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!!


Albert A Rasch said...

Dang it!

I can get on a few blogs, but not mine!!!

SBW, how's it hanging over in your neck of the woods?

Everything is great here, if you forget about the filth and generally unhealthy atmosphere. The Taliban are starting their spring offensive with colorful fireworks, and an inspired series of sapper attacks on our friendly and welcoming ISAF bases.

Your boys down in Helmand have aquitted themselves well, and I must say that they got some Johnny Bad Ass Range Rovers that I wouldn't mind running around in. The hard part is getting one fully kitted out with all the firepower that grown boys like us admire and respect.

Well I am glad that I can at least get to your blog!

I'll let you know if I can pass through London on my way in for R&R!

Best Regards,

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Excellent to hear from you!

Glad to hear you're keeping well

Any prospective dates for your appearance in old london town?


hodgeman said...

SBW... I know what you mean about hook and bullet rags, F&S in particular. I grew up reading the well worn copy in the barber's shop. Page, O'Connor, and the like.

Today's version is a pale comparison of mostly paid for advertising space. These days I ignore it profoundly.

The new digital media- blogs and the like are set to replace those outlets in the very near future and I hope we are journalistically purer for it.

Albert A Rasch said...

Maybe in May...

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


That's excellent

Keep safe

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


The sad thing is they are clearly on their arses in an ad sales sense too. Even 3-4 years ago they were able to get some much bigger players on board. Those 'enhancement' companies aren't paying rate card. Looks like a fire sale.

There is a saying about an english TV company called ITV (who were the UK's only commercial station back in the day)

'They have so relentlessly pursued the lowest common denominator that they have become a specialist channel for the very stupid'

Save-able too but not by following the current course

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


PS How about another of those blog-post-thingermys?


Chad Love said...

I've always believed that print needs to stick with print's strength, which is good long-form writing, rather than try to compete with the Web's strength, which is immediacy.

It seems so simple, doesn't it? Your boot experience is a great example of what magazines might as well give up on, because they'll never be able to compete with that.

As an example, I'll still pay five bucks for a copy of Gray's, or Sporting Classics or The Drake or twelve bucks for the Flyfish Journal.

I won't pay five bucks for much anything else any more. Why? Because the former haven't given up on great writing and many of the latter either have or have greatly reduced it in favor of chasing the ADD demographic with the short, snappy, superficial shit pieces so common now.

But that's just me...

Holly Heyser said...

Oh my, I did get behind in my reading, didn't I? Damn day job.

So, thanks for all the links!

On the topic of what magazines are and should be: I'm of two minds on this.

Having been a newspaper editor who's produced the same genre of stuff that's F&S's bread and butter now (except my topic was politics, not hunting), I actually like and respect it a LOT. Being useful matters, and that stuff is NOT easy material to produce - it's way more work than just writing and editing a bunch of long stories with a photo or illustration or two. Trust me - I've done both.

That said, I do appreciate and crave the long-form story - moreso when it comes to hunting than to politics, for sure. I, too, liked the Heavey piece you mentioned. And that's the work I see myself doing for magazines. (Hell, it's the work I do for my blog, as I can't seem to say anything in less than 1,000 words. Which kinda raises a good point - blogs can do that well, too. But the SEO is a bitch - what's your metatag, "good hunting stories"?)

Of course, as a new reader of hunting magazines, since I've been hunting a little more than three years, I don't know what's been lost, so perhaps I'm not a credible source on the topic.

Regardless, I appreciate your faith in me. I'll see what I can do to keep earning it.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Interesting. 12 Bucks Eh?

One polarity for the future of niche publishing that I've found appealing is the idea of the super production standards of european magazines and the postal distribution of US mags.

Every issue is collectable, you might get an issue free when you buy a +$500 shot gun or rod, it's in your room at the high end hunting lodge, but other wise its subscribe or miss out, and none of the content is online.

The other polarity is print quality like F&S currently uses and FREE. You can subscribe (free gift is swapped for your details).

Either can work - for the free idea look at VICE - much of it appear unintelligible to many people over 40 but the kids love it. Monocle is almost sub only and needs to be.

I don't know for sure but TIF seem to have got their sponsors on board before launch - making them a contract tittle that looks more like an indy. Good Luck to 'em.


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

All work and no blogging make Holly a dull girl, we've missed you.

The bread and butter 'How To' are more work if done right - Agreed.

Albert Rasch (well known blogger of this parish) tells great stories but his biggest blog post for number of unique readers was his 'how to dismantle and clean the rotary magazine of a Ruger 10/22' boring as hell - unless you've got one that needs cleaning in which case it's really valuable information.

It took Albert loads of pictures and a fair bit of text to explain, and is a resource that will be read for years to come. Too big for a print magazine though.

Personally I'm mad for his storytelling the Hog Hunt with the PC (that's Professional Cracker) guide is hilarious. I'm amazed there's no magazine snapping him and the other great storytellers up. A kind of McSweeney's afield.

In ol' Blighty a few well meaning schmucks have brought out 'bushcraft' magazines. Saw a trend, launched a mag, sold some space Yawn. They really offer the sum total of not-a-lot, all their content is already online - if the audience don't already know that they will after reading one issue. One of them has even recruited Britain's best known bushcraft blogger to write for them. Personally i think he's bringing more to the table than they are.

The bloggersphere/internet does 'How' so much better, especially with the comments section allowing readers to chip in with best practice.

Maybe middle youth has addled my brain but I like my 'Why' served like fish n chips - on paper.
Paper that's for keeping and re-reading.

PS Faith is something I save for people who are yet to perform - for you it's 'the burden of expectation' Enjoy.

Holly Heyser said...

Mmmmmm. Fish and chips... You're making me hungry! And that reminds me, I've got to write a magazine story pitch.

As for all the crap out there, I have to ask was there EVER a high volume of great writing? Even when paper was the only thing going, greatness by definition is something reserved for the few - mediocrity is the norm.

But you're totally right about the Internet being the perfect place for "how". And I love the idea of the magazine that's a collector's item that you'd WANT to keep forever instead of recycling after some reasonable amount of time, in part because you CAN'T go back and read it online.

Good discussion! Fits nicely at the intersection of my two worlds, too.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

I accept your point about greatness being reserved for the few, I guess what i'm really lamenting is the fat bit of the bell curve used to be of a higher standard than it is today. Literacy just aint what it was, were it?


Holly Heyser said...

Fair enough. Though I think the most important thing that's changed is our attention span - people are still voracious consumers of written information. But we want it fast because we're so freakin' busy, hence the demise of the longform story.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Good point about the attention span ....

Just read some guys blog (in another tab) about pasta - must eat.


hodgeman said...

I completely think the Internet does 'how' so much better. Even a chat room does 'how' better than a magazine.

I read somewhere the average O'Connor article was on the order of 10,000 words. I don't think an entire F&S mag is that now.

I do concur on the Sporting Classics bit- great writing and excellent photos.

Chad Love said...

"McSweeney's Afield"

That's perfect...

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Make you right


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

RE "McSweeney's Afield"

I've hinted, i've bitched, i've moaned, I reckon whining is next on the list. Then I'll just have to do it myself.


Hubert Hubert said...

Thanks for the link to this, SBW, I was bowled over by the magazine there (and pretty impressed with the web software that allows such a document to be so easily read - it's remarkable). That guy's a tremendous photographer. It set me wondering about becoming an 'economic migrant' to the States for a while.


The Suburban Bushwacker said...


I loved living in the US - but traveling there was more fun!