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Fly Fishing's Magazines Are Feeling the Affects of Recession and Online Competition. Which of Them Will Survive?

Posted by Tom Chandler 2/1/2010

Fly shops and manufacturers aren't the only segments of the fly fishing universe experiencing unwelcome economic pressures.



In fact, fly fishing's traditional media outlets are facing growing competition from online media and a painful recession - and several may not survive the experience.

After all, new ezines are popping up like dandelions, and other online channels (like blogs, video sites, etc) are growing.

And don't forget the handful of fly fishing-focused social media sites (think Facebook with fins) that are appearing (as well as Facebook itself).

Couple that kind of competition for readers with a zero-growth fly fishing industry, and you've got the makings of The Great Fly Fishing Magazine Shakeout.

Which may be starting now.

Trouble in Magazine Land
Last year, American Angler editor Phil Monahan lost his job to budget cuts. At the time, the cuts were blamed on the umbrella media company's poorly performing newspaper properties, but those claims always seemed suspect - especially in light of recent news.

First, Fly Rod && Reel magazine - whose ad page counts have been looking thin for a couple years - announced it was going upscale with thicker issues, better paper and a reduced publishing schedule.

In other words, Fly Rod && Reel is pushing the hyperspace button. (It's also interesting to note they announced it via press release a couple weeks before they managed to get it posted on their site.)

Now, Fly Fisherman magazine - the 800 pound gorilla in the mainstream fly fishing world - just announced staffing cuts. (Humorous aside: the headline in the press release said they were announcing "Changes to Staff" - a euphemism if we've ever heard one.)

The Caveats
It's entirely possible to attribute all the above effects to the recession - and the magazines might be happy if you did exactly that - but I'd suggest multiple forces are at work here.

First, let's be clear; I wouldn't be surprised to see one or more of fly fishing's print magazines fold in the next 18 months, but I'm certainly not expecting the whole crop to simply disappear.

It's interesting to note that magazine subscription rates (among all magazines) were growing until the recession hit, so despite the struggles faced by newspapers, it's not as if magazines are dead.

They're still very much alive.

The problem isn't one of readership as much as advertising revenue - a symptom of both the economy and increasing competition from the online world..

In other words, the constant flow of online content isn't dragging readers away from magazines, but the growth in online spending does seem to be draining dollars away from hard-to-quantify print ad spends.

"Wait a minute" you say. "Don't the success of The Drake and the launch of the Fly Fish Journal offer proof of print's viability?"

If they do succeed, I'd suggest they represent more a fragmentation of the market than the salvation of it.

The Drake is clearly aimed at a different group of anglers - and it's also not a big publication.

In a pair of emails, Tom Bie didn't want to discuss circulation figures, but another magazine editor guessed its circulation at <strike>7.500</strike> [Ed: Tom Bie of the Drake now says his circulation is "between 21,000 and 23,000"] - which still largely amounts to a vanity publication, at least compared to the other mags.

Those numbers may or may not be accurate, but it's still true The Drake's appeal doesn't lie primarily with the over-45 angling crowd, who represent the core of the market (e.g. the folks with disposable income) for fly fishing's advertisers.

I don't want to argue the merits of one generation over another, but let's just say the impact of the "extreme generation" on fly fishing may be far greater online than it is in the marketplace.

The shiny new Fly Fish Journal (one issue only) remains an unknown quantity, but it's suddenly facing competition from a going-upscale Fly Rod && Reel. Is there room for two in that space? And are advertisers - already facing a chaotic marketplace - really ready to support another magazine?

No matter who's left standing once the economy improves and the dollars start flowing again, I think print magazines lacking a robust online presence will founder when trying to attract new subscribers - and won't be able to offer online ad placements as a bonus.

That's an important distinction to any ad salesperson trying to make their quota; if a competing publication serves a similar audience (and the fly fishing world just isn't that big), but also offers an advertiser access to loads of online impressions, who gets the ad budget?

It's the Internet, Stupid
It's estimated that 74.2% of North America's population accesses the Internet - a figure that represents 134% growth between 2000 and 2009.

In 2008, a Pew study said 40% of people received their national and international news from the Internet - up from 24% in 2007 (only 35% identified newspapers as their primary source of news).

In other words, the Internet is on its way to becoming the dominant distribution system for information.

Even in the somewhat moribund fly fishing media world, that seems to be the case.

