12.21.2010

Pale Morning Media unveils scalable, customizable "family relations" rate card, just in time for Christmas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (December 21, 2010) -- Pale Morning Media, a public relations and strategic media agency specializing in the outdoor world, is unveiling innovative family-relations strategies, just in time for Christmas.

Ideal for mid-season rollouts of personal lifestyle choices, increasing sell-in and sell-through of emerging relationship issues, and elevating personal brand awareness in a crowded and competitive “red ocean” marketplace, this cutting-edge package of familial communication services spans the range of traditional public relations and new media tactics, bringing the best of old and new side by side. Like that time when Grandpa took me with him to show him how to use the ATM.

“PR starts at home. Trust me, I know,” said Drew Simmons, Pale Morning Media founder and president. “The essential PR skill set of identifying an audience, crafting a message, then delivering that message is one that is often overlooked in a holiday environment. By investing in a professional communication firm now, you can save yourself – and your personal brand – significant costs down the road.”

Pale Morning Media’s new suite of family relations services includes:

* Media relations: Maximize the mileage of critically newsworthy items from your personal and professional life. Scored three goals during the company coed broomball outing? Drove to work with the fuel light on, the entire way? I smell a press release!

* Spokesperson duties: As the spotlight of Christmas Dinner can shine a bit too bright for some of our clients, we now offer spokesperson duties to embrace your single chance to make up for last year’s poorly chosen words. Our veteran mouthpieces, with more than six decades of combined dinner party wine-drinking experience, will deliver a memorable, brand-consistent and effective toast on your behalf. You won’t even need to be there, but you’ll want to be.

* Event hosting: Be the hero you always wanted to be by hosting a seemingly spontaneous post-holiday event. Our professional event hosting experience reinforces your “living for the moment” brand mantra through a detail-driven process that leaves no stone unturned. We also maximize attendance at family-friendly events by developing invitation tiers of A-list, B-list and LFC-list targetsd. Previously successful events include the “Boxing Day Bloody Mary Massacre” and the “Sledneck All-ages Backhill Powder-tow-in Fest.”

* Social media management: Our experienced social media technicians will help you post an unforgtettable series of meticulously crafted, thought-provoking, whimsical and occasionally poignant status updates throughout the holiday season. As I think you’ll agree, spontaneity is an art.

For more information, or to send an instant deposit via PayPal, please send a message to wickedoutdoorsyATgmail.com.

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12.09.2010

What will 'Man-ta' bring you this holiday season?

We all know that the holiday season is a time of giving. (See also: "Better to give than receive," "it's the thought that counts", "a kick in the shins is better than a poke in the eye").

But we also know that while we're out there nailing down gifts for the important (wife, kids), the essential (clients, business partners) and the nearly impossible (sorry mom), there comes a time in every man's December when he needs to slap down that credit card .... for himself.

In other words, what Santa is to the rest of my shopping list, Man-ta is to me.

Man-ta is the one who will be dropping a new cordless drill on my workbench this year, and who will also refresh my bar with some 15 year single malt. Man-ta is my anonymous Kwanza, my stealth Chanukah, and my elusive elf. I love Man-ta.

The first rule of Man-ta giving is simple: you do not talk about Man-ta to anyone. The second rule? You DO NOT talk about Man-ta to anyone.

The third rule? Keep the receipts to yourself.

Man-ta idea #1: A winter grill that kicks atle

I've hammered mine. And it still rocks.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we did a winter outdoor barbecue for about 40 people ... and while my standard propane BBQ grill couldn't stay lit in the wind and cold temperature, the Primus Atle double burner rig was perfect for hot dogs and cider.

Practically nuclear, it's guaranteed to impress your friends and awe your children.

LINK

Man-ta idea #2: Get red instead

You've got a couple holiday parties on your calendar, I know you do. I also know that while you've got 4 softshells and a couple down sweaters in your closet, you don't know whether or not you have a clean white button-up shirt that still fits you.

Your options for holiday party attire are limited. You could go the ugly sweater route (#42 on "things white people like"). You could trot out your wedding suit ("well honey, at least the jacket still fits"). Or you could not dress up at all (lame).

Man-ta's idea is simple. Pick up one of Woolrich's red-plaid railroad vests. It's amazing priced at $69. It looks simultaneously classy and rugged. And it's something you'll actually wear for the rest of this winter, as well as the next one.

The thick wool makes for a killer master-electrician-style vest, suitable for indoor and outdoor work, with four wide-mouth pockets that fit everything from drywall screws to a cell phone... a total Man-ta must.

LINK

Man-ta idea #3: Buy a ski mag

You're not going to leave a stash of Kindles in the bathroom at work, and you're not going to nail your laptop to the wall above your toolbench. You're going to get a subscription to a real ski magazine, because that's what guys do.

Ski magazine aren't breaking news or high tech publishing breakthroughs, nor are they supposed to be. Instead, they're a letter (handwritten, of course) from last winter, inviting you to enjoy the coming one. Here are a few of the best.

Backcountry ... I keep thinking they've mastered the art of the backcountry ski mag, but they keep raising the bar. LINK

Powder ... Such a classic, they could send me back issues instead of new ones and I'd still be happy. LINK

Skier ... Truly original. The funniest of them all. Les is More. LINK

Off Piste ... The original northwest 'zine and a true labor of love. In case you're not aware of it, the tradition is to send extra cash with your subscription check. LINK


... More Man-ta to come

12.03.2010

Unless

The Hershey Hotel, where I spent the last week at a sales meeting for one my clients, is a grand affair.

Built during the Great Depression, the architecture was imported from an Egyptian hotel which Milton S. Hershey stayed at during a trip in the 1920s. The result is impressive: a little bit Gatsby, a little bit Indiana Jones, and a lot bit Willy Wonka.

Hershey was a late-life success story who pioneered adding milk to caramel as a preservative, and who built an incredible fortune by doing so. Not content to be merely rich, Hershey was a model philanthropist.

Hershey pledged there would be no unemployment -– at all -– in his town during the Great Depression, and backed up his words by building hotels and theaters and banks and schools and everything else. He even paid workers to build row houses, and then sold the very same homes back to the workers. At cost.

Milton and his wife Catherine had no children, but founded a school for wayward boys in 1905. Today, the Hershey Foundation oversees that school, providing a completely free education (including room, board, clothing and food) to underprivileged youth. If the students can maintain a B average through graduation, they get $80k of their college paid for too. The school's endowment, managed from the original donation of $60 million provided over 100 years ago, is now well over $7 billion.

In his eponymous hotel, a towering mural hangs behind the grand Iberian bar, portraying a bustling Egyptian boat dock. As the bartender will happily tell you, the image of the dock is a "trompe l'oeil" ... a trick of the eye ... that makes the center feature of the picture follow you, wherever you stand in the room.

***
Maybe it was the setting, or maybe it was the company, but the old world hotel framed some great conversations over the course of the week. At one point, I found myself talking with a young woman who was an impressively responsible diabetic.

By "responsible" I mean that every couple minutes, she pulled out an iPod-like monitoring device to input how many calories she'd sipped down. The device would then calculate her needed insulin dose, and push it straight into her bloodstream through a tiny port on her skin.

