I dropped in on the Wicked Outdoorsy blog the other day and found an interview with Steve Casimiro, West Coast editor of National Geographic Adventure magazine and keeper of The Adventure Life, his personal blog. In the interview, Casimiro fired a shot over the bow of outdoor bloggers everywhere with this remark:
Fourth, most outdoor blogs suck. They’re unprofessional, amateurish, snarky without being funny, or boring.
Your honor, I enter an enthusiastic plea of guilty on all counts! (I’m like, Steve, you know, “amateurish” is what a blog is supposed to be because bloggers have always been amateurs. We can’t all be world-class magazine
With my hackles dutifully raised, I headed over to Steve’s blog praying for further annoyance (because it inspires better blog posts). With profound disappointment I have to report that The Adventure Life is rippin’ good: well-written, newsy, informative, pretty to look at (Steve has good taste in WordPress themes). Steve also has access to the work of some of NatGeo’s best-in-the-solar-system photographers. These aerial shots from Africa are priceless.
To get back to the Wicked Outdoorsy interview, this disturbed me most of all: Steve’s polished, professional-grade blog isn’t exactly raking in the hits.
I’m averaging about 1,100 visitors a day. But I’ve seen huge spikes of visitors around marquee stories, as when Apple wrote about my review of outdoor iPhone apps on their Hot News page, followed by the classic dragon’s tail shape as it mellows out. But I try to ignore the spikes and focus on what I think is my core daily visitation–that growth has been steady and solid, with a pretty good leap in the last month or so. Tossing out the spikes, March was around 300 a day and now I’m consistently getting 800-900 a day.
So your reward for being a world-class outdoor blogger with the whole planet at your feet is about twice the traffic of somebody’s boring-snarky-yet-unfunny blog devoted to walking on dirt and posting pictures of flowers, trees and seashores. If this guy can’t rule the galaxy, who can?
But anyway, The Adventure Life is a worthy addition to your blogroll. Steve’s in the same bind I am: The water is leaking from the pool keeping print publications like NatGeo Adventure afloat, and some of us are slapping around in the water hoping the Internet will throw us a life ring before it’s too late. I hope he succeeds.
Thanks for this post, Tom. I got a good chuckle out of your writing style about it! Interesting stats on who follows the world-class blogs versus our little old homeboy blogs. I think, ulimately, a blogger has to have the attitude of “so what / who cares / I’m only doing this because I enjoy doing it for myself” . . .but that doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be as professional, polished and interesting as possible. But it’s easy to fall into the repetitive trap – after all, there’s only so many ways you can extol the MAGNFICENT scenery, the AWESOME waterfalls, the GORGEOUS sunsets, right? So, content – adventures – writing style – must remain fresh! For us non-National Geographic types, it’s tough to gain recognition, attract an audience. At times, I feel like everything I write and post is vox clamantis in deserto. But, hey, loyal Gambolin’ Man readers and followers, I do appreciate your support and feedback!
I enjoy reading amateur blogs much more than some very polished website. Somehow I never really trust commentary on a website that only seems to be there as a commercial venture. But based on your statistics, I suppose there aren’t any really commercial outdoor blogs. To some degree, they all have to be born of genuine expressionism. As for myself, it’s just for fun, and to collect my thoughts and photos, almost like a diary. If anyone else enjoys reading it, all the better. It’s fun to share.
Not for hire!
That’s not a blog, it’s a magazine. I already get magazines. You get no feeling of a personality or train of thought, just an editor picking from a nice selection of stories. I don’t think amateur is the right word for most blogs I read, including yours. Almost by definition, a blog is a personal viewpoint. When some corporate entity takes the blog framework and starts publishing, it is sometimes useful information, but not a blog as I understand it. I prefer to consider the blog writers that I read as columnists, albeit irregular ones.
Let’s hear it for the irregulars!
Pardon my language, but **** him. I took a look at the blog, and it IS lovely, but it’s like the magazine he writes for: extolling a lifestyle that, frankly, I have no chance of being able to lead.
Go hiking in the Bay Area and the Sierra? I can do that. Even if it’s not as often as I’d like. So here I can get useful information and tidbits (and maybe some daydreams) about things I can do *right now*. Your blog (along with a few others) is relevant to me in a way that his will never be. At least until I win the lottery and become a multi-multi-millionaire.
Steve: I generally agree w/your assessment of the magazine, which is “aspirational” (cool stuff its readers will never do) … I try to be inspirational, showing people stuff they can do this weekend.
I didn’t harsh on the guy’s site, though, because I respect what he’s trying to build: an exit strategy from print. That’s a pay-the-rent issue and an acceptable way to turn a buck (whether aspirational works online is up for grabs, though. I’d argue that Web viewers are so jaded by constant advertising assaults that they can see right through the fantasies trotted out in the “adventure” mags, whose real job is to sell gear, not a “lifestyle.”).
