Norb Garrett on Closing Surfing Magazine
The Enthusiast Network is shuttering Surfing Magazine, founded in 1964, to focus on its other surf magazine and media property, Surfer.
As heartfelt and emotional tributes to Surfing filled social media feeds this week, we asked TEN EVP/GM Norb Garrett some questions about the decision and what it means for employees.
While Surfer and Surfing shared a sales operation, they had separate editorial staffs.
Why close Surfing Magazine?
Norb Garrett: It was a decision that nobody took lightly. The surf industry the last several years has seen a lot of challenges confronting it and we are not immune to that.
We’ve operated the world’s two largest surf media brands successfully under one roof for the last 16 years. Unfortunately based on not only the business climate, but also the demands of the consumer and customers, we thought it was best at this time to consolidate both of the brands into one strong single brand, Surfer, which has been the lifelong bible of the sport.
This is probably obvious to most people, but why keep Surfer and not Surfing?
Norb Garrett: Surfer since its inception has embraced all forms of surfing. It’s been viewed as the real champion and flag bearer of surfing. Historically, it has covered all aspects of surfing globally, domestically, shortboarding to longboarding, competition surfing to profiles and destinations.
That needed to be the brand to focus on going forward.
Will Surfing still maintain its own website?
Norb Garrett: No, eventually that will all collapse into Surfer, social handles, websites. There are a number of Surfing’s assets and properties that will roll over into Surfer like SwellWatch.
Before, did you have two complete separate editorial staffs? If so, what happens now?
Norb Garrett: Yes. We had a shared sales staff obviously but editorial staffs were independent and separate. There is just one staff moving forward – a blend of key folks from Surfing and Surfer. In an ideal world we would have brought everybody together – we think everyone we had on staff at both brands is fantastic.
But you can only put so much cost against the business so we feel like we’ve selectively pulled together a group that will be the best representation for Surfer moving forward.
I’m guessing they had separate customer bases. Is that accurate?
Norb Garrett: Not entirely. And that’s one of the things that is a positive when you look to the future about what it means to be completely invested in one macro surf brand.
It allows the industry to rally around the single most important and global surf media brand in Surfer. Because Surfer speaks to surfers of all ages all over the globe, it’s a brand that’s easier for the advertisers and consumers to rally around.
We’ve expanded our product offering massively in the last several years. Compared to its heyday, we are reaching about 10 times more audience than in the early 2000s thanks to social media and video production and events. We’re opening up the second Surfer the Bar in Jacksonville this week.
The advertiser community that has supported both of the brands will find the singular brand Surfer a much more focused solution to help everyone be more successful both in the short term and in the long term.
You’ve been in the media business a long time. How tough is it out there?
Norb Garrett: It’s different than it has been in the past, but I think it’s more exciting and there’s more opportunity than there ever was before. The way business used to be, and the way it is today – whether it’s the surf industry or banking – it has changed.
Historically, for 50-plus years we had two global surf media brands that were serving an audience that was supported largely by an endemic advertising base that could support them.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Look at what’s happened to big companies in our space, or to big retailers such as PacSun or Sports Authority.
The world’s changed, and we need to continue to evolve our brands just like others are doing.
I think the most important thing coming out of this is there’s nobody in the world more invested in surfing than we are. We put more into the industry and audience than any other media brand in the world.
We host global events, we live stream award shows, we open up bars that represent our lifestyle. We are fully invested in this but we’ve got to be smarter with our resource allocation and how we go to market, and we think the best way to do that is with one brand.
Given all the financial challenges in your advertising base and in the media industry, in some ways it is surprising it didn’t happen sooner.
Norb Garrett: Here’s the reality. I know how hard it is to build a brand. It’s really easy to dismantle one, it’s really easy for someone to sit in a boardroom and say, ‘that brand doesn’t make enough money, kill it.’
But that’s not how we operate at TEN. We understand the value of brands, we understand the blood, sweat and tears that go into building something. We understand how important they are for the industry. We did not take a knee jerk view on how to manage these businesses, we tried to analyze it from every angle.
This was a very difficult, emotional decision. You don’t make a decision lightly to shut down a brand that has had such a unique and important role in helping to grow surf culture over the last 50 years.
But we really felt that at this stage the best thing we can do for the industry and for the consumer is to put all our energy and all our focus into Surfer.