Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Disappointing news from the blogosphere

I was disappointed to learn today that Field & Stream is spiking its FS Huntress blog at the end of the month.

When I started this blog a year and a half ago, Kim and Marian were the big kids on the block - my role models as women-hunter-bloggers.

And while there are a lot more huntress bloggers on the Internet now, Kim's blog still stands out because it's a Field & Stream blog - it shows that one of the most venerable hunting magazines around thinks the voice of women hunters matters.

Knowing the media business as I do, I try not to read too much into layoffs and buyouts and all the other stuff that's going on now. This economy has sent ad revenues into the toilet, across the board, and when that happens, you have to cut costs. Generally, it's not personal - it's just business.

I can't help but wince, though, when it's the lone women's blog that gets whacked.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


Josh said...

You are right, cazadora. F&S management should do a real study of the dollars associated with having unique voices in their bullpen, both incoming and outgoing. Also, they could have probably pitched some ad opportunities for some of the fine women's hunting companies you talk about here.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

F&S [mis] management have grown accustomed to milking a couple of big advertisers by being the default choice. sad to see such a historic brand lose it's relevance for the sake of a few bucks.


Blessed said...

that is sad news. I don't read the FS Huntress blog everyday, but I do enjoy it. I'll be sad to see it go. I understand the media business too though and I'm afraid we'll be seeing a lot more cuts like this one. I just wish F&S could have found something different to cut.

Holly Heyser said...

Josh, I know at one point Filson was advertising its women's line on FS Huntress. But this economy is awful. I run a college newspaper, and we had to go through our own cuts this winter - one of which entailed me taking on a boatload of extra work.

Blessed, sad is exactly how I feel too - because I'm watching the same thing happen to all my friends still in the newspaper business.

And SBW, while I'm sure F&S will remain relevant to many, the hand that had been extended to women has definitely been withdrawn.

Hil said...

I work in the outdoor magazine industry (for a competing magazine) and have great respect for Kim's blog over at F&S. It's a shame to see it go, but I completely understand where the company is coming from. The cuts in ad dollars, page counts and personnel are just brutal, and you have to put your limited funds toward the areas that give you the highest return on your dollar. Sadly, the truth is that only about 2% of the typical outdoor magazine's readership is female (that might be a bit higher for F&S), and it doesn't make sense to throw money at such a small portion of your audience.

Holly Heyser said...

Hil, is that female readership an estimate or a hard stat? I find that fascinating - one in ten hunters is a woman, but only one in fifty reads outdoor mags? Good lord, my floors and night stand and couch and kitchen table are covered with them.

I do know that women hunters tend to spend less than men on hunting gear, which is a real problem for manufacturers. But I never would've guessed we read less.

Unless ... we just subscribe less? If it's our hubbies' names on the subscriptions, does that mean we aren't counted? Very interesting.

I'd really love to hear more. Uh, particularly since I do freelance writing.

Hil said...

That female readership number is based on readership surveys our magazines conduct. They are unscientific, basically a "fill out this survey to be entered to win free stuff" kind of deal, but the numbers have consistently come back at 2-3% female readership for years. So maybe men are more likely to enter contests? (Doubtful, but like I say, it's an unscientific method so who knows.)

We have titles that focus on whitetail, predators, a combination of fishing/hunting — you name it. The female readership is roughly the same across the board, with the exception of Waterfowl & Retriever, which has a number closer to 5%. Still rather insignificant, though. Field & Stream, being a much larger title with a broader range of topic coverage, might have a higher female readership. I'd be interested to find out.

I've no idea why the readership numbers don't match the actual hunting numbers more accurately, but now that you bring it up, I'm awfully curious. If you'd like to discuss in more detail you can email me at hilary

Holly Heyser said...

Now that's REALLY bizarre - that the waterfowl numbers are closer to 5 percent. Women represent 5.4 percent of migratory bird hunters, so that's apparently the only area in which the numbers match.

Anecdotally, I hear about a lot of women who breed and train and compete with retrievers - perhaps that accounts for the high number of women in that readership area.

I'll shoot you an email!

Phillip said...

I just want to add a comment... maybe irrelevant, maybe not, but definitely not intended to offend...

Kim's blog was wonderful for what it was, and I was glad to see outdoorswomen receive some dedicated space, but it really was a fairly exclusive space... as a man, I never felt welcome or included at that site (as opposed to a blog like this one, or Marian's).

I can hear it coming, so bear with me, please.

While there's certainly nothing wrong with a female-centric blog, I can't imagine it would last long in a publication like Field and Stream, especially at a time when things get tough. I expect if you checked the demographics of F&S, you'd find an overwhelming majority of the reader base to be male (insert the big "duh" here). It's probably not a great business plan to put money into a project that excludes the majority of your core customer base. No surprises in that, of course, and I'm sure this isn't revelatory to anyone here.

But to me, this illustrates the danger of the whole "separate but equal" approach to getting women into the sport.

Women-only events, websites, etc., have a value. I understand that women may learn and practice skills better without the competitive atmosphere that men may bring to the game. But at the same time, by their nature, they exclude men... including those of us who honestly want women to join our community (as opposed to the industry, which simply wants them as a new stream of revenue or lobbying organizations who only want to add numbers). That simply doesn't seem like it bodes well for a long-term approach.