With my own experience in ports, I couldn’t help but ask about hers. From there, the conversation naturally moved on to larger, more sobering anecdotes of personal health. I told her a few of mine, and she told me a few of hers.

Because of an unfortunate family heritage of cancer, as well as her own closely monitored health, she'd been genetically tested several years ago and discovered that she had all the markers for a future date with breast cancer. The personal tragedy would be inevitable, as would the ripple of impact through her family and friends.

And so, as a mother of two, she took action. She chose the path of short-term hardship over the tragedy living just over the horizon. She had a “radical masectomy.”

***
Earlier in the week, I’d been greeted at my mailbox by the new issue of the Economist. Trust me, having a subscription to the mag is a lot less intellectually formidable than it sounds. The writing is straightforward. The articles are pretty short. And even though it comes out every week, I can usually make time to read one or two of the articles during bathroom breaks.

One of the things I enjoy about the magazine is the political neutrality of it. It calls itself a "newspaper" and it focuses for the most part on facts, not philosophies. It's also published by Brits, providing a welcome perspective on our increasingly dysfunctional American political system. The cover story of this issue, however, practically made me vomit.

Apparently, acceptance of climate change has become the new green. Congress is doing it. Bill McKibbon is doing it. Yvon Choinard is doing it. And so is the NY Times.

We've chosen the path of long-term tragedy over of short-term hardship, of doing nothing versus doing something, and of putting off sacrifice until the day after tomorrow.

What a kick in the nuts.

***
The good folks at Quark Expeditions are giving away a trip to the North Pole on a Russian icebreaker to any blogger who can whip up the winds of web traffic and get it to blow real, real hard .

They call the $54k adventure a “trip of a lifetime." Understatement alert.

Unless things change, unless some egos can be throttled back a few gears, unless some obvious responsibility can be embraced by leaders, by governments, by groups and by individuals … it’ll be one of the last trips ever to see a snow-covered North Pole.

Whoever goes – whether it's me, you, or somebody much more deserving – it would be worthwhile to have them partner up with a young girl or boy on the adventure. Someone who’s not just punching a bucket list or using it to fluff their own web career. Someone who's innocent enough to talk some sense into our leaders. Someone who can help put a face on the tragedy that we have been tested for and that we know that is coming.

And if not, maybe they’ll just be a witness. One of the last remaining humans to actually be there, back in the day, when snow covered the poles.

Their tales will seem like the stuff of legends, most likely, like the grainy black and white photography filling the grand hallways of an old world hotel.

11.15.2010

Storytelling is the New Social Media

So I'm reading a book about social media. Which .... I'll admit ... feels a little like going on the internet to see if it's raining outside.

It's not a bad book. Not at all, actually. It's quite interesting and probably valuable with loads of case studies about how some companies really gacked it up by not responding to an angry Twitterer, and how others took advantage of similar situations by thinking and acting fast.

It's not exactly rocket science for any company that's come of age in the last decade, but for others who spend day after day in marathon "strategy meetings," it'll make a great stocking stuffer.

But whether you've read it or not ... just assume for a minute that real-time communications is something that everybody will get on board with, real soon. From Fortune 100 behemoths to the crusty flip-flop startup in the van down by the river, everybody will be kung fu fighting in real time. The media cycle will be real time. The PR cycle will be real time. And a globe-full of information consumers will be constantly and immediately satiated by the information producers ... sort of like the bottomless baked potato taco bar in heaven.

At that point, which probably isn't that far away, there will be a clear difference between company A and company B. And that difference will be pretty damn easy to spot.

It won't be about speed at that point, because everybody will have that tool in their box. It won't be about size at that point either, because real-time marketing and PR will have brought the entire corporate communications structure down to the flat earth.

Instead, the difference will be in storytelling.

The book talks a lot about how a real-time culture is more important than the real-time tools. I totally agree . But a more important concept for 2011 (and beyond) is nurturing an environment that encourages storytelling .... enabling designers to think about the brand story when they're creating a new widget, encouraging customer service agents to learn and appreciate the company's history, and building communication teams that enjoy spinning the yarns more than just wearing technical fabrics.

LINK: Real-Time Marketing & PR

11.12.2010

The $70 solution

They aren’t building any more dirt.

Around this place, it's known as “prime agricultural soils." This good stuff is hospitable, eager, and willing to produce. It’s got great drainage, great exposure, and a midwestern flatness.

It’s obviously valuable, in real cash dollars, because it’s the easiest place to grow things in a state that otherwise can be damn challenging. Less than obvious is the development pressure on the land … flat, dry and sunny makes a great second home lot.

Thanks to some planning, some luck, some seriously crowded farmers markets and some high profile foods tickling the palates of the East Coast metropolis within a few hours of the state’s southern border, the users of Vermont’s prime ag soils are in a bit of a sweet spot.

There are generational famers, taking the mantle from their ancestors. There are new arrivals, making a midlife change from consumer to producer. There are young kids with lofty goals. And there is demand for what they do. Lots of it.

With ideas and energy and attention, some have likened this moment in Vermont to a “Silicon Valley for farming” feeling. In that the conditions and characters are all in place. In that things just seem right. In that if it’s done right, money can made for a long time.

In recreation-dominated landscapes like the pastoral Mad River Valley, it’s easy to see plenty of prime ag soils that aren’t being farmed. And you don’t need a superspy decoder ring to realize that in 10 or 20 or even 100 years – after businesses come and go, and after a wintersport industry fades in the heat of climate change – that prime, productive soil will likely become even more valuable than it is now.

Of course, I’m not a soil scientist or a farmer. But I did see Ben Hewitt last week.

Author of "The Town that Food Saved," an extended personal debate about the pros and cons of a local agriculture economy, Ben was in Middlebury to tweak the notions of a rapt audience of community planners. Much to my delight, Ben stunned the crowd.

There were dozens of gems, but one of my favorites was a riff about sustainable farming (“You want ‘sustainable’? Climb down off your gas-powered tractor and grab a shovel.”), followed by a plea for using the word “restorative” instead. As in the idea of local agriculture restoring our production-based economy, restoring our local coffers, and restoring our sense of community.

Another head scratcher was a question, posed to the crowd (and eventually backed up and sourced by one of the event hosts) .... How much do Vermonters spend directly on local agriculture, per person, per year?

It’s gotta be a lot, right? Vermont is groovy and green and loves everything that starts with an herbi-prefix. It’s got farmer’s markets and bitchin’ cheeses and yak rodeos.

But it’s not. It’s only $35. And no, that is not a typo.

Clearly, some Vermonters spend way more than this on their annual budget of CSAs, half-hogs, artisanal cheeses and Thanksgiving turkeys. But equally obvious is the reality that there are many in the state who spend barely anything at all.

But imagine if Vermonters could just double this number … spending $70 per person, per year, on local agriculture. It’s certainly not hard to fathom, nor is it an unrealistic budget request for most rungs of the economic ladder.

If we did it, we’d double the local agriculture economy in Vermont. Double the income. Double the employment. Double the tax base. Double the motivation for actively using those prime agricultural soils.

