Freeskier, Snowboard CEO: Be an Entrepreneur, Not a Publisher
A report from day two of the FOLIO: Summit.
CHICAGO‚ÄĒMagazine publishers need to think entrepreneurially, act like creative ad agencies, rethink traditional church-and-state rules on the Web and embrace digital media fearlessly.
So said Brad Fayfield, CEO of Storm Mountain Publishing and publisher of Freeskier and Snowboard magazines, during his keynote address at the FOLIO: Summit here Wednesday.
Fayfield, a former member of the U.S. ski team, said Freeskier, the magazine he launched in 1999, very nearly ‚Äúdid not finish,‚ÄĚ to borrow an expression from ski racing.
‚ÄúWe almost went out of business by year four,‚ÄĚ Fayfield said. ‚ÄúI went into work every day wondering if I would have to put a note on the door. We burned through $1 million, but were able to turn the business around.‚ÄĚ
To do that, Fayfield turned Storm Mountain into a multi-title, multi-platform operation through acquisition and innovation‚ÄĒand by launching digital products that advertisers covet.
Now, digital revenues represent about 15 percent of Storm Mountain‚Äôs business, which saw a 91 percent revenue increase between 2007 and 2008. ‚ÄúTruly integrating is paramount in this climate,‚ÄĚ Fayfield said.
Embracing Digital, Video
One of the bigger successes for Fayfield in the digital space has been Freeskier‚Äôs video podcast, which is consistently ranked among the top 25 on iTunes. The videos, Fayfield said, are produced by Freeskier, but many include advertiser content. ‚ÄúOur audience doesn‚Äôt care as long as it‚Äôs relevant,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThe church and state line has been redefined by digital‚ÄĒyou get content from places you would never get it for the print magazine.‚ÄĚ
Embracing digital, Fayfield said, is embracing experimentation. ‚ÄúStop worrying about perfect,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs the beauty of the Web, it doesn‚Äôt have to be perfect.‚ÄĚ
Fayfield also scoffed at the notion that only the magazines with the largest or second-largest circulation, brand heritage or top-line revenue in a given market will survive the recession. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not #1 or #2 in the traditional means,‚ÄĚ he said. Market share, credibility and bottom-line revenue, Fayfield said, are the keys to survival. ‚ÄúIf you look at the top two circ titles in your market, you‚Äôre seeing them bleeding, hemorrhaging and, pretty bluntly, close to shutting down.‚ÄĚ
Despite the drumbeat surrounding paid content online and devaluing of print, Fayfield, citing his ski shop distribution program, said there is value in being free. ‚ÄúMy advertisers love free because it doesn‚Äôt sell 20 percent at the newsstand,‚ÄĚ he said.
As for the argument over paid content, Fayfield said: ‚ÄúThe youth market isn‚Äôt going to pay for it‚ÄĒat the end of the day we‚Äôre entertainment. It‚Äôs cool, but not that cool. Our audience will find it elsewhere.‚ÄĚ