10.18.2013

Can skiers scare the world straight? "DEEP" launches on Kickstarter to find out



Porter Fox is a busy guy.  These days, he keeps his stuff in Brooklyn and spends his days as the publisher of Nowhere, a literary travel e-zine.  But back in the day, he did a stint in the Wyoming newspaper business (Jackson Hole News) before trying his hand at self-publishing with a backcountry newszine ("The Pass").  He eventually found his way to Powder ...  and although it was on the diametrically opposite side of the universe from his Maine roots and newsprint background ... it was a perfect fit.

Photo:  Dave Reddick
At Powder, Porter sharpened his natural ability to go long without losing his way; weaving thoughtful story arcs into travel pieces that easily could've been mailed-in chronological blather.

This fall, Porter brings his toolbox to his biggest story arc ever:  the 8,000-year-old history of skiing, the miracle of snow and how climate change could wipe out both in the next 75 years.

DEEP: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow lays out some sobering data, like how the rate of winter warming in the U.S. has tripled since 1970, how half of Northeastern ski resorts will close in the next 30 years due to rising temperatures, and how more than a billion people depend on snowmelt for their everyday water supply.

There's no big publishing house behind this effort ... no major marketing or distribution plan ... just a bunch of skiers who feel like this is a story that's worth being told.   If you agree, head on over to Kickstarter and give the thing a kick.  (LINK: DEEP on Kickstarter).

IS DEEP A CAUTIONARY TALE OR AN EARLY OBITUARY?

I would say it's closer to a cautionary tale. Big changes are coming to the mountains in the next 30-70 years, including diminishing snowpacks, increased avalanche danger, intense storms and other changes that will alter how we travel in the high peaks. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, then we will likely see the end of skiing as we know it by 2100, if not before. If we can decarbonize and lower emissions significantly, it's possible to keep winters similar to how they are today. With 97% of climatologists in agreement that humans are warming the Earth, it is also true that we can slow that warming.

ONCE UPON A TIME, YOU DID A WRITING SESSION UP AT BREADLOAF.   WHAT DID YOU WRITE WHILE YOU WERE THERE?

I went to Breadloaf  to study creative writing. I worked with Josip Novakovich on a few short stories I was editing. He was great and it was a terrific experience, inspiring on all fronts.

I READ IN THE NY TIMES LAST WEEK THAT IN 50 YEARS THE COLDEST WINTERS WILL BE AS WARM AS OUR HOTTEST SUMMERS TODAY.   IS THAT WHAT YOUR BOOK SAYS TOO?

I think the line was "By about mid-century, the coldest year will be warmer than the hottest year in the past." Either way, DEEP covers a range of predictions, because that's all we have. The lower end of the range (2C) is manageable, the upper end (4-6C) is scary and will be catastrophic to the world and the human race. Though computer models can't make exact predictions 50 years out, the range that they are predicting is getting more accurate. So it's good to know what the upper and lower ends of warming mean, because either could happen.  

IS THERE ANYTHING IN THE BOOK THAT'S GOING TO MAKE ME LAUGH? 

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson's comments on climate change are pretty funny.

DID YOU SET OUT TO WRITE "DEEP" ... OR DID "DEEP" FIND YOU?

Half and half. Two skiers from Jackson Hole approached me with the idea. When I read about the state of snow and ice in the world, I adapted the storyline to what it is in the book. 

ARE YOU TELLING THE SKI WORLD A STORY THAT THEY DON'T WANT TO HEAR?  OR ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL THE REST OF THE WORLD SOMETHING THAT SKIERS ALREADY KNOW?


I think I'm telling a story people simply don't know about. I didn't, and I've worked at a ski magazine for 14 years.

DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE YOUR GENERATION HAS BEEN GIVEN A BIG FAT SHIT SANDWICH OF CLIMATE PROBLEMS TO DEAL WITH?   

I think every generation has its fight. My grandfather fought in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.  Many parents today fought in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. Our generation has been incredibly lucky, and somewhat spoiled. This is our fight and a chance to make our mark. Not just to protect our way of life, but to make it even better, more equitable and more sustainable.

