2020 and Beyond: A New Decade for ExWeb

Happy New Year! I’m Rowan White, the owner and operator of ExWeb. I generally stay behind the scenes, although I do occasionally write up interviews with Japanese explorers.

As we usher in a new decade, I’d like to take this opportunity to break from our usual reporting on human performance in extreme environments and talk about ExWeb itself, including a look back at 2019 and forward to where we are going in the 2020s.

How we did — 2019 in numbers

Page views: 1,500,000
Unique visitors: 549,000
Articles posted: about 440
New staff: 3
Awards won: 1

We relaunched ExWeb in 2018 and spent the rest of the year building our team, working on our systems and trying a few different approaches to content. In 2019, our now-veteran team covered the annual adventure news cycle for a second time. This allowed us to evaluate our capabilities. The result: Traffic was up 300% in 2019 compared to 2018. Our 1.5 million page views came from nearly 550,000 unique visitors. Mainstream news outlets such as The New York Times, Financial Times, Outside and others quoted and linked to our articles. In addition, we ranked as the fourth-best climbing blog of 2019, based on an independent evaluation of online influence that combined Alexa Score, Page Authority and Domain Authority. So we are doing well in reporting on adventure.

Photo: Ryan Waters/Mountain Professionals

What you liked

As a media organization, we want to know what you, our audience, want. In future, we will need to carry out a more elegant analysis, but for now we can look at page views for the year to see what generated the most interest.

The five most popular articles of 2019 (by page views)

Crossing Antarctica: How the Confusion Began and Where Do We Go From Here
Why So Many Deaths in the Himalaya This Year?
Traffic Jams on Everest: Ethical or Not?
Manaslu’s Can of Worms: Did Anyone at All Reach the True Summit?
Did Red Tape Fatally Delay the Rescue on Annapurna?

Broadly speaking, the topics that get the most engagement are mountains, death, and the discussion of definitions, yardsticks and meaning in the adventure world. The first is perhaps a nod to our legacy as a climbing blog. But despite the award, and while high-altitude climbing stories certainly get the most attention, we still firmly believe we should cover all human – or naturally powered – adventures in extreme environments. We are ExplorersWeb, not ClimbersWeb.

Death will always fascinate. But there is not much we can do with this topic other than chronicle fatalities and perhaps discuss how to prevent such tragedies from recurring.

The discussion of how to classify and interpret the amazing achievements we report on is important. It is also incredibly difficult and requires input from as many members of the community as possible, if we are ever going to arrive at any meaningful conclusion. This is something I hope we can develop in 2020.

ExWeb Ambassador Eric Philips, after swimming across a lead en route from North Pole to Canada. Photo: Martin Hartley


Top Ten Expeditions of 2019 and our values

I’d also like to talk about our values. Of course, we are dedicated to impartial reporting of the facts and the celebration of human achievement in extreme environments. But even within this remit, there is a large degree of subjectivity. We just finished counting down the Top Ten Expeditions of 2019. All involved dedication and perseverance in the face of adversity. Without a doubt, they required a heroic level of physical and mental endurance. None could have been completed without meticulous planning. Finally, they took place on the edge, a lonely place where there is great risk for an abstract and dubious reward. Perhaps this list gives the best insight into the standards and values we hold dear at ExWeb.

#10: Chaz Powell Crosses Madagascar
#9: Rakaposhi
#8: Nick Butter’s Marathons
#7: Barreling Across the Atlantic
#6: Bhagirathi IV
#5: Rowing New Zealand-Chile
#4: Nirmal Purja 14 8000ers in Seven Months
#3: Chamlang
#2: Denis Urubko – Again
#1: Borge Ousland and Mike Horn’s Arctic Ocean Epic

Where will Exweb go in 2020?

We will continue to report all the most interesting news from the world of adventure and give context to the events as they unfold. But in addition to this, we have two areas of focus for 2020.

1. Develop community
ExWeb is currently a very traditional form of media. We write the articles and you, the community, read them and perhaps leave a comment or share them on social media. But the ExWeb community comprises a wealth of expertise in adventure and exploration that is basically untapped. I would like to stimulate the involvement of the community to make ExWeb a better resource for us all. To this end, we will introduce more functions to the site and encourage members to post about their adventures. Our long-term aim will be to move from the current mono-directional, top-down format to a social platform that gives you ownership of the site –- to make ExWeb a true community.

2. Build relationships with other sites and players
In a similar way, there are a wealth of adventure media sites, reporters, adventure tour operators and logistics providers out there. The better we can work together as a community for mutual benefit, the more we can achieve. We will be reaching out to other sites and companies to build stronger cooperative relationships in 2020. If we are active in the same space as you, we’d like to hear from you!

ExWeb Ambassador Sarah McNair-Landry with her dog team. Photo: c-qp.com


What you can do

We do not just aggregate and republish content from other sites. All of our articles are written originally, which involves significant time, effort and cost in following the news, checking facts and conducting interviews with the explorers themselves. In a way, we have placed ourselves in competition with much larger media outlets. We have done this and succeeded on our strengths as a small team, but we are going to need your help if we are going to get any further. Here is how you can help.

1. Share this article or others that catch your attention on social media
The more people who know about us the better.
2. Tell us what you want
Contact us and let us know who you are and what we can do for you! What are we doing well? How can we improve?
3. Get involved
Have you been on an expedition worth talking about? Post in the Community Section and let everyone know! We share the articles that appear in the Community Section in our weekly newsletter and via our social media accounts.
4. Make a donation
Running a site like this requires income. We are exploring several avenues of funding, but the more income that comes directly from you, the community, the more independent we can remain and the less we will be influenced by corporate interests. So we have started accepting donations on the Patreon platform. Donations start at just $1 per month and come with a selection of benefits at higher levels.
Take a look at our Patreon page or watch the video below.