Surfing magazines and the slow march into oblivion

Stu Nettle
Surfpolitik

This morning I conducted an interview on the sands of Manly Beach. The name of the fellow I interviewed isn't important - you wouldn't have heard of him anyway. But I absolutely guarantee that you'd be interested in what he's doing. Which is, just quickly: creating a self sufficient farm on a windswept Southern Ocean isle that houses a wild lefthander which he mostly surfs solo.

At the end of our conversation I explained why I was interviewing him – a surfer without a sponsor or famous name.

I related to him that, at Swellnet, we found early on that not many companies or their riders would talk to us. We'd tried striking up Swellnet-style articles with surf companies to no avail. The magazines and our competitors would dance to their tune and our groove just wasn't what they were looking for. Fortunately the solution was as simple as it was beautiful: give voice to the everyday surfers that other everyday surfers – read: you and me - find interesting.

And so we did. In our Wave of the Day's we ran hot locals, unknown beyond their postcode. In Swellnet Sessions whoever got the best waves, even if they rode a sticker-free stick, made the cut. In photos and text across the site we gave voice to surfers everywhere. And the best thing of all? Everyone dug it, and our traffic stats shows that you still do.

At the completion of the interview I made my way to the office and sat down at my desk. There to the side and stacked in a small pile was the latest delivery of surf magazines. Each of them wrapped in plastic with an Australian title sitting on top, the headline of which caught my eye: 'The 50 Most Intriguing People In Surfing Today.'

Who can deny such tabloid-style lists? I ripped off the plastic, dived right in, and was immediately appalled.

Here were 50 separate opportunities to give voice to people outside of the tiny bubble of the surf industry. But who, I hear you ask, makes the list? Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Dane Reynolds...

Unbelievable.

And the worst part was that in his opening spiel the editor spoke fondly of a surfer at his local, someone who'd caught the ed's attention as he represented a special aspect of the surfing life. That intro made me race to the article yet he doesn't even make the list! And to spoil the story for you, nor does any personality not already represented in the pro surfing milieu - Tony Abbott and Nathan Oldfield notwithstanding. Yes, there were a few genuinely intriguing people: Oldfield, Dr Rex Campbell, Cyrus Sutton.

Reading this magazine gave me the isolating feeling of looking at the world through a magnifying glass. It's a fabrication, surfing in 2013 is so much bigger and richer than what the magazines would have you believe. There's a vast array of people, theories, designs and concepts – some of them very intriguing indeed - flowing through the surfing world but you'll rarely read about any of them in print. I don't know if that's due to commercial restrictions, fear of change, or a flat lack of imagination. Perhaps it's a combination of all three.

What I do know is this: as with the wider world, the internet is slowly democratising the surfing world, uncovering fresh elements that add depth and breadth and colour to the surfing life, and yet the magazines blindly continue with their insular fiefdoms of sponsor and celebrity. I'm tempted to say that unless something changes it will be the death of them. But that ain't necessarily so, at this pace irrelevance will creep up faster.

Of course in surfing magazines we want to see good surfing and Kelly Slater, Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning can provide that visually, but it's an indictment upon those involved to include those people as the most intriguing in all of the surfing world. Like, really?

The example I gave is simply the latest step in magazines slow march from obduracy to oblivion. Here they had a chance to break free of the boys club cycle that, with few exceptions, makes surfing magazines the idyll of teenagers and objects of derision for most everyone else. In this there was nothing intriguing, it was standard magazine fodder only formatted into fifty dot points.

Comments

trolleyboy's picture
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trolleyboy commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 12:24pm

Its amazing how you forget magazines exist once you stop reading them.

robbo11's picture
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robbo11 commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 12:41pm

Stu, this is the best article relating to surfing ive read in a long time, im so sick of these pathetic magazines and the way surfers today, regardless of age or skill, particularly kids feel they need to conform to the norm, or rebel to feel that they are a 'surfer', this usually entales long hair and run down cars.. purely for image. Nothing is worse than when you see a bloke with long blonde hair, riding a board with a ripcurl sticker on it, driving a shitty VW van from the 60's who can hardly stand up. Cant people just be contempt with riding a wave instead of spewing their facade onto the rest of the world outside of the water.

garry-weed's picture
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garry-weed commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 12:42pm

I used to spend time reading surfing magazines.
Good looking people wearing Lee Cooper jeans

gary weed

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 12:45pm

Yep I have forgotten all about the mainstream publications haven't read one in years. Shame about it is that SW and tracks were almost the swellnet of 30 years ago now they are the No idea of surfing. And I reckon the Al Merrick sticker is worse than Ripcurl as my hobby horse is support local shapers.

deanw12's picture
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deanw12 commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 1:01pm

Magazine surf journalism is like watching celebrety splash, may as well do something else.

kaiser's picture
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kaiser commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 1:12pm

Surfing is not a vehicle to obtain an identity. These magazines are simply a marketing push so they can sell product to pay their obligations to either shareholders or sponsored 'employees'. Agree with robbo, do it for the pure enjoyment of riding a wave, not cos people may think you are cool because you do it

samuelnorwood's picture
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samuelnorwood commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 1:19pm

I want to agree but I flick through the latest Surfing Life and I see a piece on Tommy Peterson scattering Michael Peterson's ashes at Bells - history that I want to have a hard copy of.

A few pages on and I see a whole feature on Australia that features numerous double pages of surfers I've never heard of, but are ripping none the less.

At the back I see a feature on Ben Cryan, who I'd never heard of but holy shit I know his crazy story of survival now.

In between all that there's still the big names and usual ripping by Kelly but it looks pretty even between big names and the no names.

A quality piece of print that you can keep forever, that won't require any plug-ins or software updates.

Did I mention the issue goes on sale tomorrow? At all good newsagencies...

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 1:19pm

@ Dean,

To a large extent that's true, the internet has given access to some brilliant, previously unknown surf writers (Steve Shearer for instance), but it doesn't apply to all. There are a few journos that I'll always stop and read no matter where they appear: Jock Serong, Nick Carroll, Kirk Owers, Dekka Rielly, Phil 'the leashless longboarder' Jarratt, amongst others. It's the vehicle that's busted not the occupants.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 1:20pm

Nice one Sam...

derra83's picture
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derra83 commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 1:38pm

Where does White Horses stand in all of this? They seem the only print publication offering an alternative.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 1:46pm

I love what Gra Murdoch is doing at White Horses. He has his own set of challenges but it's a magazine that has bucked the trend (pun fully intended) and I'd love to see it thrive. May the Horse never be saddled with commercial compromise!

bigmarn's picture
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bigmarn commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 1:51pm

Perhaps the problem is that there's actually not 50 really interesting people in surfing? Most interviews you read with surfers are almost as bad as the ones you read with skaters. Brainless and predictable.

There's no doubt that surfing magazines are in trouble - but your article smacks a little of sour grapes. Surfing media - web, print and social - is all about inspiring you to want to go out and surf more. But to attack magazines is to ignore all the great and inspiring work they have done over the years, and which they will continue to do.

Stu, you've done well with a business model that relies on the fundamentals of surfing - checking the surf, daily. But can you show me where you'd featured 50 interviews in a 30 day period, or even a 60 day period? Perhaps it was just too grand a venture for that magazine to attempt? But at least they tried.

Yeah, it's all well and good to focus on the everyman surfer, but some people like to read about the guys and gals at the top of the sport. And as you said, the reality is that an "everyman" can very rarely get a good photo. What makes you think that interviewing them would be any better?

anothermindlessopinion's picture
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anothermindless... commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:07pm

White Horses hasn't impressed me at all. It seems like its trying to be a bit too cool, a bit too retro, a bit too stylish. Style over substance I would say. Which can't be said for Swellnet as the design is bloody awful. Like something out of the 90's. Lucky the articles, albeit bite sized, usually touch on interesting or controversial topics and you have a committed following of readers willing to comment. The comments are the most interesting parts to read I find. Except this one of course.

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:12pm

Yeah our design is terrible, AMO. Good thing is that it'll be fixed shortly.

nickcarroll's picture
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nickcarroll commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:15pm

Well stu there's surf mags and there's surf mags. Some are good and some are shit. and by god there are some sites full of utter fcuken nonsense too.

Surf mags have a different place in surfing today than they did in 1977 and it's not just online media that's responsible.

what's really changed is the sport and culture itself. How many guys who hate today's surf mags almost by reflex grew up in a time and space when surf mags were absolutely vital to them and to their growing vision of surfing? What else do they hate about surfing today compared to when they were kids?

Print surf media can and will evolve -- is evolving -- to meet the needs of surfing today and tomorrow, but they'll never look like they did. Then again, they didn't always exist either. Nor did online surf media.

kaiser btw, I HUGELY disagree with the idea that surfing isn't a vehicle to obtain an identity, that is overwhelmingly and exactly what it is for almost every remotely passionate surfer on the planet! Shit, show me someone here who doesn't identify at some level with being a surfer. I will show you someone who doesn't surf. If you're in a boardrider's club, if you're one of the Pipeline Posse or the Eddie invite list, if you have a board partly because you saw someone else ripping on one like it, if anyone in your family refers to you as a "surfer", then guess what, surfing has given you an identity. And it is fucken good shit. Surfing's hedged in with some crap these days but it's still super fucken cool to do.

fitzroy-21's picture
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fitzroy-21 commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:19pm

I grew up reading paper Tracks. Used to take me days to read it all. Then it went magazine style and the advertising pages were 3 to 1 on articles and photos. Took me 5 mins to read back to back including ads and the articles became boring. Maybe it was just me that changed.

The death of magazines came to me a long time ago.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:20pm

@bigmarn,

Fuck, where to begin...

"Perhaps the problem is that there's actually not 50 really interesting people in surfing?"
I find it hard to believe that anyone, even you, would believe that statement.

"Most interviews you read with surfers are almost as bad as the ones you read with skaters. Brainless and predictable."
So interview other surfers. Ever read High Surf by Tim Baker?

"There's no doubt that surfing magazines are in trouble - but your article smacks a little of sour grapes."
Does it? Then either I've got the tone wrong or you've perceived it wrong because, in a professional sense, I'm not sour at all; fact is, by most measures we're doing better than the mags. And in another sense I'm sorry that mags got to this point as I used to enjoy them.

"But some people like to read about the guys and gals at the top of the sport."
Fair enough, it has its place, but to document them as the be all and end all of the surfing world is an extremely narrow viewpoint.

"And as you said, the reality is that an "everyman" can very rarely get a good photo."
I didn't say that. We run shots of 'everymen' all the time. Ever heard of Hugo Moore? Nup, well: http://www.swellnet.com.au/galleries/waveoftheday?image=1266
And we've run tonnes of shots just like it.

top-to-bottom-bells's picture
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top-to-bottom-bells commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:41pm

"Perhaps the problem is that there's actually not 50 really interesting people in surfing?"

Dumbest comment of the year and that includes YouTube.

blindboy's picture
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blindboy commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:48pm

I don't know about hating surf mags but there was definitely a point at which they ceased to interest me. Over exposure perhaps but also the growing feeling that they were taking the whole thing far too seriously. I will plead guilty to that for a substantial part of my youth, but when it was over it was really over. I didn't look at surf mags, books or videos for a long time. For better or worse surfing is a kind of pop culture, it's not the main game, it is an interesting diversion that, from time to time, can be a useful microcosm of the larger realities, but it is always unwise to forget its ultimate triviality.

