One of my main professional projects is YoBeat.com. Just saying that sounds weird, given that I’ve been “doing” YoBeat since I was 15 years old, but these days, it is actually a large part of my day-to-day exsitence. I can’t complain. It’s amazing to have a project that I have full creative control over, people seem to like, and even makes me a (very) little bit of money. But the strangest part about concentrating on YoBeat is that students and aspiring extreme journalists have taken notice. I’ve done a few online interviews about it. There was the one on (apparently now defunct) Diablo Snow, before the actual relaunch. And then of course I got my big break on Shayboarder.com last October. The most recently though, was for a senior at Ohio University. She was working on a project for her “business practices for photographers” class and was assigned to interview someone running a business she admired. I was honored she chose YoBeat as that business and I answered her many questions. I’m not going to lie, partially I am proud of my answers, and partially I want to get more mileage out of my hard work. So follow the jump and check out how exactly we make YoBeat magic happen.
1. When/why did you decide you wanted to start a website catering to snowboarding? Where did your inspiration come from?
I don’t think I ever set out to “start a website catering to snowboarding.” I was 15 when i started YoBeat with my friend Rachel and snowboarding was just what we were both into. We actually wanted to make a print zine, but since neither of had any money, and AOL gave free server space, it turned into a website. Snowboarding is how we met, so it was a natural topic, but if you look at the first issue, there’s actually very little snowboarding involved! In fact the name YoBeat is a take off on Tiger Beat and Teen Beat. Over the years though, it evolved into being mostly about snowboarding because at that point, it was my whole life.
2. How did you go about setting up everything? (I guess just a general history of how YoBeat got going, like what it takes to set up a successful online media outlet)
In the early days, YoBeat was hosted on our AOL account servers. First mine, then my Rachel’s, then my dad’s when we’d both used up our two mbs. I think it was 1999 when I finally got my dad to sponsor our own URL. dads are great! For years he actually paid our hosting fees and it wasn’t until I’d graduated from college that i started paying for them myself. In Sept. 2008 YoBeat relaunched in a form where I intended to make it a profitable business for the first time ever.
3. Did you do any advertising/marketing or otherwise promote yourself right away?
Since we already had a ton of history, there was little marketing that went into our relaunch. I sent out a press release but that was about it. Over the years though, I had built the yobeat brand by getting sweet pros to hold up YoBeat stickers, which sort of became our trademark. But in internet, I think there’s little use in buying a ton of advertising etc. The best marketing you can get is getting links around to other sites and having people come back because you have quality content. Basically building a dedicated audience over time. And of course, search engine optimitization helps out too!
4. Do you have a main office? Where does the magic happen?
My office is located in Portland, OR, but Nick, my managing editor, goes to school in Eugene and only comes in during school breaks, etc. In the office is myself, and Jared Souney who is a designer and has been kind enough to help out with redesigning the site, logos, stickers, etc.
5. How many people do you have on-staff? How did you get to the size you are? Do you have any plans to grow?
Right now we have two full time staff members, myself and Nick. Rachel still helps out on a technical side (she is a programmer by trade these days) and we have several columnists and contributors (check the author list on the site.) As far as growth goes, the only plans are to grow in profit, but for the most part we will stay a bare bones operation as long as possible!
6. What are the advantages/disadvantages of being the size you are?
Being a small company is awesome. I am my own boss. I can write what I want and don’t have to answer to anyone in terms of what I think should and shouldn’t go on the site. It’s also easier to get cheap submissions when you don’t have a corporate backer. Of course the disadvantage is it’s a ton of work and there is no one else to delegate it to. Honestly we are in desperate need of someone pushing ad sales full time, but the budget is not there to do so. It’s sort of a chicken and egg situation, which honestly, I am yet to figure out!
7. Who do you hire? Do you use freelancers? How often? Why/why not?
We have a handful of regular contributors and will use freelancers as needed. But at this point, we are not able to pay anyone, which somewhat limits our options on who we can use. A lot of times though, it’s easier to just write or shoot something myself then to try and source it out (especially for free.) That way, I have total control of quality and don’t have to deal with bruised egos when i edit people’s work!
8. Do people hire you? Does anyone else use the info on YoBeat?
I work as a freelance writer, so yes, other people hire me regularly. These days it’s pretty tough to find work as print fails and web is yet to really monetize. But I have written for all the major snow mags, done PR work for companies such as Nikita and Grenade, and had many odd jobs over the years. We are often linked to by other snow sites, but I am not sure anyone else “uses” our info in a conventional sense. When I was in college someone tried to buy YoBeat for 10 grand but I wisely turned them down since they had “X” in their name. They went out of business soon after…
9. How do you make your money? What kind of marketing/promotion do you currently use?
Our money is made through impression-based ad sales. We have t-shirts and stickers that sell, but mostly give out as promotion. Being at events, talking to people, email blasts, etc all help promote. We are also big fans of social media such as twitter, facebook and myspace. You’d be amazed how much traffic you can generate posting on these.
10. What drives YoBeat? Where do you get your inspiration?
YoBeat is fun. That’s the long and short of it. I love having an outlet where i can say and do what I want, and making money at it is just a bonus. I felt like the shred media was getting fairly stale, which I think was the reason for the relaunch… someone with a little bit of legitimacy needed to step up and do something cool and interesting for the sake of snowboarding. It may be presumptuous to say this, but since we’ve started pushing the envelope, a lot of others seemed to follow suit. And it’s definitely no secret that TWS and Snowboarder have copied more than a few our of columns and ideas!
11. Is there any other inside info on YoBeat you care to share or think might be relevant?
I guess the elephant in the room: YoBeat isn’t making anyone rich. I don’t plan on it ever doing so… I guess the long term profit potential is more in selling to someone like USA Today or MTV, trying to stay relevant and/or cash in on action sports. But since YoBeat is my baby, I sort of think I’d rather let it die than have that happen. Of course, talk to me when I see the zeros on that figurative check and I may have a different answer!