Changing The Course Of Seaplanemagazine.com
Update From The Trenches – written by Jason J. Baker — In our strange little world, Seaplane Pilots are pretty much the coolest of the pack in terms of what they get to fly and see. Admittedly other “specialty niche aviators” like Ag Pilots and Aerial Firefighter Pilots rank very high in our book, too. Our readers love it, too, because we cover and report about very specialized branches in aviation which don’t get much attention elsewhere.
Every once in a while we’ll dive into the world of Business Aviation, which banks truckloads of money with a currently, overall promising outlook for the next few years. But our focus is and should be: Water Flying! By and large, this has worked quite well and even our selected guest editors reflect a wild mixture of people who all share a passion for things that fly and swim.
With the daily news for our Seaplanemagazine.com, we often struggle to find enough “beyond – grandstanding – hyperbole – advertorial in disguise – material” to provide an interesting article for each day of the week. Not because its not there, the primary cause for drawing blanks and having to revert to non- seaplane news is that nobody has the time to search and find it all. Time is money and I have to pay bills, too. For the large part, the editorial planning and complete editorial responsibility of this website rests with me. A one man show, of sorts. Dave Marion and Chris Buckner are our only two “apocalypse – authorized contributors” (back end access) who can create, schedule and publish their own content at will. Both have families to feed and bills to pay, so guess where their focus is…
Severe Challenges For Our Magazine
Usually, things have to hit rock bottom before they can get better. After some 900 + articles published on Seaplanemagazine.com and nearly three years in service, our site continues to see no significant financial support from the seaplane or business aviation industry. That is with one major exception, which is Wipaire, without whom 2018 would have been a total flop. The lack of support becomes apparent when companies who enjoy and appreciate free news coverage invite us to visit them at events we can’t attend due to funding shortfalls.
Here I am, as a media partner of NBAA and EBAA and I will soon be receiving countless invites to fancy après la fête dinners and high profile cocktail slurping events during EBACE in Geneva next year. Nice! Except: The € 3,000 + Euros I have to spend to get there for reporting are somehow not materializing. The expenses I shared in terms of EVENTS are no joke. Traveling for aviation news coverage is filthy expensive. All of them, not just those, where business casual is a requirement.
In terms of advertising, publications are judged by their targeted reach. As of this writing there is no single publication focused on seaplanes (either in print or online) that reaches a larger and globally better targeted audience than this page. But our industry is small and status quo rules it. A niche comprised of all kinds of very opinionated people. There are very specific reasons for us being the only one and I will take the liberty to outline some of these reasons, transparently for all readers.
A Fatal Focus On Being Super Special
Until about 8-10 years ago, the seaplane industry lived under an umbrella of fogged glass and had an aura of exclusivity and luxury that was hard to fathom. Made up of nearly invisible, highly political, influential and powerful group of often very affluent people, generally aged 55 or higher who had reached the realms of financial self-realization. The group of people we write about is fairly special. The cream of the crop, the self-made top-dogs. You’d better be someone, to get a chance to chat with them. Times have changed.
We’re also the only website in the world that features the business end of Seaplane flying. We have featured more commercial seaplane operations than anyone and work hard to constantly increase the network and news coverage on them. Around the globe, we see companies working to expand and bringing seaplanes and flying boats back to their former glory.
In the past, talking to, or interacting with fellow seaplane pilots also required a membership in a certain non profit corporation. Newcomers trying to see through the glass could push their nose flat trying to see things and most outsiders quickly learned, that belonging to such esteemed groups of people required a bit more than passion. I could tell, I was once one of these people.
A Different Breed Of Pilot
Generally more introverted than their land-based colleagues, seaplane pilots communicate much less than any other species of pilot. I could be considered a person who has some idea about how things were, after spending two years as a volunteer, trying to revive the Seaplane Pilots Association’s Online Forum without much success. This rather frustrating time was followed by running and owning Seaplaneforum.com for nearly 8 years, a much different environment. I also ran Aerobaticsforum.com and Gliderforum.com (both defunct an in Chinese hands) for several years.
I can expertly attest: Fostering candid exchange while promoting Water Flying has always been difficult in our industry. Many companies had carelessly put together websites, which showed no life beyond pure existence. Outreach? Forget it! There is no other online Seaplane News site, because others are smarter and realize that such an endeavor will be extremely difficult to monetize.
To this day, some float and aircraft manufacturers in the U.S. are slow to respond to emails when live customers threaten to spend money, only the fewest provide regular updates or report about ongoing product developments. Resistant to all advice, there is a lot of mental inertia to overcome, to get today’s business leaders to rethink their “spend little and get the max ROI” strategy.