I only really became interested in surf media again when these sort of web sites came along so that communication was no longer one way. I know that there have always been dissenting voices in the mags but the corporate view dominated and the appropriation of surfing culture by the clothing companies always grated. The chance to talk back in a community as diverse and articulate as Swellnet is much more interesting.

kaiser's picture
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kaiser commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:51pm

Nick, I think it's perspective. I've surfed for more than 20 years, but it doesn't mean I want to be known as a 'surfer'. You see me (and plenty others like me), and unless i have a board under my arm, you probably wouldn't know I surf. Not because i want to go full stealth, but I really don't identify with the shit that has been pumped out and the bandwagons that have evolved for years now.

I guess maybe it's a sympton of disaffection or disillusionment. I am one of those people who used to get every surf mag available (although there weren't nearly as many available at the time), but the advent of 'Bong et al and what the industry has turned 'surfing' and being a 'surfer' into has turned me off the whole scene, to the point where I don't want to be lumped in with the majority of what it represents, and to the point where I don't feel the need to follow the movements of the machine as closely anymore

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:58pm

Agree with you about the evolution of print, Nick. After all, as history has shown new technologies may replace old technologies but they don't necessarily destroy them - we still listen to radio despite having television. As radio stopped running game shows and found a new purpose so must print.

sean-doherty's picture
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sean-doherty commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 3:14pm

Arvo Stu,
At the risk of seeming a little defensive here having written up several entries in the aforementioned list, I think you may have been a touch selective with who you've wheeled out from the list to make your point. It's with the faintest whiff of irony that you've failed to point out this "boys club" is actually headed at #1 by an unsponsored 63-year-old transgender Marilyn Monroe impersonator.

roubydouby's picture
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roubydouby commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 3:26pm

Isn't it just a matter of demographics for certain publications?

I don't imagine many 13-18 year olds are reading the swellnet articles - they are too busy idolizing their apparent role models, complete with saturated images.

Have you always felt this way Stu, or has this been part of your personal growth?

As an aside, did anyone else's surfing improve markedly when they stopped paying attention to surf mags and dvds?

Results may vary.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 3:34pm

Hey Sean,

Hope you've been getting a few. My point is that the ones I wheeled out are even in there at all. Plus there's all the other entries, the majority in fact, that you can read about in any mag you care to pick up. Just because someone surfs well doesn't by default make them intriguing. In fact, most professional sportspeople are trained with such narrow focus that they have all the contradictions, self-reflexivity and grey areas beaten out of them - all the factors that make for genuinely interesting people.

And the term 'boys club?' It's a euphemism for exclusivity irrespective of gender or age. WW was a good pick, however.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 3:37pm

@RoubyDouby,

I guess part of it has been personal growth, and yet I still like some surf mags. Not sure if I've answered your question there or not...

crustt's picture
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crustt commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 3:55pm

I expect the true list of most interesting people in surfing would not have a pro surfer on it. Read Kelly's biography? Easily the most boring book I have read, besides winning world titles all he has done is go surfing, wasn't really worth a whole book. There are so many nobody surfers that like the guy Stu interviewed have actually done something.
My favorite show on sbs from a few yeas ago was Frontup, where the guy stopped normal people on the street and badgered sometimes some very reluctant people who thought they had nothing to tell, but he would persist until he made them reveal something interesting or get them going about there passion, great interviewer. I could not get on any list in surfing as I just go surfing, what the fuck is "in surfing"

jake-newell's picture
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jake-newell commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 4:01pm

Great article - perhaps it’s creeping age and it’s ever darkening shadow, cynicism, but I almost wholly agree. Almost.
Recently some of the ‘big boys’ have made some inclusions – articles, pictorials and whatnot – that renewed my near frozen faith in surfing’s printed ‘heart and soul’. Maybe I’m just easily bluffed with a few well worded whiffs of retrograde, but I don’t think they’re all going to hell just yet.

Having said that though, the electronic-digital-internet-machine, that ghastly beast, might just be serving up some saviours – imagine that!

New kids on the bit-riddled block like 18 SECONDS MAGAZINE are doing a fucking brilliant job of ‘spreading the spotlight’. A local mob making a stellar product that gives credit where it’s due - not just where there’s ‘credit’. Young rippers, chick rippers, photog rippers, arty rippers, local rippers, interesting stories on surfing expeditions, behaviour of swells, etc…

It sucks for us old boys to think that our kids may not be cutting up surf mags to cover their school books, but let’s face it, our kids might not have school books anyway!
They’ll be scrolling through e-zines on their BigMacBooks!

sean-doherty's picture
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sean-doherty commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 4:19pm

The thing is I guess, Stu, at the end of the day, the whole thing was a pretty arbitrary exercise and you might be reading a little too much into it by following the crumbs from this issue to the end of days for print. It’s just some pissing in the wind. There are very few scientific measures here… what might be intriguing for you might be white rice to the next bloke, and I don’t think who-finished-where in the list is going to keep too many people up at night… apart from Westerly. She’s over the moon. But the ever predictable online vs print cage match is fertile ground for comments and this one’s even baited a couple of print hacks out of the undergrowth so on that front it’s probably been regarded as a raging success. Just thought your point may have had greater veracity if you’d resisted the quick sidewalk spruik for Swellnet in the preamble. The piece didn't need it.

Been getting a few. Sure. Caught Brokensha down here on the weekend on a junket that was all yours before your house was taken over by little people.

sammy-automatic's picture
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sammy-automatic commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 4:46pm

I'm almost surprised the words 'Surf media 2.0' didn't grace this article.

heals's picture
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heals commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 4:53pm

An arbitrary exercise? so that'd make it a coincidence that the surfers on the list are sponsored professionals?

kaiser's picture
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kaiser commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 5:09pm

Therein lies the rub. Surf mags have for so long been the fodder of mainly teens and younger crew, but now they won't look at anything unless it is behind Gorilla Glass with retina display. Maybe the '50 most' list is part of a ploy to appeal to older demo's...

kaiser's picture
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kaiser commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 5:30pm

Maybe next time throw in a Sudoku or a crossword...

derra83's picture
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derra83 commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 6:16pm

Sean,
Congratulations for stepping into the fray but unfortunately your last post was a masterstroke of autoimplication. If I were defending you in court I'd shut my case and bid adieu because there'd be no coming back from that slip up.

It's obvious now the title in question is SW, a magazine takes its authority and regard for surfing very seriously. That's how SW's positioned itself in the marketplace. Very deliberately so and from what I've read you've done it well. You don't do irreverence or frivolity, that's for ASL and Stab.

So to all of a sudden discard that point of difference when put on the hot seat reeks of dishonesty, although I guess it's better than admitting to the alternative.

PS: I think SW had a "300 most influential surfers" issue a year or more back. Was that just arbitrary too??

george-peach's picture
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george-peach commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 8:22pm

Mags are just porno for waxheads. It's no surprise that the net has replaced them like all the other porn.

squeegypop's picture
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squeegypop commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 8:32pm

It's true what you say Stu - I agree. However, there is that mainstream part of the surfing organism, and then there is the minority...and if the minority became mainstream, there would always be something new to take it's place anyway...

Incidentally...some of those 50 are actually intriguing to me (though I haven't read the article & doubt that I'd find it a compelling read).

As you surely acknowledge, there are many exceptions to the mainstream trash. It's the small scale independence & uniqueness which brings with it the interest:

Occasionally, I subscribe to The Surfers Journal, which usually has interesting & well written articles.

Then there's people like Thomas Campbell, who is responsible for unique and outstanding films.

Yesterday morning, I met a compelling young woman at Winki, who is filming a documentary on female surfers that she finds inspiring around the world.

I could go on with these examples...but my point is that there is plenty of juicy nuggets of goodness going on out there. You just need to find them - it's a bit like op-shopping I guess, & it depends on the person that one is, on what one finds.

squeegypop

antandcharmi's picture
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antandcharmi commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 11:03pm

Very well written, Stu. I am struck by how calm and well presented this article is. You stay on track with a very good point and don't get emotional in either direction. Kudos.

stevenug's picture
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stevenug commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 4:02am

I conducted an interview with a doctor at my local break this morning. At least he said he was a doctor.

Anyway, he told me the surest sign there is life left in anything, other than a heartbeat or pulse, is when a web site publishes a 1000-word piece declaring something obsolete.

It's science or something.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 6:33am

Musta been a doctor of philosophy, Nug. That stuff's always open to interpretation.

sandspit's picture
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sandspit commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 8:32am

so who are the other intriguing surfers from the list then?

zenagain's picture
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zenagain commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 8:42am

The mag in question might inadvertently enjoy a spike in sales this month as a result of this article. To find out who they are Sandspit, you might have to go buy the mag. I'd be interested to know too.

1173

sandspit's picture
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sandspit commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 8:52am

yeah theyre all sealed in plastic these days so theres no peeking at the newsagents

blindboy's picture
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blindboy commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 10:28am

Credit for getting number one right anyway. For those who might have missed the reference:

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/surfers-welcome-westerly-windina-f...

braithy's picture
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braithy commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 10:40am

If mags aren't dying, rather than evolving. How much time can they take for their cycle of evolution to be complete?

ie - It's fairly common knowledge most mags are making staff cuts left, right and centre because of reduced profits and in some cases losing money hand over fist. How much longer can they survive at the current projection?

Even then ... somehow the print media have to overcome massive changes in the market place and the way people consume their product, and now with less staff to implement the change?

imo, even the tangible item in your hand (for most magazines) is no longer close to what it use to be. Consumers are smart people. They notice things like reduced paper quality blowing out the images, a massive inundation of advertising, and editorial bordering on advertorial.

Mags in their current state are a turnoff. They feel like a 70%-30 ratio of advertising- editorial, they are light on content and any kind of critical discussion.

Some mags strive to make the tangible item a keepsake and almost a piece of art (Whitehorses) which will always be worth the purchase price. But other mags cutting corners with staff, with paper quality, lack of experienced people making the editorial decisions, and restrained content due to advertising & conflict of interests.

No mag on the market is doing the above well enough for a consumer to part with their money.

This imo, is more damaging to print than digital media.

wildenstein8's picture
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wildenstein8 commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 10:57am

The best thing said so far is that television didn't destroy radio, same as digital won't (fully) destroy print. Have you ever heard those old time variety shows and quiz shows that used to be played on radio? Dramas too, complete soapy style scripts done on the radio. When television came along it was a far better medium for variety shows and soaps/dramas so radio had to find what it was good at. Longer form journalism/writing is something print will always do better than online so it should concentrate on that. Lists (Top 10, Top 50 whatever) are for the lazy writer. Page fillers with little substance that are better suited to the 'here then gone' world of online.

binnsie's picture
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binnsie commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 12:04pm

The best thing about this post was knowing what the comments would be before a single one of them had been written. And then imagining how confused a grom might be by this whole grumpy racket... "But, like, why would a 40-year-old man care about surfing magazines? Surely they should have grown up stuff to worry about by now? Why don't they just go surfing instead?"

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 12:06pm

Err...how about the 40-year-olds that actually work for the magazines?

binnsie's picture
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binnsie commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 12:27pm

They're obviously not the guys I'm talking about, of course they care and naturally they feel the need to defend their work against online sniping. You read back through this feed and note the number of comments that begin with "I haven't read a magazine in years, but..." which is like someone saying "I didn't see the game last night, but here's what I reckon..." and it makes you laugh. Hooray for the good old days.

braithy's picture
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braithy commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 1:10pm

Where do you see the future of surf magazines heading, Binnsie? How do they start making money again?

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 1:14pm

The good old days were certainly less crowded even if the boards and wetties were rubbish. Future of print media in general is a gnarly topic. The Age here in Melbourne has foregone the broadsheet format due to massive drop in sales and other issues. As one of the old farts on the list to which binnsie refers I still like a good mag, surf or otherwise - does National Geographic count?

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 1:16pm

Binnsie,

No, it's not obvious. You implied that magazines are only for consumption by grommets. This despite there being many players in the mag game that are far older than myself and who, as far as I can tell, don't think of their readers as merely teenagers.