***** him? Dang, I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said that about me–I wouldn’t actually have to work for a living. And then I could spend all my time lobbing harsh comments from afar.
Tom, thanks for the defense. You see clearly what’s going on. I do, however, want to clarify my “blogs suck” comment. No, it wasn’t take out of context–I meant what I said. But I would divide blogs into two categories–personal endeavors inspired by passion for the outdoors, such as yours, and semi-commercial attempts to get something, anything online in order to sell advertising and pull in affiliate dollars. I have nothing for respect for what you’re doing. And I admire anyone taking the time to build a website about the outdoors, to share their view on it, and to continue to feed it when the only reward is traffic and some comments. As I’ve found over the last six months, that’s not so easy to do.
What has surprised me–and the reason I launched the Adventure Life–is that I see few independent outdoor websites that are entertaining, insightful, coherent, and fun. To say that existing sites “suck” is simplistic and reductionist, but also, to a great extent, true. But that’s coming from the perspective of someone who’s spent decades as a professional writer, photographer, and editor–my expectations of what constitutes a good site are clearly different from others’. In my opinion, it takes more than opinion to make a great website. A crazy thought, I know…
Also, I disagree–strongly–with the idea that magazines extol an artificial or unobtainable alternative universe. At their best, magazines show us what’s possible, they inspire, they teach, they open our eyes to the world. I’m probably never going to take psychedelics and have an exorcism in South America, as Kira Salak did, but I sure enjoyed reading about it in Nat Geo Adventure. I have yet to find a way to Antarctica, but every story I see on it reaffirms my hunger to find a way there. It took me eight years after I first caught the Greenland bug to figure out an affordable trip, and it took me 13 years to get to Iceland. There are other places I’m still dreaming about, thanks to magazines, that I might never visit, but that are vividly inspiring me.
In defense of the magazine I call home, Nat Geo Adventure has always strived for accessibility and showing newcomers how to have their own adventures. Yes, we cover dream trips. But we also cover an equal number of close-to-home, affordable, and easily accessible spots.
Finally, before I disintegrate further into incoherence, I would argue that there are an endless number of ways to describe a sunset, a waterfall, a hike, to wax eloquent (or not) about the outdoors, to share the passion and love that we all have for being outside. Print magazines are bound by commercial constraints and sometimes by lack of imagination, which is where websites like the Adventure Life and blogs like Tom’s step in. There are a million great stories that connect somehow, some way, with the outdoors. Just look at Tom’s link list, for starters. I get up every single day inspired by how I see people finding themselves outside, and the Adventure Life is my attempt to share that with the world. It’s imperfect, incomplete, and woefully in need of updating, but it sure isn’t short of potential stories.
Wow. Mr. Casimiri combined hubris and an irritatingly outlandish statement in one overlong paragraph. Dare I say it? Media-grabbing headlines aren’t solely the province of Brittney Spears or Paris Hilton.
As someone who also thinks he sees what’s “going on,” I’d suggest Mr. Casimiro is saying dumb things in an attempt to drum up a little readership for his site.
Steve, here’s a suggestion: blog for a couple years, make enough money to support yourself AND pay those whose content you’re leveraging on your site, and then you can say cavalier, patently stupid things.
And yes, I think you *are* full of shit; I read a *lot* of outdoor blogs that are “entertaining, insightful, coherent, and fun.”
More importantly, most distinguish between their own reporting and the content they source elsewhere or simply rewrite.
There are a lot of interesting, coherent voices online. Did you feel the need to step on them because your ego demanded, or because you’re looking to build a profitable media property, and figured this was the fastest way?
I made the “*** him” comment and I must say that moments after writing it, I realized that I wanted to take that back. That definitely went over the line, and I apologize for that.
So, instead: “Meh.” The Adventure Life blog doesn’t deserve that level of personal attack, as Tom notes. (Other) Steve is trying to produce something he believes is entertaining, insightful, coherent, and fun.
But I stand by the rest of my comment. I work in an office in Silicon Valley suburbia. I really like my job, but, well, they have this thing about my showing up most days of the week. I have a mortgage and a yard and a family and they also expect something out of me (ok, technically, the yard doesn’t), which means that a day I get to go *anywhere* is a gift beyond compare… but I have to be back that evening. So dreaming about trekking in Iceland, or vacationing in Vietnam, or mountain biking Italy’s Dolomites (to pick the first place names I see on the adventure life blog) — that’s just masochistic. That ain’t happening today, or tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or the year after.
Tom’s blog makes me happy. He says, “Look at the cool things *right here!* And, well, as I said: I can do that.
And I think I had better go patronize Tom’s e-store right now 😉