Companies Bank/ Depend On Social Media
I am sure it will take several more years before someone in some extremely smart advertising and marketing agency slams the hammer on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, LinkedIn or Twitter and admits that investing large sums of advertising money into any of those platforms for outreach and marketing is a ginormous mistake – and that a change in strategy is overdue. The world is divided between Social Media Zombies who do EVERYTHING on these platforms and those who reject and avoid them like a pig would avoid the slaughterhouse, if it wasn’t unconscious and sedated. Of course we need social media and; no – its not going away. But people buy from people, business trust is not measured by Facebook popularity. Revenue isn’t either.
We have a “fundamentals of instructing” rule in aviation that says that “learning is a change of behavior based on experience“. We also seem to have accepted that this process takes approximately double as long as in any other industry, or 25 years, whichever occurs later. What seems to matter most today, is to be to get just as much money as humanly possible out of the “consumer”, before the industry is fully sold off to China or the beloved assets gets snapped up by Chinese investors.
The Sponsorship/ Ad Buy Declined Letter
In various “Sponsorship Decline” letters from multiple aircraft manufacturers, I learned some harsh lessons over the years. Generally, its safe to say that companies appreciate the coverage they get, until money or advertising becomes a topic of discussion. All of a sudden, your website is too small, serves just a niche, yes, we even hear that we have to many international readers and that a companies target market is limited to the U.S. only. Nobody asks if we can Geo-target, or otherwise target campaigns. Prices are ALWAYS to high and “seaplane buffs” don’t….. well, you know…
How Does One React To This?
Being one of these “decidedly unorthodox communicators” is a huge challenge in this business. I am a pilot by heritage and passion, a writer by incident and apparently a fairly naive “seaplane buff” by choice. What I am definitely not is a corporate strategist or politician. Last year showed me that keeping my mouth shut after receiving massive slaps in the face is much smarter than writing a whole lot in trying to lean into two particularly ignorant advertising agencies. Arguing with such clowns yields nothing and it wastes a whole lot of energy and time I really don’t have. It also destroys friendships and most importantly, trust.
Instead, this time around my brain instantly kicked into “don’t focus on worrying or taking personal offense for having your work declared mundane” mode. You see, getting slapped like this makes writing positive and upbeat articles about this industry very, very difficult.
I guess that’s why most editors don’t sell advertising…its not my job to teach bean counters how to be humans and its not my job to enlighten advertising agency people who can often barely differentiate an airplane from a hole in the wall, about just how difficult it is to advertise in aviation. After 30 years in this industry, I have learned one thing: Everything is a two way street in this business. No dead body stays hidden forever and every boomerang you throw away eventually returns.
We Need Subscribers To Help Us Keep Working
These repetitive wintry slapping events motivated me strongly to survey some of my closest advisors and quite a few of our loyal readers. The result became apparent and I took almost a year to mull and lull over its realization. In order to grow and expand seaplane related coverage and attend events, we need to generate funds. Selling the site or shutting it down would send the completely wrong message.
Our guest editorials enjoy tremendous popularity. But, some readers think that featuring Piper, Cessna or other wheeled business aviation topics distract from the specialty character of the site. Taking reader feedback to heart is something both Chris and I decided to consequently do with this site when we started it. We still do.
To our own defense, I can say that we have diligently reached out to every single association, group and company out there to get these news releases or at least establish contact to share occasional updates. In many cases, there has been no response or full-mouth promises to send us news releases, followed by vacuum.
Back To The Roots – With The Readers
When we started, Chris Buckner and I decided that one seaplane related article per week-day was a realistic target to reach. We intentionally waited with offering advertising, to see how the site would develop and where our most effective partners and supporters may present themselves. We either waited to long, or not long enough, but things definitely didn’t turn out as great as we hoped for.
“Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed vision. Visions don’t change, they are only refined. Plans rarely stay the same, and are scrapped or adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but flexible with your plan.” John C. Maxwell
In January 2019 we will launch a voluntary subscription system on Seaplanemagazine.com. Subscribers will enjoy exclusive content, free classifieds and even a forum. Its going to be affordable enough to compete with all the various print magazines out there and hopefully enable our writers to kick things up a notch.
Recent server upgrades and our change to a secure (https://) protocol were expensive and slowed the site down further, spelling an immediate need for better and unfortunately more expensive hosting. At times the site won’t load due to being on a server network that seeks its peers in terms of miserable performance.
Giving power back to the readers and consumers of our work makes the most sense. The goal is staying independent and true to our readers – and this also bears the highest potential to manifest this site as the industries most efficient curator of all things seaplanes. For this is what motivated us to start in the first place.
Thanks for your patronage and help in shaping #TheFutureOfWaterflying! Reach out early and let us know that you intend to subscribe! To those who have taken Business Management classes in college and didn’t believe their Professor’s: Pay attention to the product life cycle lessons. Just as these generally grey-haired people say, after about 3 years most businesses will hit a decision point. For us this spells having to decide between growing further and climbing, or remaining in ground-effect and ultimately having to sell or close the site. From the above, you should gather where I stand on this, and I hope to not stand alone.