And along the way, to steal a bit of Ben's thunder, we'd restore our community-based economies (to say nothing of our diets).

10.26.2010

E is for Energy

Maybe you've heard about the energy chatter in Vermont's Mad River Valley. Or maybe not.

There isn't really a quick way to explain it. If I had to, I might start with localvores and the idea of "localizing" food production, then draw a parallel to the idea of doing the same thing with how we create the energy we use every day.

But I might also start with oil ... the fuel that drives our cars and heats our homes in New England, the one that underwrites ongoing shipments of Vermont soldiers to the middle east, the one that also spewed and destroyed the Gulf of Mexico last spring, and the one that can send an entire nation into full freakout mode when the price starts creeping up at the pump.

An important layer to add is the looming spectre of a nearby nuclear plant. But the ghoulish fright factor of Vermont Yankee isn't just the leaks and the obfuscated reporting and a historical lack of transparency: it's the hole in output that would result from a closed nuke plant. Turns out it's a big one.

And to put the frosting on the top, you've got your locals. A big batch of which work for local-ish renewable companies (Northern Power, NRG systems, AllEarth Renewables, Alteris), and another big batch of which are either pining for Howard Dean to run for president, or counting the days till Vermont secedes from the union and becomes a haven for dirt roads and legal weed. Around here, they like their tea green and put Hakkepalitas on their biodiesel jettas. And when renewable-friendly Obama won the nomination, they gathered at the local movie theater to watch the Daily Show cover the historic occasion.

It's a community that looks quite green on paper. But when it comes to local energy production, things are actually a bit more grey.

Three big events from the last six months have underlined the color change with a huge black Sharpie. One was the proposal to put an industrial wind farm on the valley's pristine eastern border. The second was the subisidy-fueled arrival of a few dozen "solar trackers" -- home-sized solar units that look sort of like the love child of a satellite dish and a drive-in theater movie screen -- along well traveled scenic routes. And the third was the town's realization that they had almost zero control over either (a handful of folks on the state's Public Service Board make those final decisions).

In the wake of those developments, things have got noisy around here. And organized. And occasionally somewhat pissy.

For the three of you who'll actually read this whole post, I think you'll agree with me on this: regardless of what side you're on in the renewable debate, emotion has been the main winner.

In other words, it's easy to find the line between those who love local renewable energy production and those who hate it. But it's hard to find somebody -- on either side -- who's arguing their point with actual information.

You might imagine how the lights went off in my head when I had the good fortune to not space out about last month's Planning Commission meeting. This was the one that featured a couple designers from the Vermont Energy Atlas, presenting the website and its snapshot of possible renewable energy output for each home and property in the state. And oh, it's got maps ... for solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass and efficiency. It's also got graphs that can chart your home's solar potential, for example, against the average in the rest of the state. And it's got sliding scales that can help you figure out how long it'll take to pay off a home-based system, based on how much you're paying for electricity right now.

The more I watched the team poke around the Atlas, the more I realized that on a personal scale, it's tough to imagine a better tool for right here, right now. And what the Atlas didn't provide ... fortunately, the Atlas team brought that as well: a working draft equation for the total energy required to provide 100% of Waitsfield's electricity and transportation needs (heating oil wasn't included, alas). And according to this calculation -- which was more about the concept than promoting one energy type over another -- it would take solar panels on 211 acres of land to provide 100% of these energy needs in an ongoing, sustainable manner. (Note: solar was chosen "randomly" for this calculation. It just as easily could be wind or another renewable energy source).

It's a rough equation. But it's a start. And from this vantage point, a more educated, less emotional conversation can get moving about how much we're using in energy right now, and how much we feel is the right amount to offset in the future. Maybe we start with a very basic percentage like 10% and grow from there. Or maybe we get more aggressive right out of the gate.

But either way, it's progress.

Ok.... here are the stats if you can't read them in the slide.

TRANSPORTATION FUELS

Assumptions:
* Population = 1,678

* ~12,500 miles/capita/year
(Source: Waitsfield Town Plan)

* 500 gallons/capita/year (@25mpg)

* 1 US gallon Gas = 114,000 BTU/gal
(Source: Wikipedia)

* 3,412 BTU’s/kWh
(Source: Wikipedia)

* 4.3kWh/day in VT meaning a 1kW solar array
(Source – National Solar Radiation Database, e.g., 5 – 200W panels, 4 – 250W panels etc.) will produce on average 4.3kWh/Day of power, amortized throughout the year with length of day, average weather conditions (snow, rain, cloudy days etc.)

Total transportation fuel?
1678 people * 500g/person/year = 839,000 gallons

Total kWh Equivalent
(839,000g * 114,000btu)/3412btu/kWh = 28,032,239 kWh (28,032 Mwh/year)


OFFSET SCENARIO 1: Ground Mounted Solar Offset (100%):


1 Mw array requires ~ 6 acres of land producing 1 Mw x 4.3h/day x 365 days/yr x 0.8 Derate Factor = 1,250 Mwh/yr:
(Source: Acres/1Mw array of RACK MOUNTED SOLAR (Not Trackers) from Alteris Renewables 200kW array in Berlin, VT on 1.2 acres & 1.2Mw array being built in Ferrisburg, VT on 7 acres; “Derate Factor” see NREL PVWatts Help - http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/calculators/PVWATTS/derate.cgi for general discussion, I ended up using a value of .8 vs. .77 based on feedback from VT solar professionals, e.g., AllEarth Renewables, Alteris etc.)

For Transportation Fuels, 100% liquid fuel offset:
(28,032 Mwh/1,250 Mwh/yr) * 6 acres/Mw = 134 acres

For Electric Consumption (2008), 100% electric consumption offset:
(16,038 Mwh/1,250 Mwh/yr) * 6 acres/Mw = 77 acres

Total Offset for Electric & Transportation - Rough Estimate = 211 acres

10.20.2010

2010: World's easiest outdoorsy halloween costumes


10. La Nina

Just steal what Farley did.

9. Chilean Miner & Mistress
Poncho? Check. Moustache? Check. Sexy South American arm candy? Keep looking.

8. Al Gore & 'An Inconvenient Truth'
The new 'Ghost of Christmas Past.'

7. Ambiguous Renewable Duo
Solar and Wind. Nobody quite sure how to react.

6. Floyd Landis
Follows Lance Armstrong around all night, trying to get somebody, anybody, to bust him.

5. Scary windmill guy
Coming to YOUR backyard. Ooooh!

4. Sexy windmill lady
Super hot, especially when she's trick-or-treating in a neighborhood that's not her own.

3. Elin Nordegren
Lovely lady with a three iron and a suitcase of cash.

2, Aron Ralston
Curly haried guy with one arm and a suitcase of cash.

1. BP executives
Will buy a drink for anybody.

10.14.2010

Because we all need a little more 'Mountain' in our lives

A few days ago, I got the season's first issue of Mountain in my PO Box. It was fat with ads, packed with features, and sported a pro-print editor's note (reprinted here, with permission) that got me fired up to power down and hunker down with the mag and a cup of the blackest coffee I could find.