I don't have an answer. I only have this feeling that there has to be a better way than continuing to divide and isolate by gender.

Holly Heyser said...

Phillip, I'm not offended at all. Your point is an important one. It's one reason I don't focus exclusively on female issues here - because I quickly learned that men are interested in what I have to say too. So I try not to shut you guys out too often - mostly just when I'm doing women's hunting clothing reviews.

But I think hunting publications are now where newspaper staffs were in, perhaps, the 1970s - when women were rare, and often confined to the "women's" sections. I'd rather see us fully integrated too - writing for the broad audience. In the absence of that, though, it's nice to have at least a little section that makes sure our needs are met.

Hil said...

Phillip, I think you make a valid point. I always said I would rather be known as just a HUNTER, not a female hunter. As in "you're a woman? And you hunt? Wow, isn't that novel!"

Anonymous said...

Interesing about those percentages of women actually in the field (and not just reading outdoors magazines).

From what I've observed over the past couple of decades of hunting (as well as having been a volunteer B an OW Instructor for the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife teaching Waterfowl Hunting and Upland Bird Hunting classes) is that there is a much higher percentage of women involved in serious Retriever Field Trialing than in actual hunting itself.

However, since a good percentage of the sales of pedigreed FT sired/bred pups is to waterfowl hunters, there's a definite connection and "interest" by the Field Trial folks, which includes many women.

As far as Bird and Waterfowl hunting go, I think there's a much higher percentage of women who hunt as "family" hunters. I.e. they do hunt, but typically with other family members as it's often more of a ritualistic Opening Weekend hunt event.

Ditto with women waterfowlers, however by the time that a woman truly becomes "involved" in waterfowl hunting, she's either "In" or not.

There's a threshold of dedication that one must have associated with the rigors and special gear that once passed, she is now on the "inside".

As to the theory of who has the subscription, I'd say that it's often going to be hubby or boyfriend or a guy friend.

Who fills out those annoying little cards that fall out onto the floor? Who knows?!!

Bill C.-Orygun

Anonymous said...

As far as "You are a woman...and you hunt?"


I think not. (at least not out in rural areas)

Up here in Oregon (and I'm referring to eastern Oregon in this case) many communities observe "Hunt Day".

That's a bonafide school HOLIDAY, where school's out, whether you're a hunter/huntress or not!

It's the Friday before the opening of Deer Season, and school's let out.

It's traditional and something they HAVE to do. That's because many of the kids aren't going to be there, whether they're excused or not!

They and their families are off hunting!

Bill C.-Orygun

Hil said...

Where I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, schools close for the first day of deer season. If they didn't, no one would attend class anyway!

I do still get the "a woman who hunts, isn't that something" attitude fairly often, though, even here in Alabama where hunting is such a strong tradition. Doesn't happen so much among media professionals, but mostly in sporting-goods stores and when I meet new people and tell them what I do, etc.

Holly Heyser said...

Interestingly enough, I've always been treated really well in my local hook-and-bullet stores. The only time I felt offended by a merchant was when I went to the SHOT Show in 2008 and walked through the Duck Commander booth three times before anyone said, "Can I help you?" I watched quietly as they ignored me and made a beeline to the men coming to the booth. Nice, eh?

Phillip said...

For what it's worth, I got ignored at the Duck Commander booth this year too, and I'm definitely not a girl (or is there something someone isn't telling me?).

Seriously though, Holly, you and women outdoors writers like you are in the unique and ideal position to close this gap because, as you continue to write as HUNTERS, you gain credibility and acceptance... not only for yourselves, but for other women in the sport.

I totally get your reference to the 70s newspaper industry and I think you're dead on. Women in the sporting media are still something of a novelty and a niche, but I think that's changing... largely due to the efforts of women like yourself who truly enjoy the sport and refuse to give into a sense of victimization or to sell out and become a gimmick for the publishers.

The wall won't come down overnight, because it wasn't put up overnight. The outdoors has been considered a masculine realm for generations. It's no small thing to tackle, and believe me when I say I have the utmost respect for the perseverance and hard work that goes into the effort.

Anonymous said...

That is too bad but, as you pointed out, ad revenues are in the dumper and media outlets are shutting their doors almost daily.

One thing this does mean is that all outdoor blogs written by women are now that much more important. Our voices matter.

Just a gurl said...

Late to the party, but I wanted to mention that with F&S and many, many other companies in this industry, they will spend the day complaining about declines in readership, drop in participation in our sports, then they'll go and do whatever they think 50-year old white men want to see. "have to appeal to the readers". Perhaps you wouldn't be watching such a decline if you appealed to the REST of us.

Anonymously of course, since I'm in this industry. Or was. NorCal, I think you were one of the last people I did anything with. ;)

Peace out.

Marian Ann Love said...

Holly - thanks for the compliment and link. You have come a long way in a year and half and have watched you grow into a beautiful NorCal Cazadora...I'm so proud of you and your accomplishments! I'm also sorry to see Kim/F&S blog site go. I've enjoyed reading it. I guess it's the sign of the times! We are all in this together and have to hang in there. Take care my CA friend and keep up the great work - you are special! :)