But while we're here: what is the cut-off age for magazines? Let's put a number on it. If there is no Australian surf magazine that wants a reader my age or older I'll never speak ill of them again.

And also, a quiet word, don't run with the 'why isn't he surfing', 'bet you don't surf' malarky. The cut-off age for that retort is 15 - no exceptions.

Lastly, my deal here isn't any different to blogs or commentary, I go where my interest takes me, and media, if you've followed what I've written, is something I care about, meaning I gave this issue as much validity as any other. If you happen to sit on the wrong side of the stick, well, apologies. Just think of it as an extra special letter to the editor!

sean-doherty's picture
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sean-doherty commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 1:19pm

“Then either I've got the tone wrong or you've perceived it wrong because, in a professional sense, I'm not sour at all; fact is, by most measures we're doing better than the mags.”

Stu, this is a pretty sweeping statement to put out there devoid of any empirical reinforcement. What facts and what measures might they be? Eyeballs? Pacific Pesos? Facebook likes? IYHO? And how do you know exactly how the mags are travelling? And what evidence have we got to go off that digital is actually doing any better? We’ve only got your word on that alongside some furious pumping of Swellnet’s tyres. The facts, man, the facts! Sure the mags are being propped up by what’s left of the surf industry, but your home page is being propped up by Dominos Pizza and the Schoolkids Bonus.

An online site boldly predicting the death of print... And Surfing World’s list was unoriginal??

FWIW the magazine dinosaurs may become extinct, but the smaller smarter mammals will survive. Life goes on. It’s happening already.

@Braithy, if you’re interested the magazine referred to in Stu’s piece has 27 ad pages from 132. Not quite 70/30.

@derra83… Wouldn’t matter if that list was done frivolously, reverently, or standing on your head in a bucket of shit. SW’s 50 ain’t gonna be your 50, nor apparently Stu’s 50. That’s the point of it. And don’t wait by the phone next time I’m in court. I think I’d stand a better chance of freedom being defended by a pot plant.

@Binnsie… couldn’t see the comment about Tracks going from newspaper to magazine format coming!

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derra83 commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 1:26pm

@Binnsie,

It's not just an issue of age. It's the hitched-to-the-corporate teat problem that causes readers to see most of what mags do as influenced by advertisers. As editor how many decisions did you make influenced by those spending?

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derra83 commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 1:27pm

OK Sean, I'll leaf then.

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blindboy commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 1:32pm

Hmm what's left of the surf industry vs Domino Pizza and The Schoolkids Bonus? Well pizza isn't going anywhere and the schoolkids bonus is safe with both sides of politics committed to middle class welfare but the surf industry, now that's a real worry. Sorry Sean, I don't think that comment helped your case for survival, but hey good luck with that.

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sandspit commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 1:35pm

ok i bought a copy. flicked open the mag and who's the first I see on the list at number 23? jalana. thats right, surfings new power couple as the headline stated. alana blanchard and jack freestone. seriously?

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stunet commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 1:39pm

Sean,

Non-endemics, man, they're where it's at! I'm not being a smart arse here. Think about it. And you got access to Nielsen stats? Yeah, yeah, it's apples vs oranges, impossible to make quantifiable comparisons, so I relied on information I hear about the surf industry and read about the print world. If your mags are bucking the global trend then that's great. Fact is, I'll always read magazines, I may also critique them too (unless Binnsie comes back with an answer that prevents me from doing so).

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whaaaat commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 1:41pm

Enjoying the repartee enormously.

Particularly liked the irony - conscious or otherwise - in SD's "this is a pretty sweeping statement to put out there devoid of any empirical reinforcement. What facts and what measures might they be? Eyeballs? Pacific Pesos? Facebook likes? IYHO?" stated in defence of a mag that's just published "The 50 Most Intriguing People in Surfing".

Gold.

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braithy commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 1:45pm

Yeah Seano, I was never good at maths, especially ratios.

I counted 39 ad pages in 123 pages of the mag in my hand. Looks like I was way wrong.

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truth commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 2:06pm

SOME Aussie surf mags will forever have a place in the print landscape. Those that do so will have publishers and editors who successfully execute the following:

A) Adapt their existing print business model:
Publishers and editors, this means waking up at some point, opening the window of your gigantic bubble, sticking your head out of said bubble and taking a giant big fucking whiff of a rose called "online fever". But sniffer beware: sniff responsibly. Sniff in moderation. Don't get so caught up in the newest craze that you completely convert your business to digital. Offer your readership the choice of both premium print and digital platforms. But spend money to fucking make it. Ya know?

I'm sorry (some) publishers, but this one's solely for you. Case in point: "Hi everyone, I'm a surf-mag publisher. I'm now at the crossroads in the regard that I can either choose to invest in a digital media offering and give my existing audience the choice of both a great print or online read, or both. Or I can make the choice to provide them one option when my competitors offer both. Hmmm… I choose to offer them one platform, and by doing so, I'm absolutely sure (you) my readership will remain loyal and happy even though I've denied you a dynamic, bustling, evolving, almost limitless, magical and interactive media platform. Trust me, you the readership, and for that matter, the advertiser looking to spend a lot of money in my title, well, you'll all thank me later for making your mind up for you." Guess what publisher, guy? Print's not dead by any stretch. It's still got legs, but if you've decided that your print pony has the legs to gallop faster and to go much further than it actually can, well, your print pony is going to be out cold on its feet. In other words, it's going to die as ferociously and as suddenly as the dinosaurs. Oh yes, those of you publishers who also continue to dabble in half-arsed platforms and inconsistent content management, well, the above and brutal pony rule also applies. Honestly, if you're not making an effort, and haven't been doing so for some time now, then your brand's been irreversibly damaged. There are presently three Aussie surf titles with solid digital media offerings and/or partnerships with established digital platforms. Who are they? You figure it out. But here's a hint: none of them are guaranteed immortality, so they're the ones clearly waging a war of strategy, forward planning, and clearly doing what they can to embrace continual evolution. Publishers, underestimate your opposition at your peril. Print is no longer just print. It's now print and everything else and print's almost second to that everything else.

That said, the mags currently being published by "surfer" owner/publishers are well and truly standing out like dog's ball at present as opposed to those books which are not. Surfer owner/publishers simply realise the importance of the surfing ethos and what it's like to have both a harmonious relationship with industry and readership. Surf titles are commercial products by virtue of their selling advertising space. This is straight-up how it is. But they're printed to be informative, educational, entertaining, funny and to take their respective client's brand message to market. The difference is publishers, that SOME of you are doing a far superior job than others at policing the thin line which separates too little and too much.

B): Stop pandering to advertising clients:
Publishers and editors, stand on your feet and reclaim journalistic integrity; the right to chase down leads, and pursue hard-hitting current affairs. Report on the real happenings. Don't let advertising clients dictate to you what should be said for fear of reprisal by means of advertisers getting the shits and pulling their spends. I spoke to a former editor the other day and he expressed to me that not tackling the big issues was his biggest regret. And go for the heart of the issue, because right now, advertisers (both core and endemic) aren't fucking advertising all that much (some not at all). And one only has to surf through the pages of each respective book to realise this undeniable truth. And if you haven't already surrounded yourself with a dynamic list of entertaining editorial contributors (writers, photogs, filmers) then you should really get onto that. And if you can't do that, have a good old fashioned crack at instilling some pride in the correct spelling of "cat". And if you can't do that on a regular basis, well, Jesus… Everyone concedes it's the nature of the beast that a few typos get through the keeper, but at least do your best to minimise the damage, or at very least try to pretend you give fuck about the proper use of correct spelling and punctation. People still appreciate good writing. It's fucking wild, isn't it?

Print is not dead, but some of you are doing a fucking sterling job of snuffing the life out of it. The surf mags that survive will become collector's pieces; beautiful bi-monthly, quarterly (etc) books bound for the coffee table which are full of timeless writing that's sprinkled with personality and factual substance. The surf mags that die will be the ones that refuse to believe that print and digital can co-exist. It's going to be a very interesting period ahead for Aussie surf mags. We're going to see them all towed out to sea in the very near future and those who can't swim are going to sink and drown very quickly (keeping in mind that some have already started taking on water and they don't even know it).

Amen.

PS: Get your kicks where you can, but if you don't want to buy a mag, then don't. And if you don't want to watch a clip or download a clip, then don't.

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ijneb commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 2:12pm

I enjoy reading comments regarding magazine advertising. 'Ah I don't buy mags cause they're 80 percent full of ads'.

As Sean pointed out, today's magazine's probably have a lower percentage of ad pages than ever before. Find me a blog or website that doesn't have advertising embedded on every spare piece of pixelated real estate?

Ill take 3 Ripaquikbong print ads for your tracking cookies any day.

Stu, in my opinion, you made one great point. That being 'apples and oranges'. Different products, demographics, markets and business models. As far as I can tell, no one is being forced to shell out a tenner for a product they don't dig, as no one can force me to squish the Swellnet web address into my browser.

You buy into a commentary you feel you're aligned with as an individual and a surfer. Who are you, or I for that matter, to pass judgment on those products or the people who by them?

Your efforts might be better spent sticking to the Swellnet business model and journalistic code where you offer your consumers the alternative you and yours so greatly desire.

Ps. Bring back Goodvibes.

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binnsie commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 2:37pm

All this happened while I ate lunch? How very exciting.

@stu There is no cut-off age for magazine readership, my comment was framed as teenager might see this whole back-and-forth (hence also the line about "why isn't he surfing?" which you correctly put in the U/15 bracket.) Of course you can critique magazines, you're more than welcome to, much as I am welcome to critique a lot of the whining on this board.

Forgive me for thinking that magazines aren't rubbish. I just spent a weekend at NSI for Bede's grom comp, surrounded by kids for whom a free magazine was as good as it gets, and in these days of endless online sledging it was nice to get some positive reinforcement in the real world for a change.

I don't think print is dead, far from it, but of course it can be improved, it needs an adjustment, and on that we all agree. There are some thoughts I'd like to keep guarded, but naturally the first step towards healthier surf publishing is a healthier surf industry. Wonderful to see the too-many-ads argument being wheeled out again, when in fact there have never been fewer ads in print. Less ads leads to smaller issue sizes, less money to spend on stock, contributors, exploratory trips, content, and customer satisfaction in general.

There are clearly too many magazines for the tiny Australian market, and sooner or later some will have to drop off. Those that remain will flourish, as in tough times like the present we're figuring out how to make the most of what we've got.

Magazines need to move beyond the printed product and become multimedia brands. Where SL once had a photo editor we now have a web editor, where once we had three print editors we now have two, and a filmer. For all the complaints about magazines being expensive (the price of two coffees!), nobody seems to mind the amount of free content that they provide. I'd dare say many folk, even some who've commented above, have, enjoyed a lot of free gear mags have put online over the years.

The big issue is figuring out how to monetize all of this, and if I had the answer to that I'd be long gone, off to my own private island, splitting peaks with you Stu. Probably not on the Sea Glass Albacore popout Alaia that Swellnet suggests I should be riding today (and you give us shit???) but keeping afloat none-the-less.

Good times x

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stunet commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 2:42pm

ijneb,

This may come as a surprise to you but the alternative - at least one aspect of it - is being provided right now. See all those comments above? People chiming in with their own opinions for or against.

And as for passing judgement: What grey, Stalinist country do you hail? Have you never complained about a politician, scoffed at a surf forecast, yelled at a referee? Well they're rudimentary critiques and everyone does it. We all should! Some of it is even constructive.

Plus I shelled out a tenner...

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stunet commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 2:46pm

Ain't nothing wrong with the Sea Glass alaia. Goes great with three FCS Redline's in the bottom.