Mountain launched last fall. For those of you keeping score at home, yes, that was also the fall where the death of print was loudly proclaimed by castles at every corner of the kingdom. And yes, it was also the fall after the collapse of a couple notable outdoorsy titles.

So to see a full-scale magazine rise from the carnage .... hell, to see it practically puking with ads in my mailbox in its second season ... is heartwarming. Maybe it's because of the lean spirit of the publication (their minimalist office in North North North Boulder is renowned for daily homemade burger grill sessions). But maybe it's because their recipe is working.

The editorial vision for Mountain comes from the mind of Marc Peruzzi ... a former editor at Outside and Skiing, who a few years ago penned the best article ever written on the love-hate relationship we all have with Boulder, Colorado (as well as another gem on "pot for athletes"). I pestered him via email until he answered a few of my questions.

WO: Was the kernel of the idea behind Mountain to offer content that isn't already available out there? Or was it to gather together an advertiser community that wasn't being served in some way?

MP: The answer to that question is “both.” Here’s why: I’ve always thought that there was a void in the market between the vertical ski, bike, climb, backpack titles and the bigger general interest, lifestyle-driven outdoor mags. Ultimately you write for the people you know, and I know a lot of people who are passionate skiers, cyclists, and mountain athletes that are looking for sharp content that speaks to a sense of place—the mountains of North America. Our readers have generally outgrown the verticals, but they also don’t connect with six-pack abs in Sayulita, or Lance on Everest stories either. So we can give them their correct dose of skiing and trail running (not the overdose of a vertical) and then surprise them with a story about wolf reintroduction or meth in the high country or an advocacy piece about grass fed beef. You would have to subscribe to five or six magazines to come close to our mix of content. And even at that you wouldn’t see the photography we run.

But none of that would matter much if we couldn’t get the ad support to make it happen. We went into this knowing that people who live or vacation in the mountains have a lot in common. Do you know any skiers who don’t own mountain bikes? Do you know any trail runners who don’t own a waterproof shell? Any Nordic skiers who don’t care about their food supply? Obviously the resorts understand this and that’s where we get most of our support; we push people to the mountains. But regional craft brewers, bike companies, apparel makers, ski manufacturers and on and on, like our readership, too. There’s no waste. We aren’t selling magazines to surfers or people looking to vacation in Monaco.


WO: If I were a writer, and I was looking to pitch you a story, what should I say to guarantee I get the assignment?

MP: First I’d subscribe to and read the magazine. Which is the first thing I learned in Intro to Magazine Article Writing in college. Spending a few dollars to potentially earn hundreds or thousands just makes business sense. And I’m nauseated by freelancers who bemoan the state of print but don’t give anything back. After that, I need to know that you’ll crush it on draft 1. There’s a tendency among today’s writers to phone in the first version because they’ve been trained by fat edit staffs to expect multiple rewrites. I don’t work in that world. One sloppy draft and you’re out forever. I’m not expecting everyone to deliver copy like a Hampton Sides, Mike Kessler, or Florence Williams, but work to the best of your ability.

WO: Now that half the world's freelance outdoor writers live in Boulder, is Boulder the best place on earth to run a magazine or the worst?

MP: Occasionally I capitalize on all the great local freelancers here in Boulder, but our creative director lives in Glorietta, New Mexico, and our contributors are, by design, spread out throughout the mountains of North America. If I had a connection I could do my job from a cave in the Sawtooths. But the ad sales guys are in a good place,

WO: How many medical marijuana dispensaries do you go past on your ride to work?

MP: On my 1.5 mile bike commute I pass four. One just opened across the street (they put out green balloons for their open house.) My favorite has a crude hand painted plywood sign that advertises: Used Books, LPs, Weed.

WO: Back when you were at Skiing, you worked on a couple generations of "Mountain Summer" ... a warm-weather edition for the Skiing crowd. But as I recall, the issue really struggled to draw advertisers. What did you learn from that experience that's being used by the crew at Mountain?

MP: Thankfully that was before my time. Just like you can’t write about dogs in Cat Fancy, you can’t write about anything other than skiing in Skiing. The audience was correct, but if I was an advertiser I wouldn’t buy it either. For our part, we never wanted to produce just another ski title. Ski titles had more relevance back in the 70s and 80s when people identified themselves as skiers and nothing else. But the user group has matured. I’m a skier, but I’m a cyclist, and a backpacker, and a backcountry skier, and a hack paddler too. And I also care about the environment and social issues related to the mountains. Mountain isn’t limited by the seasons.

WO: How many press releases do you get in a week? And how many do you read?

MP: I unsubscribe from a half dozen a day. I only read the ones that come from somebody who gets it. Please don’t pitch me on electric shavers or anything that you would bring to the beach.

WO: You were on staff at Outside, right? And Skiing? What is it about magazines that keep you coming back for more?

MP: Before getting into the magazine business I was a philosophy major and a ski shop manager, but I was always a heavy magazine consumer. Ultimately I pursued a journalism degree with the sole intention of writing magazine articles. It’s all I ever really wanted to do. It’s true that newspapers and newsweeklies have taken a hit from the new technology. But magazines that are about something will always matter.

WO: Who would win in a 100 yard dash: you, Sam Moulton or Tom Bie?

MP: Sam wins. Tom would show up 15 minutes late, muttering about fish. I would go for a ski.

10.01.2010

The Daily Wedgie: Alta rope tow

Hat tip to Cas at The Adventure Life for the "Camel-towed rare wedgie spotted in the wild."

The Daily Shred: Wonder Woman


There are so many killer aspects to this clip, it's tough to know where to start with the praise. Is it the magical spin that creates a skate helmet (why didn't she just spin up some car keys?), the fast-motion filming to add speed to her descent, or the iso-cam closeups? Regardless, Happy Friday.

All thanks to Pedro for finding this beauty. LINK

9.15.2010

IFTD 2010: The cricket hatch was on!

"How was it?"

That's the standard question posed to anybody returning from any tradeshow, at any time. And though the three words are simple and quick, the answer is anything but brief.

A billion things run through your head as possible alternatives to the initial question: Was the show crowded? Was the booth crowded? Did you pick up any new clients? Did anybody try to poach your clients? Did you meet anyone fantastic? Did you eat anything fantastic? Did you get shwag for me? Did anybody pass out in the wrong hotel room? Did anybody pass out on Tom Bie's patio? Did anybody pass out in the back of a pickup truck headed to Fort Collins?

Last week, two trade shows went down in two different places, spotlighting two different markets heading two different directions. The IFTD fly fishing show (where I was) brought a record low turnout for an industry trying to rally itself to the sleepy downtown scene of Denver. Though "optimism reigned" and "the quality of conversation exceeded the quantity of attendees", the aisles were pretty much full of carpet, and not much else. The fly fishing industry is battling to remain an industry -- that is, to not be sucked into the world of conventional fishing (ie, spin fishing) -- and is doing just about everything they can to remain pure, even if that means isolating themselves in a smaller and smaller ivory tower.

