Surfer Magazine Rides the Social Networking Wave: Publisher Rick Irons on magazine’s new online community
Surfer Magazine has announced the launch of a new online community specifically for its annual “Hot 100” issue at SurferHot100.com. The Hot 100, which the magazine has produced for the past 25 years, is a ranking of the best young surfers around the globe. “We’ve done [the Hot 100] for a while in print, and we decided to make it more alive by bringing it to the online segment,” says Rick Irons, publisher of Surfer Magazine.
To bring the venture to life, Surfer Magazine partnered with Loop’d Network, a social media platform exclusively for online sports communities. “We approached a couple different people about it and felt like the Loop’d Network had a good community-based, action-sports audience that would respond to it,” says Irons. “And, it was something different than anything else they had on their site. …”
Irons spoke with Publishing Executive Inbox about the recent launch, how the site will integrate with the print product, and why it is so important for the magazine to reach a younger audience through a social networking medium.
INBOX: What types of features and content will visitors find on SurferHot100.com?
RICK IRONS: … They’ll be daily updates from [surfing] events and news items from around the world as they happen every day, and things [related to] the young surf audience. Secondly, we’re going to be doing a lot of giveaways from sponsors, for the kids who go online and sign up. [For example,] we’re giving away a Bobby Martinez signature surfboard right now. … Thirdly, we’re building a community site where people can upload videos and photos of themselves surfing, and our staff and [other] surfers will be able to take a look at that. And, if we find really good talent, we’ll be able to highlight it on that site, and different kids will have a chance to be featured in Surfer Magazine in the print pages as well. So they get a chance to get discovered … just local kids that you might not ever hear about [otherwise]. … It’s a fun way to build a community where people can interact, talk about photos and their favorite surfers, etc. We’re also going to try to get a lot of the young surfers who are the best in the world to interact with the people in the community, like where [visitors] can ask questions and they’ll respond, [or] you can go on the blogs of some of the best young surfers and talk to them about what they’re doing and what they’re all about … and we’re going to have an editor who’s on it every day [to keep] it very fresh.
INBOX: Did you hire a full-time editor specifically for the community?
IRONS: We have people on our staff who are the experts in that field who are already handling it for print and Web, so we’re just going to get them more focused on [the community] and they’re going to make sure the site is as fresh as it can be. We want to create a youth hub for surfing, and we don’t feel it exists anywhere on the Web right now. … Other sites have a broad audience, a lot of people look at them, but this is specifically for the young surfers. In that sense, it’s totally unique.
INBOX: Why did you specifically choose Loop’d Network for this venture?
IRONS: Well, we saw some examples of how they had success with the [online community] Monster Army, and they were starting to do some stuff with [retailers] PacSun and Roxy. They had built a strong community with some of the other parts of the action-sports network, and so we felt they had a good model for it. We felt we could bring them something unique and bring them some real credibility in the surf world, and they would bring us an infrastructure that could help us supply what we were looking to give to this audience [as well as to] try to bring some new people into the surf genre who [already] were into skateboarding and motorcross and other things as well. We feel there’s a lot of natural connection between all those different sports.
INBOX: What benefits do you hope to see from building this community?
IRONS: The benefit for us is just to bring more people into the surf community, to become fans of the surf world, because as a crop of young surfers grows, the future of the sport is in better hands. It just means that there’s more young people getting excited about surfing, and it’s just better for us in the long run, because we’re going to be able to have an audience as we go forward. … This is the new generation, and we want to give them a voice. … We feel like Hot100.com gives these young surfers a voice and a place to connect with other young surfers. … We want them to know, “Hey, you have a place where you can come and hang out, and check out what you’re into.” That’s the idea.
INBOX: In what ways, if any, will the community be reflected in the print product? Will it help to generate content for print?
IRONS: Like I said, we’re going to be looking for some new, young talent [at Hot100.com], so basically readers have the opportunity to be featured in Surfer Magazine every month. If a kid gives us a great photo, and it’s a good shot we can use, we’ll get in touch with them and put it in the magazine. Or, we’ll post some of the best photos from readers of the site in the magazine each month. We also do a thing [in the print magazine] called the “Hot 100 Performer of the Month,” where we profile somebody that’s in the Hot 100. … In that, we promote SurferHot100.com as well and drive people from the print to check it out on the Web and see more stuff.