Why the best skatemags died?

Starting a magazine is like having a baby. You’ve dreamed of this many years before doing it, it’s risky, most of the time have no idea how to make it work, nor don’t know if you have the shoulders for this. Once it’s started, it’s like an hurricane of love and hate, but you want to believe to it. You want to make it grow and have people stoked on it. At the end of it, it’s not the paycheck that’s most important, it’s to be remembered by your folks for what you’ve done on paper, good or bad.

 

BIG BROTHER MAGAZINE 1992-2004 (U.S. By Dave Carnie)

What year did you launch your magazine?
1992.
Did you start it independently or with a publisher?
Steve Rocco, the owner of World Industries, started the mag.
What was the concept behind it?
TWS wouldn’t allow Rocco to run an ad that featured [some World pro, I don’t remember who] feigning suicide. So Rocco said, fuck you, I’ll make my own magazine where I can put whatever I want in it. And that was Big Brother. I guess the concept was: Fuck you.
How many years did it exist?
Thirteen years.
How many issues did you make?
We made 206 issues.

“We were kicked off newsstands, banned in entire countries, and prissy conservative shop owners would’nt carry it.”

What was the best year of the mag?
Well if Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets were answering this question they’d probably say, “What was the best year of Big Brother? The year it died! Good riddance!”
When did you stop it?
The last issue came out in 2004.
Why did you stop publishing?
There were a lot of reasons, but the short answer is the magazine wasn’t making any money. We couldn’t get enough advertising revenue to sustain it any longer.
Did you run an online version of the print mag, did it sell well?
It was a print mag. And no it never sold well. We were kicked off newsstands, banned in entire countries, and prissy conservative shop owners wouldn’t carry it. It was a difficult magazine to find. And if you can’t find it, you can’t buy it.
I think a lot of people liked big brother. But just liking something doesn’t support it. A lot of company owners we knew personally loved the mag, but they wouldn’t advertise because they didn’t want their company to be associated with it. Everyone was scared of the conservative, right wing, religious, mommy brigade. newsstands were a part of that as well. The world of newsstands is controlled by like four distributors and they decide what the world gets to see and doesn’t get to see. And a skateboard magazine aimed at children that contains adult content? “nope!”. They’ve got thousands of magazine titles to choose from, so cutting out some stupid little skateboard magazine that’s causing them trouble isn’t even a question. Parents complained about the content a lot.
And there were a couple of major distribution/mailorder companies that were owned by christian nutjobs who refused to advertise or distribute the mag because they believe in santa claus. Apparently if they even looked at our mag, santa claus would make them drown in a river of burning diarrhea for eternity. or something.

 

COLOR MAG 2002-2013 (Canada by Sandro Grison)

What year did you launch your magazine?
I started peddling the idea of starting a mag in 2002. I had recently moved to the city of Vancouver and had a lot of energy and I wanted to survive as a graphic designer.
Did you start it independently or with a publisher?
I was spending a lot of time with photographer Dave Christian and he was in the same situation as me, where I think we both had something to offer, but we were just breaking into the scene and lacked the name recognition to really get our work seen, so we decided to self-puublish.
What was the concept behind it?
The main idea was to showcase skateboarding in a more artistic way, because everything at the time felt really sporty and competitive and it didn’t really reflect what our reality was. Like most skaters of the time, influenced by crews like the PissDrunx, we were partying a lot, but we were also going to a lot of art shows, making videos, and shooting photos together.

“I have zero regrets except that The City of Vancouver fucking us over on that event.”

