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More Than You Really Wanted To Know About Cruising Compost, Er, I Mean Outpost!

By Bob Bitchin

Inside-Cruising-OutpostHere’s an email I got from Phil G. on Jan. 19, 2013, an old Lats & Atts reader, and it started me thinking, a lot of people can’t read my alleged mind, and don’t know why we do certain things in the new Cruising Outpost Magazine. So I figured it would be a good time to provide this for people who want to know.  Those who don’t want to know?  Well, they don’t have to read this trash!

“Hello- I have been a subscriber for a while and have a question.  What gives with using such a large typeface in the magazine?  Much less content for the number of pages compared to any other sailing (or other) magazine.  Will it become smaller i.e. a more normal size once the new mag gets off the ground?.”

Here was my quick response to him:

“Our previous magazine, Latitudes & Attitudes, and most others use a 10pt type with a 12pt leading (separation between lines.)  We had a lot of complaints about it being to hard to read.  With this new title we went up one size, to a 13pt (same type style) and a 14.4 leading.  Most people say they like it, some won’t.   

Regarding the number of pages.  We are a reader supported magazine as opposed to an advertiser supported Magazine.  Most magazines have a minimum of 65-75% advertising to 30-35% editorial content.  Also, most sailing and cruising magazines have 80-112 pages.  So you get about 30pages of editorial content (stories, etc.)

Cruising Outpost has 30% advertising, and it is all marine related (no watches, pick-ups or?) and over 70% Editorial content.  We had 180 pages in our Premier issue, and we will have 196 pages in our Spring Issue.  So we have approximately 126 pages of editorial content.  We literally have over 4 times the editorial content of the other magazines.”

And here is a little more for those who want to know…

What Was I Thinkin’?

Since people can’t read my mind, which is probably a good thing, here’s a little more clarity on “The Plans”.  What we need to clear up here is what I am trying to achieve with Cruising Outpost.  We try very hard not put any “magazine business stuff” in the magazine itself.  It is for boating fun, information and entertainment, not any actual thinking!  So I figure this would be as good a place as any to get it “out there.”

First of all you have to take into consideration the state of the economy, and how the publishing industry has changed over the past few years.  Newspapers and magazine are dropping faster than a new congressman’s moral values.  Having started in this silly business in the tabloid end 43 years ago (aaagh! Am I really that old?), with a small newspaper called Biker News in the early seventies, I have lived thru a lot of these changes.

Finding the Idea

When I lost Latitudes & Attitudes, I thought I was thru. Starting a new publication in this topsy-turvy world was the last thing on my mind.  But then our readers gathered to help us re-start, so I wanted to design a magazine not only I would want to read, but one that every cruiser would like to read.  That’s a very tall order.

So the very first thing I decided was it would be different from all other magazines.  Now when you are fighting companies that own thousands of magazines, it’s hard to be original.  But something I learned a long time ago is, great magazines are always started by enthusiasts which is what makes them popular, and then they are bought by the big companies, who usually ruin them.  So all I had to do was look at what changes take place once these titles are sold.  That was fairly easy for me, as I have created a few titles in my younger days that were successful, and sold them (so I could sail off into the sunset).

The first big change is always advertising ratio’s.  In my magazines I always put editorial before advertising when it came to space.  I could do that, because when I own a magazine I usually run it lean, so we don’t need a lot of profit to be happy.  Large companies need large payrolls, and need more $$$. What all this excess verbiage means is, they have to have more paying advertising space.  You will usually find about 70% ads to about 30% editorial, or actual stories/information once a magazine sells. If you don’t believe me, take a close look at Sail, Cruising World, Yachting or any other boating magazine.  It’s not the editors fault, ratios are set by the big corporations.

So I decided to try something new. I thought I’d try something that has never been done, to my knowledge.  A hell of a time in life to take risks, but what the hell.  I get Social security, so if it fails Jody & I can move onto a 1973 Catalina 22 and “Retire” to Mexico!  So I designed a reader-supported magazine instead of advertiser supported.  Unheard of in any corporate office, I can assure you.

The first thing we did was look at the economy, and realized that marine advertisers don’t have the ad dollars they had pre-2007.  Back then they could spend $12,000 for a page in Cruising World or $20,000 for a two page spread in Sail Magazine.  Today the money is just not there.  Now they are lucky to be able to buy an ad every three-four months.  So I decided we would do a quarterly.  That way at least we could get some advertising.

Part two of this equation was to make the ads affordable.  When I was cruising I started a small nautical jewelry company, Nautical Gold Creations.  I would buy a 1/8 page black & white ad in Sail, Cruising World and Yachting, for about $1,800 in each issue.  It hurt!  But if I sold at least two expensive bracelets I would break even.  So I was working to pay for the ads.  When I started Latitudes & Attitudes, as well as in the new Cruising Outpost, I made all ads four-color.  It doesn’t cost us any more, so why charge more for color?  And then I made it affordable.  $375 for a 1/8 page ad.  Why should we be greedy. That came to $3,000 a page, which is more than we charge for a full page by a long shot.  Good for us, good for them.

What happened, as an unforeseen side benefit was the really small companies could afford to advertise with us.  Since they could have an ad in every issue, they could sell stuff in every issue, and soon companies that started with 1/8 page ads ended up with half-page ads, then full page ads.  They could do it, because our full-page rate is just $1,800! It’s affordable for the small company.

