Self portrait, Grant Brittain. “I want to be buried with my Leica.”
What do you do when you are a photographer and part owner of a magazine when today’s publishing industry is scratching it’s head on how to stay in business? Here is a pseudo answer from an interview of Grant Brittain. In 2006 The Untold True Story asked GB:”What’s the difference between shooting the Bones Brigade Chin Ramp and say, Gonz during the early nineties or Kerry Getz in this decade?
“The photos are basically the same, back then, you could shoot just about anything and it could get in the mag. Now, it’s the Trick of the Week, acceptability of the trick is a bigger factor. Stuff gets old fast. It’s a One Up contest and now a video part can pretty much out date a sequence in a mag. Timing in the mag is everything, gotta get it in the mag before it’s on video, TV or the Internet. Magazines are up against those other media sources now.” -GB
Since Grant is both a photographer and a mag publisher, naturally he catches my attention when he has anything to say about the publishing biz. With so much talk about the economy and the threat against printed media from RSS feeds, blogs, and free internet news sites, I got in touch with Grant and asked him a few more specific questions on these topics.
How is The Skateboarding Mag (Grant’s magazine) dealing with the changes in the economy and changes in the publishing industry?
“I think we are able to cope with the whole downturn in the economy a little better than the corporate magazines. We can make snap decisions and tailor the magazine to our economic needs. Corporate entities usually cut staff, we can’t do that, we already run on minimal staff and we would have to lay ourselves off, we’re the owners, so I guess we aren’t going to do that. We run everything pretty lean and smart.”
Many publishers are feeling the pressure to shift their printed media over to an online format? How are you balancing the two mediums right now?
“It’s (the internet) great for publishing and documenting news. That’s one of the reasons we decided not to run that many contests in the mag. By the time we run them in the mag, they are old news. We try to use our internet site to show events, video clips, links to our advertisers and non-advertisers, press releases and other time sensitive overflow from the magazine. There are some things that the printed mag can do and can’t do and the same with the web. Used correctly, I think that our site can only serve to enhance the printed side of the magazine…We are not a news outlet as far as the print side goes. The Skateboard Mag in printed form is more about entertainment and the lifestyle, the content we run can be looked at and enjoyed and collected for years to come.”
If magazines do evolve to a strictly online format, how do you foresee revenue to be generated? Online subscriptions? Online advertisers?
“As far as advertising and selling subscriptions to the Internet site, that’s a hard one. Selling ads on a website can be a hard sell. Some advertisers are not all that web savvy, so they don’t see the value of running an ad on a website. Web users are used to getting everything for free and are hyper web savvy, if they have to pay for the information, they’ll just move on to a free venue. If a magazine wants to try to sell extra online features, archived material, poster downloads, etc., that might be a way to bring in extra revenue. As it stands now, advertising on the site (www.theskateboardmag.com) pays for the site, otherwise it’s being subsidized by the Printed Pub. It’s all open out there and a big gamble.”
Considering the current meltdown of printed magazines and newspapers, how are you able to keep your magazine relevant in today’s market?
“We will continue to publish our magazine. Magazines are and have always been a large part of skateboarding. It’s still a big deal for skaters to have their interviews and photos in a magazine. Anyone can be on the internet, good or bad. Magazines are usually better quality than the internet and you plaster your walls with the mag photos.” (Spoken like a true photographer whose images were once plastered all over my walls.)
Grant Brittain lives in Encinitas, CA and is the chief photographer and part owner of The Skateboard Mag. He is also an editorial legend, spanning 3 decades of skateboarding history for numerous magazines, yet his work is not tied to just the skate genre. Grant shows his work often in gallery shows, guest lectures, shoots personal work, landscapes, and is a strong portrait photographer. Thanks for the words Grant. Much appreciated friend.
Full interview by the lost blog “Untold True Story.” Here is another interview of Grant Brittain on KorduroyTV.