Keeping the Pages Rolling
Twenty years ago this March, the first issue of Adventure Sports Journal hit the streets of Santa Cruz, California. The magazine was inspired by a harrowing climbing adventure I had with my husband, Matt Niswonger, in Yosemite. We were scared, came together as a team, and eventually made it to the top of a very tall rock.We were so awed by this experience that during the car ride home we decided to start an outdoor recreation magazine. Soon afterwards, we teamed up with local outdoor journalist Christa Fraser and Adventure Sports Journal (ASJ) was born. The three of us shared a passion for the outdoors and were inspired by trip reports and books like Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. There wasn’t a publication dedicated to California outdoor adventures and we filled that niche; it seemed like a no brainer.
We took on creating ASJ with a passion, each of us responsible for generating enough ad revenue to get the copies printed and delivered to our garage in midtown Santa Cruz. We would anxiously await the delivery of each issue to see the photos and stories in print. Then we would load up our old cars and deliver the mags throughout Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties to local outdoorsy retailers and coffee shops.
Luckily industry support came together and encouraging feedback from readers kept us working hard. As the business grew, all the revenue was put back into printing and distributing more issues until we covered many parts of California and Nevada — giving us enough validation to continue working extra long hours, hand delivering magazines to distribution partners and stepping up to the unknown challenges of running an outdoor magazine.
Our first six issues in 2001.
Pete Gauvin came on board as editor in early 2004 to help distribute the workload as we three original partners were feeling burned out from the grind. By late 2008, Christa moved on to pursue her career, ultimately getting an MFA in Creative Writing and going on to teach at UC Merced.
After the Great Recession of 2007-2009, our small team faced more hurdles as Facebook and Instagram put increasing pressure on our ad revenue. Outdoor brands began to adopt digital advertising strategies, leaving small independent media companies like ASJ behind. With the increasing responsibilities of starting a family of his own and also taking care of his elderly mother, Pete moved on to pursue more financial stability.
Without great partners like Christa and Pete, ASJ would never have survived the rapid growth of our first decade. During our second decade we streamlined the business and were kept afloat by loyal readers and companies who opened our pages to read the latest harrowing adventure tales by people like Doug Robinson, Bruce Willey, Leonie Sherman, Seth Lightcap, Chris Van Leuven, Haven Livingston, Kurt Gensheimer, Matt Johansen, Tim Hauserman, Krista Hammond, Ramona D’ Viola, Brennan Lagasse, Terri Schneider, Jeremey Evans, and many other talented outdoor writers whose contributions to our pages should not be understated. Their pay is minimal, but — like us — they believe in the value of the printed word.
As Matt and I ponder the future of publishing into our third decade, it’s hard not to notice that our issues are getting thinner and thinner. We feel more relevant than ever, but unfortunately many of the larger outdoor brands have stopped supporting print magazines like ASJ in favor of a digital-only strategy. We can point to our large readership and influential history, but our stories are increasingly falling on deaf ears as Facebook ads and Instagram influencers have sucked up almost all the available advertising dollars.
Having raised three kids of my own, I see clearly the destructive nature of social media and believe now more than ever the importance of embracing the need for wholesome, inspiring content that doesn’t feed our collective digital addiction. Unfortunately, I don’t see things changing anytime soon.
Looking forward, ASJ cannot survive by depending on outdoor brands who continue to drink the digital-only Kool-Aid, so we are reaching out directly to our readers for support. If you like ASJ, please consider a monthly recurring donation to help us stay afloat. In the age of social media, monthly reader support is how printed magazines stay alive. If you would like to help, please consider becoming a member today.
Thank you for reading these words and thank you for supporting our mission to provide core outdoor content in a large format printed form. The advertisers you see in our pages have stuck with us through thick and thin. They see the value in investing in independent media, something tangible that doesn’t exist to collect and sell your personal data. Please support them.
Publishing ASJ is our passion, and with your help we will continue to survive and inspire deep into the digital age. We love hearing from people like you so please send any feedback or words of encouragement my way: firstname.lastname@example.org.