It must pose a very big discussion point (understatement) for anyone who runs a climbing magazine. I don’t know the numbers, but from what I hear, things are getting more and more difficult for climbing magazines. Less readers, and the problem of not being able to break news anymore. What else could go wrong? Advertisers realising that their chances of getting their message across might be easier and at the very least a lot more measurable online.
So what is there left for print climbing mags to offer? It seems to me all there is, is super high quality writing and photography. Alpinist does pretty well at this. One thing is for certain, a modest change in response to online media will not be enough to prevent extinction for print mags in a very short time. Only a pretty radical change will do.
I certainly couldn’t think of a bombproof solution. But I guess a big part of it must be ditching legacies of the past, like esoteric news (for instance leave BMC news to the BMC website!) and columns by commentators who are obviously struggling to find something to say. The biggest thing I don’t get about the British mags is the aversion to interviews. I love someone to explain why they don’t run them so much now! You only need to look at the mag racks in WH Smiths to see that interviews with interesting folk shift magazines.
In the summer I spent a wet day in Pete’s Eats in Llanberis. If you’ve been there you’ll know upstairs they have a monster archive of climbing magazines right back to the 60’s. Most of it was pretty uninteresting stuff that held my attention for nothing more than seconds. Right at the end I came across a copy of Rock & Ice from the early nineties. In one issue, they had in depth interviews with Ben Moon, Wolfgang Gullich and Patrick Edlinger. That one kept me going for about half an hour – about 2000% of average time I spent flicking through the others!
The only chance the climbing mags have got right now is that the websites still aren’t perfect either. There’s a big opening for someone to do a decent climbing news website. UK Climbing is the daddy right now, but until they start making their news more in depth and use a better site layout there is an opportunity for someone to step in and provide the service. I guess the problem is that publishers of major websites are still figuring out how to make their sites work financially. There’s no getting round the fact that running a major site that is high enough quality to be a ‘must visit’ has got to be a job for someone (but a job I’m sure lots of net savvy climbers wouldn’t mind!). The money to make it work is definitely there for the person who has the time, motivation and imagination. I certainly know that some of my sponsors are planning more and more to spend their advertising budget online. Get there quick though, before UKC take the bull by the horns and launch a new version (I suspect this will be sooner rather than later). The problem will be that it will be down to the site to make it painfully obvious to the advertisers exactly how much they will benefit and to secure the contributions from the climbers to generate the stuff that people want to read about.