The ASR surf show, on the other hand, is a place that everybody wants to be. The aisles are jammed with flip flops, surf trunks, and retailers with their checkbooks out. Front door security has to worry about things like bikinis that are too revealing, and young entrepreneurs sneaking in without paying their fair share. There's hardly a business or individual in American business that doesn't want a chunk of the surf world ... from icons like Yvon Chouinard and Jake Burton, to megabrands like Juicy Fruit and Rolex, just getting your picture taken with Kelly or Laird could mean a hefty bump in sales.

The ASR event -- along with Outdoor Retailer, Interbike and many others -- is operated by a division of Nielsen. A decade or so ago, Nielsen picked up the outdoor trade show group from a company called Miller Freeman, which was primarily a media publisher. These days, Nielsen has kicked publishing to the curb, focusing instead on the far more viable and lucrative world of trade shows.

Simply put, Nielsen is a for-profit enterprise. Running trade shows is what they do. And they're quite good at it.

The fly fishing "industry," on the other hand, parted ways with Nielsen last fall. That is to say, they fired their wedding coordinator and ran their own ceremony, leaving themselves with no one to blame but their betrothed. I haven't seen the official numbers, but even rejects from gambling anonymous will win money on the fact that the fly show was down in exhibitor booths, down in retailer attendance, and down in overall attendance. Some, including myself, felt that the show was down in overall innovation as well, as if the fly fishing gear designers took a pass on this season in case the show .... well ... .sucked.

There was some electricity at the show, surrounding a "big" announcement regarding the venue for next year's gathering. By the time the unveiling took place, it was the worst kept secret in the room. The fly show will leave Denver and head to New Orleans next year ... shining a spotlight on the admirable cause of getting gulf fishing guides back on their feet (LINK). It was a Teflon announcement, in that it was literally impossible for show exhibitors to refuse to attend. What cold hearted bastard wouldn't want to help out the fishing industry in the gulf? Who wouldn't want to go to the Big Easy for a few days?

The kicker, of course, has nothing to do with the exhibitors, and everything to do with the retailers. In moving the show away from the Rocky Mountains, the gathering is now a couple flights further away from a huge chunk of fly shops and guides who used to load up their pickup trucks and drive to Denver for the show.

If the retailers don't come to New Orleans next year, the honeymoon will officially be over.

This is not to say that fly fishing won't survive. Nor is it to say that fly fishing isn't completely awesome ("... as I tell my friends, if you would just try it, it'll be all that you'll want to do," T.B. 2010). Nor is it to say that fly fishing companies won't grow, thrive and even boom throughout the next year, or decade.

But it is to say that the concept of a trade show for fly fishing is, and should be, on the chopping block. If a show isn't going to be supported by the bulk of retailers, or by the bulk of exhibitors, then it's just. Not. Worth. It.

In thriving industries where checkbooks are out and being used during trade gatherings, shows have a fantastic ROI. In flat industries, however, they feed on the fear of your neighbor coveting your top clients. And in my opinion, defensive thinking is not a good enough reason to attend a trade show.

The air that made the hissing sound we all heard at IFTD last week has to go somewhere. The question for the fly fishing industry is whether they can capture that breath, and make it their own.

8.21.2010

The Last Waltz

It’s cold here. Not winter cold where the tips of your fingers hurt. But summer cold: the kind that shakes you with the realization that fall has begun.

“Lows in the 30s.” That’s the code phrase that means it has begun. You say that at dinner or at the farmers market, and people nod with their eyebrows raised. Yes, their eyes tell you, I’ve got a lot to do.

The wood needs to be stacked, the oil needs to be pre-bought, and the down comforters need to be found from wherever it was that they were stashed. The painting needs to be finished, the apples need to be picked, and the chicken coop needs to be reamed out.

Around these parts, people crash into September with giddiness. It’s the best time of year, they frequently say. And they are frequently right.

Part of it is the return to industriousness … putting the laziness of summer aside, and rushing full on into winter prep mode.

The colors are part of it, for sure. And so is the food. The sharp pressed cider and the hoppy beers, naturally preserved for the long winter ahead. The late August corn and a farm raised steak cooked over a woodfire. The pink flakes of wild trout caught on a broken fly rod with a dusty muddler that somebody clearly sat on.

But it’s also the race against time to squeeze one more perfect day into the year: one more hike, one more ride, one more day in short sleeves with the windows open and the radio loud. The closer you get to winter, the more precious those days become.

And catching a few hours of perfect weather in late October or early November rivals any summer day, anywhere.

8.12.2010

Segment 4 of 4: Outdoor Industry Video, panel discussion

Media is Dead. Long Live Media. Is Video the Savior? (Pt.4/4) from Cortex Network on Vimeo.


Something tells me we need better lighting if we're going to stream the video of these things. And a sponsor.

Thanks to Justin at Cortex for making this happen. Here's a link to his gig. LINK

Segment 3 of 4: Outdoor Industry Video, panel discussion

Media is Dead. Long Live Media. Is Video the Savior? (Pt. 3/4) from Cortex Network on Vimeo.

Segment 2 of 4: Outdoor Industry Video, panel discussion

Media is Dead. Long Live Media. Is Video the Savior? (Pt.2/4) from Cortex Network on Vimeo.

Segment 1 of 4: Outdoor Industry Video, panel discussion

Media is Dead. Long Live Media. Is Video the Savior? (Pt.1/4) from Cortex Network on Vimeo.

This was our first test segment, and as a result the video is marginal for the first few minutes, but the audio is AOK.

7.26.2010

Explaining ClimateFail 2010? It's the gas prices, stupid

You can't swing a dead cat around this place without reading an obit for the Climate Bill (2009-2010, R.I.P.), otherwise known as the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, otherwise known as the "Great Green Slam Dunk of All Time That Just Got Rejected." (LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK)

Fans of finger pointing have got to be enjoying this blamefest, as there's no shortage of targets (or people willing to fire away at those targets). Topping the list are the Republicans, the Democrats, big corporations, labor unions, and the "toxic political climate" ... and to be safe, you might as well throw in there the media, the Chinese, the weather, Al Gore's masseuse(s), the French, the Bush Family, the Clinton Family, Rush Limbaugh, Jon Stewart, and anybody you know who's ever purchased a carbon offset.

Right or left, to see the Climate Bill corpse on the floor, even with that cute little chalk outline around it, is a stunner. Back a few years ago, the one thing that both Presidential candidates could agree on was the need for a U.S. Carbon Bill that would slow the tide of climate change. McCain wrote the book on carbon trading legislation, almost literally, and Obama softened his stance on a more agressive carbon tax concept to meet the Arizona senator in the middle and guarantee agreement. It may not have been every green's wet dream, but it seemed like a done deal. Practically signed, sealed and delivered.

Echoing that bipartisan kumbaya, Joe and Jane Public were getting on the green train as well during that election season. You name a green initiative, and it was making progress. Wind, solar, alternative transportation, relocalization, bamboo, hemp, carbon offsets, group showers ... the list goes on and on and on. And when I think about it now .... it's like a memory from a different era, altogether.

And then I realize, it WAS a different era.

When it comes to environmental initiatives, big or small, there's only one thing that matters in America. And that's the price of gasoline. When it's high, we'll do whatever Al Gore says. But when it's low, the message of "go screw yourself" couldn't be more clear.

