Reader Feedback and Focus

Everett Johnson

I had an interesting discussion recently with a reader who phoned to voice concern regarding the direction he worried this magazine may be heading. "We have too many people on the water and your magazine is a big part of the problem," he lamented. "The guides you have writing are publicizing this coastal fishing thing all out of proportion for their own promotion. They've got people coming out of every patch of woods and they're out there every weekend covering all the good spots."

My caller also wanted me to know that some of his past favorite outdoor publications had been ruined by success. "Success," he said, "brought fancy layouts, glossy pages, and writers who lacked knowledge of their topics." "Good magazines gone bad," he called them. I listened intently, especially to the part about fancy presentations and clueless writers.

In closing, our concerned reader expressed his disappointment that our magazine had become too commercialized, too full of advertisements, with too little serious fishing stuff.

I assured my caller that his opinion was important and that we place great value on reader feedback. Most importantly, I wanted him to know that we have enough skin to accept criticism and bouquets. Because after all, if fishermen decide the magazine isn't worth their time or their money, they'll leave and take the advertisers with them.

Feeling a tad unprepared, and wanting to make sure I was thinking clearly and saying the right things; I politely asked if I could collect my thoughts and call back to continue the discussion. He agreed and we took up where we'd left off a day later. Here's what I told him–

True enough; we are all about the promotion of Texas saltwater fishing, our name says that, but we're about a lot of other things that go with it. Longtime readers will remember that in the beginning we said our primary mission was to provide informative and entertaining content that would help readers become better anglers. We also said part of the mission would be to teach them how to do things the right way- meaning they'd be getting a good dose of conservation ethic and a heightened respect for the resources we are using. I think one of the phases I used was, "a saltwater fix that would keep anglers right-side-up between their trips to the coast and to be better stewards and good neighbors when they arrived." This remains the cornerstone of our effort.

We still use our original criteria when selecting writers and not everybody makes the team. The guides, tournament anglers, and other Texas fishing personalities we invite to contribute reside at the top of their respective fields. They are fishermen who write occasionally, not writers who occasionally fish. They all have credentials and reputations earned with a rod and reel and spread by the tongue of good report. This magazine has never been nor will it ever become a showcase for self-proclaimed gurus or trumpeters who gained celebrity solely through the worldwide web.

While enameled paper and improved printing processes cannot improve the words that get printed, they certainly help us make better use of all the fine photos and artwork our readers, writers and advertisers send us. I've always believed that a turd wrapped in tinsel was still a turd and a good product should be delivered in a good package. I hope others agree with this logic.

As for too many ads, I would say that to the best of my knowledge we are the only outdoor publication in the Texas that adjusts monthly page count based upon the number of ads sold. From the very beginning I promised we would not let this magazine become a glorified catalog of outdoor goods and I have kept that. Our goal was and remains the maintenance of a 50/50 balance. Most months we run between 45 and 50%; thus far our "worst" issue contained 52% advertising.

My caller friend agreed to continue reading when I offered a position on my Reader/Advisor Team. I told him we might not always agree but I'd listen if he would; so far I have ten members helping me with this magazine. Please email or call if you would like to join, and as always, the very best of fishing to you. (Email to: [email protected] or call 361-550-3637.)