IF YOU COULD SEND AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE BOOK TO THE WORLD'S BIGGEST CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER, WHAT WOULD YOU WRITE ON THE INSIDE COVER?

Stock up on canned food. 





10.11.2013

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think


OCTOBER 10, 2013   "... If greenhouse emissions continue their steady escalation, temperatures across most of the earth will rise to levels with no recorded precedent by the middle of this century, researchers said Wednesday ... To put it another way, for a given geographic area, “the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past,” said Camilo Mora, the lead scientist on a paper published in the journal Nature...."

LINK ... NY Times


9.10.2013

Gripped, gripping, grippiest, grip-tacular ... 'The Summit'



The best part about "The Summit"?   It was allegedly inspired by the movie "Cliffhanger" ...

9.03.2013

Huck it if you can



 ... and the Mad Hatter 'hat tourney' is this weekend (Saturday, Sept. 7).   Register here.

https://www.facebook.com/MadRiverDisc/events

8.07.2013

OR report: The line in the sand

Maybe you saw the news.   

The headlines were all about "riots" after a rash of window breaking, fighting, car kicking and portapotty tipping at the Vans US Open of Surfing last week.   

But the inside line was different.   While the mainstream media and everpresent iPhones covered the street carnage in detail, the surfing media turned their wrath on over-promotion and the dilution of the sport's soul. 
The Inertia was relatively calm about it, letting the pictures tell the story (LINK) of a culture that is losing the battle to big business.

Others were less subtle. The Epic TV surf report aired multiple grievances about the event (LINK), like how the incidents were "the result of trying to sell surfing to people who don't actually surf."   And how the "industry" should realize it's all of their own making:  "Dear surf industry.  Quit blaming others for the "riot" in HB.  Own up to it.  You brought "the fans" here. If they surf or not is a non issue."   

To pit surfers vs. non surfers, and industry vs. reality, you've got to draw a big line in the sand. Unfortunately, it's a little late for that.

A thousand miles away from the weak waves and heavy partying of Huntington Beach, the idea of a cultural divide was on more than a few lips at last week's Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City. 

On one side of the line were folks who felt like the big tent of "Outdoor" had finally gotten too big, as proven by decidedly non-core products and brands filling many of the gaps in an ever-growing OR show.   With what felt like a sizable upswing in brand diversity, as well as complaints about the host venue and city, the Outdoor faithful talked a lot in the aisles about a move to Las Vegas  -- a possibility that's not nearly as far away as it once felt.   At the same time, people openly wondered if a move would mean that the show and "industry" would finally be jumping the shark.

On the other side, there were folks who saw the idea of constraining Outdoor growth as not just elitist, but also economically suicidal.   What litmus test could honestly decide what's truly Outdoor when core brands are already happily selling barbecue shirts and yoga pants?  Seniority?  Child, please.

Maybe consciously, maybe not, the dividing line was virtually exposed in Backcountry.com's new brand video ... a luscious, spectacular piece of work that pretty much sums it up.  

Riding the tagline "when you're ready to suck the bloody marrow from this bone we call life, we're ready for you," the video aspires to draw a line in the sand. It embraces the idea of being a litmus test -- shooting for consumers who get it, while casting aside those who don't.  At once pulse-pounding and textbook elitist ... I love the thing (other than the tagline), and can't stop watching it.

But while marketing videos can be fantasy and still sell reality, the rest of us have to deal. Regardless of the axe-grinding at OR about hotels and restaurants and booth locations and (fill in the blank with complaint here), the ultimate question is whether or not to move the show after the contract expires in 2016 ... and if so, where.   

It's a hard conversation to have with someone you love ... but maybe it's time to just ask.  Does this convention center makes my trade show look too big?

With a quick look at the numbers, and a couple easy assumptions -- that the show will continue to grow, that Anaheim and Orlando are both too Disneyfied, and that no massive convention center expansions are on the horizon -- the path seems pretty direct to a suite at Mandalay Bay.

679,000 sq. ft 

584,000 sq, ft. (-14%)

815,000 sq. ft. (+20%)

2.1 million sq. ft (+220%)

2.1 million sq. ft (+220%)

With triple the space at the LVCC, there's clearly plenty of room for Outdoor to have it's way in the desert.  