Several of fly fishing's print magazines are clearly trying to make up for lost ground on the online front, but several are also clearly failing at it.

Meanwhile, online mags like the newly minted Catch offer an attractive alternative for advertising dollars - and will offer an even higher profile in the future. Why?

First, it's possible we're at the tail end of The Golden Age of Pointless Two-Page Brand Ads
in magazines, and good riddance.

Instead, actionable marketing content - possibly with video or other media embedded - will likely become ascendant, and the online magazine format offers the perfect conduit.

That bodes well for the legions of videographers currently making fly fishing movies. There's no way the market supports the video hordes via large "feature" efforts, but at least some could make a living powering out videos for destination lodges, gear manufacturers and others - most of which will be distributed online.

Then there are the "engagement" social media (like blogs and Facebook), which promise much to those willing to commit to them. So far, the fly fishing industry (and the fly fishing print magazines) have not done a stellar job leveraging things like blogs and social media, yet examples abound of successes in other industries.

Then again, the Return on Investment (ROI) of online channels like email have been well known for decades (email offers the highest ROI of any online media channel [with the possible exception of search marketing]), yet the fly fishing industry as a whole barely uses the medium.

How long can the industry keep its head firmly planted in the sand?

What's Ahead?
At the Underground, we balk at forecasting the future, but we're fine with guessing at it.

First, my earlier prediction for the future of print magazines (online/print hybrids - stuffing multiple media channels with content in order to drive readership and subscriptions) may yet come true.

In fact, Field && Stream is using traffic magnets (blogs, social media, etc) to drive subscriptions and offer different online advertising possibilities.

Done properly, a hybrid solution could easily prove more viable than an online-only magazine.

Of course, there's no shortage of online magazines available for destruction testing of this hypothesis; they're popping up like weeds.

I gather we'll wait and see.

Keep in mind the following: the Internet tends to fracture audiences across many different media channels rather than unify them, so it's quite possible that the future of online fly fishing media won't see a dominant trio emerge like the Big Three print magazines.

Instead, readers will piece together their information sources via multiple media channels - a blog here, a twitter feed here, a magazine here.

That's good for information consumers, but hard for advertisers, who will suddenly face a bazillion media channels, many of which will require their attention.

That, dear Undergrounders, will not be easy.

Then there's the difficulty online magazines will suffer trying to maintain audiences for quarterly publications.

In a fast-moving Internet world, winning readers back on a quarterly basis represents the hard path to building a magazine's readership, especially given that ad rates for online publications are traditionally lower than offline.

An online magazine suffers fewer costs, but lacking subscription fees, why wouldn't want they want a steady (if smaller) source of revenue between issues - and a way to keep readers engaged?

The answer lies with other media channels, and that whole integration issue rears up once again.

The Commercial Angle
I'm at almost 1500 words, and I haven't even addressed the rapid growth in the use of online channels (blogs, social media, video, etc) for commercial purposes.

At least one online magazine (it hasn't yet made an appearance) appears to be published by a travel agency. I've also noted (with some distress) that the unsavory practice of running destination stories written by people with a financial interest in the lodge or travel agency appears to be migrating from print to the online world.

In other words, I'd expect the already-blurry line between advertorial and editorial to fuzz over pretty heavily, and despite my appreciation of online media channels in general, that's not a prediction that fills me with joy.

In simplest terms, even if fly fishing's media won't stay current, some of the more progressive manufacturers, travel agencies and retailers will.

And the reader won't always be the winner.

Illustrating this trend are the fast-increasing number of organizations contacting the Underground looking for paid reviews or advertorial placement on the site.

I've turned them down, but it's likely that others won't.

The FTC's recent clarification of their new disclosure guidelines for bloggers and other online media seems timely given the groundswell in interest on the part of marketers.

The rules state that financial relationships with manufacturers should be disclosed if a post offers a positive review of a product, and while I applaud the idea in principle, in practice it gets a little dicey.

I already disclose the source of the product (bought it, provided by the manufacturer, etc), and the rules are really aimed at the despicable practice of stealth marketing, where bloggers are paid to post reviews, but don't disclose that information.

Still, my reading of the rules suggests that bloggers may be forced to disclose the same financial relationships that writers in fly fishing magazines have traditionally ignored - including things like free junkets to pricey destination lodges in return for coverage (which unsurprisingly is always favorable).

We'll see how that shakes out.