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zenagain commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 2:47pm

Guilty of being all of the above, I devoured virtually every surf magazine published up to my early twenties, then just stopped. I must have bought over a thousand. My bro' has a collection at home still of probably close to a thousand. Old SW's, beautifully photographed, tatty Tracks and Line-up when they were in newspaper form, 80's, 90's Waves and Surfing Life, ribald and rich with schoolyard humour. It was a great time. Just now in my 40's it's great to remember but just seems so irrelevent.

But, this thread reminded me of something and I dug out a Surfers Journal from December 2009. Still beautiful to hold in my hands. There's a smattering of advertising but it's not overwhelming. There are well written articles accompanied by quality photographs of Pohnpei, Texas and the characters that surf there, East Indo. Articles on interesting people- Mike Hynson and a great article on the evolution of Slaters equipment.

What I'm trying to say is that something of this quality, crafted in this way should always have a place in this world. I could never throw out a Surfers Journal and I can read them over and over again. I think there's room for both, print and digital and I believe there will always be a market for quality.

1173

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ijneb commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 3:02pm

Of course you can pass judgment Stu, we are democracy after all, well at least for the time being. My point is this: you are a publisher with a great audience to whom you'd rather vocalise the bad and the ugly of surf journalism and print media, rather than simply provide them with, say, 'Swellnet's 50 most intriguing people' that is of course untainted by endemic hands on shoulders.

You think Binnsey's readers would enjoy 132 pages (say 130 without the ads) would still enjoy that book if he used those pages to bitch out the amount of blogs/websites that give jaded surfers an anonymous soap box to moan from?

Maybe they would, well at least for an issue, and they'd probably also get a cheap pizza out of it too.

Hell, it's your site brother and I sure as shit ain't gonna tell you what to publish and what not to, just suggesting that maybe, there might be the slightest hint of hypocrisy given the fact that you served the SW 50 up on a platter for your readers. God bless democracy.

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blindboy commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 3:09pm

Jaded? Soapbox? Moan? Surely you mean the free and robust exchange of ideas in an egalitarian context. Anonymous? So ijneb is your real name? Unusual but that's OK.

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ijneb commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 3:30pm

Did I list Swellnet as a site/blog run and read by jaded anonymous surfers? No, but the list of aforementioned sites is a mile long. My name? Well it's the only configuration of my real name that hadn't been taken... Blindboy your first or last name?

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stunet commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 3:33pm

ijneb,

Well, the amount of copy I've devoted to "the bad and the ugly of surf journalism and print media" would take up one page of Binnsy's new magazine. In 500+ articles this is the first time I've addressed it. Hmmm...maybe it's the second, so let's say two pages of Binnsy's mag.

I better get to work then, eh? Gotta produce some haaaaaate.

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blindboy commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 3:37pm

Middle

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sean-doherty commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 3:38pm

Would certainly not want you as my consulting physician, that's all Stu, as you'd be measuring me for a pine suit as a cure for the common cold. There just seems to be a mischievous intent to death ride mags here mate and I'm having trouble joining the dots between that self-confessed giddy teenager who flicked through the old mags you now archive on your site and the cubicled curmudgeon going out of his way to now suck the fun out of the room.

Write your story, but FFS speak to someone who actually knows what state the mags are in. Review the mag, but do it with some balance and don't turn it into your media kit. Despite what you might think, there are people who work in surf magazines who actually still give a fuck and have invested great swathes of their life in them, and the flippancy you've displayed above does them no justice. And you can't get out of it by saying, "it's the car, not the people in it". The people who work for them are the mags. It's the people, Stu.

I personally find media commenting on media in any sphere positively fucking punishing, and the resultant feedback loop of sheer pointlessness does little for anyone involved. Bald men fighting over a comb, an analogy close to my heart. Channel that energy into a project of your own and make your statement there.

There were parts of the piece I just didn't understand at all. Kelly and Dane seemed to be all right to you when they were the pillars of Steve's posts and you seemed happy to page scroll to China with them and bask in the glow of Steve's work and the resultant traffic spike, but, what, Steve's left the building and suddenly no one should be interested in Kelly and Dane anymore? Really? After searching Kelly and Dane on your site several terrabytes later that seems like a reasonably radical editorial departure for you guys. What if Dane were to build a wind farm to power Kelly's wavepool? I'll give you Jack and Alana however.

But I just don't know how much of this stuff you actually believe anymore and how much you're throwing out there to fit whatever headline you've conjured up in the dark hours of the previous evening, cause that's what it feels like here.

Say it ain't so, Stu.

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scoop commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 3:58pm

Sean Doherty inadvertently makes a good point when he notes that none of the advertising on Swellnet is actually from the major surf companies. Of course this supports where Stu started the article - that he could not get (and still does not get) support from the major surf companies. None of the Aussie surf sites seems to. This is a significant point I think. The big old surf companies appear insular, inward looking, regressive. They can't see the present - websites where hundreds of thousands of surfers congregate every day - let alone the future. What kind of marketing manager would ignore that kind of audience? A bad one. They are in trouble.

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philward commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 4:37pm

Wow - this thread is distrubingly appearing like a Swaylocks for people who aren't building surfboards - I am sure it has temporarily juiced up the talking about rate through!

Like any industry or business, relationships are the defining factor in health and survival: the relationship being with the participants,readers and the supporters be they financial or spiritual. If you look at board racks today versus 1998, we now have craft as diverse as the people who ride them. If you look at the mags, the same is true. It is great seeing some new titles appear. Similarly, the "50 Most Intriguing" article in my opinion refelcted that. In fact, I thought it reflected the overall optimism and positive energy that SW has added to the surf publishing landscape. I work in a business that chooses to advertise with them as well as a select number of other titles and sites we believe connect us with as broad a surfing or surf-aspiring audience as we can. From a purely commercial point of view, we selfishly look for quality in content and a supplier who offers an integrated solution across print and online. In short, the most effective integated media solution you can find. Print will always have its place. Those who understand and develop quality content that deserves permanence will always have a consumer. Online provides the fast and the gritty be that image or information as well as offering community engagement. Like anything, they both have their place and it is exciting to see that evolve.

Who we choose to do business with is also based on HOW they conduct themselves. The partners we run with have a pretty admirable baseline trait. They don't pot the opposition, they have a common love of surfing and they recognise it is surfing, not putting valves in hearts.

The market, like water will find its own level. Always does....

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panaitan commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 5:01pm

All I can add is - thanks to Stu, Nick, Sean etc for an intelligent and mature debate. There is no surer sign that there is life in the industry yet. However those that don't adapt and evolve are indeed doomed.

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stunet commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 5:20pm

Cheers Panaitan. I've just had a conversation with Sean where he dropped a few words you'll never hear him use in the commentator's box. Twas a robust exchange of viewpoints that ended in pleasantries.

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whaaaat commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 8:51pm

I've been musing over that post from philward since I read it earlier this afternoon. Unless I'm getting sensitive in my old age, it was close to a pretty naked threat, methinks. From a surfing industry heavyweight no less. A key sunglasses supplier, if I'm not mistaken.

"Who we choose to do business with is also based on HOW they conduct themselves. The partners we run with have a pretty admirable baseline trait."

... Such as publishers whose most immediately apparent trait is rampant commercialism: for example, a WOTD sponsored by a well-known brand of foreign beer, no less. An interesting choice of partner, really.

Never much liked bullies.

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blindboy commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 9:12pm

......nor the smug and self-righteous whaaaat.

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whaaaat commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 9:18pm

Eh? How was what I said either of those things?

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blindboy commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 9:24pm

Not you! I was suggesting that you might also dislike persons possessing those qualities, examples of which may have appeared earlier in this conversation.

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whaaaat commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 9:36pm

Ah, I'll uncurl from the foetal position.

Yeah, the responses from the lurking doyens today was telling, I thought. Smacked a bit like the local heavies giving it to the young up-and-comer. A touch of 'protesteth too much' happening, perhaps. All pretty predictable but fun to watch.

But for mine that final post was heavy. Utterly misguided and disproportionate.

Tch, Phil, the Jesuit brothers would be most unimpressed.

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blindboy commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 9:51pm

Despite the disclaimer most of the post reads as if he was putting valves in hearts....but hey never under estimate a decent pair of sunnies, after all "......a really cool pair of shades means everything."

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the-roller commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 2:38am

with everything vintage being popular it may be likely that the old mags sell better than the new issues.

the way to riches theses days seems to be to make the new look old. the folks who've been doing that successfully are the ones making bank.

http://vimeo.com/64946304

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truth commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 8:25am

@philward

Great to see you advertising with (and supporting) certain Aussie surf titles and media platforms, buying in to their culture, tone, editorial charter and direction. And I believe, if the above comments are anything to go by, that you're in the eyewear game? So I ask you this: are your mentioned relationships solid only if the platforms that you support tow the line? Which is to say, would you stand by them, even if they reported on a happening that held either your brand and/or one of your team members in a bad light?

I would argue, based on my what's been explained to me, that if this did indeed happen, that these special relationships you so glowingly talk, about would suddenly turn flippant, that you would quickly prove to be a fair-weather friend who would bolt for the hills with your advertising spend in you back pocket. Because let's face facts Phil, you're investing money in these great relationships (which really are essentially based on mutual backscratching and cash for comment) and you'd hate to see, dare I say it again, your brand and/or one of your team-members held in a bad light? You're not being held to oath here, but your response (if you so choose to grace us with one) will be very much judged for credibility.

I digress somewhat, but this whole flippant, one-sided mindset of a relationship I'm pointing out is another reason why only some (or maybe none) of the mags will survive. Then again, I could be wrong. Phil… I've no doubt the platforms you've invested your advertising spend in are quality. But it's time to come clean. A large part of your decision to invest in a certain community is personal, right? No doubt you're thinking of exposing your brand to a specific targeted audience, but is it really all about relevant audience eyeballs? I reckon there's a massive part of you making the decision based on the emotional need for yourself to feel connected to a community of cool. This is an investment in your own personal rad. Drop some loot, and presto, PhilWard just instantly went from social fringe dweller to the owner of an Inner Circle Access All Areas pass. But like I asked, would you stay around if your mates were suddenly called to do their job which involved them reporting on a happening that held either your brand and/or one of your team members in a bad light?

And as for the whole advertising with publishers who don't take potshots at their competitors, hmmm… Don't reckon it'd be too hard to find many examples across the Aussie surf-media spectrum. The game is a particularly grubby one at the moment, more so than it’s historically been (according to many people). Point is there's always been mudslinging. And we all know what happens to mud when it gets thrown. It sticks. Then it dries. And sure you can wash most of it off, but there is always bits 'n' pieces that stick around forever.

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seaman-staines commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 8:47am

"I reckon there's a massive part of you making the decision based on the emotional need for yourself to feel connected to a community of cool. This is an investment in your own personal rad. Drop some loot, and presto, PhilWard just instantly went from social fringe dweller to the owner of an Inner Circle Access All Areas pass"

Truth sums up the surf industry

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sophie commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 10:30am

What a read the latter part of this thread is! It would've been nice to have the comments stick to the topic because there were some excellent points being made. PhilWard's post gave it a nasty turn and from someone outside the 'bubble' it reads as the work of a bully trying to shut down debate by throwing his weight (and money) around. Phil, despite what you may think this is a valid debate so how about you keep you snout out of this discussion and allow it to continue without threats.

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nebasha commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 11:10am

is this the next step in that march to oblivion? http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/books/surfing-mag-posts-photo-of-ca...

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zenagain commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 11:18am

You beat me to it Nebasha.

They're not doing themselves any favours are they?

1173

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nebasha commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 11:26am

Sorry for dropping in zen! Thought it was just too ironic!