While ClimateFail 2010 is one example of how our eco-conscience is pinned to the pump, there are numerous others .... like the BP Oil Spill, for example. Because even though people are growling about BP and mumbling about the eco-damage that's been caused to the region, what they're really worried about is how much it will cost to drive to work tomorrow. And as long as it stays the same as today, not much is going to change.

Governments are like wedding planners. You really don't need them, unless the shit hits the fan. And when it does, one of the best parts about having them around is that they provide an excellent target for the blame game.

But in this case, the blame really should fall on us. You and me. Because if we're not willing to change our own behavior, and if we're not willing to pick up the phone and rattle the chains of our public servants, then we're merely casting another silent vote for the status quo.

Until then, our environmental future remains the prerogative of the pump.


February 10, 2007
Obama announces candidacy for president
$2.35/gallon

June 1, 2007
Nau eco-apparel profiled in Fast Company
$2.90/gallon

August 1, 2007
Treehugger.com acquired by Discovery Network for $10 million
$2.86/gallon

Feb 24, 2008
"An Inconvenient Truth" wins oscar for Best Documentary
$3.18/gallon

May 12, 2008
Sen. John McCain, presidential candidate, Pledges to Combat Climate Change
$3.70/gallon

May 30, 2008
Toyota sells their 1 millionth Prius
$4.12/gallon

August 8, 2008
The North Face plants trees as a carbon offset for all media attending the 2008 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market show.
$3.70/gallon

August 10, 2008
Backpacker Magazine assesses their carbon footprint
$3.65/gallon

Aug 25, 2008
Obama receives Democratic Nomination
$3.60/gallon

January 9, 2010
Plenty Magazine folds.
$1.86/gallon

Dec. 18, 2009
Copenhagen Climate Summit fails
$2.61/gallon

April 2010
BP "Deepwater Horizon" drilling rig explodes, starting the largest oil spill in history.
$2.78/gallon

July, 2010

The Climate Bill fails.
$2.68/gallon

7.09.2010

The Media is Dead. Long live Media .... Is video the savior?



Panel Discussion: The Media is Dead. Long live Media .... How video is fueling a media boom in the outdoor industry.

** Thursday, August 5: 7:30-9:00 a.m.
** Salt Lake City Marriott Downtown, Salon D

As outdoor industry media rapidly moves toward digital domination, the role of video and photography has taken on a new level of priority and urgency. Media companies, brands and retailers are all working to include compelling imagery in their media mix...but, who's doing it right? Who's doing it effectively? Who's doing it affordably? And most importantly, how can outdoor industry brands and retailers tap into cutting edge trends in video and photography?


Let’s face it …. For the most part, the outdoor world is a low-tech zone. Not Amish low-tech, but definitely not digital natives either.

Part of it is generational, as we’re still dominated by the paper pushing baby boomer crowd, a crew that is known to actually carry "cash" and use things like "pencils" during sales meetings. Part of it is cultural, too, as the the things we like to do in the great outdoors are more about touching the sky than touch screens and CPUs.

But while the outdoor word has been the dominant messenger in the outdoor world for the last few centuries, the next few decades are destined to be driven by video.

Feature videos, product videos, event videos, stock videos, integrated videos .... if you haven't had the video conversation in your marketing department in the last six months, you haven't been in the marketing department.

Twenty some years ago, when an outdoor film was released, the only place to catch it was in a movie theater, sitting next to the other garlic-breathed outdoorzies in the dark. Today, however, you can catch a video anywhere …. At work, at home, or even down by the river on your phone.

As the outdoor industry rapidly moves toward a digital video future, the big questions aren't whether or not to use video ... but how to do it right. How do you make an effective outdoor-themed video right now? And how do you distribute it? Who's watching outdoor video and what do they want to see from it? How much does it really cost? Can my nephew with a new Mac and a basement apartment really handle my video needs?

To dig into the meat of cutting edge trends in video and photography, we have put together a panel of outdoor industry leaders and innovators in video and film for a panel discussion at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer summer market show. The crew includes:

Rob Faris, SVP Programming & Production, Outside Television



Rob Faris, a multiple Emmy Award-winning television producer, oversees the creation and development of programming content Outside Television. Before joining Outside Television, Faris was the Executive Producer at Voom HD, a series of HD channels owned by Cablevision, where he supervised three of the channels, notably Rush HD, an action-adventure outlet. Faris was responsible for all the creative aspects of television production at the Voom HD channels, oversaw the global operation of production teams associated with the three channels, and managed original productions in more than 40 countries. Prior to Voom HD, Faris was a member of the Emmy-winning team for NBC Sports Summer Olympic Games in Athens; a producer at Madison Square Garden; and a feature producer at ESPN where he was part of the Emmy- and Peabody-winning Sports Century series.

Corey Rich, Photographer, Filmmaker & Principal at Aurora Photos



















LINK: Video
Corey Rich is one of the world's most recognized adventure and outdoor lifestyle visual storytellers. He has captured stunning still photos and video on a wide array of assignments, including rock climbing in India, ultra-marathon racing in the Sahara Desert of Morocco, freight train hopping in the American West, and snowboarding in Papua New Guinea. His editorial work includes assignments for National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times Magazine. Commercial clients include Anheuser-Busch, Apple, Nike and The North Face. Today, much of his time goes into capturing both still images and video for the creation of multimedia projects for commercial and editorial clients.

As Vice President and co-owner of Aurora Photos, Rich was the driving force behind founding Aurora’s Outdoor Collection, which is the world’s leading brand of outdoor adventure and outdoor lifestyle photography. He is focused on overseeing Aurora’s continued growth in sales and business development. Most recently, Rich played a major roll in the creation of two new divisions: New York City based Aurora Select, focused on photo and video assignments and Portland, Maine based Aurora Novus, an innovative multimedia production company.

Additionally, Rich is a Nikon evangelist and a member of the SanDisk Extreme Team. He is also on the Board of Directors for The Access Fund, member of the Visual Journalism Advisory Board at Brooks Institute, co-founder and lead instructor of the National Geographic Adventure Photography Workshop, member of the Rowell Legacy Committee and on The Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure judging panel

Fitz Cahall, creator, “The Season” & “Dirtbag Diaries



In January 2007, I was 28-years-old and felt like the dream I had been chasing my entire life was unsustainable. A friend once told me, "Write from the heart, write what's true and things will work out." It was getting harder to believe. I worked hard, but the stories I loved so much failed to make it from my hard drive to the pages of magazines. Rent checks were getting harder to write. By February, I was studying for the GRE and looking at grad schools I didn't really want to attend.
The thing is–you can't turn off a dream. With a go-for-broke mentality, I began bundling my favorite stories into the Dirtbag Diaries. My office has become a tangle of cords and microphones. With each new episode, I emerge bleary-eyed and in need of a can of PBR. Professionally, I have never been happier in my life. This world is filled with great stories. They come from friends during big wall belays, around campfires and on long drives across empty deserts. I look forward to telling as many as I can. Since the diaries, I've gone on to produce the both The Season -- a 22 episode mini-series -- and the upcoming 10 part series, Tracing the Edge with Patagonia

Tami Snow, Horny Toad



Tami Snow is the Communication Director for Horny Toad, an atypical apparel company with a long track record of powerful, memorable imagery. At Horny Toad, Tami helps to oversee the brand positioning and storytelling. Prior to joining Horny Toad Tami was the owner and Creative Director for a small boutique creative agency specializing in a wide variety of brands primarily in retail, outdoor recreation, lifestyle apparel and footwear working on notable brands such as L.L. Beans and Tubbs Snowshoes, American Ski Company and Old Navy.

