Monday, June 8, 2009

The Wend Story: Part 1

I love Wend. There is nothing else like it on news stands. Back in the day, when I believed I might shoehorn more hours into the day and launch an outdoors website, it seemed natural that I would write about it.

So, I reached out to Editor Stiv Wilson, and asked if he might help a brotha' out. He got back to me right away and agreed to an email interview. I spent a couple days crafting some questions, getting things just right, and fired it off. Then, I waited.

Quite some time passed before I (somewhat reluctantly) sent a reminder. Last thing I wanted to do was be the pesky 6-year old kid tugging at the pant leg of my respected elder. But tug I did, and Stiv was indeed "stirred" to reply.

His email was abrupt, chastising me for including in my first question the line, "I was surprised by how quickly you answered my interview request". Stiv felt he hadn't responded quickly and that my statement was disingenuous (had to look that word up). He proceeded to make it clear that he wasn't interested in letting me prop-up my business on the Wend name. Humble pie, anyone?

As tough as it was to accept that electronic slap on the wrist, I now appreciate the forthrightness, and am really excited to publish this interview (albeit not on the kick-ass outdoors site I had envisioned). The story of Wend, its culture, the environmental ethos it lives, breathes, and feeds... and yes, its outspoken and straight-shooting Editor are infinitely interesting.

Over the coming installments, I hope you'll find a similar fascination, and maybe gain some insight and inspiration.
Part 1: Roots

MSB: Thanks for taking time to share the Wend story. Your magazine comes across as uniquely personal… like a friend spinning stories over a cold beer. Is that sense of accessibility something for which you strive? Perhaps something you thought was missing from other magazines?

SW: Being uniquely personal is definitely something we strive for. To me, outdoor adventure stories should be a slightly more refined version of the kick ass story your buddy tells you around a camp fire. All the other mags in our market use the age old rockstar/hero formula (Lance Armstrong is on the cover again!) and after reading about these dudes (and I say dudes because they barely, barely cover women unless they're 'uncovering them') you just feel like you’re 'never going to be that good.' I've met a lot of badass adventurers in my life, and all of them, besides being great athletes are in fact human and as such, are imperfect. I like to draw that out in our publication because those aspects are what our readers can empathize with. Our heroes are people who go into the wild for a purpose other than their own bragging rights. The humility I approach our editorial with comes from being a surfer and realizing no matter how good I get, the ocean is always going to remind me how bad I suck. Nature isn't something you conquer, it's something you respect. Adventure is a state of mind, and a way of life. I'm sick of the cabal that exploits and deifies it in print, and then sells it with tits. Those people aren't real, they're airbrushed and they sure as hell ain't you and me.

MSB: What was the catalyst for creating Wend? Does the story begin in a basement with a PC and a pirated copy of Photoshop, or did you hit the ground running and land, glossy paper and all, in 7-11 stores everywhere? Tell us about the early days.

SW: No comment on the Photoshop, but it wasn't a PC, it was a Mac. Ian Marshall, our [then] publisher and founder, was approached by an investor and Ian developed the concept, brought his idea to me, and I was stoked to get involved. He figured out how to sell it without selling it out, and I figured out how to get it written. But we had issues with the initial investor's business ethic/aesthetic sense, and we left him in the spring '08, and forged out on our own. We worked for nothing in the early days, and when we took control, we structured our own pay below market value so we could be printed on sustainable paper, as we wanted to be putting our money where our mouth is.

MSB: Every journey needs a home base. How important is the city of Portland as yours?

SW: Portland is awesome; everyone lives here to get out of here on the weekends. You have every kind of adventure sport within 60 miles of downtown, and you have a city full of enviros who want to protect the wild places where they play. It's like living in the Platonic form of your demographic. Not to mention there are a lot enviro outdoor brands here too. Also, Oregon has every kind of climate that the continental US has, and since we do all our stock photography in house, it's helpful to have mountain, desert, and ocean a short drive away.
Next Installment: Wend People

1 comment:

Roy Scribner said...

I got my first issue this month - it really is a good read. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the quality kind of surprised me.