Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Write Your own

Another of those strange blogin' coincidences took place this afternoon, just as I was going to tell you about a new online magazine called Sleeping In The Dirt that Urbn Outdoors had linked to, Tom who writes the Trout underground has posted this piece, using his crystal ball to look a the future for Fly Fishing magazines, Hook and Bullet magazines, and perhaps magazines in general.

With the quality and passion that crews like 'sleeping in the dirt' and 'this is fly' are serving up in the digital format, it's easy to see his point. Sleeping in the dirt is, I'm guessing a labour of love as the mast head proudly proclaims

No Sponsors No Advertisements, No Limits...No Shit.

With 'No Cash' the team will just have to plug away at it like the rest of us for the love of it. Good on 'em.
It seems to be working as they report a hit count of 110,000 already. Not quite up there with the market leaders but defiantly well ahead of some of the print titles their voice is replacing. Good luck chaps.

So what is it that makes these new voices so compelling? I think its a mixture of perceived honesty of the new school and the old guard looking caught out by the changing landscape. The authority that magazines used to have is waning, and fast.

I've recently been running that most classic of man-style purchasing strategies and 'researching' a new pair of boots.
I will buy a pair, but first I have to feel I've looked into enough options. It may take months as every choice has to be evaluated against every other potential choice. This is a behavior that once upon a time involved buying lots of magazines, best buy guides and special editions. Now I do it online. The woman-style purchasing strategy is very similar but often takes place on foot going to shop after shop, the man-style takes place in an armchair collecting data - sometimes for months before walking up to the counter telling the shopkeeper the size colour and specification before marching out of the door in double quick time, proudly telling the Mrs' See babe, i just go and buy it, why do you have to take so long?'

While researching I found an option that i hadn't seen or considered before, typed it into a google, and searched for the user reviews by owners. There's the sticking point that big media has - I've come to favor the perceived honesty of bloggers and forum members over the 'bought endorsement' of journalists.

Not all bloggers are experts - we all know there are bloggers chasing 'numbers' who will gladly repeat pretty much any press release that gets sent to them with a dollop of praise from 'Tiffany' the 'online specialist' [in this instance 'online specialist' is a euphemism for intern].

Not all journalists are the puppets of PR departments - I once heard a great example of this from one journalist along the lines of 'they sent a pair of boots for review, they came with a not asking for the boots to be returned by the end of the week - UNWORN'. He had the luxury of sending the boots back not only unworn but ignored. Not every magazine has that freedom.

The boots I might have wanted are a new 'teched-up' version of range-topping model by well known european manufacturer. One who due to their high prices has the money to position themselves in hunting mags across europe.

I liked the blurb, I liked the fact that I could get 25% off, but once I'd read THAT user report....

"Whatever you do don't buy them. I did, leaked in a week, fell apart in twelve weeks and the company said their one year warranty doesn't apply as I wore them everyday and they are outdoor pursuits clothes designed for occasional use'

"An even stronger version of our strongest boot" just doesn't sound so enticing when compared to the expectation of 'occasional use' does it? Did he really ever own a pair? I'll never know, but the perception of first hand knowledge and hard field use was there. Could a print magazine afford to come to such a conclusion? I doubt it. So what's left for the great magazines of yesteryear to do? Let's take Field and Stream as an example.

Regular readers will know about my admiration for, and dismay at the Field and Stream empire - I think of F&S as a smelly, slightly sexist uncle who knows a lot of interesting stuff, occasionally tells really good stories about the old days, but has some throwback views and probably has a few racist friends. I keep up my subscription, ignoring the fact that only half the issues i pay for actually make it through the US postal service, hoping, ever hoping, that the bean counters will let the magazine be itself again.

The last two issues have been a partial return to form, Bill Heavy's piece about spending time with the Alaskan trapper was fantastic - the kind of long-form journalism that belongs on a page not a screen, the kind that prompted me to take the copy round to The Northern Monkey's boat and tell him to read it. Great moments, sadly looking all the greater as they are set against some of the most pointless shit yet published. Sorry chaps but it's true, that '50 states of the great outdoors' or what ever it was called was rubbish and obviously rubbish culled from the internet by an intern. Cheap to produce, would have worked on a blog, but not good enough for F&S.

So it's been interesting watching developments around the 'digital campfire' that the F&S site and blogs purport to be.
Holly who writes the excellent NorCal Cazadora blog fulfilled a long held prediction of mine and was asked to contribute to the F&S blog-site - the subject was Booth Babes. I've long been a fan of Holly's blog - if I wasn't the first commenter I was certainly one of the first - so I was made up to see one of our own receive such recognition. Holly is exactly the kind of person I'd invite to write for the magazine - she can really write, knows how to meet a deadline, never needs to play the expert, and is full of enthusiasm. As the old demographic dies off she represents a pretty good template for a future audience. Double Income No Kids, and an evangelical streak a mile wide - an advertisers dream.
Cabelas were smart enough to see the potential in getting her onboard and they buy a lot of space from F&S. Could I be any blunter?

Holly wrote a short blog about her view that covering the SHOT show Booth Babes feature being the days top story was not conducive to promoting F&S as an inclusive space that welcomes newbies. Boys: I'm sure many of us have had more than a passing interest in the 'visual arts' or magazines catering for 'gentlemen's interests' over the years, but wether or not you live in the puritanical US or the come-as-you-are metropolis's of europe, i doubt any of us would feel comfortable or appropriate discussing such interests with say, a neighbors twelve year old daughter? The space has changed and it would be prudent to keep that in mind - did I understand you Holly?

So how did it all turn out? Some comments were well thought out, some ran the whole gamut of intellectual rigor from A to B and at least one loafer wearing smart arse chimed in a few times taking great delight in repeating the sage words of the F&S mascot and offering patronizing dating advice to the fudds- he thought he was being funny. Correct me if I'm wrong but i don't think there's ever been a story on the F&S site that's had so many comments. If this thing gets any blunter it'll be a spoon.

Holly's first post on her blog Ahem, there are GIRLS in the room!

Her guest editorial Is here

Your pal
PS just to prove that I'm not giving up my position as armchair evolutionary psychologist/ Sexist pig - BABES?!!! WTF!!