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nebasha commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 11:31am

BTW love that comment by Kennedy "Our main objective is to promote surfing as a healthy lifestyle choice and that’s always our priority first and foremost." *insert sarcasm here* So everyone claiming that they publish all those ads to make you buy another $120 fin are very wrong! Luke is concerned about your lifestyle choices!

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stunet commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 11:56am

Surfing's got a very uneasy relationship with its past, hasn't it? On one hand we're often reminded of our history, which included liberal drug use and other freedoms.

Then on the other hand surfing is pushed as a healthy, clean sport by Surfing Australia which doesn't leave much room for reverie about the days of yore.

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philward commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 12:05pm

My comments were based on my truth from who I work for and what I have experienced. There isn't any bullying or editorial influence going on here. How can there be? I don't advertise... The point I made is good content is good content. If it evokes debate and community engagement as I said, that's unreal. Diversity of interest across surfing is making it a really fun and interesting place right now. My comments about "potting" seem to require some qualification and context, which I address a little further down.

Who we choose to advertise with is never based on personal needs or suggested iandequacies about wanting to hang with the cool kids It is based on what is right for the brand. If you aren't doing that, you aren't doing your job.

The selection criteria we use for advertising is really simple - if you have a good product presenting better value across more than one media platform for you, naturally that is where you explore first.

As for the "potting" comment, it was aimed at what you folks don't see. Not at all towards editorial as it was suggested by other posts. Most media companies take the high road and focus on improving their own product. Some focus on potting or deriding the (mostly unaudited) viewership and readership claims of their rival titles. My point was we choose to do business with those who focus solely on their game and what it can do for our brand. Anyone who read more than that into it is barking up the wrong tree.

At the end of the day, casual observers can assume all they like about brands (and I have worked for a couple) exerting their influence on editorial content. Maybe in the faint glow of your keybaords, that is a nice conspiracy theory to entertain, but it isnt the truth in my experience. I think all of the various publishers do a good job of steering clear of that, paticularly in a sport where the big commercial participants additionally provide events, access to athletes and fund a significant number of editorial trips through their riders participating. That is the myopic nature of surfing today though. Hopefully it is changing. Of course there have been instances where people haven't been happy with what was written, but the companies I have worked with have never pulled ads becasue of editorial content. When it comes to media mix decisions, of course every advertiser has their personal preferences based on age, upbringing or interests, but if you arent arriving at an advertsing solution that somehow connects you with a broader audience than your own wants, you arent doing your job. Companies change their media buy adding or dropping titles in surfing based on a mixture of gut feel, personal opinions on quality, peer input and perceived readership/ eyeballs over a period of time. Ask Nick Carrol if we lean on ASL with the Big Wave Awards results. We are basically the balloons and streamers guys making sure the event goes well and the media feeds go out. The awards are run by ASL and their appointed judges.

I would love to see this string turn into something productive like some other individuals offering up their most 50 intriguing surfers for critique and to generate positive discussion. It has to be a far fairer and more interesting game than hiding behind an online handle like "whaaat" and "truth" having a crack at me because its too humid to open their stamp collection. I was happy to put my name to it and happy to reply with a clarification. Be nice is "whaaat" or "truth" had the stones to do the same. It was enlightening popping my comments cherry here but I have a deadline. Bye

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top-to-bottom-bells commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 12:25pm

Is that all Phil? Can you go away now? The majority of this discussion was among non-industry people, same as it always is here. The industry people who joined were people who also create media - journalists like Nick and Shaun. Youre an advertiser who has hijacked this thread to tell us who you would or wouldn't advertise with but added nothing to the debate. You sound like a self-obsessed drunk trying to get all the attention at the party.

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velocityjohnno commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 12:52pm

Going back to the thread title, I don't keep many old surf magazines but would like to present an honourable mention for Kidman in charge of Waves, circa 1993. The 'How to Surf for the Rest of Your Life' article was absolute genius, deeply intelligent in places, and formed a philosophical cornerstone of my surfing experience. To repeat that's a lot to ask of any magazine...or online content for that matter. Bravo.

And Stu, I'd be deeply interested in the perspective of the 'non-important' fellow you interviewed at Manly...

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thegreeniguana commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 12:54pm

I grew up devouring all things surf mag. But I too am disilusioned with the utter tripe that is peddled in the current crop (including White Horses). Image is everything. Photographers and what type of camera you use are are the ants pant. Features on pro surfers shaping boards instead of talking to actual shapers. Joel Parkinson intriguing?

Occaisionally an interesting/ educational/ enlightening article fills the gap between the ads and nonsense about what book Dane is reading or what Ozzie Wrights girlfriends favorite band is.

I thought surfing was about riding waves.

As an aside. Isn't it great that on these forums even the guy who oversaw the complete intelectual de-evolution of tracks can get on here and have his say in defence of the surf media.

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whaaaat commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 1:05pm

@philward

Stones? Sure thing, happy to oblige. Steve Beach here, Phil. One time rag-trader, now in the legal game. No surf industry axes to grind; just your basic everyday outsider looking in.

Have surfed on and off since I was a teenager growing up on the MP.

Find surfing in all its glory and weird manifestations and with all its myriad players a fascinating microcosm of the grown-ups' world.

Find this site to be the one that sits best with my contrary nature. Lots of like-minded souls. Not much hating goes down; any criticism is usually more comedic than carping.

Thought the bits that I read between the lines of your first post's penultimate paragraph were not in the same spirit as those of the surf doyens' posted earlier in the day. Is all. Bullying has that effect of me.

So you don't like what I said or agree with it - fair enough. But just leave my stamp collection out of this.

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phil-collins commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 1:55pm
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phil-collins commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 1:57pm

Nice tune, sums it up
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBJYP_nfMmg

Go Betweens 'Surfing Magazines'

We used to get our kicks reading surfing magazines

Some good looking people wearing

Lee cooper jeans

They're breaking on the headland, they're breaking on the shore

And when you're living in hawaii they're breaking at your door

We used to wet our fingers on surfing magazines

Going to throw school and follow those scenes

Going to get a kombi and go from beach to beach

Be the kind of people the authorities can't reach

We used to get our kicks reading surfing magazines

Wake up in the morning and the waves are clean

Standing on the headland taking in the scene

blindboy's picture
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blindboy commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 2:37pm

@phil I stand by my assessment of your first post as smug and self-righteous. The tone was "industry big wig sets you all straight" . Now I was prepared to adjust that initial assessment. It's easy to get the tone wrong and create the wrong impression and on that score you were probably doing OK until your remark about "stones".
How old are you Phil? That comment was shallow schoolyard sexist bullshit, and in the context of criticising anonymity quite inappropriate since it leaves you in the position of having, however childishly, insulted someone from the safety of your keyboard. It's the kind of comment, if you really feel you have to go there, that you make eyeball to eyeball.
On the issue of anonymity I am a teacher and there are aspects of these discussions that I would prefer not to have to address with my younger students or their parents. You know some people make shallow sexist comments and that kind of thing.

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ljkarma commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 3:36pm

stunet, it may be relevant to your story to count up the number of ex surf mag/rag editors / add managers and staff who magically seem to move on to very cushy well paid jobs for the big companies that they sold adds to or fluffed up their content to appease.
You would know who they are and have some idea of how many of them followed this path, so prey tell.
Philward,
you are not seriously going tell us that your relationships/connections gained with surf media or other forms of media that Oakley FCS and Billabong advertised with under your influential positions you held for at least those three, have not been a free backstage pass to your career because that tight inner circle is no secret in the industry.

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nebasha commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 4:25pm

"It was enlightening popping my comments cherry here but I have a deadline. Bye" I didn't find it very enlightening you popping your comments cherry. I'm still trying to understand what your point is Philfart. But that might be because of that reefer I smoked earlier today... and where did I leave that Tracks Magazine...
Deadline doing what, place another ad... In management speak they've got a name for your kind of behavior: seagull management. fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, then fly out.

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brutus commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 5:07pm

seems to me that the surf mags used to be how surfers got national or global surf news..

Now you would never buy a mag now for news but more articles that stand the test of time and in fact become coffee table books,with coolphotos and cool articles.

the news is now online ,and every morning we get up switch on the ol PC or laptop,read the news of the day ,and then checkout the surf news/blogs/forecasts etc......

so yeah there has been and is a change in hardcopy VS online content....one is news the other will become high quality hardcopy coffee table books ..like Surfers Journal........

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whaaaat commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 5:34pm

My move from hardcopy to soft has been driven by time and space pressures, and facilitated by rapid technological improvements.

I still read one of the surf mags, but in soft copy format: in some ways it's better than hard - the pictures for example.

Ultimately, what I read comes down to relevance and readability, not format.

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kaiser commented Thursday, 2 May 2013 at 7:27pm

There is a bunch of people commenting and probably reading who used to buy mags. They were a captive market, and if that market was fostered and had their opinions or tastes catered for, they might still be customers of these publications. Instead, they saw through what was happening and moved on.

Meanwhile, those who are involved in the making of said mags want to debunk the opinions of their previously loyal customers. Wouldn't the commercially smart thing be to listen , and maybe adapt to entice these people back? Biting the hand that used to feed you in your heyday, when circulation and readership was probably at its highest, is not intelligent.

I put it to you that the number of overt ads has dropped because the editors and their sponsors have moved more towards a product placement-type strategy - articles with ads embedded. I don't actually have a problem with that, but what is written and told needs to have substance (maybe Tracks took it too literally and put actual 'substance' in theirs).

If you look at a lot of other major sports that work on revenue that is exponential to surfing, much of it is laid bare for the world to make up its own mind. Surf journalism seems to be filtered and censored to the point that anyone with any real awareness knows they are being fed an alternate reality.

Nobody thinks the industry is pure as the driven snow. The AI saga was the perfect opportunity for surf journalism to face demons, and gain some real credibility. Instead it skated around the issue, and gave only just enough to come out the other side with an odour rather than a stench.

On top of that, those in the industry have for a long time harboured an "us and them" mentality. I remember that instagram of Slater where Fanning dropped in on the Goldy. How many average Joes have seen the same angle of a visiting or 'local' pro, only without the apologetic gesture? We're expected to pay 100 clams for boardies to help support jetsetting lifestyles and sojourns to exotic locations, only to have our best spots taken over during peak swell periods, and the neighbouring breaks littered with pros constantly making arses of themselves. Funny thing is that "them" is your meal ticket. Ignore 'them' at your peril, treat 'them' with disdain and it will be much worse.

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the-roller commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 2:17am

Yow, Nebasha, that was some article you've linked.

So's this.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-pro-surfer-wreck-20130501,0,...

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sandspit commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 9:00am

where is jed smith's comment from yesterday? maybe his sponsors asked him to delete it.

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yorkessurfer commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 9:42am

Not sure how much advertising costs in magazines compare to online sites such as Swellnet but I would have thought it would be price competitive when you look at hit numbers to such sites?
I was surprised how the mainstream surfing companies wouldn't advertise on Swellnet as it gained popularity? Maybe it was some kind of misguided loyalty to the old-media magazines thinking it would legitimise these sites in the minds of the label obbsessed surfing public. How wrong they were. Many of us no longer wear their labels or read their magazines.
As a lad who grew up in Adelaide's metro surf scene with Ben Matson in the 1980's part of me also wondered if Ben just wasn't part of the establishment "cool club" when he started Swellnet and if he was the site would have got a lot more support from the mainstream surfing brands?

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stunet commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 10:26am

@Brutus,

Way to cut to the heart of the matter. Spot on.

@JMigMoonS,

Fortunately I read it before the invisible ink kicked in. No perception of smugness on my behalf though I heartily disagree the evolution of media is an irrelevant matter. I mean, didn't you do communications at uni? What did they teach you, man!

