Commentary: Bring on the Magazines
A couple of weeks ago, Jason Johnson, my former boss at Powerboat magazine and current editor of the recently resurrected title, and I caught up over a couple of beers during a pre-game 49ers versus Browns tailgate at the old-school stadium atrocity known as Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Johnson, who lives 500 miles south in Ventura, actually has 49ers season tickets and treks up for every home game. Such is the life of an NFL fan whose closest big city is Los Angeles.
Johnson brought me the new issue of Powerboat—for the record I think the team there did a great job with the relaunch—and that started us down magazine memory lane. (OK, so maybe we had a few beers rather than a couple.). I worked for Powerboat for 16 years, which makes Johnson a short-timer with just seven years under his belt, but we definitely know a lot of the same characters who have been involved with what is an iconic go-fast boat publication.
For sure, I miss working with Johnson, Bob Teague, John Tomlinson and the late Tom Newby. We logged a lot of hours together, many of them laughing—because even when the hours get long working at Powerboat is a great gig—and a few of them crying. But what I missed most about Powerboat’s abrupt departure this spring, income aside, and what I like most about its revival, was the magazine itself. I liked holding it in my hands when it was finished.
Don’t get me wrong, the virtual world has been really good to me thanks to speedonthewater.com, which I started two years ago, and Boats.com, which pulled me to the Bay Area almost 12 years ago. But whether you’re a magazine reader or a magazine professional, there really is no substitute for a tangible product you can hold in yours hands, whether it delights or aggravates you. And in the case of the latter, a magazine is much less costly to throw against a wall in a fit of indignation than a laptop.
Now I am the editor of Sportboat magazine, the latest issue of which is on newsstands right now—you had to expect at least one shameless plug. That makes Jason and I competitors, despite that our publications are significantly different in editorial approach and frequency. (Powerboat is bi-monthly and Sportboat is quarterly.) We both work for big publishers who expect us to play hard. The stakes are high, as are the expectations.
And I couldn’t be happier about it. I want Powerboat to succeed and I (particularly, shameless plug No. 2) want Sportboat to succeed and not just—to touch on a recurring theme—for the income. Healthy high-performance boating magazines mean a healthy high-performance boating industry. Plus, they give go-fast boat lovers who appreciate them something to hold in their hands.
Johnson and I likely won’t hit another 49ers tailgate until next season. But my hope is that when we do we won’t just attend as old friends and former co-workers waxing nostalgic over a few cold ones, but as the editors of two thriving magazines sharing new memories.