is diminished by our constant criticism. However in 2018 there is a lot to be critical about. And so we will keep on as we head towards one million readers.

Finally thank you to all those who do read the blog occasionally. Whether you hate or support what is written here doesn’t really matter. I just hope that the blog raises questions for you to discuss and ponder.

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