But with triple the space, what does the future of Outdoor look like?  Does it thrive with the growth and addition of more vertical segments like fishing, bike, ski and surf?   Or does it go another way, as one veteran trade media editor predicted last week, with the addition of RVs, ATVs, and power boats?

In either case, it's time to understand exactly where that line in the sand lies.

7.30.2013

OR-GNAR

With all due respect and deference to Shane McConkey and the brilliant creators of GNAR, it’s long overdue to bring just a smidgen of GNAR’s ten-ton awesomeness and self-deferential ridiculousness to the floors of the Salt Palace for the semi-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show.  

Where else can you get 100k devoted and passionate outdoors people to spend four days of their precious summer … inside?  Where else can you get dirtbag climbers and river skids to plan four days of clean, color coordinated outfits?  Where else are you likely to be sandwiched in a coffee line between the president of Patagonia, the lead designer for Arcteryx, two world class freeclimbers, and a and first-year shop employee who refuses to talk to any of them out of "principle".
The following OR-GNAR outline is for fun only, and is not meant for gambling purposes. Unless, of course, we get enough people and you're into it.   Of course, if you've got more ideas, hit me here (@wickedoutdoorsy) or here (hello@palemorning.com)

OR-GNAR > INITIAL POINT ARRAY

-200 points
Using wheeled luggage in the O.R. show aisles at any time.  -250 if it’s on Horny Toad corner.

-150 points
Eating any showfood while sitting on the Salt Palace carpet at any time.  -250 for eating a tough skinned burrito with a soft plastic fork.

-50 points
Wearing a Western shirt and shorts at the same time, while talking about the Denver Broncos (#BeLikeKray)

-25 points
Wearing a short-sleeved plaid shirt and flip flops at any point next to another dude wearing a short-sleeved plaid shirt and flip flops.    Negative points are cumulative (3 plaid/ss = -75pts, eg).   Minus an additional 10 points for each visor in the group.

25 points
Scoring a "No Kids on a Powder Day" Coozie.    Get one from Patrick Brown at  Ticla (PV952)

50 points
Donating $5 to CityPak … the charity creators of storage packs for homeless people ... and earning a chance for airfare and tickets to Bonnie Raitt in Chicago.    (Thursday, 5:30 pm, High Sierra, Booth 16041)

50 points
Sporting a Utili-Kilt at any time.    Bonus 200 for wearing nothing else.

100 points
While waiting in line at any restaurant of coffee shop, loudly proclaim that "YOU KNOW, VEGAS HAS SIXTEEN OLIVE GARDENS AND THERE'S NEVER A LINE."

100 points 
While at the Teva Party, stand on a barstool and loudly proclaiming that you feel like Gandalf visiting the hobbits.  

100 points
Challenging Elevation Outdoors editor Doug Schnitzspahn to a poetry duel … to the death. (#WordsCan'tKillPoetDoug). 

100 points
Nordic walking in Lycra shorts on the sidewalk outside the Salt Palace between 8-9 am. Calling your mom while doing it.   200 pts.

100 points
During the SOG knife “swap” (Booth 120), ask marketing director Chris Cashbaugh if the new blade is sharp enough to "cut the cheese."

100 points
Eating a show hot dog with Climbing editor Shannon Davis.

200 points
Being at the show past noon on Saturday.


 200 points
Making safe but sanitary physical contact with any of the following people: Bear Grylls, Jeff Probst, Kenji Haroutunian or Chris Denny.   Photo proof required.  #TouchastaratOR

200 Points
Midway through a line preview with Sam Moulton of Outside Magazine, call your mom.   

250 points
For any working media, at any time, who purchases a beverage for a PR manager.   Photo proof required

250 points
Spending two hours, minimum, in the Pavilion – particularly on Friday afternoon for the #Night3PavilionParty

500 points
Topping out on the Pscico-comp Deepwater solo wall in Park City.   Extra points for doing it in the finals against Chris Sharma.   You've earned it.





6.07.2013

Killing time

Next Friday, it will be six months since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.   