How many years did it stand?
It lasted eleven years before the writing was on the wall that I needed to move on.
How many issues did you make?
49
What was the best year of the mag?
In 2009 things were really firing for us. I probably had the most staff working at the time, and we had built the brand up to where we could basically do whatever we wanted and had access to everything we wanted to talk about. Every issue that came out that year I feel had something very powerful in it that was happening at the time.
When did you stop it?
Autumn, 2013.
Why did you stop publishing?
After throwing the biggest pro contest Canada had saw since Slam City Jam — as an attempt to kickstart the Canadian skate industry again and try to attract some money, it was over and I knew it was over. We threw everything we had at both the mag, the website, and events. I have zero regrets except that The City of Vancouver fucking us over on that event.
Did you run an online version of the print mag, did it sell well?
ColorMagazine.ca was it’s own beast. We had regular unique content going up every week, plus an iPad App releasing each issue custumized for digital readers. There was so much pressure at the time to « go digital », so I did it. But skateboarders (at least at that time) barely owned iPhones, nevermind iPads, so what was right for general publishers didn’t really apply to skateboarding and it didn’t really move the needle for us. When we decided to announce that Color would no longer be printing, I took the website down and replaced it with an archive of the back issues because I wanted the print issues to live on and I wasn’t interested in falling into the media trap of daily digital content. Now, seing just how much social media has taken over, I know that was the right decision. But I/Color doesn’t really fuck with that either. Color was a print publication that hosted regular events. Everything else was just to support that.

 

KINGPIN MAGAZINE 2002-2015 (U.K. By Niall Neeson)

What year did you launch your magazine?
January 2002
Did you start it independently or with a publisher?
With a publisher called ASM (Action Sports Media). Everybody who started it came from a different skate magazine: Benjamin Deberdt worked at Sugar (France), I worked at Sidewwalk (UK), Tuuka Kaila ran Numero (Finland).
What was the concept behind it?
To be the first ever multi-lingual, pan-European skate magazine bringing together all the diversity of skating around Europe and beyond, to give a platform to as many talents as we could, and to celebrate real-life skateboarding experience. The idea was to be a journal of the culture, not Transworld Europe.

“The publisher messed everything up by being greedy…Thankfully, I had already left by then.”

How many years did it stand?
Ten or eleven in total, I think. I edited most of them, but not all.
How many issues did you make?
About 100.
What was the best year of the mag?
2007-2008, before the financial crisis.
When did you stop it?
I think it stopped publishing about 2012 or 2013(Redaction note: it was 2015 actually).
Why did you stop publishing?
The publisher messed everything up by being greedy, magazine culture was changing, bad staffing decisions took the whole business model down in the end. Thankfully, I had already left by then.
Did you run an online version of the print mag, did it sell well?
Kingpin was the biggest skate magazine ever to come out of Europe. Prior to 2009 it was selling 40,000- 60,000 copies per month.
It still exists as a website but its pretty standard now – shoe releases, 9-Club links, that sort of thing.

 

SKATEBOARDER MAGAZINE 1964-2013(U.S. By Jaimie Owens)

What year did you launch your magazine?

Skateboarder Magazine had three separate runs of publication. It started at the end of 1964 and ran as a quarterly magazine for only four issues through 1965 before being shut down. Then it was revived in 1975 and had a strong run until 1980, with a short stint of being turned into a multisport magazine called Action Now that was shut down shortly after. And then Skateboarder was brought back as two annual issues, one in 1997 and one in 1998. With it being brought back as a bi-monthly magazine in late 1999. Turning back into a monthly magazine soon after that in 2001.
Did you start it independently or with a publisher?
It started under Surfer Publications in the 60s.
What was the concept behind it?
The concept was to document the rise of skateboarding culture in Southern California and beyond.

“It started at the end of 1964 and ran as a quarterly magazine for only four issues through 1965 before being shut down.”

How many years did it stand?
The final full run was 1997 to 2013.
How many issues did you make?
Not exactly sure. I need to count them, ha. Over 150 for sure.
What was the best year of the mag?
1977 was the height of success for the magazine.
When did you stop it?
2013.
Why did you stop publishing?
All three ended due to the industry being unable to support it whether the industry itself was hurting financially or there were too many magazines to support.
Did you run an online version of the print mag, did it sell well?
We always had a website and digital versions of the magazines as well. The print magazine did well for many years but newsstand sales slowly declined for all print media through the mid 2000s.