Horny Toad video is a thoughtful and fun collaboration with their partners, Merge Creative. “The collaborations with Horny Toad and Merge have been successful because there is a creative process and between two like-minded entities. Merge bringing brands to life in ways people recognize as authentic and real. It is the perfect blend of art and technology, finely-tuned visual effects and the collaboration of storytelling by making people feel inspired.”

Josh Murphy, Producer/Director



Josh Murphy is a producer, director, and cinematographer who began his career in film in 1999 with the release of the award winning Unparalleled series of modern freeheel ski films. His work spans television, commercials, documentary and feature films including the upcoming release of The River Why starring Zach Guilford and Amber Heard with Academy Award Winner William Hurt and Academy Award Nominee Kathleen Quinlan, for which he was Co-Producer and Second Unit Director/DP. His broadcast productions have been featured on CBS, ESPN, CMT, OLN, VH1, G4 TV, VS, Fox Sports Network, Fine Living, Warren Miller Television, The Weather Channel, Resort Sports Network, and Time-Life Video. Among other awards he is the recipient of North American Snow Sports Journalist Association’s Bill Berry Award for Modern Media, the Harold Hirsch Award for Film and Broadcast, and the Gerald Hirschfeld, ASC Best Cinematography Award from the Ashland Independent Film Festival. In the outdoor world he recently produced original commercial, web, and viral content for clients such as The North Face, Clif Bar, Outdoor Research, and the California State Parks Foundation.

7.08.2010

Bros Dosing Bros .... Wilderness edition

Safety watch: child-carrying backpacks

Does it surprise you that toddler-carrying backpacks aren’t required to meet mandatory safety standards of any kind? It surprised me.

Standards do exist, set by the good folks at ASTM and JPMA … but they’re voluntary. And when you making safety standards optional for kids’ outdoor gear, it’s sort of like saying that feeding your kids is “optional.”

Since I started working with Kelty KIDS in 2002, I’ve watched them tackle safety issues with an eagerness that only a Volvo engineer could love. It’s true they’re not the cheapest items on the shelf, and occasionally they’re not the sexiest … but no one can ever doubt that for Kelty KIDS, safety always comes first.

Kelty child carriers are not only compliant with ASTM voluntary standards, they go far beyond what’s required. They also exceed JPMA’s standards, and they willingly subject themselves to testing by the Bureau of Veritas: an independent watchdog that makes sure certified products don’t change once they hit the stores.

As obvious as this sounds, it was sobering (and even depressing) to see other carriers on the shelves that don’t meet the basic safety standards that are out there.

If you’re looking at buying a new or used child carrier, you should know what some of those safety standards are. After all, this is your kid we’re talking about. Here’s a very brief list of some of the biggies to look out for:

Scissoring, Shearing, Pinching

Add the words “of my child’s hand” to any of the above, and you’ll see how essential this standard is. In carriers with a built-in support leg, there’s a high-risk “pinch area” right at the leg pivot hinge. Coincidentally, this is exactly the spot where a kid’s hands dangle down. Kelty has developed, tested and produced a pinchless hinge which provides zero risk, as a child cannot get their small fingers into the hinge, ever.

Unintentional Folding

With child carriers that stand by themselves, parents regularly place the carrier on the ground or a picnic table while they adjust the fit for their child. The minimum ASTM requirement is for that folding leg to able to resist 10 lbs of pressure and not fold up – pressure like when a child extends their legs during a big yawn. If it doesn’t resist that pressure, a child could unintentionally cause the carrier to fall backwards. Feeling that the ASTM requirement wasn’t strong enough here, Kelty beefed it up to 15 pounds … then exceeded it.

Leg Openings

In a child-carrying backpack, a kid sits in a “cockpit” that looks sort of like a big, roomy pair of shorts. You lower the child in, snug them up, and off you go. The leg openings need to be big enough to keep little Johnny comfortable, but small enough so that a child can’t pull their leg out of one opening, put it down the other, then slip through. ASTM’s standard uses a big ball –7 pounds and the size of one of those mega-softballs – and requires that the leg holes be able to keep the ball in the cockpit. Once again, Kelty easily meets this standard.

Strength & Loads

Making sure a child carrier can hold a full weight load may sound obvious, but it’s absolutely essential for the safe enjoyment of both the parent and child. Some of the weight tests that ASTM requires (and Kelty exeeds), includes weighing down the carrier with 40 pounds and bouncing it about 5 inches up and down, about 50,000 times; dropping a 40-pound bag of shot 500 times onto the seat from a height of 3 inches; and loading the the kids’ compartment to three times its capacity rating (120 pounds) while in use and while on the ground.

Stability

This is one of the easiest tests to replicate yourself in a store or at a garage sale. Stand a carrier on a 12 degree incline – frontwards, backwards, sideways – then load it up with 40 pounds and put the child’s cockpit as high as it can go. If it falls over, you fail. Not only does Kelty pass this test, they pass it with flying colors up to 20 degrees.

6.26.2010

Is that a clam in your pocket, or are you just happy sashimi?

With the rise of blogging, you sort of get used to the fact that nobody's actually reporting on anything. They're "curating", which can in some cases devolve into "cut-and-paste journalism," "recycling," or in some cases just plain "stealing."

But in the recent release "Shell Games," there's an extended dose of full-on reporting that'll make your inner investigative journalist start high fiving itself. Written by the Seattle Times' Craig Welch, a Kansas J-School grad that has spent his career in the land of newsprint and nine-fingered pressmen, "Shell Games" has the meticulous reporting of the best newspaper writing ... and the rich character of an Oliver Stone screenplay. It's a story of wildlife smugglers, and of the cops who love them. And while it touches on the illegal harvesting of everything from aquarium sharks to Dungeness crabs, it's main thread is uncovering the lucrative black market for the giant (and phallic) geoduck clam.

WO: I'm sort of fascinated by when you entered the story and who was your first contact? Like, did you do a piece on one of these guys when you were at the Olympia paper, then just kept tabs on them when you moved to Seattle? Or was it at the very end, when you realized what a ball of twine you'd happened upon?

CW: Actually, it was a little of both.

I met Ed Volz on a geoduck story in 2002 and started pestering him. Over time, he got used to having me around and just started talking. I asked him to make introductions for me. Eventually I would get him (and some others, like Bill Jarmon, Kevin Harrington and a bunch of Feds) to take me out to all the spots they did their work. They'd retrace their steps and show me where they'd been and what they'd been doing and thinking at the time. But all that took a lot of time.