In that same half year, close to 5,000 people in the United States were killed by guns; Congress and various talking heads spent thousands of hours grandstanding on all sides of a gun bill before burying it at sea, and State governments – like the one led by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin -- joined the kicking-the-can-down-the-road party by saying his hands were tied against meaningful gun legislation unless the Feds did something first.

Even our gridlock has gridlock, and the gun conversation has added another cup of sand into the grinding gears.  

On the bright side, both sides have shown an incredible talent for yelling down empty hallways and looking down their nose at people whose gas tanks are on the wrong side of the car.  

Personally, I like a lot of what Dan Baum has to say.  I first read his thoughts in a lengthy WSJ piece published right after the Newtown tragedy, and just read a follow up "debate" in the NYT from last month.  Thought provoking and idea rich … you should check him out.

  
Dan’s thoughts span a big range, from voluntary actions by gun retailers to setting the table for a Firearm Responsibility Act which would make gun owners criminally liable for unsecured weapons. But mainly he’s trying to stake out a rational tree of trust where all sides are welcome, and ideas can actually be discussed.

There are close to 300 million guns in the United States.  Even if another gun was never made or sold, we still need to figure out how to live together.  

Everything else is just killing time.

4.30.2013

The day after Earth Day


TUCSON, ARIZONA -- The Desert doesn’t seem to care about Earth Day.   In fact, it seems to enjoy the fact that it’s winning.

The Desert owns a quarter of the earth’s surface already, but the Desert isn’t satisfied. The Desert is pushing back forests, drying up grasslands, and changing tenants at a historic rate.   


And why not?  The Desert has us on its side, after all.

If you’re the glass half empty crowd … and I know you are ... you like to whisper that the upward creep of the Desert is loud proof that we’re all screwed.   You think that rampant consumerism is too far out of the barn to be reined in, especially since shopping as a sport has spread worldwide.  You think that our governments are unwilling, impotent and overrated in their ability to do anything about climate change. You think that our culture is the equivalent of a watered down Diet Coke – artificial and strange, and getting weaker by the day.  And you think that our population has successfully devolved into a species that thinks food comes from Sam’s Club, and water comes from Poland Springs.

But if you’re the glass half full crowd … and I know you are … you also have a weird buzzing between your ears.  If the Earth were truly painted into a corner, why would we still be talking about it?  If we have all given up, why would it make our stomach turn every time we read another page of bad environmental news?

Often enough, but not often enough, you meet people in your daily adventures, and they look you in the eye. They listen. They think. They smile. There is kindness and intelligence out there, despite the headlines that say otherwise.   

Ironically, you believe that the curse of more people is also the solution.    More brains means more ideas.   More ideas means more chances for things to work out the right way.  The positive way.

And one of those ways might even come from the Desert.   

Along with all the Desert's heating will come a new wetness, too.   The sure increase in global rainfall will surely impact at least some of the growing Desert.

What we don't know is how wet this new Desert will get. What we do know is that rain plus desert equals vegetation, and a greening up of the desert climate would put at least one finger on the right side of the scale ... starting the process of carbon sequestration:  a sucking of carbon back out of the atmosphere an inserting it into a place that can actually use it.

I’m not saying that we should stick our head in the sand, literally, and count on the Desert as the only solution. 

I’m just saying that if the Desert can believe in us, maybe we can believe in ourselves too.

LINK:   Global Deserts Outlook, United Nations Environmental Program

3.21.2013

'Gear Institue' strips things down to the bare essentials

Once upon a time there, was no gear. Now, there is very much gear. Scholars from the future will call it this the Gear Era, and they will scientifically pinpoint the moment in time when Gear became a Thing. 

That future timeline will likely date back to 1973, when the same crazy kids who were smoking weed, getting naked and having sex to "Eat a Peach" decided that that they'd rather smoke weed, get naked, and run around with all the other future running shoe company CEOs. Streaking was the antithesis of gear, but it was also the doorway.

 In the 40 years since then, Gear has become more than running shoes and skis and packs and gloves and lighters and Gore Tex dog leashes and barbecue grills. Gear has become stuff that we actually think about before we buy it. Sometimes, Gear gets bought before we even plan an adventure. And Gear can often become the dusty icon in the corner of the room that reminds us of those adventures we once had.