 

DOCUMENT MAGAZINE 1990-2010(U.K. By Percy Dean)

What year did you launch your magazine?
1990
Did you start it independently or with a publisher?
I worked for skate mags in the late 80’s early 90’s as a contributor when I was a kid. I couldn’t makes ends meet and so took a position as a staff photographer on a european snowboarding magazine. Then while I was there I just hassled the publisher to death about starting a skate mag, he eventually relented.
What was the concept behind it?
Just to provide another side of the coin, there was only one UK mag, you always need two voices in a conversation and I though we could be that second voice.

I came from a photographic background and wanted it to be a progression of that fish eye flashed culture into something a little more progressive. I wanted it to document the reality of our scenes and the people involved in them, not just to be a catalog of tricks. We didn’t have anything to loose so we tried to push it with design and imagery.

“the publisher tried to turn us into a lifestyle magazine to try and go for that Vice money and it fell apart very quickly.”

How many years did it exist?
A decade, just.. They pulled the plug on our tenth anniversary issue.

How many issues did you make?
Think it was 83 or so? Too many..

What was the best year of the mag?
I’m not sure to be honest, it all ebbed and flowed. The first years with no expectations, no pressure, no money – just friendship and skateboarding. Looking back every experience I had making Document was very special to me. It was only the last 2/3 years where it turned into something we didn’t want it to be.. I fell out of love with the process and it became a noose around my neck.

When and why did you stop it?
2010 We didn’t stop it, the publisher tried to turn us into a lifestyle magazine to try and go for that Vice money and it fell apart very quickly. I lost heart and found my direction elsewhere. I applied to do a Masters in Documentary Photography knowing full well if I got accepted onto the course I’d have to bin making the mag. The publisher pulled the plug on the mess they’d created and the next day I received my acceptance letter for the Masters. I’ve never looked back.

It was a blessing in disguise, Document was such a huge part of me I don’t think I would ever have left on my own accord. I’d have stayed and gone down with it hating the magazine and skateboarding.
Did you run an online version of the print mag, did it sell well?
We did have an online version, but we were stubborn and very late to digitising it, but the time we did we’d all lost heart with the publishers and were reluctant to put our backs into it for them, it was what it was..

We sold well in fits and starts it was distributed worlwide. Borders and Barnes and Nobles etc.. It sold well enough so that 4 skateboarders didn’t need to get a real job for over a decade.

 

THE SKATEBOARD MAG 2004-2016(U.S. by J. Grant Brittain)

What year did you launch your magazine?
I helped Found Transworld Skateboarding Magazine in 1983, a
 group of us left TWS in 2003 and Independently started The Skateboard Mag a few months later.I Co-founded The Skateboard Mag in 2004 and was laid off in 2016.
What was the concept behind it?
The Skateboard Mag was formed to do a magazine by and for skateboarders and supported by advertisers that had skate teams.

“The Internet site and Social Media was very strong, that pretty much killed the print version. Why pay when you can get it for free?”

How many years did it exist?
TWS is still in business, I was there from 1983-2003. The Skateboard Mag was from 2004 to 2017, it is gone. I was there from 2004-2016.
How many issues did you make?
I did hundreds of issues of TWS and over 170 issues of The Skateboard Mag.
What was the best year of the mag?
I think the best years of The Skateboard Mag were 2004-2006.
When did you stop it?
I was let go from The Skateboard Mag in 2016 after The Berrics bought it in 2014. The Berrics stopped publication of TSM in 2017 and have put 2 issues out under the name The Berrics Mag since then.
Why did you stop publishing?
They stopped it due to lack of advertising and lack of readers.
Did you run an online version of the print mag, did it sell well?
The Internet site and Social Media was very strong, that pretty much killed the print version. Why pay when you can get it for free?

 

Interview by Babas Levrai

Note from the redaction: we’ve also tried to reach to other great past skatemags, but they’ve unfortunately either refused to be a part of it, or simply never answered to us. Cheers!

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