September 28, 2020

Interview With Field & Stream

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Just recently I have been in touch with Nate Matthews who is the Online Editor for Field & Stream. Currently there are a few blogs running on the site that are fairly new. He agreed to do an interview and I would like to share it with you here. The following is 12 questions I asked which I thought might give us a better idea as to where Field & Stream is going with their blog network. Enjoy!

Steve: Hi Nate and thanks for being able to answer some questions about Field & Stream’s new blog network. First off, can you tell us what exactly you do for Field & Stream and how long you have been a part of the team there?

Nate: I’m the online editor. Been here for about a year and a half. Before coming to F&S I ran the web site for the National Wild Turkey Federation. My job, basically, is to update, maintain, and improve upon the main fieldandstream.com site and our three blogs: Field Notes, The Gear Hound, and The Gun Nut. It’s an odd combination of coding drudgery and creative insanity. I spend half my time entering data online, and half brainstorming ideas, new programs, story assignments, anything I can think of to increase traffic on our sites. Which all basically boils down to the fact that I don’t get out in the woods often enough.

Steve: All three of your blogs are off to a great start. The Gear Hound is only a week old and the others are about a couple of months old. Some of us are wondering, are you planning to create more blogs at Field & Stream?

Nate: Thanks Steve. We’re working on a massive overhaul of our web strategy, and these blogs are a big part of that effort. The idea here is to provide daily, top-notch content that acts as the nucleus around which a community of hunters and fisherman can form. We’re learning as we go, so expect lots of tweaks, but so far the response to what we have up there has been fantastic.

As to what’s coming down the pipeline, I can’t really discuss that in detail, but I can tell you to look for more blogs in the near term, and for a more streamlined integration of them all into the main fieldandstream.com site a bit further down the road.

Steve: You mentioned community. Recently blogs have been a growing tool for businesses to relate to consumers. Is the vision more about community or business?

Nate: That’s an interesting question. The key thing about the web in general, and blogs in particular, is that you can immediately track what people are doing and saying on your site and adapt to what you learn. This means I can fine tune my content so that it interests more people, which means I’m growing my community. Since my job, ultimately, is to sell eyeballs to advertisers, then ultimately it’s about the business. But I think the two are joined at the hip.

Steve: Blog networks seem to be the recent rage. Who ultimately came up with the idea to put together this Network at Field & Stream? Did it sort of happen, or was it a person or group of people who sat down and came up with this great idea?

Nate: As you say, they’re all the rage. It wasn’t that hard to see the potential in them. We’re all part of a big team here at the magazine, so everyone’s input has contributed. But I give most of the credit to my boss, Sid Evans, our editor-in-chief. I think he’s very forward-thinking about integrating the magazine and the web site.

Steve: As an avid hunter and fisherman myself, I see that there are still limited places on the web to retrieve sound information regarding hunting, fishing, and the great outdoors in the form of blogs. Blogs are a great way to easily share that information and do so quickly. Some of the smaller blogs will be wanting to link up to your network to get good quality information. In saying that, do you recommend hunters and fisherman from all over to start their own blogs and will you allow trackbacks on your network, or will that depend on who is doing the blogging? Right now I only see where Field Notes allows trackbacks.

Nate: We’ve got a big advantage in the authority of our brand, and in the resources we have to work with to support original content. And we’re also making everything we run in the magazine available for free on the main fieldandstream.com site. If other hunters and fishermen out there want to link to that content as they start their own blogs I’m happy to help them out. We’re looking at adding trackbacks to all our blogs to facilitate this.

Steve: That sounds great Nate. Now, you mentioned we should expect more blogs in the near future. Do you have bloggers already lined up ‘in house’ or will you be looking for bloggers to fulfill your Network goals?

Nate: We like to depend on writers who’ve established themselves in the magazine because they then lend their presence to our online effort in a way that someone without name recognition can’t do. That said, I’m always looking for ideas. We have a limited amount of resources to devote to managing these things, and I don’t want to spread our community too thinly across multiple sites, but if a well-polished writer has something really unique to blog about I’d love to hear a pitch. My advice would be to find a subject only you have access to and focus on that.

Steve: One of the biggest struggles every blogger faces is to continue posting fresh content on a regular basis over a long period of time. Is Field & Stream prepared for this challenge and can we expect to see fresh content every time we go there?

Nate: Yes. Dave Petzal already posts new content every day, our gear blog is daily, and Field Notes is updated with three stories each day. Any future blogs will most likely follow the same schedule.

Steve: While we are on the topic of blog content… What do you see as the potential for blogging? Do you think its got a shelf life or do you think its here to stay?

Nate: Hard to say. As a format I think that it’s just starting to reach its potential. But I also think that blogging will outgrow itself, and that we’ll see new trends in online formats that can’t be contained by the term. This is already happening. Look at some of the major sites out there labeled as “blogs” … like engadget, gawker, boingboing. These things are professional daily publications with staffs and salespeople; they’re not that different from magazines or newspapers. The only real thing they have in common with the more traditional meaning of the term blog … which I’ve always taken to be “someone’s personal online journal with comments” … is the simple, chronological format.

Steve: I guess my next question has two parts to it. First off, some people believe the future is complete digitalization, which could mean a steady decline of magazine and newspaper sales soon. We all know that there are people who will always enjoy the “hardcopy”, but if what people are saying truly happens, what does this mean to the Field & Stream magazine publication? AT&T, for example, kept up with the sudden telephone industry shift and restructured their business to accommodate cellular phones as landline telephones bacame less poplular. Would you equate your sudden vision involving a blog network, to be in-line with keeping up with the demands of the consumers in the magazine industry?

Nate: Complete digitalization is still a pretty big “if”, and it’s a problem I think our magazine is much less susceptible to than are, say, the big news outlets. You don’t read your laptop in the bathroom, you read Field & Stream. You don’t take your computer to your hunting camp. So our web effort is not so much about competing with or propping up our magazine as it is about taking advantage of a new medium, a new source of readers using our content in an entirely different way.

Steve: Let’s get back to your website for a minute. I know you are doing a massive web overhaul and in the process of change, but I noticed there aren’t any links from your home page to the blogs. Do you plan on placing those links on the Field & Stream home page to make it easier to navigate?

Nate: There are actually links on the home page to all of our blogs right now (look under the Field Notes heading), but I understand how they’d be hard to recognize as such. Yes, our redesign will most definitely be featuring them much more prominently.

Steve: Where do you see Field & Stream’s web site in ten years?

Nate: I see it as a vibrant online community, a place where every sportsman comes to find the latest how-to service, the most diverting entertainment, the chance to create and critique their own tips and advice, discussions of the important issues facing sportsmen, and the ability to develop reputations, to gain status, based on the content they generate.

Steve: Nate I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions and would be happy to keep in touch with you in the future as your blog network develops. I will certainly be checking in on a daily basis. I have one last question to ask you before we part ways. As a person, Nate, do you enjoy hunting or fishing? I am curious as to what sort of things you enjoy doing in the outdoors. Would you be happy to let us in on your hobbies and passions as an outdoor enthusiast?

Nate: Sure I do. Avid fly fisherman, turkey hunter, venison lover. I tie my own flies, hunt with a bow and a muzzleloader, enjoy backcountry fishing trips. This past weekend I was up at 3 a.m. catching herring in the Potomac River, right where it flows through D.C., for use as striper bait. And we caught some big stripers, too, up to 30 pounds.

-Steven Remington

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