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Surfline’s plans for the future

By Tiffany Montgomery
December 20, 2007 5:54 AM

I headed to Surfline's headquarters yesterday to talk with CEO Jonno Wells about Surfline's growing media empire.

Jonno gave me an update on some Surfline initiatives, including plans for Water Magazine and Surfline.

Surfline audience

Surfline.com is coming off its busiest month yet - 30 million page views in November - and is on track to do the same in December.

Jonno attributes the bump in page views to Surfline's "Six Weeks at the North Shore" project, where Surfline sent a large team of writers and photographers to chronicle the behind-the-scenes action during the big wave contest season. Honda sponsored the series, which allowed Surfline to send an especially large contingent.

The big swell a few weeks ago also boosted traffic as surfers turned to Surfline for forecast information, Jonno said.

As Surfline has added editorial content to its site, visitors are staying longer. In 2002, the average visit lasted three minutes; today, it's 10 minutes.

Surfline attracts 1.2 million unique visitors a month. The weather forecasts are the "engine" that drives 80,000 to 100,000 visitors a day to the site and the expanded editorial content gives them a reason to stay, Jonno said.

Water Magazine

Surfline, which also publishes books, expanded further into print media this summer by acquiring Water Magazine, an upscale, surfing quarterly.

"We're trying to take our large daily audience and give them great products whatever the medium," Jonno said.

Unlike most in the media business, Jonno is bullish on print. Surfline doesn't need to spend a lot of money building its audience since it already has a large one. Instead, that money can go to creating a premium publication that sets Water apart from competitors. Jonno said Water will remain a quarterly publication.

Surfline is changing Water's distribution strategy. Instead of focusing on newstands, which is an expensive and wasteful model, he said, Surfline is focusing on direct sales to consumers.

Water is promoted on Surfline.com, which has boosted subscriptions by 20 percent.

Surfline also has a database of 900 surf shops that are on the Website. About 700 do not sell Water.

Right now, a letter and two copies of Water are on the way to those 700 stores. The goal is to expose the magazine to more people and use it as an entree to sell other Surfline products such as guides and books.

"We think surf shops are a great place to be," he said.

World Qualifying Series surfers, high school surf teams, and premium Surfline subscribers will also get the magazine.

"We can ramp up distribution without a lot of costs," Jonno said.

Water will still be sold at some desirable newstands.

"It's a $10 mag - it's not going to be at Safeway," he said.

With all the different efforts combined, distribution should triple.

"We think our sweet spot is 50,000 (circulation)," Jonno said.

Issue 24, on newstands this week, is the first issue produced start-to-finish by the Surfline team.

Surfline expansion

Surfline is looking to grow both internationally and locally.

Since Surfline has weather tools globally, Jonno believes it can extend its plat form to other countries and languages, reaching new audiences for its products and new advertisers.

Surfline wants to also drill down on a local level by combining surf forecasting with local content to attract local advertisers.

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