To be honest, I'm not sure where Stephen Regenold came from, though I've heard it's a place called Minnesota.
As a nationally syndicated columnist in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Spokane Spokesman-Review, Redding Record, Casper Star-Tribune, Billings Gazette and Twin Falls Times-News ... nobody rocks the red states like Stephen.
But as much as Stephen loves the adulation of the Casper, Wyo., crowd (who wouldn't?), he hasn't rested on those dusty laurels. Instead, he has parlayed his newspaper savvy into an ongoing series of cool pieces for the New York Times (like this one about natural water parks in Vermont), a spotlight slot on Outside Online, and a recently redesigned www.GearJunkie.com.
Didn't you used to work in a climbing gym? If not, I seem to remember talking to you when you were IN a climbing gym ... and you were telling me that you were thinking of getting into the outdoor gear space as a journalist. What was your original plan then?
I was the editor of a climbing magazine called Vertical Jones. Might be what you're thinking. Although I used to hang in climbing gyms a lot (though was more of a "trad" climber outdoors.) I started Vertical Jones while in journalism school in the late '90s at the University of Minnesota. It was a quarterly 'zine, and it lasted for about four years. Not successful in a financial way. But it launched my career into the world of outdoors writing and travel journalism.
How many people get a paycheck of some sort from the Gear Junkie world at this point?
I have three business partners with GearJunkie.com, a tech/design guy (John Peacock), a marketing guy (Pat Petschel), and a publisher, who sells ads and sponsorships (Mike Santi). Through our company, Monopoint Media (http://monopointmedia.com), we partner with web sites like TrailSpace.com, SuperTopo.com, Gear.com, GetOutdoors, Wend, and
WildSnow.com. We sell -- Mike and Pat sell, that is -- network ad buys. So people from some of those web sites get paychecks that come through us as well.
If you hadn't called it Gear Junkie ... what would you have called it?
I used to have the list of names I brainstormed for the newspaper column -- this all started as a newspaper column -- and I think a few of the other thoughts were Gear Fix, Gear Guru, Gear Jones. . . a few other bad ideas, too. But I think it was always something to do with gear in the name. Gear Junkie just seemed to work best.
Your blend of newspaper syndication and online media is pretty unique. It's almost the direct opposite of those who start in the very visible outdoor magazine world, and THEN try to get online and into the papers. Was this something that grew organically? Or was it part of the plan?
Organically, I guess. I have always preferred writing for newspapers versus magazines. I can retain the rights to my material easier in the newspaper realm. It was the key ingredient that allowed me to launch GearJunkie.com in 2006 with hundreds of pages of content -- I had all these "old" newspaper columns sitting on my hard drive, and I owned the rights to everything. With magazine writing, most freelancers sell all rights and get paid only once for their words. A syndication model, what I do, allows me to sell my content to several places around the country. And then I can post it to GearJunkie.com as well.
Remember those Evil Kneivel ski gloves you wore at Alta? Where did those come from?
Those things rock. They are the Kombi Captain Freedoms from 2007. I get many questions about those gloves.
Is your newspaper syndication work growing at the same rate as your online presence?
Online is the future of Gear Junkie. I still have about eight syndicate newspapers and a few magazines that run the column. But my reach is growing almost as big online. And last year I made about 50% of my income from Gear Junkie from online ventures.
Last year, you did a sweepstakes where readers could "win a trip with the Gear Junkie" ... do you think you'll ever do that again?
It was a big success. Here's a wrap-up of the trip: LINK. The winner, Matt Eder of Portland, was an awesome candidate to win this trip, as he was a resort skier dabbling in backcountry travel. The trip -- to mountaineer in Sequoia National Park -- was the perfect introduction for Eder.
What's next for the Gear Junkie empire?
We just got back from the Teva Mountain Games. Did a big push there making an event out of my experience racing in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge. (Here's the area of the site on that). Next up, we're putting our noses
down for a couple months of traffic building initiatives. And, as always, we'll be at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in July.
Do you get much teasing for listing the Original Buff as the top gear innovation of the last 10 years? If not, can I tease you now?
It was five years, not 10. But, dang, I tell you, no other product has served me so often and so well. Make fun all you want. I love the Buff. (No, they do not pay me a retainer fee!) And the company just made me a happy man: They designed a custom Gear Junkie Buff for the Teva Mountain Games.