The End of Print, Not the End of Quality

I have been trying to get an interview done for for awhile now. Unfortunately, the person I am having one of my writers interview, was born before the 80’s and doesn’t seem to understand the concept of web. He just keeps asking “will it go in the magazine” instead of just answering the questions for a site that is checked by pretty much every wakeskater in the world, and will be seen by more eyes, and by more people who actually care, at that.

Wakeskating is it’s own animal, it’s small, no-budget, etc etc. But my employer and I are investing all we can into producing quality content for a website that helps to promote the sport. The best possible content. Unfortunately at this point, there’s not much we can do monetarily, but hopefully that will change. (And I should note, we are trying.) However, it brings up something that has been especially relevant lately, what with the economy and all.

I am speaking of getting paid for your work from the snow publications. It has recently been brought to my attention that a certain biggest snowboard magazine in the world isn’t paying for professional featured web galleries. They are getting them simply on the currency of “exposure,” which at this point, every one should know is bullshit. I mean, I tried to pay my mortgage in “exposure” last month and they totally weren’t into it.

Now I am a writer, and if anything my photography is part of the problem, not part of the solution. I’ve been known to “throw in photos” to sell a story. It sucks, and I hate doing it because I know I am screwing someone else over. But the biggest problem I see is the major regression going on right now under the guise of the “bad economy” and freelancers letting them get away with it.

When I started writing about snowboarding I was getting $.25 per word for web stories. I distinctly remember getting over $400 for a web story with no photos. And this was long before anyone even considered web a viable advertising medium.But now the same publication isn’t paying anything for stuff on the web?

Now that print is suffering (and I’ve seen the new issue of said magazine and can appreciate that it’s about 1/5 the size it used to be) web is becoming increasingly more important. Advertisers can finally understand the concept of your ad being seen over and over by a potentially unlimited audience, and they want a part of that. It’s good and I obviously am in favor of the switch.

I have been a web journalist for almost as long as anyone I know. So I like to think I “get it.” And it used to be that you could shovel shit onto your website if you are also publishing a magazine because hey, it’s just the web! But things have changed. There are 8 billion websites out there now, most of them apparently about action sports. If you post stuff, people won’t automatically check it anymore. It has to be good, useful or interesting. So how do you get such content? YOU PAY FOR IT. Yeah the economy is bad, but there are more reasonable ways to “trim the fat” than not paying for contributions. (Ahem, huge crews in exotic locations, being at every retarded contest, etc etc.)

Unfortunately in snowboarding, there are tons of people who want to write about it and shoot it. And they don’t all seem to be informed that it’s actually valuable to do so, well at least. So when exposure is dangled in front of their keen little faces, they jump on it. And as it turns out, some not-so-green people have been as well. Then the “big guy” uses that content to sell advertising and cuts their buyout rates even more. Awesome, right?

So whatever, I have given up on freelancing. I have my own projects and I am doing ok. (Please note: it is my goal to start paying for contributions on YoBeat as soon as possible.) But the bigger problem I see is that the quality is going to continue to deteriorate and everything is going to suffer. People won’t pick up a magazine or go to a website if it’s a total piece of crap with bad writing and photography, and well, I think the media is important in keeping people stoked.

As long as people keep giving things away, the big guys will keep not paying. I don’t think that writing this is going to change anything at the top (or anything at all.) But as a person who’s job is to buy and sell intellectual content well, it had to be said.

  1. Indeed I have, which is why I linked to that exact post! ha.

  2. Agreed!
    As much as we hate to admit it, the action sports media (and shops, and contests, and sponsored riders) are marketing tools for the big, conglomerated “industry,” at least as much we they act as journalists covering said industry.
    The various action sports industries have long prided themselves on being “for skateboarding/snowboarding/aggressive inlining, by skateboarders, etc.” But now that they’re scrambling for the big dollar sign in the sky, we went up with a crappy product because they’re cutting corners.
    But I think it’s a turn for the good. Let’s face it, the only difference between a major magazine and something like YoBeat (shameless plug!) is dollars behind it and reputation — except as major mags reputations slip (they get smaller, less relevant content, etc), the small guys get better and more popular.
    As the industry seems to turn away from the its homegrown, pressing-boards-in-the-garage, ‘zine-and-cheap-beer-fueled roots, the grassroots media and industry are coming up on their own.
    I don’t know where I’m going with this, but hopefully some people will click my name so when you start paying your minions it looks like a lot of people actually read “the n00b” on

  3. pdx

    Uninformed and a naive view of media. Nothing New from Shay, er, Brooke. Whatever, same thing really.

  4. Oooooh burn….. It’s amazing how funny and smart anonymous comments always are!

  5. “That was not a wicked burn Kelso.” Funny thing is I get the same brilliant anon comments on Any critical thinking is usually derided and then they end up quoting you in job interviews. That being said I think there has been a drastic market shift due to the democratization of web content. Actually, democratization is the wrong term.

    Since the barriers to entry have been removed and the ease of use increased the notion of what is good and not good content become skewed. Was lat34’s “Girl on Feature” good content? Well if you identify good content as getting lots of PV’s and a high UV/PV ratio then…sure. But, it’s not sustainable in the long run. You’re getting into maxim/Playboy turf and once you go the skin route there’s no going back. You are either all in or not when it comes to that type of content programming.

    YoBeat, Snowbroader, etc all have the right idea: Develop the Audience. Consistent UV growth is how a sustainable media biz is grown. As this runs along side the value of content. Well, the market is flooded with content now. The key thing for YoBeat is how do you differentiate yourself from EXPN, Bloggers and TW. What’s the value proposition?

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