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ando commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 1:30pm

For once Stunett..I agree with you - first for everything hey....and Brutus as well -- it took the magazines an eternity to realise if they were to survive they needed to go with interesting coffee table type approach...not sure they have it in them but maybe.

To those mag journo's defending their turf - I respect that you would do so but IMO...the mag's are screwed --- The kids who smiled when they were given one for free at some event is evidence and only highlights where Magazines are at --- They aren;t buying them - but free is OK!

I don't know they aren't buying them for certain but - I live in a Surfing region...my 2 kids are both keen surfers ....all their friends super keen surfers....fit that age bracket of 17 to 22.....NONE of them buy surf mag's --- ALL of them check the two major websites --- and by that I mean SN and CW....everyday!

Interestingly...the only person I know who buys a surf mag -- is a friend and he's over 50 - no idea why he buys it but he does, every month --- can't change his ways I guess.

My understanding is the mags would be hard pressed to prove their readership if put to real scrutiny - do they get independent audits on who's reading or has their longterm relationship with the industry that built them allowed them to fluff by on printing figures?

Interesting topic and thread I reckon.

I reckon Mag's are dieting and it will take a hell of a turn around --- which some are probably actively engaging in...to see them survive.

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whaaaat commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 1:36pm

"Way to cut to the heart of the matter. Spot on." Que? How so?

Brutus says “there has been and is a change in hardcopy VS online content....one is news, the other will become high quality hardcopy coffee table books”. This seems to predicate that format (hardcopy vs. online) predetermines content (news vs decent articles/pics).

I agree that surf mags used to be the news breakers but seem to have largely surrendered that role to websites like this one (although this view in turn raises interesting questions about what constitutes ‘surf news’).

However, I thought (and agree) that the heart of the matter, at least as Stu saw and outlined it in his piece, was that “the internet is slowly democratising the surfing world, uncovering fresh elements that add depth and breadth and colour to the surfing life, and yet the magazines blindly continue with their insular fiefdoms of sponsor and celebrity” in a “slow march from obduracy to oblivion”.

The essence of which, it seems to me at least, is that ideas (relevance and readability) remain the key to creating relationships with readers, irrespective of the format used to convey those ideas.

I say it’s much more about the substance than the form.

Which, I suppose, gets back to the hard question - are surf mags, be they online or hardcopy, actually generating ideas that really engage and excite would-be readers?

Can't say that I was persuaded by any of the doyens' responses.

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stunet commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 1:51pm

One heart, four chambers. One thing that hasn't really been addressed (even in my article) is that mediums need to play to their strengths. You can't ignore form; the internet is not an ideal place for long-form journalism (yet), and the mags aren't the place for news.

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whaaaat commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 2:16pm

Yeah, true. But I'm not ignoring form; just saying that it's not the critical piece in all this.

By way of example, I subscribe to the New Yorker, which has both long-form and short-form journalism; I've have happily switched over from hardcopy to getting and reading it online.

Pros and cons to both forms, but the essential take-away still comes from the ideas, not the form they come in.

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nickcarroll commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 3:30pm

well stu we would write a comment about that etc and about whaaat's not being persuaded etc, but that would be giving away a bunch of ideas for nothing.

probably not that good a business model hey.

there would be one cast iron way of testing media appeal across platforms: see how many people would pay to view Swellnet. Say about what people currently pay to buy a surf mag ($10 a month?), $120 per year for an annual subscription.

look I reckon it's hugely possible for surf mags to go through another flowering, to take their strengths and load 'em up big time. Epic set piece photography. Long and short pieces that go beyond news, that make you laugh even more than the sites' comments sections (yeah I know it's a big call). Turn art direction around, stop it being so dependent on digital enhancement and start thinking basics with a twist.

I all by myself have a million ideas about surfing and surf culture, some of them almost original, I stagger to think how many kids are out there doing journalism at uni or whatever just looking for a direction, they need to be dragged into the fray. I mean, women! How many great writers are there who'd burn the page with their wit and savvy and half cynical views on the Male Bastion of Surfing who've just never come down this street 'cause they're on the other side of the gender divide?

Damn it all I have been too inactive of late, well it looks like that but only 'cause I've been working on other stuff, it's time to get some shit going again in mag world. Thanks you guys! And yeah you non MM titles, you're gonna wish you'd never heard of this in 12 months I tell ya.

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blindboy commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 4:14pm

Hmmm Nick can't see that. When the New York Times is struggling to come up with a viable media stategy I think surf mags will probably continue to experience, shall we say, low growth? Being in the position of not having to put my money were my mouth is, I would suggest that beyond a certain point it is not about the content. The medium being the message may be an old concept but it has never been more relevant.
For every kid in a newsagent there are a thousand on a digital device and they probably don't care too much if the photo or video they choose to look at is of the current world champion or an unknown. They care even less about the stickers on his board or the brand of wetsuit he is wearing, that was the eighties and nineties! They may respond to clever art work but magazines are static 2D platforms. You can do much more on a digital platform.....oh and unless what you are offering is an absolute essential in their peer group, they are not going to pay for it.
There is an ecological principle that when two species compete directly for the same niche, one will become extinct. Differentiation is the key to survival. If we apply that to the surf mag scene it suggests that a number of titles will go under as they are directly competing for essentially the same market, but good luck with it, you may need it.
As for Swellnet I always took it as a vote of confidence that the industry didn't support it......you don't help what you fear, in this case a diverse, open medium unable to be dominated by a few businesses and their stable of "stars".

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stunet commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 4:20pm

Look at you NC! Acting all coy about your gameplan, then you go and turn this thread into the festival of big ideas. All good ones BTW.

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james-labrador commented Friday, 3 May 2013 at 4:37pm

Hmmm, imagine if we could combine websites with print and make some type of frankenstinian hybrid. A kind of cyber magazine, a digital edition, if you will...

Even better, we could combine these so called digital editions with their parents, web and print, and have some kinda family, all with the same surname, but in the Korean order, so it'd be, let's say, Surf Sycophants Print, Surf Sycophants Web and Surf Sycophants Digital.

Bend me over and butter my udders, but wouldn't that just be something for everyone!

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garry-weed commented Saturday, 4 May 2013 at 8:46am

Irony of ironies this article made me go and buy the mag.I don't need to read any more about quite a few of the surfers featured as they've had quite a lot of editorial already.Perhaps there could be a feature on 25 of the most interesting surfers hardly anyone has ever heard of. I'm old...I subscribe to the Surfers Journal and buy most SW's ,the others.......

gary weed

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brutus commented Saturday, 4 May 2013 at 10:32am

another variable in the online VS hardcopy...is the demographics....of surfing....

baby boomers and gen X were brought up on Surf mags being the one and only source of news and surf storys of wonderful exotic new palces to surf and dream of.

with the advent of the online revolution...Gen Y ....went online for just about everything......yet the content of the mags was still pro surfers, competition ,and youth orientated articles surf trips.....

But the BB's and Gen X .......grew older and their thirst for surf news/ articles changed also......a maturing generation became more recreational and so their tastes in surf content changed....as one can see with the success of Surfers Journal....and the rise of the surf forecasting sites became more relevent..as everybody wants to know when the surf is going to be good and do some personal time management to make sure....ya don't miss ..next weekend??

It's amazing when you see the rise of Surfers Village/Swellnet/Coastal Watch/Surfline/magic seeweed/willy weather,etc....and they have become the breaking news sites,and have great forum/discussion products...the question arises...why didn't the traditional surf mags see the online revolution coming...as they seem to be still struggling to find their online place in the world...

so what demographics are also at play here....??

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blindboy commented Saturday, 4 May 2013 at 12:04pm

Well if we are brainstorming Stu I reckon there is a market opening for a title like "Surfster". I'm thinking first issue:

1. Radical performance: the drop knee cutback
2. The Dead Zone: 5'6" to 7'6"
3. Beard care for beginners.
4. Colour co-ordinating your quiver.
5. The Ultimate Question: Kombi vs EH Station Wagon

You gotta love those furry little critters!

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ando commented Sunday, 5 May 2013 at 12:13pm

The entire surfing communities in Aust are all on SN and CW (kids, longtime surfers, weekend surfers, ex surfers, aging surfers, Mal's Bodyboarders, Suppers, Bodysurfers, even clubbies!)....at the same time I reckon most of the same entire surfing communities have abandoned the magazines - if the magazines dispute that then please provide independant audits on your readership - not print numbers which probably see half your printed magazines shredded or --- even a bigger joke -- given away to stoked kids at the local comp!

Why didn't the mag's see this online revolution coming? -- I reckon because they have been funded (read monopolised) by the industry and this ensured complacency --

Those same industries inept marketing teams have simply stuck to historical outdated modes of operation with a major component being magazine advertising -- (which probably included an unspoken rule of extreme influence over the editorial within - especially pics and covers etc) - These same media teams have probably been too scared or unqualified to branch out into modern world and hence another factor which has seen the demise of the industry ---

Now to today - everyones becoming aware...just in Australia -- CW and SN have the entire surf community on an every day basis --- next stage -- is for both sites to start expanding editorial and follow a Surfline model and seriously kill off the already critical ill magazines.

The few survivors of the magazine world might be the likes of SW (integrating into the all powerful website) and maybe ASL who seem to be slightly proactive in creating a more quality product across mag and website? --- not qualified to comment on them as I seriously haven't brought one or analysed one for 30 years plus!

As for the Mag's trying to create websites to bolster their product --- they look lame to me - too little (quality)/too late -

You think the industry will step in and save the mag's? Not likely these days -- Where's Blas/Rottmouth when we need him?

All just opinion

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mikehunt207 commented Sunday, 5 May 2013 at 8:55pm

I rarely buy a surf magazine these days (maybe 1 or 2 in a year), usually for a specific article or photo. I would agree the online sites covers the up to the minute information and all the instant gratification needed in this day and age of the short attention span. But there is a still a huge market of older surfers with $ who actually read articles and appreciate well written surf journalism. the still in surf pics will often outshine a video clip of the same wave/move. If you look at The Surfers Journal for example, even the direction Surfing World has taken, miles away from the advertising catalog style that many other magazines have ended up as. They are produced as a collectible harder cover and even at $20 seem to sell out very quickly. You will never be able to hang an online article on the wall, re read it months or years later without difficulty or even wipe ya bum on it while on a surf trip down the coast. RIP Waves, Surfing, Surfer and sadly even Tracks but I think there will always be a market for quality product, just look beyond Gen Y for once.

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liquid-destination commented Sunday, 5 May 2013 at 10:47pm

I'm not sure why I feel i need to say something on this topic but I do. I advertise with all these guys, print mags, forecasting sites you name it. I'm also from an offset print background. My father has been in print since he was 14 and he's 68 and still owns his own print company, he's still there. He almost saw the invention of the wheel for christ's sake and he's still there. Think what competition he has faced over the last 50 years.
I must also point out that I've got 8 guys sitting here on my boat in the Maldives flicking through a whole bunch of surf mags reading articles in between surfs. They're pointing out this photo or that. They're listening in on each others jokes then going back to their story or photo. Print is a feeling in the hand it's something you can put down look up check the waves go back to it. You can be on hammock (which guys on the roof are) lie on the couch, leg on your dog whatever, It's down time stuff. On line time is game on, so mind consuming, body consuming (my necks killing me by the way from hunching over). It's so easy and quick to jump from this to that. It's all there at your fingertips, it's fricking awesome. I love all this access to what's going on with surfing and waves in the world.
I think they each have their place and always will. The only problem I see for print is if we let our kids constantly watch too much t.v/play video games/get on their Iminipadpodbookpro/facefarce/instii'mgreat/wish you were me the shit out of their lives to people they don't know all the time and basically get so used to a billion mini blazing lights in their eyes one foot from their face all the time, then and only then I think print is in serious trouble.

the-roller's picture
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the-roller commented Monday, 6 May 2013 at 5:54am

Once upon a time everything permanent was hammered into stone. Much later on, it was hand done on paper of some sort. Which was then revolutionized by Gutenberg's movable type and other improvements to book production.

