Part 2: Wend People
MSB: Who turns the gears at Wend? What's it like in your office?
SW: We're four business partners and one employee, though our employee has equity in the company. We also have a few independent contractors for accounting, ad sales, copy, etc. and a couple of interns who rock. Our office is pretty kick ass. It's a big industrial warehouse space with toys everywhere: surfboards, skateboards, snowboards, split-boards, tents, skis, snow shoes, bikes, backpacks, beer, day packs, you name it. We have a ping-pong table, and a rule that when tension strikes, you have to pong it out. Beers get cracked a lot at 4pm, and there is a lot humor. I speed to get to work.
Normally, in a traditional publishing model, you get an editorial hierarchy, which often suffers behind an editor who wants to exact his or her own vision, but can't because he or she is a slave to the advertisers and "the perception" of what the brand is at present. Tension arises because the executive officers who hired the editor have made the magazine a whore to those advertisers, which too often means you get a men's fashion magazine with an outdoor feel and a bunch of internal hypocrisy. I mean really, c'mon, you have the nerve to put a Hummer ad in your annual Green Issue? I understand the bottom line and all, but have some dignity.
This isn't how we do things editorially at Wend, nor is it how the people we've stacked on our board of directors look at our model. I want to reflect my reader's vision and values, and I want to know what my other editors are thinking, uncensored. Because my other editors are brilliant, I don't give a crap who's great idea it was, if it's better than mine, we're rolling with it. At the end of the day, I control what's in the book, yes, but you'd be hard pressed to find a story that my other editors don't fully back. My right hand editor is a woman, and I defer to her about how women get portrayed in the magazine. Yes, men like to look at women, that's true. But I don't want women portrayed as an object, but rather an agent. Men don't own the world of badass-ed-ness, but most outdoor editors make it appear that way. Basically, I'm not an asshole or a hypocrite, nor is anyone I work with, which means the product we create comes from the heart with honesty, critical thought, and mutual respect. Readers feel it.
Ian runs the marketing/branding show, Melissa is the ad sales manager and money bean counter, Zach is the design/aesthetic of the brand, and Anna and I are the wordsmiths. Anna is our only true employee and we'll pay her weight in gold and equity to keep her around. She rocks. Kyle is our main intern who we'll hire as an editor once he's out of grad school.
MSB: Your writers and photographers are consistently, for lack of a better word, awesome. How do you find them? If someone wanted to contribute to Wend, how would they go about it? What do you look for in a story?
SW: Awesome is an awesome word, and I dig it, so thanks. I can't really tell you how we do it, as it's not one particular mode, and there are some trade secrets I don't want to divulge, for fear of being copied, yet again. But let's put it this way; we are the only magazine in our market that understands how modern journalism really works, and we've brought that understanding into our publishing model. And we're not arrogant about it, so I think we attract a lot of talented people to our project who might have otherwise been dissuaded by the pomp so many others display. Magazine publishing has suffered too long because at the hand of New York style hubris, and we flatly reject that kind of crap. If you own a $1,000 camera and a good eye, you can be as good as almost any pro photographer.
I think the old model magazines are so used to having people come to them, that they cease to look out into the world to see what's really going on.
Being a first person, narrative driven magazine, means that by nature, Wend is going to be more personal. Our three other competitors always write 'about a person' and we publish stories written by the people they write 'about.' A good story is a good story and the writer's byline is only two words in it. I grew up skateboarding, and in skateboarding there's a code: the biggest badass talks the least and their ain't no such thing as a celebrity. I take those values to heart with regard to Wend.
If you want to contribute to Wend, check out the writer's guidelines at Wendmag.com. And be patient, please. As Editor in Chief, I won't be a dick to you, but I'm in the 150-200 emails a day club. If you're passionate and qualified to write your story, you'll get in. And to sum up what I'm looking for in one word: Authenticity.
Next Installment: Ethos