But we had to give the reader value for their buck (or in this case almost 7 bucks!) and to do that we had to give them plenty to read.  It was then I decided to reverse the rolls that advertising and readers have.  Back in “The Day,” magazines would all but give magazines away to get their numbers up so 5th Avenue Ad Agencies would place big-buck ads with them.  Boating magazines had it made!  Look at the demographics. Tens of thousands of readers with $250,000 and up incomes were the norm.  Cadillac, Rolex, and even high-dollar waterfront real estate brokers all wanted in.   However, I always got a little pissed off that my magazine I bought at the newsstand with my hard earned cash, so I could enjoy reading about the boating lifestyle, had big ads for fancy houses, expensive cars, and un-affordable watches. All I really wanted to read about was boating!  I felt cheated.

And so, with the launch of Cruising Outpost, I finally created what I feel is the perfect compromise.  I like advertising in my magazine!  It shows me what new marine goodies and new design boats are being made.  I want to see that stuff.  And so, I decided we would stay with only marine advertising.

The end result seems to be working so far.  With 4-5 times the stories and information in every issue compared to other magazines, the value seems to be there.  By maintaining only marine advertising no one seems to be complaining.  In fact, so far the only complaints have been that we don’t come out often enough.  But quite frankly, the only way we can maintain this ratio is by being a quarterly.

And besides, with such a small staff, most of whom live & work from their boats, we just don’t want to work that hard!

The Next “Inside Cruising Outpost,” articles subject?  Just wait and see…..

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Category: Inside Outpost, JUST BITCHIN

Comments (13)

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  1. Doug - HarmonyWS42 says:

    Bob, thanks for your candor! But more importantly, thanks for the magazine! As New England sailors we only got to know your prior mag when we lived in CA years ago: loved it! We have been long time subscribers to Cruising World, which is a "nice" mag, but has wandered very far off the rhumb line of tits original founder. We long to read about the cruising lifestyle, not the Madison Avenue view that every couple needs to have a boat longer than their collective ages to be happy. Thanks for the new take on your old concept! Cruising Outpost fill an important niche and we really enjoy it. Fairwinds and Following Seas!

  2. Jack Manning says:

    Thanks for the insight. Love the new rag and I look forward to the next issue and watching CO grow! As I've stated in the past, I am glad that you and Jody decided to do this since the other mags, even though a lot of them are excellent publications, don't fill that need for real life, real language, fun stories. Just as Doug (above) said, it is a very important niche that isn't satisfied by the others! Thanks again!

  3. Wolfman says:

    Bob, You taught me over the years Bikers and Sailors have a lot in common.

  4. azfireman41 says:

    Great magazine! Look forward to the cruising seminar in May! Just a quick question…is Capt. Woody still involved in CO? I noticed his name was missing in ur Christmas email. Hopefully u guys continue the Share the Sail. Looking forward to going on one.

  5. Ed Booth says:

    Bob, What I've always appreciated about Lat's & Att's and now Cruising Outpost was the huge amount of content supplied by the readership – folks who are out there living the dream. That alone would make your effort unique and valuable. But the editorial staff is awfully kewl too… keep it up!

  6. Kathie Golletz says:

    Hi Bob, we have been with you since your first addition of Lats and Atts and now with CW. What I have liked since day one is the the grass roots feeling . There are many glossy magazines showing megga yachts and expensive gagets which only the uber rich deal with, but you have kept it real and interesting for everyone from dingy to tallship. Stories, learning, adventures and fun…… thank you for this.

  7. Jim Mellema says:

    Thanks, Bob, for many things. I appreciate your candor here about the whys and wherefores of magazine publishing. I currently subscribe to 6 sailing magazines but only two, CO and Good Old Boat, ruin my whole day when they arrive. (Ruin, by the way, because anything I have planned goes out the window while I read them.) I started with issue #1 of Lats & Atts, and am very proud to be in the founders circle of Cruising Outpost.

    Keep up the good work.

  8. chip catton says:

    Hi bob glad you're back I've been reading lats &ATS from the beginning and will be subscribeing for the spring edition thank you and I hope Jodi and you are doing well

  9. Daria Blackwell says:

    Hi Bob, I was really pleased to "see" the larger typeface. Given the aging cruising demographic, I think you really hit the mark with that one! Don't even need my glasses to read it. Love it! Thanks. (And by the way, we were subscribers to Lats & Atts from the very first issue too.)

  10. Bob Cummer says:

    Bob, What a surprise it was to realize that I knew the lovely lady on the cover of your Premier issue. I sailed with her back in 1969 when she made her first trip to the USVI's for chartering. Oh the stories that could be told. I'm refering, obviously, to the When & If, which was the first boat I ever worked on, and not Ms. Atwood who is clearly not of that vintage. I stayed with boats since then until recently when I buried the anchor in NW Arkansas. Now it looks like I'm going to be hooked on your new publication. Who can fight Carma?

  11. daniel says:

    Bob,
    I'm 62 years young and I did live on my 73 catalina [not the pop top one] for about 4 years. A friend is on it now while trying to fix up his boat to sail out of here. I don't make much money and living in Hawaii is not cheap. I think I will never get to sail off into the sunset, but through your magazine, staff, and reader support that spark of the dream is always there. Thank you.
    PS. There is always standing headroom in the cockpit.

    CO Founder

  12. Glenn says:

    Bob,I don't sail,but I loved L& A and was sorry to see you screwed over on that:so I have subscribed to your new publication sight unseen.My new partner is a keen sailor,and she's 20 years younger than me,so I plan to impress the pants off her when your first issue arrives here.Bob,you are a true hero,and long may you rule!

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