Which leads us to today's methods of distribution mentioned by Liquid-Destination. Printed mags, televisions. computers. tablets. smarty phones.

Competition still lives. Adjust accordingly.

http://blogs.hbr.org/hbr/hbreditors/SH_2%20May13%20Teresa%20Burns%20Park...

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1963-malibu commented Monday, 6 May 2013 at 9:31am

I have to say this is the best thing i have ever read on swellnet. Well done Stu Nettle for telling it how it really is.

INTRIGUING - There is nothing intriguing about Joel Parkinson or Mick Fanning. They are so over-exposed in the media that even if they never said another word in 100 years their level of 'intrigue' would still be zero!

SW fuc*&%$ up big time on that list because it just shows how corporately driven they are.

They had an opportunity to get it right and they got it oh so very very wrong. What i get from Stu's writing here is WHY did SW have to put all these sponsored well known surfers in their crappy corporately motivated list of intriguing surfers? Their 50 list basically is an admittance that their magazine is just one big advertorial for the corporates and us older surfers can see straight through it!!

Bbong, Quick, surfing world, etc...their target market is 18 year old kids. I doubt the average 18 year old would even notice all the crap we are talking about here. What is more interesting is that probably 80% of surfers over the age of say 30 dont read these advertorial magazines, they have wised up. They are on the internet where someone like Swellnet can generate a REAL list of 50 intriging surfers.

God, if i was making a list of the most intriguing surfers in the WOrLD, Mick Fannign would come in at about number 3 million....Joel Parkinson would make the top 100, 000 though because it is intriguing that he has 3 kids and still does the pro thing.

My top 50 intriguing surfers would have the most oddball characters you can imagine, crew that live in caves on deserted islands and eat rocks for breakfast while blowing up their inflatable raft to pull into crazy reef breaks. Guys you have NEVER heard of....that is intriguing.

ando's picture
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ando commented Monday, 6 May 2013 at 10:09am

@LIQUIDDESTINATION -- Yep, on a boat or in the dentist, even i will flick through a free surf surf mag that sits there --- the older the mag probably the more enjoyable the read - but do these people buy them? Not likely.

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batfink_and_karate commented Monday, 6 May 2013 at 1:26pm

Isn't that ironic, (maybe only in an Alanis Morrisette kind of way - her song did have examples of irony in it*, but the chattering literati didn't want to acknowledge that as it ruined a good story, but I digress)

Stu writes an article that he would have banged out in short time, based around one particular idea. Worthy, but not world beating.

But then it lights up a staggeringly nuanced and enlightening in-depth discussion of surf media, from some heavy hitters too, top players and emotionally attached on-lookers.

Bravo to all. This is the interwebs. This is what it does best.

The future of surf mags? There is the whiff of the dinosaur there, given that the popular scientific explanation of their (dinosaurs) demise is that it was on the back of either a volcanic explosion of uber-biblical proportions, or a meteorite of significant dimensions.

The thing about dinosaur extinction is that they didn't get long to 'evolve' to ride out the storm. Surf Magazines may not have a long time to evolve either, but Darwin's evolution is a long-term ball-game without an intelligent director. Surf mags have, presumably, intelligent directors who will do all in their power to change, to modify, to meet that market. At this stage, it seems to be that some 'niche' is their likely route to success, but even that is premature.

This shite is moving so quickly that swellnet may well look like a dinosaur in 10 years time.

It is playing too quickly for anyone to manage, and too quickly for anyone to foresee. It is not just the surf industry, it is everything.

Stu, Mr Doherty, Mr Carroll and pretty much all the contributors, it's been most enlightening. Thanks for the insights.

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batfink_and_karate commented Monday, 6 May 2013 at 1:30pm

* Re Alanis Morrisette. "The good advice that you just didn't take" is the very definition of irony. Dramatic irony.

Beware the ides of March! :-)

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ando commented Monday, 6 May 2013 at 7:29pm

Questions for a few on this forum -
I've found this interesting and have a question for a few of what appears to be well qualified people on this thread - paricuarly, Binnsie,Nick Carroll and Sean-Doherty who all appear well versed on theSurf Magazine world - Can you tell me, how are these magazines audited regarding readership - Independent verified analysis or, internal print numbers supplied?
Stunett - Do you know the answer on this?
And one final question for Stunett - Do you see SN and CW heading down the pathway of Surfline, which appears to have a particularly strong global website?

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stunet commented Monday, 6 May 2013 at 8:16pm

Ando,

Magazine circulation numbers aren't independently audited and I'm not really sure how the circulation figures are reached. Someone else might have to answer that. I'm also unsure how the readership figures are reached which are usually approx. four times the circulation - i.e a circulation of 20,000 has a readership of 75,000.

I tried doing some research on this a while ago and was stonewalled by an Australian mag. I then approached an American magazine (US mags are supposedly independently audited). I sent a number of emails to various people holding different positions in the organisation but didn't receive a single reply. No-one wanted to talk.

Here in Australia the numbers are almost certainly inflated. If not what they tell the public then what they tell the advertisers. An ex-colleague of mine started a magazine and nailed a distribution deal. When he was getting the tour of the factory he saw a dumpster full of covermount DVDs, asked about them and was told they were 'surplus' copies for an Australian surfing magazine. The publisher of said magazine told the advertiser they sell X amount of magazines, so the advertiser makes up X amount of DVDs, yet only Y amount of mags get printed. X - Y (which came to over 10,000) DVDs get thrown in the bin with the advertiser none the wiser their money has been wasted and fewer people have been reached then they were told.

For what it's worth, Derek Rielly cheekily admitted in ASB magazine a few years ago that they pretty much tell the advertisers anything they want to hear.

I can't speak for CW but we've got a new website coming out shortly that includes a Swellnet-developed wave model that we're very happy about. Been testing it against reports from around the world - Grajagan, Lakey Peak, Ipanema, you name it. We're digging on the results too. We're never gonna take on Surfline but happier to have a bigger forecasting scope. Exciting times.

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ando commented Monday, 6 May 2013 at 8:55pm

Yes - what you outline above is sooooo what a lot of people have thought - hardly anyones reading and no ones buying the mag's! - No wonder they love giving away mag's at kids comp's --- just don't use that to justify readership as per a response way above here -
IMO - There's no slow demise of magazines...they have been dead for years - The complacency and historic monopoly of industry and mags lead to a culture that would eventually be doomed...Would there be stories of particular companies wanting to advertise decades ago but being shut out....I wonder! --- and the follow on to these companies not advertising would be ---of course we believe your internally calculated readership numbers! read between the lines
Will be interested in a response on readership from the insiders Binnsie/NC and SD

I think you misunderstood my second question to you Stunett -- I wouldn't expect SN or CW to compete with Surfline -- rather the opposite -- follow somewhat similar pathways and expand content - That makes sense

I still think a magazine might survive -- but thats it and as per mentioned earlier - would be far more coffee table like - with interesting reads and pics --- maybe one already exists?

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ando commented Tuesday, 7 May 2013 at 8:29am

Here's what I reckon is the situation for the Magazines right now - The cleaned out marketing departments of the traditional industry (RC/Quik/BB) now begin to employ less but more qualified marketing people who understand magazine accountability and want factual data on eyeballs and readership - they don't accept fudged print numbers supplied by internal magazine people.

Problem is, advertising dollars have already dried up and the magazines can't afford to get real figures - the one that can afford it probably doesn't want to know about such figures as they would be a total embarrassment.

At the same time the new marketing teams with some expertise can easily read true independant data from the two major websites (SN and CW) - and this converts to real reach into the surfing communities -

Where do they put their advertising dollars?

Maybe one magazine will apply a new formula for readership --- Kids at local grom comp smiling when receiving free magazine multiplied by 5000 equals total readers - 100 times 5000 equals 50 000 -- that works doesn't it? Binnsie???

SN and CW --- IMO you should confidently and creatively expand your editorial - the surf communities are already with you.

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thermalben commented Tuesday, 7 May 2013 at 8:56am

Ando, the issue of magazine circulation figures is very interesting and one that I'd certainly like to hear more about. Swellnet's website numbers are strictly reported via a range of analytics (including the industry benchmark Nielsen), however Coastalwatch are the only other surfing website I'm aware of that uses independent traffic verification.

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ando commented Tuesday, 7 May 2013 at 5:31pm

Yes ThermalBen, the call to the Magazines to define magazine readership auditing of their product has been put up multiple times with NO response - I think that silence says it all!
I'll adjust my earlier calculation of the Binnsie model of magazine success - 100 smiling kids with free magazine x 5000 equals 500 000 readers - an extra zero to the readership figures will slip by easy.

SN/CW... pardon the pun, but simply expand editorial content and critically stab 2 or 3 already very ill magazines.

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sean-doherty commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 11:31am

Morning all,

This whole issue now demands be examined through this prism...

http://mumbrella.com.au/fairfax-to-begin-smh-and-the-age-paywalls-next-w...

I'll let Stu expand on the relationship between Fairfax and Swellnet, but safe to say I'm sure there'll be a few parties watching on intently as the paywalls go up. I'm a religious SMH online reader (It costs a weeks wage to buy a hard copy down here in Victoria) and I'll be having a long hard think before handing over a fistful of sheckels for what I currently get for free.

Comparing print numbers to online numbers is apples and oranges... until you have to pay to get online.

Interesting times all round it seems.

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thermalben commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 11:36am

Sean, there is no relationship between Fairfax and Swellnet, other than we rent office space from Weatherzone, who are owned by Fairfax.

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wingnut2443 commented Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 at 12:38pm

thermalben wrote: Sean, there is no relationship between Fairfax and Swellnet, other than we rent office space from Weatherzone, who are owned by Fairfax.

I'm a bit confused.

I read this:

" ... So that's when I joined forces with my business partner Mark. He bought into the business and helped me strategize a way forward to derive some new revenue streams based on what he'd done with his weather company Weatherzone ..."

on here: http://surfcareers.com/blog/ben-matson-swellnet/

and, must admit, I had assumed SN was somehow part of the WZ "family"

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

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stunet commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 11:51am

Aww c'mon Sean...in your own words "FFS speak to someone who actually knows". That statement was delivered like a gotcha moment, as if you had dirt on us, yet it's patently untrue. We rent office space and share a ping pong table. That's your gotcha moment?

However, you're correct that paywalls are an interesting development. Although your position is equally interesting considering you're tightly entwined with Coastalwatch who've already started going down that road. Are you gonna change your CW testimonial now?

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sean-doherty commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 1:08pm

Nah mate, no gotcha moment, just interested to know, that's all. It's alluded to in places but not spelt out in black and white anywhere. That's why I asked.

And interested to know where it's all going to go end, cause the world's turning for all of us mate, not just mags.

Looking beyond SW, SN and CW banners, which I'm sure we're all adult enough to do, you can't really expect to put the magazines – your competition – under the bus on a whim and not expect a few questions asked of where your own medium is headed?

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stunet commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 1:28pm

Nah, not at all. I ask as many questions and spend as much time pondering it as anyone. Where are the internet sites going? Do we have a viable future? A good gauge is Surfline as America is a good five years ahead of Australia in how it uses/exploits the internet. They seem to have built a solid base and they're treated with a bit more, for want of a better word, 'respect' by both the advertising market and surfing viewership.

That gives us a bit of hope, although Swellnet and Surfline are very different beasts and will probably remain that way.