The Underground Ahead
I believe a few fly fishing organizations are waking up to the online world with something approaching panic.

Illustrating that fact is this:  I was contacted three times in 2009 about selling the Underground (or blogging as the Underground on another site), presumably because the Underground's built-in readership and Google juice would prove attractive to someone looking to jump-start their online presence.

None of the contacts has amounted to anything, but their existence tends to support the idea that organizations are looking to quickly get ahead in a competitive online world.

Naturally, all the above is simply the speculation of a longtime writer and marketing consultant (albeit one with 24+ years in marketing), and the Undergrounders are encouraged to weigh in with their own take on the subject.

See you at the magazine rack, Tom Chandler.

AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

38 comments
Four years later. I'd say that you pretty well nailed it. And it continues to evolve... Well done, sir.
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I love the fact that things never really die online, they just sit there or get archived. I came to this comment thread and article via Blood Knot Magazine's Sept issue where Hard Current reported on this story--seems its the stuff of legend now. I'm a total noob when it comes to FF but I'm also a digital marketing consultant with many years on Madison Ave and a FF blog that's a couple of years old ... more now...I've read the e-zines and print magazines too. I've worked with bloggers before and love the fact that I've become one...and I just think its worth mentioning that the transformation of any industry scares the sh*t out of everyone in it--the journalists, the bloggers, the brands and companies, the media surviving off the relationship between consumers and brands... But capitalism will always surprise you...look at FORD and Lehman Bros. Its clearly all about the choices brand stewards make when the chips are down. Do they innovate and get a shot at survival or do they sit firm hoping it'll blow past? Sometimes things go sideways and the guys who should've gone extinct wind up surviving (like the coelacanth or Goldman Sachs), and sometimes the innovators die before they even get started. But one thing is surely true--the MEASURE by which we judge success must also transform. Tom (s)--when you talk ROI and readership, are you sure you're talking about the same thing? Does it really MEAN the same thing to each of you? Over the years I've learned that most disputes among media, brands and advertisers--have to do with the definition of success. Sure an ABC audit says something--but what exactly, in the age of new media, social media and indie publication? What'll be interesting to watch is how the business model of making profit in a niche sport media (relative to the heavies like soccer and baseball) continues to transform, and define NEW measures of success. At some point, the editors of the FF e-zines will be providing advice to the brands on how they should be marketing. Then we'll see the brands wise up and add true social media to their marketing (look at Redington) or content development (look at SIMMS commissioned videos). I've seen this transformation take place in other verticals already (auto, consumer packaged goods). Lastly, what is incredibly different about being a blogger and a journalist--is that we don't exactly have to follow the same rules. We can be in the game, profiting from the media, brands and companies as consultants. This gives us a special responsibility--to acknowledge and disclose how we go about forming our opinions especially where potential clients are involved or we have insider information. I don't think the "public" is always prepared for that--that we where multiple hats. I can only imagine that in the FF industry, the very definition of FF media is up-for-grabs and will profoundly affect the future of the sport and success of the brands trying to monetize the space.
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Tom, I'd be interested in a follow up post on this subject. What has changed over the past year? See, because I figure you are just sitting around trying to figure out what to post, rather than up to your eye balls in a dozen or so projects.
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Thanks, Tom. Never doubted that you'd asked me, just wanted my response on the record, because you'd made it sound like I blew you off entirely. Have a great holiday season. Please keep up the stellar reporting and high journalistic standards you've set for yourself. Tom
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Again, I'm surprised you're taking this route. You say you appreciate my help, then challenge me to produce a couple of 1+ year-old emails, the implication being I never really asked in the first place. Trying to brazen this out then? Naturally, I don't have the outgoing emails, but fortunately (for me at least), Gmail archives my incoming mails (note my original question quoted below your reply): ... more As to your "Fly fishing Media" story... I love when you write about it, and I appreciate all you've done to highlight The Drake over the years, but the term "magazine subscription numbers" and "readership numbers" are both pretty much a joke because the circulation model for the mainstream ff mags is so broken. Subscription numbers are all bullshit, because half the subs are going to people who never asked for nor paid for the magazine. (American Angler and Field and Stream both show up in my mailbox every month, yet I've never paid or asked for either of them. Doubt I'm the only one in this situation.) And "readership numbers" is whatever the