Seeking to "professionalize" the modern art of Gear reviewing, a team of outdoor journalists has erected a unique digital structure from their base in New Mexico. Known as the "Gear Institute," the independently published website draws part of its inspiration from the sterile testing environment of Consumer Reports ... and the rest from the seemingly insatiable demand among the general public for gear reviews.

 There are no lab coats that I'm aware of at this institute, and as yet there is no PhD available in Gearology. However, if they have their way ... the lab coats may be coming.

 Below is a quick conversation with Justin Nyberg, co-founder of the Gear Institute:

Why are people so obsessed with gear? 

Because gear is power. I’m only half kidding. Just about anything cool you’d want to do in the outdoors requires equipment of some kind, and the stuff is pricey. I think people’s obsession with gear is just a proxy for their obsession with expanding their horizons—doing it faster, cleaner, more efficiently, more comfortably, or just in a cooler way. Plus, when you get right down to it, we’re all materialistic gluttons. New stuff is always fun. 

Where did the idea for the Gear Institute hatch? I hope scotch was involved. 

Actually, it was green chili. My buddy Pete Kray invited me to the breakfast spot with the hottest green chili in New Mexico—Horseman’s Haven Cafe, in Santa Fe. While the steam was pouring out of our eyes, we got to bemoaning the lack of thorough, objective, expert gear testing websites out there. It seemed like everything out there was either really superficial or just unhelpful to a consumer trying to make a smart buying decision. And we both knew many of the brightest, most thorough, and best respected outdoor gear testers in the industry who deserved to have their work highlighted. So we launched our own. 

If things work perfectly, what will the Gear Institute look like in 10 years? 

The Taj Mahal! No, if things continue the way we’re going, we’re going to have an expert in each major product category in the outdoor industry, cranking out objective reports that help savvy consumers make sense of the flood of gear on the market. It’s going to be a really robust, consumer-friendly tool. Knives, heart rate monitors, high-power flashlights, dog PFDs—you name it. Beyond that, the expansion plan is something we keep close to our chests, but ultimately, we want people to equate the Gear Institute with the testing organizations we respect the most in other industries—groups like Consumer Reports in consumer products, and websites like CNET.com in tech. (On the print side, it publications like Outside’s Buyers Guide, Backpacker’s Gear Guide, and Mountain Magazine’s ski tests that I think set the bar in our industry.) 

How do you feel about Wes Welker joining the Broncos? 

That’s football, right? 

Who is on the core team? And how many people are on the "roster"? 

Tal-ee Roberts is our tech maestro; he built the site and all it’s features. He’s a genius. Ken Marold designed it—we wanted to have the best looking and most user friendly tool for consumers to get clear info on products, and he really delivered. Peter Kray is our publisher and deals with our ad sales, along with Chris Van Leuven, who’s on contract for us. And I coordinate all our testers. Right now, we have 42 testers, and I’m recruiting more every other week or so. Each one is an independent freelancer who knows their particular niche very well, and each one came recommended by folks we respect. It’s shaping up to be a sort of All Star team of outdoor industry testers. The idea is that you should be able to come to the Gear Institute and no matter what you’re looking for, you’re going to get straight, objective advice from someone whose opinion is well respected.

Is the Gear Institute working to be the Consumer Reports of gear? 

In a lot of ways, yes. We are totally inspired by their approach. Outdoor gear buyers invest heavily in their gear, and sometimes put their lives on it, and they deserve an organization like Consumer Reports that is totally objective and only concerned with helping them make smart gear choices. There are some differences—for example, Gear Institute has to sell ads to support our site, but we take a strict, old school journalism approach to separating editorial from advertising interests. Our reports come straight from our independent testers, and our advertisers know they can’t influence those reports. 

In your lifetime, how many products have you reviewed? 

More than I can count. I was at Outside magazine for 6 years, doing a lot of gear stories. I spent years testing gear of all sorts, so I have a good sense of how most of the technology works. But these days, I leave the testing mostly to our crew, who can focus on one niche at a time. 