First all I did was go in and tell Ed that I want to know more and more. I visited with him once a month or so for probably two or three years. Eventually I started collecting documents. I got thousands of them -- state arrest reports, federal agent memos, FBI memos. I got so many that I didn't read them at first. I just started putting them in binders.

Only when I sat down and read them did I realize what I had. Cops write reports after EVERY single contact and some of them aren't half bad writers. And they frequently included all this extraneous detail that I desperately needed in order to make a scene work. (Don't know where you are in the book, but during one interrogation scene there were four or five cops in the room and they all wrote about seeing the suspect puff harder on his cigar when the questions got tough. They even wrote about the cloud of smoke hanging above his head. It was awesome.)

Once I had most of the documents, it was pretty easy to know who else to go bug. And one of those guys, a retired federal agent, had kept audio tapes of a bunch of the undercover calls. He was planning on writing a book about it. But he was so excited, he sat in his living room and played them for me. (At the time I was just thinking of pitching a story to Outside, which he was all for. But then he passed away without ever writing his book ... so I decided I would.)

Once I was able to tell other federal agents how much I already knew, they were kind of into it, and pretty happy to share. It's kind of a small community, nationwide, and they all know each other. (The federal agent I met in LA who did the butterfly sting used to be an assistant attorney general in Olympia, for example.)

Sometimes, the material seemed too good to be true, but more often than not, they found a way to prove it. When one of the agents told me that the would-be hit man carried a teddy bear I told him I flat didn't believe him. So he opened up his files and showed me a photograph; someone had actually taken a picture of the guy before he testified in front of the grand jury HOLDING the bear.

Anyway ... the stuff I witnessed personally was almost all just at the very end. But -- with one exception -- I was able to get hours and hours and hours of interviews with every single state and federal agent mentioned in the book. (`course, I had to fly to Boston, South Carolina and Oakland and LA to meet them, but hey ... it's just money, right? Gulp.)

If I had it to do over again, though, there's one major thing I would do differently: I'd leave more time for the writing. I was racing the clock so big at the end that some of the chapters in the deep middle and near the end only got rewritten once. (The prologue, on the other hand, probably got rewritten 12 times.)

But someone once told me that no book is ever done. Authors just run out of time. So true.

6.18.2010

And so it begins: renewables and reality

It could be a Saturday Night Live sketch. Or maybe a Seinfeld episode. It might even be worthy of the Three's Company era of jiggly situation comedy. (".... Jack's passion for FILL IN THE BLANK is upended when Chrissy overwhelms him with FILL IN THE BLANK....)

For proponents of renewable energy, there's a strange writing on the wall that's starting to appear. I guess you could call it reality.

Beating on the drum for so long, it became de rirgeur to plead for support of any non-oil, non-nuclear energy source because the chance of getting it was about the same as Dick Cheney growing to be more than 5 feet tall. People felt they had to yell for wind and scream for solar because it was a very noisy room with the stereo cranked up and nobody was really listening, anyway.

Fueled by tax incentives (no pun intended), the radio has finally been turned down ... and renewables are popping up. Out East, big projects like Cape Wind are moving ahead, and small phenoms like the Solar Tracker are going off. Out West, conversations about building thousand mile pipelines for the new grid are inching closer to reality. And in my front yard, NIMBYs and "Renewables Now" are duking it out.

The good part about being involved in the political process (as wind towers and solar array debates are filling my evenings), is that you have all the information at hand. I've got the advocate powerpoint, the anti powerpoint, and the relevant legal decisions from just down the road.

The bad part is that it's no longer a pie-in-the-sky dinner conversation. There are lawyers around.

More to come ....

6.17.2010

Tommy Knoll & Earthwerx: Gentlemen, start your checkbooks

Last month, the US division of the niche climbing brand CAMP was acquired by their Italian parent company. As a result of the sale, the guy who had been running the show at CAMP ... Tommy Knoll ... not only has quite a bit of free time on his hands, he also has some "resources" to apply to a new venture. According to an exclusive interview in SNEWS, his plan is to start a group focused on acquiring small, soulful outdoor industry brands -- and to help them grow without getting so big that they forget their roots. Known as Earthwerx, the group will begin looking for those brands asap.

* You say you're looking to acquire cool, soulful outdoor brands between $2 million and $10 million in size, How many of those companies are out there?

Quite a few and increasing. Next time you're at Outdoor Retailer take a stroll off the main floor and you will find quite a few smaller, niche specific companies offering really interesting and unique products and services.

* And once they're in the Earthwerx group, what will happen to them then?

That's the secret sauce... the main thrust of our work will be to ensure these companies not only survive in a tough marketplace, but thrive.

* Did you ever consider spending your chunk of the sale on reinvigorating "The Piton"?

In all seriousness, there was a real demand for the, ah, news, The Piton was providing. Day jobs and other commitments took over and ultimately won.

* What's the difference between Earthwerx and a private equity firm looking to acquire outdoor brands?

What we have found is that although the Private Equity folks know how to manage and own businesses - we have found they are lacking in specific outdoor industry experience. This is where our team bridges the gap between capital and industry experience.

* When you were at CAMP USA, did you ever try on one of those randonee racing suits?

No comment.

* I feel like there are two threads here .... it's a "passion play", in that you're making a serious commitment of cash and personal time to a perennially low-profit outdoor market; but it's also a "money play," in that you're trying to turn a sizable profit and help others do the same. Can you really have it both ways?

We think so. There are many sectors in the marketplace where passion and innovation intersect to produce success - that's what we're looking for in this strategy. In our assessment, there isn't a shortage of passion and innovation in the outdoor marketplace but as you mention there is a shortage of profitability. We're looking to combine innovation and passion with the end result being success.

* Part of your success at CAMP USA was establishing a solid "direct-to-consumer" business .... aka, selling online without a retailer as a middle man .... while still maintaining an authentic "core" presence in small specialty shops. Is this easier than it sounds?

The marketplace has changed. Retailers are more accepting of brands selling direct because they see the value of greater brand presence - there is proof that a manufacturers brand presence equates to more traffic for them. It appears other manufacturers are also having this cross-over success. Ten, or even five years ago specialty retailers were resistant to manufacturers who were selling direct. We waited until the market was ready for and more accepting of a direct to consumer play and only then did we roll out. Direct to consumer models are commonplace now and if structured properly can be mutually beneficial.

* The more you sell online, the less people have a chance to touch and feel your product. But the more you sell in shops, the less profit a company makes. So, iIn figuring out how much to sell online and how much to sell in shops, what's the right balance?

I don't think one is mutually exclusive to the other - both have a role and a specific purpose - if planned properly. Specialty shops are the lifeblood of most manufacturers and brands - this is where community gathers, the product is on display, stories are told and transactions take place. From what I see - the moment that specialty shops stop building community is the same moment they begin their irrelevancy. With that being said, specialty retailers are not the only game around. Certain, particular consumers are only interested in buying direct for a variety of reasons and this will only continue. If the ownership and leadership of both specialty retailers and manufacturer brands work in concert with one another to create an optimum buying environment that includes elements such as holding price and preferred delivery then both models can work. There are plenty of case studies that prove this.

* I heard that you actually made some real money from the sale of CAMP USA this spring. How come you didn't take more time off?

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