ad sales guy says they are. How many people does each magazine get passed on to? Who knows? But it's just a guessing game at best, surely inflated fivefold by the worst magazines. So in other words, if I believed for a second that the mainstream FF magazines owned by big publishing companies were actually telling the truth, or providing real numbers of people who actually bought the magazine, then I'd gladly participate. But there's no way that's going to happen. Besides, I have actually been working on my own "State of Flyfishing Magazines" blog post, which will appear soon. And I'd hate to bastardize my own story. Until then, I'll just keep enjoying what I know to be true: ‹That The Drake consistently has 116 pages, whereas the others are generally 64 or 72 pages. ‹That the number of copies of each issue that Barnes and Noble has asked for has doubled in the past two years, due entirely to the fact that The Drake sell-through percentage in their stores is more than 56%, compared to the industry average of 30%. ‹Most importantly, that my sell-through rate at fly shops is over 95%, and that, by far, is the most legitimate market indicator for me. In these lean times, there is only one reason a fly shop would carry the Drake: Because it sells, and the others don't. I can't tell you WHY it sells batter--you can ask the fly shops about that. But I take comfort in knowing that, at the very least, those people own their issue of The Drake because they want to own it, not because some corporate marketing department bought their name off a mailing list. Thanks Tom TB On 7/1/09 6:06 PM, "The Trout Underground" wrote: > Tom; > > Two quick questions. > > First, you still involved with the film tour? Didn't see the Drake in > the Outdoor Channel press release. > > Second, taking another look at fly fishing media in the Underground. You > willing to disclose the Drake magazine's subscription/readership numbers? > > Take care, > Tom Chandler > Trout Underground No record of my second email to you (because there was no reply), but I seem to recall suggesting I'd settle for a ballpark estimate - anything to place the Drake in the publishing ecosphere. Normal stuff. So I wasn't making it up. That's a pair of snide comments and an implication I was making shit up, and I guess I've seen way more than I wanted to from the editor of one of the few FF magazines I've bothered to support. I'm done.
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Tom Bie, Where's the rod and reel you owe me sparky?
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Gentlemen, which 5-wt. do you prefer?
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"I'm not in a great mood this morning" You don't say... Tom, you HAVE supported me, and I appreciate it. I like what you do and hope you keep doing it. Sorry if I was assholish. Since it's November, and Thanksgiving, I really don't feel like arguing. Besides, I clearly couldn't compete with a 25-year-marketing veteran anyway. (25 years = a quarter of a century? Who knew? Glad you mentioned that twice.) ... more Instead, since this debate seems largely to be about full disclosure and transparency, could you do everyone a favor and just post those two emails where you asked me my circulation numbers and I "refused to cough up even an estimate." Because I can't seem to find them in my inbox. Just post both questions here, along with both of my answers. And while you're at it, why don't you go ahead and name that other magazine editor who "guessed" that my circulation was 7,500. You know, since we're so into transparency and all. Thanks, Tom—I'm off to sell more pointless ads to those "major players who really, really don't do the basics very well."
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Love when men of letters in media duke.
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[sigh]Do you honesty see no motive for one of my competitors “guessing” that my circulation is 7,500Given that I twice gave you the opportunity to offer up anything substantive about your circulation (that's two emails where you refused to cough up even an estimate), it's a little surprising that you're berating me for not getting the number right.Especially given the story acknowledged the fact ... more you wouldn't offer info, and right below said I didn't know if the number was right.2) As to your comment about “Pointless Two-Page Brand Ads in magazines.” I'm sure that the business minds at Simms, Sage, Hatch, and Yellow Dog (not to mention Apple, IBM, HP, Microsoft) can only hope to someday achieve the business wisdom of an underground blogger.Oops. I really wouldn't think you'd want to take this road. (The "when you don't like the message, launch a personal attack" road.) That's messy. And in this case, kinda stupid.First, yes, I'm a blogger (and yeah, I noticed the sneer), but then again, so are some of your readers. I'm also a 25 year marketing veteran. That means, for over a quarter of a century, I've made my living doing this stuff.Amusingly, I've actually worked for two of the "big" companies you cited as examples (one of them is Apple).Which means I can say this: your examples prove my point, not yours.But since you cited them as proof, could you offer some insight as to what percentage of your examples' marketing budgets are sunk into "pointless two-page ads" ("pointless" actually being a reference to the quality of many FF ads) and what percentage is focused on broadcast or direct channels (email, direct response, social media, tele, etc)?While you're at it, want to offer some insight about how those budgets are trending?I can. Progressive marketing organizations have been steadily shifting budgets out of print advertising for years (ROI continues to fall).And yes, you might have