I get involved in a lot of conversations about the state of surf media. It's a huge part of what I've done for 3 decades. We all have been a part a massive shift in how information and entertainment is soaked up. There was a glorious time when the printed page was king. There just wasn't such a thing as the Interweb or surf websites.
I was working at NZ Surfing Magazine for those golden years. The audience was there, the advertisers knew it; the travel fund was flush. I had written at the start of this paragraph that I was lucky. I deleted it, it is not accurate; I was grateful and respectful of my position as the Editor. But I had worked through the preceding lean years too. I was a part of the teams that built up the title. It used to rile me when strangers would say, "you're so lucky to have a dream job". Of course I'd just smile and agree.
We always knew the Interweb would take over as the primary source of information. In fact it took a lot longer than we estimated for Print to lose the crown. The magazine strategy meetings would go like this. "Yep it's coming, how do we battle it". "Well, we need a Myspace page. Then we create a website that provides sneak peaks into what's coming up in the next issue. It has past features online, current surfing affairs from NZ and around the world. We need an online editor that does daily updates.” We got a quote for the website build, $60,000!!! Wow... we did make the Myspace page.
Surf Magazines worldwide failed to harness the new technology. They struggled with the concept of providing hard earned content for free. Publishers thought they were producers of pages, rather than carriers of content. Many have withered up, failing to adapt. It's brutal, people have lost their careers.
We now live in a world of digital natives that have no nostalgia for the printed page. They don't know the stoke of having an issue delivered to their door and flicking through the inked pages. It is sad in some ways, but in many ways, it just does not matter. We are conversant, now more than ever, in what's going on. The best content makers of the past are on the web or even in the print that has survived.
I left NZ Surfing Magazine 7 years ago, it was time to do my own thing and 15 years was enough. NZ Surfing Magazine is still kicking, in fact this year is its 30th. Respect to the current staff that have weathered these turbulent years of cascading revenue.
Things are looking up for print. Magazines like Damaged Goods and White Horses have found a healthy niche. Readers are coming back because the printed page is a relaxing and tactile experience. It’s a break from our multi-screened lives.
The successful magazines have become book like in content. Stopping the battle with websites for current affairs and event reportage. Opting for well researched in depth interviews and timeless stories of high adventure. Maybe the successful magazines are the ones that spurned Digital Natives from the start. Magazines like White Horses and The Surfer’s Journal have always been cross haired on the over 40 market.
The conversations will continue I'm sure. Here is to another 30 years NZSM, may you navigate well and true.