But to your point, yeah the ground's shaking for everyone. For example, when we designed the latest Swellnet website Facebook was pretty much unheard of, we couldn't predict the effects, both positive and negative, it would have. How do you plan for such social media revolutions? Fuck knows, but we take from that the lesson that the future ain't certain for anyone, and I don't really care about people talking about it or claiming we've got it wrong. Just if you're gonna use facts, including Swellnet being owned by Fairfax, make sure you've got 'em right.

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patty commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 1:41pm

Gina Rinehart owns Swellnet.

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thermalben commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 1:54pm

Jeez, now I can see how rumours start.

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clif commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 2:34pm

Gina Rinehart is my mum (I know, I know ... a bitch, but she lurrrvves me b/c I didn't take out a lawsuit against her).

Given this, I part-own Swellnet.

Now, get to work you surfie bums or I'll send you to the mines.

Worth watching mobile media mediums - phones and tablets are the platforms to get most right for sport content in the future, according to research by Brett Hutchins at Monash University and David Rowe at University of Western Sydney (they've been studying this stuff for a long time).

So far, these mediums are totally undercooked and lacking innovation in regards to surf media. At the moment, primarily being used to transfer website or mag content onto. They open up far more possibilities than that.

Thanks for this thread, it's been interesting to read people's (both industry and public) opinions.

"Don't try. That's very important: not to try." Charles Bukowski

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braithy commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 3:30pm

Clif, that Panda is simply stunning.

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ando commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 4:11pm

Sean Doherty - Yes you can compare non paying to paying mediums -- because NO ONES paying for the mags! Binnsie gives them away for free and claims success at a grom comp...some other bloke has copies on his charter boat and the mags won't ever declare an independent report to verify anyone's buying them!
No need to throw the mags under the bus....just let CW and SN evolve to the next stage and turn off the life support systems that are barely keeping them alive

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scoopmaster commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 4:55pm

For what it's worth, the second any website changes from free to pay business model they can kiss my viewership goodbye. It's not a question of the dollars and cents - more a combination of getting so sick of being required to register for anything and everything these days (being required to sign up at my local club just to eat some average chinese food the other week was the straw that broke the camels back!), and the wish to reduce the chances of credit card fraud by handing out my details to as few people as possible.

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clif commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 5:54pm

:-p @ Braithy. They're the laziest animals you ever did see (and that includes sloths and Gina Rinehart)

Scoop, you actually have credit left on your card to be defrauded? Sheesh. Get with the program. Max that thing OUT like a good consumer citizen.

"Don't try. That's very important: not to try." Charles Bukowski

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blindboy commented Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 6:02pm

@Sean Doherty. I think the article has probably done you more good than harm! It made me part with some hard earned which I haven't done for quite a while and also gave you a forum to publicise your product and your views.

More generally, having looked at the quality of the available product, the standard is fantastic. Disregard the bits that irritate for whatever reason and, in most titles, you have great photography and art direction as well as a clear effort to cover the diversity of the sport with well written articles. All of which, I suspect, will be of little long term assistance as technological change catches up with the medium. A fantastic product is not much use when your consumers have shifted to new media......well not unless you can work out how to follow them and extract a profit.

The big publishers seem to be slowly heading towards putting it all on line behind a pay wall but it is a struggle and with the downturn in the markets of their leading advertisers, it is hard to see the current crop of titles surviving indefinitely. Nick Carroll talked about changing up and that is the only option, get in there with some new marketing strategies and even better content.

The downside risk is that, as revenues decline, the opportunities for creativity will decline with them. Personally I don't think that will be a problem. A lot of content has always been generated by part timers and the new generation of cameras make it so easy, the images should keep flowing. The writing is a tougher call. Long form journalism is a difficult craft to master and time consuming even when the craft is there. It's not something people are likely to do for personal satisfaction if the money runs out.

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1963-malibu commented Thursday, 9 May 2013 at 8:58am

I have really enjoyed this 'thread'.

The end may be nigh, i think it is important that we all get together and enjoy riding the tail of the Dinosaur. Give some hoots and hollers for the past, get nostalgic and enjoy all the stoke that printed magazines have given us when we were 16 and believed all the crap they printed.

into a new wild new frontier where all journalism is accountable.

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halleys-comet commented Thursday, 9 May 2013 at 6:47pm

Myself, I'll buy a mag once or twice a year (and get momentarily guilty for indulging in un-fettered consumerism, again), usually in an airport lounge, prefer Surfers Path, wont pay for on-line content that I can get elsewhere for free.. great post thanks all.

daComet

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mick-burnside commented Wednesday, 15 May 2013 at 12:35pm

interesting article......some of it is age demographic choice.....for me living away from the beach i like to read mags while im away from the coast so i have an idea whats going on ....also being a dedicated photographer like to look at pics and dream away. really there is only so much you can write and photograph without being repetetive or similar.....once a longtime sw reader i started asking myself questions.....the editor at one stage never bothering to return submitted photos despite regular requests and reminders and never apologising makes me furious....so i ask myself the question what type of people are running this show..... more recently the networking thing is provoking thought....in particular some writers starting to sing the praises of certain sectors of hawaiian surfing fraternity that seem to be interested only in themselves, and who talk about others repecting them in their homeland yet some members have come over here and make arseholes of themselves, these certain sectors of sufing society are standing over others(such is life)...i see this as unbalanced or bias even brownnosing type journalism .....sw subscription ceased....now read bits and pieces when i can....saw the recent clip of a young rothman on wave of the day at tahiti and ask myself was it luck that he was on that wave ....why was it not a dorian? or walsh? or matthews? which journos will be singing the young hawaiians praises? why? are these praises going to be accurate? i guess there is a lot i dont and never will know ,,,but some articles create more thought than others...i appreciate your different spin on things stu.

mick b

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wingnut2443 commented Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 at 12:41pm

I don't see much change in the last 12 months ... surf mag's are still basically the same?

Or, have I missed something?

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

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stunet commented Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 at 12:57pm

Yeah, pretty much still the same. One title, Waves, was lost about a year ago and there's been a few minor changes but the print landscape is largely the same. The most that can be said is that the print titles have invested in their online presence.

As for your earlier comment RE Fairfax ownership, to save people scrolling back, the answer is a clear and profound 'no'. Swellnet has never been owned by Fairfax at any time and won't be in the near future. Ben Matson and Mark Hardy are the only two owners. We're a wholly independent business.

In the past confusion may have arisen as Mark sold Weatherzone, a company he started, to Fairfax, but there's absolutely no crossover between them and us.

PS: Pretty funny going back and reading this article and comments thread.

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wingnut2443 commented Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 at 1:13pm

stunet wrote: ... As for your earlier comment ... to save people scrolling back ...

Yeah, why does that happen sometimes? I thought it would post at the end?

stunet wrote: ...Pretty funny going back and reading this article and comments thread.

I stumbled across it from a link from "18 seconds", and then read the article and comments. Some of the comments from the 'industry' guys are what I find the most interesting, especially, as we are over 12 months down the track and, from where I sit, nothing has really changed ...

There's a comment in there somewhere about Tracks going from the paper format to the glossy format, and that was actually the last time I bought it ... had a subscription to ASL for a while, but, after basically the same content served up month after month I didn't continue it. Have bought an odd mag here and there in the past couple of years, as someone noted, usually when traveling (i.e. on plane, no internet) ... personally, online content is my source of info and entertainment.

I like the engagement process, like these comments and forums ...

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

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stunet commented Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 at 1:32pm

Well, at least one of the industry people who contributed in the comments isn't in the industry anymore. So there has been some change, but as you say there's been very little.

Also, the comments and engagement, it's that very aspect that scares many of the older people within the industry. In a way you can understand, they've no longer got full control over the narrative, anonymous punters can disagree, call bullshit, say whatever they like. That must be an uncomfortable position for people who's only experience with the unwashed was a letter to the editor which they could simply choose not to run.

These days punters can question your business practices, your ethics, even - lo and behold - your surf forecasts!

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wellymon commented Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 at 2:27pm

Yeah Stu fair call.

But we all have to grow with the times. Writing letters are a sign of the past, I think that was a great thing, as I still have a letter from my Granddad who wrote to me years ago, before he got hit and run by the Mongrel Mob Fuck heads, racing side by side...? RIP Stanley ;)

By the way Stu have you tidied up your office yet, oh yeah the forecasting has been exceptional...? 2/10, 3/10's Thanks SN.

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

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stunet commented Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 at 2:31pm

wellymon wrote: By the way Stu have you tidied up your office yet...

Yeah I didn't know if Udo was taking the piss with that comment or not. It looked fine to me. I mean, if he saw the state it was in just a week or so ago...

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yocal commented Friday, 15 Aug 2014 at 10:40am

Stu have you ever considered that Swellnet is the new equivalent of the surfing magazine?

I'd always bought surf mags to get the news on whats happening in the surfing world, new spots being discovered, WCT updates, and of course stories from Aussie road trips to get you frothing.

Since the internet delivers these things instantaneously nowadays, monthly print media is full of old news. I stopped buying surf mags a few years ago and get all the above from jumping on Swellnet when I go to check the surf forecast. Now that we've got independent footage coming from inside the tube at Skeleton bay (the holy grail of tunnelvision), there is no way print media can match the level of froth delivered online. Nail in the coffin.

Go deeper Taylor, go deeper!

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stunet commented Friday, 15 Aug 2014 at 11:27am

Well yeah, but not just Swellnet, all surfs sites fill that role. There really isn't any way magazines can compete on the day-to-day things; news that previously took months to reach you now takes mere minutes. Print media has to lift it's game and differentiate itself from what is happening online, and that was the main thrust of the article above (and was widely missed by many people, including one irate editor!).

To that end, and adding to what Wingnut asked yesterday, I think there has been a broad rise in the quality of surf journalism. The slapped-together-from-a-press-release fare that passed as content in some mags for years just doesn't cut it anymore. There's gotta be something substantial, something unique or worthwhile cos it's just too easy to click a button and get a surf fix online.

The desire for a tactile reading experience wont ever entirely go away but we're yet to settle into the new paradigm. Which mags survive and in what form is yet to be determined.

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freeride76 commented Saturday, 16 Aug 2014 at 7:23am

"Also, the comments and engagement, it's that very aspect that scares many of the older people within the industry. In a way you can understand, they've no longer got full control over the narrative, anonymous punters can disagree, call bullshit, say whatever they like. That must be an uncomfortable position for people who's only experience with the unwashed was a letter to the editor which they could simply choose not to run.

These days punters can question your business practices, your ethics, even - lo and behold - your surf forecasts!"

hhahahahhhaah, never a truer word spaketh Stu. Online is bareknuckle boxing and you better expect to get knocked out in the first second by some haymaker you never saw coming.

Still, I'd much rather climb back into that ring with a bloody nose and broken jaw than publish in the sterile world of the dead tree where you might as well be screaming at the galahs such is the feedback.
Nothing like the visceral thrill of writing a thousand words and having some bloke immediately call Bullshit on it and call you the biggest cunt who's ever besmirched Gods Green Earth.
Fact is, that is as it should be.
Most writing, maybe 90% , certainly much higher in surf magazines, is pure Bullshit and should be immediately torn to pieces or dried out and scattered to the winds ala the dogshit on the pavement so memorably addressed by Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry.
Once you realise that a fair percentage of the commenters are smarter than you and the article is just the beginning of the conversation, and very, very far from the Final Word, the experience of publishing online becomes so much greater than the sum of it's parts.

Still, as you well know Stu, you need a thick skin and it can very easily lead a man, or woman, or transgendered individual to drink.
Cheers all those who get in the ring, the surfing world is a better place because of it.
The Bullshit still piles up so fast you need wings to stay above it but at least we can now call it as we see it.