noticed that some of the world's print properties are struggling (even the good ones).Heard of Nike? For the last five years (up until three years ago - the last year I have figures for), Nike had been steadily shrinking its ad & broadcast buys in favor of more direct media (to the tune of more than 1/3) even as their total marketing budget was growing. See, I know these things, and that knowledge informs my opinion of fly fishing's major players - many of whom really, really don't do the basics very well.I don't think noticing that out loud is a bad thing. Maybe if fly fishing had more people willing to speak out - and fewer uncritical cheerleaders - a few of the recent disasters (like AFFTA's attempt to kill Furimsky's Denver show) might have ended better.In simple terms, I have actual evidence (and a quarter century of experience) to support the assertions in my article - and you've showed up with a number you wouldn't originally release and a blogger smear.I'm feeling OK about my original story.Especially given the article suggested the Drake was an isolated example of print media success - not a sign the print industry as a whole was looking good (still true even at 20,000+ circulation).That's worth an attempted bitch slap? Really??Ok.As for being a reader of the Drake, I guess that's not really accurate. My subscription ran out (I didn't get a reminder, see my statement about "basics" above), so I re-subscribed. The payment went through, but all I got was an email which said my order was lost, and what did I want again?I replied, it's been months, and still no magazine. As the editor, can you help me out with that?I'm not in a great mood this morning, and even though an editor showed up months late with twice-asked for circ numbers and a sorta assholish remark about bloggers (aimed directly at one who's supported your mag), I think I'll taper off with two
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Not sure how I missed this the first time around, but I do have three 10-month-late comments to this thread: 1)Do you honesty see no motive for one of my competitors "guessing" that my circulation is 7,500—a number that is less than a third of my actual circulation? I sell nearly 7,500 copies of The Drake in Barnes & Noble and Borders alone. 2) As to your comment about "Pointless Two-Page Brand ... more Ads in magazines." I'm sure that the business minds at Simms, Sage, Hatch, and Yellow Dog (not to mention Apple, IBM, HP, Microsoft) can only hope to someday achieve the business wisdom of an underground blogger. Full disclosure: Between 21,000 and 23,000 people buy my magazine each issue. So, using the admittedly questionable "readership" math that my competitors like to toss out, I would have roughly 50,000 "readers" each issue. And since you admit to being one of them, I wouldn't call that pointless. Besides, you clearly noticed them enough to criticize them in your blog post... 3) You wrote: "The Drake's appeal doesn't lie primarily with the over-45 angling crowd, who represent the core of the market." You might be right, Tom, that the over-45 angling crowd represents the core of the market. But they do not represent the FUTURE of the market. And if we're talking about owning a "niche," I'll take the future over the past any day.
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Not if you're one of the starving, going-slower-every-day Gazelles, but yeah, you need high waters once in a while to blow out the sediment...
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Lean times can ultimately be healthy.
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Got some ad space to sell, cheep. Lots.
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Flykuni: Clarifying, I'm referring to the peep's expection of freeness. Damnit, I told you not to get me started...
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Thanks for the informative comment. Given my past history with Apple, I won't be waiting in line to buy an iPad anytime soon - especially given the flash limitation. Given the fly fishing world's continuing reliance on low ROI, low-impact marketing methods, the fact that they're still buying two-page ads in magazines isn't all that surprising. It's not that display advertising is bad, it's that there ... more are far better ways to generate revenues. Most of them are doing it fairly poorly. A couple years ago, I teamed with a real fly fishing up-and-comer and pitched some killer, low-priced Web projects to a couple fly fishing companies. For less than the price (at that time) of a single mag ad, we offered some pretty substantial traffic/engagement guarantees... and got baffled looks in return. It's easy to dismiss this as the wild-eyed ravings of some new media lunatic, but trust me - I've been in marketing for 24 years, and the fly fishing industry is largely ignoring the best practices from ten years (or more) ago. Simms remains a marketing machine (though largely a traditional marketing machine), but others are catching up, and people will likely be surprised when they realize which company is about to become Absolute Ruler of the Fly Fishing Universe (or at least get a head start on the title).
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Hatches a niche magazine, and the more niche, it seems the safer the mag. Didn't have the time to delve into the online constructs that might replace magazines, but I'm pretty sure it isn't going to be... online magazines.
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Clarifying, I'm referring to the peep's expection of freeness.