What's the worst piece of gear you've ever reviewed? Did that review see the light of day? 

Oh man, there’s been a bunch. Some companies make the silliest stuff. But junk isn’t really worth anyone’s time. We’ll give it a fair shake, but with so many products to choose from, we usually invest our time in stuff we can recommend for someone, rather than to just publish an alert that some product no one has heard of isn’t up to snuff. But if we take the time to review a major, production-line product, and it falls apart, we’ll definitely publish the results. 

What's the difference between a "good" gear expert and a "bad" gear expert? 

There’s a lot. But mainly a “good” gear expert is able to step outside of his or her own biases and help explain the product’s strengths and weaknesses objectively—so any buyer can understand its strengths and weaknesses, and make their own decision. “Bad” gear experts are usually just folks whose opinion on a product is a reflection of their own personal tastes. A good gear expert has seen enough product to know who will love the product, who will hate it, and how it compares to other products like it. They speak for everyone, not just for themselves. 

Are you getting pushback from companies about being "too honest"? 

No. The opposite actually. What we hear on the trade show floor is a lot of encouragement, and almost gratitude for finally filling this gap. People want something real. I think it’s a bigger shift in marketing strategies that social media is helping bringing about. It’s all about authenticity. With so many people voting with their “Like” and “Share” buttons, it’s clear that people mostly respond to what they believe in. And you don’t stand a chance if you’re not credible. So I think it’s sort of an old-school, out of touch mindset to say “give us a glowing review or we’ll never work with you again.” But the responsibility goes both ways—whether we praise a product or criticize it, the goal is always the same: be fair, be thorough, and let the evidence do the talking. We don’t expect marketers to love every one of our reviews. But we do hope our testers have earned their respect. The good thing is that most of the products in this industry are really good—they do what they’re supposed to do without a lot of sacrifices—and so it’s rare that we have to call something out. 

Are you ever disappointed when you don't get pushback from companies about being "too honest"? 

Funny question—no. We’re not gunning for a fight. We’re just having a great time. 

LINK: GEAR INSTITUTE

1.14.2013

Tools for PR success: The Client Mood Ring


A lot of people find themselves compelled to ask me the same thing.   "Drew .... how do YOU find time for Parcheesi?"

Simply put, I'd be nothing if it weren't for my lucky astrology Client Mood Ring.

Employing the same arcane, chicken-sacrificing dark arts that led to the development of Crocs and Tom Brady, the Client Mood Ring changes color based on emotional mood of internal company contacts located hundreds or even thousands of miles away.  

Want to get the most out of your 60 minute weekly status call?    Just check the ring.

Looking for a green light on that NYC showroom event?  Do a pump fake toward the K-cup machine ... then check the ring.

Thinking about a 6% increase in your rates for the coming fiscal year?   Absolutely, positively check the ring before you make that call.

Reflecting a mood in a simple basic color, the Client Mood Ring reads a client's biorhythms, synapse activity, pulse rates, testosterone level, estrogen cycle, blood alcohol-and/or-caffeine content,  breakfast selection, and proximity to their own boss.   It incorporates external events as well, like how well that new trade show booth is coming along, the status of the workbook redesign, and the recentness of budget cut discussions targeting the marketing department.    

One simple color = a world of information.

Violet Blue
The client is happy.    All's good.    Things look great.   We can tackle that later.   This 60 minute status call should take only ten minutes.    Which means that they are about to head on vacation.

Blue
The client is calm, subdued and satisfied.    Sure, let's look at that fam trip idea for Fiji.   Which means that their boss has just left for vacation.

Green
The client is indifferent, underworked, and bored.   This never happens.

Yellow / Amber
The client is excited, in a good way.   They like your ideas.   They want to hear more of what you're saying.    They like the budget recommendation you sent over, and have given it full approval.    If you could bottle this energy and sell it, you'd be almost as successful as Scratch-and-Win RedBull Jell-o Shots.

Brown/Gray
The client is nervous, anxious and getting ramped up, in a bad way.    They didn't like your Christmas box of bacon.   They found seven dangling participles in your last press release draft.   They would like to see a decade-to-date summary of all agency activity with corresponding ROI so that they can put a value on every minute they've spent listening to you.    And they would like it by tomorrow.    

