Three Questions for Matthew Bates, DD at Backpacker
It can be pretty busy around here at times. I am fortunate though to have a great staff.
Also, our editorial staff is structured slightly differently than the traditional setup. Instead of having "print" editors and "online" editors, we have teams centered around content areas like outdoor skills or hiking destinations. As a result, everyone is always thinking of how we can create content acrossall of our platforms: print, web, video, mobile, e-reader, GPS, and on down the line. A really fun example of this can be found in our National Parks Center (www.backpacker.com/nationalparks). Editors went into the field to map trails, take photos, shoot video, and research stories. Then, they created web-based photo slideshows, video hiking guides with GoogleEarth technology, GPS-enabled downloadable hikes, and more in conjunction with my staff to help shape and maintain the visual direction and identity of the brand.
What are your thoughts on the iPad, are you guys jumping in?
Personally, I am fascinated with the iPad. The possible applications seem pretty enormous for the magazine community. Here at Backpacker, we are taking our time to jump in and --like we do with everything-- strategically putting together our plan of attack. We want to make sure we create a product for the iPad that will enhance our readers' connection to the outdoors and not just repurpose the magazine. iPad users can already access each issue through Zinio's iPad app so, for our next act, we want to make sure that we can provide more. And, with a small staff, we have to make sure we are getting the biggest bang for our buck. We look at Backpacker as a brand more than just a magazine and see the various outlets as the tools in our toolbox. Whether it is our long form narrative in the print magazine, or our thousands of GPS enabled hikes on our website, we want to make sure that our content fits the strengths and abilities of each medium, matching the right content with the right outlet. We have the same goal for the iPad. I can guarantee you though--whatever we launch will blow your mind.
I think it's interesting on Backpacker.com that the main content block on the 'front door' is not a carousel full of headlines and photographs as most other editorial sites seem to utilize but instead you populate that space with a hike finding tool. What was behind that decision and was it hard for the editorial team to give up that precious real estate for what is essentially an app? Spill the beans how many egos were crushed over this?
One of the first things we did when Active Interest Media bought Backpacker was to look at how we could improve our website. We initiated a large-scale research project to see what was most important to our readers. Finding close-to-home hikes was what they wanted so it seemed only natural to create a space front and center for this on the homepage that allowed users direct access to our thousands of GPS-enabled hikes located all over the country.
The map also allows us to create a clear visual identity. We want to be known as the online destination for outdoor enthusiasts and the map connects with their world.
And it worked. Year over year, traffic is up 30% and visits are up 34%. So, I think it's safe to say that no egos were harmed in the making of this website.