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Okay, I understand now. To improve the viability of the print magazines they don't need to improve the quality of the content, they only need to gild the turd online. Well, that works for elections. People don't seem to care about content, only frequency of soundbites. But the example I gave and your response are interesting in themselves. I think that the phenomenal number of fly fishermen who tie ... more their own flies, and the support they provide for fly tying magazines, would indicate that many fly fishermen want the sense of accomplishment of building/fixing their own equipment. Each of the flies I tied used to cost me about $150.13... just in materials I didn't use. If this is typical, then surely those who tie their own flies don't do it to save money or to get better flies. By extension, were we to return to magazine articles on "How to Manufacture Your Own Fly Box from the Rear Wheel of a 2007 Escalade", I believe that fly fishermen across the US would be rushing to the garage with a jack.
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Great article Tom. But I still think that in terms of display advertising, and compared to other subject matters, magazines are largely supported by the fly fishing industry at the moment....well certainly here in the UK. I certainly haven't seen a lot these advertisers allocating significant amounts of their marketing budgets online and I'm not sure they really get the medium at all....yet. I do ... more find their reluctance to go online a bit strange to be honest, especially as these magazines only boast circulations around the 30K mark, which can only be relatively small % of the entire UK market. Does advertising to the same people, month in, month out, year in year out, work? Somehow I doubt it. But Google Adwords has certainly had an impact on the classified ad market. Classified ad pages have dropped in number severely and there are a number of specialist classified ad sales houses that have gone bust over here. This can only continue to trickle down into a subject like fly fishing. As to what fly fishing companies should be doing online....I can't say I've really seen any fly fishing companies execute a great strategy yet but surely content marketing will have to play a far bigger part than in the mix than they're probably used too. Banner click through rates are, as we all know, low low low and there a lot of people out there who just don't click at all. Oh, as far as the comment goes about the Ipad, flyfishing online magazines (Catch, This is Fly etc) should take note that it doesn't run Flash and is probably unlikely too anythime in the future whilst Apple and Adobe continue to play fisticuffs with each other.
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ST: Great analysis, Tom. I couldn't agree more, especially with the idea of a print/online combo being the best model. [cough]Hatches Magazine[/cough]
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Flykuni: It's the content, Katie Scarlett. And someone who doesn't mind being that person, 24/7/365. But the problem, at its core IMHO, isn't how fast the information be but rather how free it is expected to be. In a commercial sense, the content generated by an aggressive fly fishing manufacturer would be a marketing cost. And I'm not even touching the whole "information wants to be free" bullshit ... more that so many buy into; I'm tired of getting mauled for suggesting Google and aggregators are making big bucks off the content of others - including newspapers. If anyone still believes information wants to be free, have 'em add up the cost of their phone bill, cell phone, Internet connection, satellite TV and the Google AdSense they use to run their business... See what you did? I told you not to get me started...
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Overmywaders: What is required in a new fly fishing magazine is a return to the roots. For example, an early FFing mag had a monthly column by Garrison, IIRC, on maintaining and repairing your gear – especially cane fly rods. Now gear is considered disposable, but is it really disposable in an economy where money is tight? Here's a cynical perspective; a column on repairing gear would die quickly ... more because the majority of folks don't want to repair gear - they want to buy new stuff. I mean, could this be a case of "we have met the enemy, and he is us?"
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Great analysis, Tom. I couldn't agree more, especially with the idea of a print/online combo being the best model. I also believe we're yet to see an online magazine with decent content. Everyone enjoys a nice photo and light-hearted story, but I'm yet to see anything technical in these new online mags. Information is what sells. It's the formula that ALL successful media use. Fish porn wears thin ... more after a while.
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Less sheer number of issues = better content? I would like to think so. Many years ago when Outside mag switched to a more issues the content quality went down significantly. Gray's Sporting Journal has managed to keep the content quality up fairly well, although after David Foster passed away, it seems to be struggling a bit. Catch is eye candy, but well done eye candy! Drake is good when you can ... more find it - I tried to subscribe twice online and never have gotten an issue - or charged for that matter. Not a very good business model. The shake out will be interesting - but being a multi-sport advocate it's hard to have time to read a whole lot - except for the "real" TU site of course! Keep up the good work TC!!
