Reader survey results are in

Thanks to everyone who took the time to complete the Renew Reader Survey. We received over 800 thoughtful and useful responses, which we’re analysing to feed into our planning for next year and beyond. We particularly like hearing what you want to see more of and getting your general thoughts on Renew magazine and Renew the organisation.

Generally speaking…

Pleasingly 41% of readers say they often refer back to previous issues of Renew – that’s one of the things we aim for, to be a long-lived resource for readers. It’s probably more important to us than being a good read, though we are always trying to get a good balance between readability and technical details!

As a magazine that deals in technical detail, we’re always interested in people’s responses to ‘how do you rate the technical level of Renew’. As previously, most (81%) are happy with the mix, but about 6% said ‘too technical’ (up from 4% in 2015) and 7% ‘not technical enough’ (down from 12% in 2015) – with the rest answering ‘other’, ranging from ‘it varies’ to this one: “Sometimes a bit too technical, but when I was investigating heat pumps, even though I had to concentrate on comprehending the articles, it was better having access to that technical information.”

We take these answers seriously and we keep reviewing our material to make sure we get as good a mix as possible. Several people suggested they’d like to see some more technical material on our website or via links; often we try to do the latter, with a set of resources at the end of an article. Providing more technical detail on the website is an option we’ll look at now we have a better functioning website! Thank you to those who gave concrete examples of the sorts of technical information they’d like, which helps in planning future guides and articles. For those finding the material too technical, we will review whether summaries and basics articles can help with that – it’s always a matter of fitting everything we want to provide in the space we have, though our new website gives us a much better alternative publishing platform.

More of this please

Three things stood out from people’s responses to what they’d like to see more of: in-depth reviews, good retrofit examples and DIYs.

Several people asked for more in-depth product reviews or Choice-style testing of products. This has been a frequent request since I started at Renew and, unfortunately, it’s one that we can’t meet directly (at least at the moment) as we don’t have the funds to do the testing. However, what we do instead is to provide as many case studies as possible to give people a chance to see what others think about important products like heaters, hot water systems and the like. For some products, there are also energy star ratings that mean you can easily compare efficiency of products. Our buyers guides aim to consider the usefulness of various features, practical considerations (e.g. sizing/placement/comfort levels from a heater or air conditioner), and environmental credentials. We can’t give definitive answers that will meet everyone’s criteria, so we use case studies to help readers evaluate what’s important to them. If you have a particular question on a product, please email us and we’ll try to find out more information for you from our range of experts and interested readers, and potentially discuss your issue in our next buyers guide.

People would also like to see more retrofit examples. At Renew, we occasionally include full house renovations if they’re relevant to a topic we’re covering that issue, but mostly we focus on one aspect of a home that’s relevant to another article in the issue, whether that’s about material choice for roofs, floors or walls, heating or hot water systems, draughtproofing, insulation etc. Our other magazine, Sanctuary, includes renovations among its house profiles which may be what those readers are looking for!

Some people would like to see more DIYs in Renew. This is something we aim to do, but it can be tricky to source good-quality, safe DIYs, particularly when it comes to those that involve wiring. We also want to make sure the DIYs are widely applicable, useful and a good use of resources – so we particularly like DIYs that involve reuse of materials that would otherwise be wasted. Sometimes we’ll include a DIY that isn’t easily replicable if it helps people to understand something about energy use in the home or advances our understanding of a tricky technical area. We tend to avoid DIYs where the same product can be sourced reasonably cheaply commercially. Given the way the solar industry has boomed, that has meant fewer solar or battery DIYs. Where readers get involved in understanding the best solar system design for them, we count that as an ‘almost-DIY’ – we like to encourage and enhance knowledge of questions to ask and things to push for.

Recycling

The War on Waste and China’s ban on imports of plastics for recycling prompted many people to ask for more information on recycling and just what is happening with our waste – and ways to reduce it through companies that produce and package sustainably. We will keep covering the emerging areas of PV and battery recycling and plan for other recycling features over the next year – important stuff.

Advertising is a plus

When it comes to advertising, it seems that our readers enjoy the ads: 75% read them often and 24% occasionally– something our advertisers are always glad to hear! Please note that we emphasise the independence of our editorial coverage from advertising. One reader expressed concern that products were placed because of the advertising dollar rather than a product’s worth; however, none of our product listings are paid for; only ads are paid. We will contact a supplier if we’re listing their product to see if they’d also like to advertise but we don’t include or exclude a product based on advertising. We make sure that our advertisers know about the ‘wall’ between editorial and advertising and we work hard to maintain our independence and integrity.

Would you recommend us?

We had some lovely responses to our question about whether you’d recommend Renew magazine to others, and why. Many people commented on the usefulness of the information and valued its independence, unbiased nature and authoritativeness. Perhaps our most enthusiastic proponent said:

I constantly recommend both Renew and Sanctuary to not just friends but people I meet in the street, at dinner, you name it!! I have sent copies to young people I have taught in the past who are looking at buying/building houses etc. I am a total convert and believe the magazines are a wonderful way to keep abreast of so many fast-moving developments in sustainable technology.  And I am passionate about caring for the environment and believe Renew is doing a good job helping people do just that.

And here are some others:

A very relevant, topical and well-balanced magazine which presents trusted advice. The recent and ongoing work on analysing gas costs versus switching to electric alternatives is very important. So many people never question previous positions which made sense in the past but no longer hold true.

Easy to understand technical articles. As a climateer, I like to inspire others to take charge of their use of resources and energy and find that Renew makes it all sound so possible and mainstream that low-impact living loses its fear factor!

In fact, I bought a subscription as a gift for my architect.

Handy and simple examples of sustainable practices and energy management/efficiency/generation.

Great overview and independent, well-informed expert advice that I can trust because it’s independent and the contributors really know and care about sustainability.

Brings together a lot of practical information and options for small-scale changes that people can make.

I would [recommend it], especially for the views of Lance who is inspirational.

It suits a diverse range of interests and technical knowledge. Something for everyone to learn more about sustainable living and the Australian political landscape.

Current guides on products point me in the right direction.

I think it would be a great way to introduce / inform someone about living sustainably.

Climate change is the BIG issue and Renew is highly relevant to this.

Absolutely. Good technical rigour.

Down to earth magazine. Not pretentious at all. Only magazine that is normal.

It’s the best easy-to-access way into understanding the often-complex issues involved in sustainability.

We’re always very happy to receive feedback by email, so if you missed out on the survey, please feel free to email any feedback to renewmag@renew.org.au.

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