Black
The client is shopping around for another agency and will soon return your final invoice.   When they say the decision "came from above", what they meant to say is that it came from their brain before it got to their mouth.    They would still like to connect on LinkedIn, though.    And would it be possible to get some new waders before things wrap up?

1.07.2013

Does Made-in-the-USA matter?


It came like a tornado.   Things were grey and uncertain and a bit blustery, and then the sudden clarity pushed everything aside.

Green was good.   People couldn’t get enough of Green.   Gear was Green, restaurants were Green, Leonardo di Caprio announced that the Oscars were going Green, magazines rolled out special issues devoted to Green, and some folks went all in on Green.

In the land of PR, the email inbox rang off the hook for nearly two solid years with writers and editors seeking anything Green.    It was a macro story, the Big one, and it tapped into the holy trinity of publishing … advertisers, editors and readers all wanted it, and they all got it.

The end of Green, of course, coincided neatly with a nasty economic plunge.   Editorial calendars culled Green from their rosters, as the number one concern shifted from sustainability to survival.    Outside of publishing, numerous entities (companies, countries) also dropped the Green idea for much the same reason.

Green still lingers around, but it’s not the same.   As a client of mine accurately foretold years ago, eventually we’ll get as much credit for being Green as we will for taking out the recycling:  which is to say, not much at all.

The Next Big Story hasn’t landed yet.    It may be years or decades till things coincide like 2007 again.    But if I were picking a favorite to win the horse race, I know exactly what number I would root for.  

It’d be Made-in-the-USA.

Not so much the flag-waving, fourth-of-July, rah-rah, Made-in-the-USA story … but the close-to-home, increased-quality, lower-carbon-footprint story.    It’s the story of companies and brands and people who still actually make things.  And it’s the story of economic success.

To be accurate, that Made-in-the-USA tag should actually be Made-at-Home or maybe Made-Right-Here, as there are many more companies who make things “locally” in their own part of the world, and who should get just as much credit.

In all honesty, I’ve been surprised that Made-Right-Here hasn’t ascended to the level of the Next Big Story quite yet.   The stories are already out there, already compelling, and already practically written.    

Organically, our small agency has wound up representing numerous clients that are either wholly or increasingly committed to the Made-Right-Here concept …  Woolrich blankets, Dale of Norway sweaters, Westcomb outerwear, Simmsfishing waders, Kokatat paddle gear, Sea Bags totes, Farm to Feet socks.   

As much as I’d like to take credit for how we sought out and developed a client base brimming with the Next Big Story, it’s simply not true.   The truth is that this is a legitimate trend, that companies are thriving because of their Made-Right-Here programs, and that the idea is growing.

But it hasn't reached "that level" quite yet.   

Part of this is the fault of the Last Big Story.     During the eco-frenzy of five years ago, being labeled a “Greenwasher” … aka someone overstating the claims of environmental goodness … was a peril to be avoided at all costs.    Brands are leery of being seen as wrapping themselves in the flag, and many media companies seem to be tiptoeing around the edge … wondering if things are actually as they seem, or some sort of jedi mind trick from the PR cabal.

It also could be that the big blocker to being the Next Big Story is that Made-Right-Here is dominated by smaller enterprises.   Less than 100 employees, less than 50 and in many cases even less than 25.     

A few months ago I called into an NPR talk show devoted to the topic, and mentioned the strength of domestically made goods in the outdoor industry.     It didn’t really take … he was more interested in companies with thousands of employees worldwide, than of a sector within an industry supporting a leisure time category.  

However, for media covering that exact sector, the response has been even more lukewarm, if that’s possible.    A story here and there, and that’s about it.   

Putting myself in their shoes, I can hear the editorial arm wrestling from the budget meetings fairly clearly.    The story is too complicated, the story is too boring, quality product is what really matters, our advertisers aren’t supporting it.   And I can respect that.

I also respect that the story is happening right now, all around us.     People are making huge decisions about where to do things and why.       Quality is world-class.    And people care.