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Let's throw in the mix the new Apple iPad, which is supposed to have magazine's lining up to provide on-line versions of their rags. Having an on-line version won't change the fact the content might remain boring, but for example, I really like the Sierra Fisherman the couple of times I've picked it up. If they had an on-line version I had to pay a subscription to, and it allowed them to lower their ... more need for advertisers (no printing costs) I'd probably subscribe to it. But that also goes back to niche market of new publishers offering tighter, fun content, instead of the stodgy old stuff.
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TC: "At the Underground, we balk at forecasting the future, but we're fine with guessing at it...". Same here at the paper.
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TC: "That's good for information consumers, but hard for advertisers, who will suddenly face a bazillion media channels, many of which will require their attention." Bjorn: "I've been kind of surprised that so few of the gear folks have an on-line anything (beyond a website). No twitter, no blogs, no videos. I don't really understand that. How hard is it to set up a Twitter account? Isn't customer ... more loyalty worth cultivating?" I work at a newspaper in Los Angeles. These two quotes I've c&p'd sound familiar. Re Bjorn's, and TC's response, yes, the setting up is easy as a click. It's the content, Katie Scarlett. And someone who doesn't mind being that person, 24/7/365. But the problem, at its core IMHO, isn't how fast the information be but rather how free it is expected to be.
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rc: FF is such a narrow market that the big zines still have considerable value to print advertisers. I dont think the strong zines will go away completely, but the online integration is paramount as you suggest. News consumption online has huge impact on papers/subscriptions, but I dont think thats as comparable to magazine readership as you think. People want news quick and to the point, as well ... more as the ability to seek out only the info they want to ingest. Interest publications like FFing mags get more engagement. I think the lack of alternate channels in fly fishing has kept the big magazines in chips longer than in larger media markets, and in one sense, I think the recession has helped fly fishing's print magazines by hurrying them along the path - which they might have otherwise have traversed slowly, dying a slow death. Now they can make decisions before the axe falls. Also, I believe there is a huge difference between news and luxury/hobbyist/leisure markets - one that insulates those markets from change, but also provides all sorts of engagement opportunities simply not found in less "comfy" markets. I wasn't kidding when I said the strongest media center in fly fishing would likely include a print component, though a very strong online presence is needed. Right now, that doesn't really exist. Thanks for your perspective.
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Bjorn: I've been kind of surprised that so few of the gear folks have an on-line anything (beyond a website). No twitter, no blogs, no videos. I don't really understand that. How hard is it to set up a Twitter account? Isn't customer loyalty worth cultivating? Setting up a Twitter account is easy, but how do you feed the content monster? In truth, your observation is spot on. Winston rods just launched ... more their "new" Web site, yet it retains all the same static elements from the previous site. It's pretty - and they're big on video (which is not exactly a community builder on a small scale) - but there's nothing even remotely suggesting engagement. In other words - like so many in the fly fishing industry - they're marketing like it's 1995. A year ago I spoke to a struggling rodmaking company who wasn't interested in things like an email program (high ROI) or any social media. They were, however, willing to spend big for their yearly makeover of their site - which delivered absolutely nothing to their bottom line (except a hefty expense). I could go on and on about the industry, but this a media-focused thread, and what's interesting is how poorly the fly fishing magazines - even a few of the online versions - seem to be faring on the social media front. It's not really a single-channel world any more.
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Good topic. I sell advertising and sponsorships for a sports radio station, and certainly have leveraged the diminishing print and mag subscription trends. FF is such a narrow market that the big zines still have considerable value to print advertisers. I dont think the strong zines will go away completely, but the online integration is paramount as you suggest. News consumption online has huge impact ... more on papers/subscriptions, but I dont think thats as comparable to magazine readership as you think. People want news quick and to the point, as well as the ability to seek out only the info they want to ingest. Interest publications like FFing mags get more engagement. This is just my opinion from experience with radio. My station gets outstanding ratings as exclusive sports station in the market, while the 3-4 news stations get strong ratings for AM drive but have huge turnover and the rest of the day they drop off the charts. Interest station such as sports talk draws slightly lower overall cume numbers but much longer TSL (time spent listening) which translates to high engagement and an attractive advertising environment. rc
