I really don’t think there is that much wrong with the online fly fishing magazines, at least not the ones I like (namely Catch and Fish Can’t Read). If you haven’t checked them out, you should. Catch is chock full of great photography and sweet videos. It’s unique in that it focuses solely on the photography and videography of the sport. Fish Can’t Read is broader, sporting well-written feature articles in addition to nice photography. Both magazines are published on roughly the same timeline as a print magazine might be, and both use a digital flipbook format. As I said, I like them both, but I’m not sure either will ever be a roaring success, at least not financially.
My reasoning is that they’ll never be able to generate the ad revenue needed to keep going in their current format. I probably spend a couple hours with each issue, so if you have an ad in there, you get my attention for maybe a couple minutes every two months. That’s just not much. For their sake I hope I’m not the average reader. With a print magazine, I might look at it every couple days for a month or so, assuming I leave it in the magazine rack by the toilet or lying by the bed. I just don’t believe these new magazines are taking full advantage of the internet. I mean, one of the things I dislike about print magazines is that I have to wait a couple months before I get a new one. Well, if you’re running an online magazine, there’s no reason to limit your audience in this way. Why not publish new content at least a couple times every week? Why wait until you have a whole magazine’s worth of content before publishing any of it? My suggestion to those looking to craft an online magazine would be to use the blog format, but not make it a blog, if that makes sense. Simply use blogging software (WordPress would work just fine) to publish your content as it’s ready for publication instead of using the flipbook format. Just because it’s WordPress doesn’t mean you have to call it a “blog.” WordPress would simply function as your content management and publication system. You could even maintain an editorial “blog” as a separate section on the site.
No one out there’s doing this, and I really don’t understand why. Midcurrent is probably the closest, but it doesn’t really do what I’m talking about here. Not yet anyway. What I’d like to see is an online magazine that publishes very high quality features at least twice every week. Maybe Monday I can go in to work and read a feature essay about someone’s backcountry trip. On Thursday I have a video about tarpon fishing from float tubes in some croc-infested swamp. For the weekend I get a full-length article related to fly tying, and the next week I am treated to a photo essay on Alaska’s monster rainbows. These wouldn’t be your typical blog entries. They would be full-fledged articles and features just like those being published in the magazines, but instead I’d be fed material more regularly. On top of that, I’d be visiting the site daily looking for new goodies, and therefore I’d see the ads every day instead of just once a month. You’d need to figure out how best to get the ads seen without causing too much irritation. That’s one good thing about the flipbook style – you see the ads as you flip pages, but it doesn’t feel overly intrusive. Personally I would publish large, attractive, image-based ads (similar in look to the ads in the flipbooks) as the feature post on days when no new content was ready. That’s in addition to sidebar and a few in-line ads. Please, no pop-ups or pop-unders!! Also, you could have a section listing guides, shops and lodges for specific locations, much like the print magazines have in back. I would actually find that feature useful.
Something like this just might pull in enough ad revenue to make the whole thing click. Of course, you’d need really high quality material. The writers, photographers and video-makers would need to be paid for their contributions. In addition to the features, you could include a breaking news section, a weekly editorial opinion section (which would be like a normal blog entry), and a forum. You’d need to maintain a presence on all the social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, but the truth is, something like this wouldn’t be that tough to do, and I’m a little puzzled as to why the digital flipbook has become the format of choice?
I think you’d have to keep the whole thing free and make it work on ad money alone (and maybe a few other things like calendars, DVDs, fine art prints, etc). I know I just wouldn’t pay for something like this. There’s too much good material out there in blogs, forums, etc. for me to pay for online content. There are still print magazines good enough that I’ll pay to receive them, but I haven’t come across any website that I’d pay for a subscription to. Midcurrent is probably best positioned to make a run at something like this, but I’m not sure it’s what they’d want to do. You may ask why I’m not trying it myself. Well, I think whoever does it needs to be positioned as an “insider.” Someone who has the clout and respect to pull in the requisite talent quickly, and maybe convince that talent to work for free for the first couple months. I’m about as far from that description as you can get. Heck, I don’t reckon I even fish any more. Doesn’t feel like it anyway. I just post and read about it, and I like pretty fishing pictures. So, what do you think? I want to see these folks succeed. I like the content, and I like the people. Plus I want a good product, and I want it more often. Tell me what you think.