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A year ago today we launched Executive Edition, our paid subscription service for our more in-depth stories with original reporting.
We weren’t sure what to expect when we launched. Lots of large media companies are trying to figure out a viable, long-term business model and our little niche site has had to do the same thing on a much smaller scale.
We don’t own a print publication for the main driver of revenue, and we are not backed by a big media company. Unlike some Internet startups, we did not raise millions of dollars before we started the site, hoping the business model would somehow work in the end.
I think many of you have seen us try to figure this out as we go along. Shop-eat-surf started as an experiment two years ago after a decade-plus career in newspapers covering everything from murders and fires to City Halls and Orange County action sports companies. I worked as an editor in my last job at the Orange County Register, a difficult job to mesh with family life.
When I left, I started posting news I was finding about local action sports companies, and the great response from readers kept me going. After a year though, I had gone as far as I could go on my own. I was writing stories, selling sponsorships, and using iWeb and an FTP site to load stories everyday. My idea to have an Orange County specific site had grown to include business news for the action sports industry overall.
To get to the next level, we took a big risk and my husband, Andrew Horan, left his senior editing job in the newspaper industry and joined Shop-eat-surf.
As many media companies are finding out, online advertising revenue, while a crucial piece of an Internet business, is not enough to support a purely content-driven site. The professional reporting we bring to our site costs money. Technology is expensive. We pay our own way to events, trade shows and on reporting trips because we are determined to keep our content free of conflicts and independent.
Andy coming on board allowed us to develop a subscription model to supplement the generous support of our sponsors. He handled the technology, the subscriptions, all the elements that I could not do because I was too busy writing stories.
After a year, I must say, our list of paid subscribers is impressive. I’m honored by the caliber of people who feel what we do is worth paying for, especially at a time when the general ethos seems to be journalism is dead.
What we put behind our paid wall is a work in progress. We still post free stories everyday, but the stories that use our professional reporting skills, that take more time to report, that offer more depth or original reporting that other media outlets don’t have, we now save for our Executive Edition subscribers.
Thanks to those subscribers and our incredible sponsors, what started as an experiment has turned into a business that supports our family, uses contributing writers and has big growth plans.
Next month, we launch our quarterly Executive Roundtable series with a live interview and discussion with Pacific Sunwear CEO Gary Schoenfeld. The response to that event from both sponsors and attendees has been fantastic, and we plan to bring our audience more events with speakers of similar caliber four times a year. For our events, we are rewarding our Executive Edition members with reduced ticket prices.
We will write more about skate and snow next year, and increase the number of contributing writers we use. We will also be reporting more from different parts of the country.
And, for our Executive Edition readers, we will be adding more regular features and information to reward them for their support.
We sincerely thank all our readers, members and sponsors for supporting Shop-eat-surf. And, I have to thank all the executives who have given me a glimpse into their business minds. I love writing about this industry – it is so interesting and dynamic and the people who work in it are creative, independent and in many cases, self-made.
If you are a new member, you may have missed some of the Executive Edition stories in the last year that have some insights from industry leaders you may find interesting.
Executive compensation: What action sports CEOs make
Interview with Bob Hurley and Roger Wyett on the remaking of Hurley International
Bob McKnight’s speech at UCI where he discusses Quiksilver’s challenges
Interview with West 49 CEO Sam Baio who has strong opinions about brands’ distribution strategies in Canada
What you need to know about the Canadian action sports market
New Reef President Jim Gerson on Reef’s turnaround plan
What Vans has learned after operating in China for 1 year
VF Outdoor Coalition President Steve Murray and other industry executives on leading in challenging times
Interview with Bernard Mariette on life after Quiksilver
An analysis of the Quiksilver/Rhone deal
Shaheen Sadeghi on the changing consumer
Money series on M &A opportunities in the recession
New Vans President Kevin Bailey on Vans' apparel play
Store tour of Brea Mall where Obey is everywhere
A visit to Burton and DC stores in Los Angeles
Sport Chalet CEO Craig Levra interview on saving the company
Why some teen retailers are performing – it’s not all about price