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I grew disillusioned with the print FFing magazines years ago when they changed the emphasis from fishing to catching. Perhaps equally disappointing was the lack of any really new information. Each article seemed simply a re-cycling of something from another rag eighteen months earlier. Looking at an ad line to content line comparison between a FFing mag of 1975 and one of 1995 is very enlightening ... more (I don't have the numbers at hand). The number and substance of articles in the earlier mags and their relevance to the average fisherman overwhelmed the thin fluffernutter modern productions. What is required in a new fly fishing magazine is a return to the roots. For example, an early FFing mag had a monthly column by Garrison, IIRC, on maintaining and repairing your gear - especially cane fly rods. Now gear is considered disposable, but is it really disposable in an economy where money is tight? What about a cover painting or photo of some aspect of fishing, rather than the current crop of pretty men in spotless gear holding phallic salmonids? Here is my impression of a man fishing: http://overmywaders.com/graphix/voelker.jpg Yes, that is old judge Voelker (Traver).
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I've been kind of surprised that so few of the gear folks have an on-line anything (beyond a website). No twitter, no blogs, no videos. I don't really understand that. How hard is it to set up a Twitter account? Isn't customer loyalty worth cultivating? I just subscribed to a couple new fly fishing magazines... silly me, I did it through Amazon and got word that my subscriptions would start in 6-8 ... more weeks... they must be hand writing the things for me. I understand magazines aren't the instant gratification of the TU, but making me wait 2 months to get on a mailing list seems a bit... dumb. Should be interesting to watch.
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MaineFlyBoi: My point being, if online magazines like This is Fly, Catch, or even the new Sleeping in the Dirt were published and sold on magazine racks (maybe 3 or 4 issues a year), over time I believe they would fair far better than some of the older magazines out right now that feature million dollar trips and overpriced gear while catering largely to the 45+ crowd. Edgy content sells, fish porn ... more sells, and independent fly fishing companies are far more attractive to the younger generation than companies like Orvis or Sage (for the most part).Just my two cents-Ben I agree that the "Trip of a Lifetime" thing has been done to death, though I disagree about "edgy content" selling. I think the jury's still out.In one sense, "edgy" has sold real well - as long as it's free. That's sorta the point about The Drake; does it represent the arrival of the younger fly fishers as a real force in the industry, or is it simply a small-scale "vanity" publication - a fair reflection of the size of that market niche?FWIW, I don't really consider "Catch" edgy. It's a picture magazine that's taking full advantage of the Internet's strengths. I think it exists right now not because of any generational thing, but simply because the technology has finally arrived to make it possible. I tell my less-Internet-savvy consulting clients the under-35 market will someday be the over-45 market they target, so even if they don't have the disposable income needed to make them a target, you ignore them at your own peril.
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While The Drake does seem to register better with younger audiences, I wouldn't be so quick to assume that the bulk of it's readers are 20 somethings. Judging from a poll on The Drake's website a while back asking members how old they are, I'd wager that the majority of subscribers are middle-aged, or approaching it, and beyond.
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Great read T.C., I agreed wholeheartedly. But while trying to please everyone is always a losing game. simply ignoring the youth in the industry is equally as destructive (in my humble opinion). This is where I feel many print magazines fail to deliver. My point being, if online magazines like This is Fly, Catch, or even the new Sleeping in the Dirt were published and sold on magazine racks (maybe ... more 3 or 4 issues a year), over time I believe they would fair far better than some of the older magazines out right now that feature million dollar trips and overpriced gear while catering largely to the 45+ crowd. Edgy content sells, fish porn sells, and independent fly fishing companies are far more attractive to the younger generation than companies like Orvis or Sage (for the most part). Just my two cents -Ben
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My last "resubscribe now" notice from Fly Rod & Reel came right in the midst of my trip to Ethiopia and (ahem) adjustment to new dad status. A time when FF magazines did not occupy my thoughts overmuch. A few months later, I bought a copy off the newstand, and realized I couldn't live without my Gierach/Williams fix, and re-subbed to FR&R. The others I let go more or less without a thought (Drake ... more excepted, though it comes out infrequently enough it doesn't really register). In any case, you stated the objections of many rather succinctly.
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Honestly, I've subscribed to and canceled several different magazines over the last few years. It was not because of the recession, but rather that I did not receive a consistently well written magazine. When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. The magazines are chock full of gear reviews (aka more ads), destinations that only millionaires could travel to, and usually one or two ... more decent articles. It is hard to justify a subscription when the content is hit-or-miss. The online magazines currently seem to be more eye candy then anything. When you can click to flip a page I seem to flip a whole lot faster. Again, at least for me it is all about the content.
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