Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: My guest today is Steve Casimiro. That’s right, The Cas is back for round two. He was on Intrepid Entrepreneur back at episode 20 in July of 2015. And in that conversation, he shared with us his vision and the journey behind the success of his online publication, adventure-journal.com or AJ to the online publication’s ardent followers, and I definitely count myself among that tribe. Steve and I have known each other for the better part of 20 years. And through that time, I’ve seen him be nothing short of humble and always voraciously curious about creating a way forward in his work that aligns his staunch commitment to editorial integrity.
I don’t know how else to describe it with publishing. And that has so not been an easy road. But to his credit, I think he’s done just that with AJ. I didn’t know that Steve wanted to bring AJ to print even back when he launched it. And I guess, this year, 2016, in April, we’re going to be able to hold Adventure Journal in our hands. There will be four issues a year going forward. And the stories that you find print quarterly will not be found online. I see this as a cool extension of Steve’s commitment to basically, expand the underpinnings of AJ’s guiding philosophy of the deeper you go, the deeper you go.
This is a super important conversation for entrepreneurs in our markets to listen to. We talk about risk, we talk about the absolute inability to put a price on your values, we talk about vision, and we talk about going for it. Here we go.
Steve Casimiro, welcome to the Intrepid Entrepreneur Podcast again. You are my second repeat guest, and I am very, very proud to have you here today. How are you doing?
Steve Casimiro: I’m doing awesome. I’m honored, I’m flattered. Thank you.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yeah. And you’re calling in from Monarch Beach again?
Steve Casimiro: Yep, Monarch Beach again. You guys don’t know Southern Cal. It’s about exactly halfway between LA and San Diego. Right on the coast.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Cool. Well, we’re really stoked to have you here today because we have some big news to share. So it’s not like we’re breaking the news here that you–I don’t want you to actually tell us the news in your words but we’re getting the opportunity to have first glance at, I think, some analysis and digest that is incredibly relevant to my audience across the outdoor active lifestyle markets, and of course, the entrepreneurs within those. It covers risk, it covers following your passion, it covers not giving a rat’s ass what other people think in doing what’s right for you. And so I just couldn’t be more happy to have you here today. Tell us your news.
Steve Casimiro: Well the news is that Adventure Journal, which has existed online for about seven years, is now launching as a print and quarterly beginning in spring 2016.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That’s huge.
Steve Casimiro: It’s pretty huge in counting kind of opposite the way things usually go or you do print and then you have to do your website. I’m doing it the other way around. So I have been wanting to do a general outdoor magazine for the better part of two decades. For various reasons, the timing was never right. And I’ve wanted to do it kind of ever since I’ve first started doing Adventure Journal online.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Let’s take the audience back. That was right when the recession hit. Like, ba-boom. Right?
Steve Casimiro: Yeah.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: You launched at a very precipitous time. So I’m sure you always had the shining glimmer in your eye around, like, wanting to do print, but I bet it was pretty far-fetched at that time. I had many conversations with you at that point just learning the landscape and taking what you knew and applying it. It’s nice to know that you always had that in your mind, but I find it hard to believe that that was part of it even back then. Tell us about that.
Steve Casimiro: Well, yeah. I mean, at the time it was a dream. You know that I don’t like to talk about stuff unless I really feel pretty confident I’m going to be able to do it. But I mean, I went into the outdoor retailer show right after–so National Geographic Adventure went under the print version, went under in December of 2009, and at this show a couple of weeks later, I went there and pitch Adventure Journal as a commercial editing, get advertising for it. And I was so riddled about how that world worked and I called people right away and people said, “Yeah, I got some money for it, I’ll support you. I want to help you out here, help you out there.” And I went to all my meetings on the first day [inaudible] came up with, like, goose eggs in every meeting.
I didn’t really understand how it works. At the end of the day, I was [inaudible] on the verge of tears going, “Oh, my God, what am I going to do? I’m not going to be able to figure this out.” And I came back to the show the next day and kind of fumbled my way forward and ended up with a bunch of sporting ser–like, got my toehold on how this whole world of digital media, digital advertising– “Oh, that was gonna work.” And so it’s always been kind of, like, just trying to leaf ahead in the book, whatever the book is, Google, or whatever it is that you’re looking up, trying to figure out the steps ahead. Just sort of stay a little bit ahead of disaster.
And so the thing about coming to print is, like, that’s a comfort zone for me. And there’s a lot about this that is incredibly anxiety-producing. But because it’s up a leap orders of magnitude greater than trying to get advertising on your blog. But I know how to do print. I mean, I’ve done print for 30 years. So . . .
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Well, it begs a question. So you have done print for 30 years. And I know you know that like the back of your hand–newspapers, magazines, running a staff, being a freelancer. You have seen it from all sides–selling ads, even. I know that that was kind of the last batching before you went to Adventure Journal. What was it like to actually resurrect the platform for a print magazine today? That must be very different than the last time you did it, in terms of just the production.
Steve Casimiro: Yeah. Everything about it is different. One of the things that I did before I pulled the trigger out and as I sat down with Dana Lewis who was the–she was the president of [Surfer?] Publications [inaudible] bike. And she’s a very smart woman, very no-nonsense and really keeping focus on the bottom line. And I sat down with all my spreadsheets and went through all that. And then it got to sort of the end of our meeting and she was, “Well, do you have any other ideas besides putting Adventure Journal in print? Because this seems like such a no-brainer.” And the reason is because things are so different than, say, when we started Bike. When we started Bike, to get subscribers you had to send out direct mail. Hundreds of thousands of envelopes.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Kind of [bid bombing?].
Steve Casimiro: Exactly. And you get, like, 1.5% response rate. Well, I think the genius of the world today is that I’ve just spent the last seven years building up my customer base, building up an audience, proving the concept, proving to advertisers that their ads are going to work. And there’s [inaudible] over it. You know, I mean, everything can be outsourced now or done virtually or done as a server. So all the things that we had to do when we launched Bike are pretty much gone.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Wow.
Steve Casimiro: And so it’s not that there’s no risk but, like, the amount of, like, the [inaudible] that you had to have then versus what you have to have now is completely different.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: So when I was at Shape, this was back when Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone were cruising around. So it was a long time ago. But after every issue, we would get a two-inch thick [radar?] survey. And it would go to every single component of the magazine. And that would basically dictate how we would kind of adjust and move forward the different things that we were covering. And it always also involved, like, the advisory board. You know, there’s all these big things that were built into this giant publication. And you actually have spent the last seven years having, I think, a two-way conversation with your audience without having that. You know what I mean? Would you agree?
Steve Casimiro: Oh, I would agree 100%. It’s actually a bit incredible. And I just have to learn, like, anytime I scoff at something I just stop myself and see, like, open your mind. Because I scoffed at this idea seven years ago that there was this conversation going on. You know what? It’s exactly what it is. I mean, and it takes so many channels whether it’s their Instagram or through Facebook or through comments or people emailing me directly. And that’s one thing that is dramatically different from when I worked at print only and kind of pre-web days is that you do a story and if you tick some people off, you might get one or two utters. But otherwise, you didn’t hear anything, you know?
And I think that the downside of that is that magazine editors and writers would–there’s a kind of lack of accountability. Like, they felt good about what they were doing, that’s fine, but, like, they never really heard from readers. Oh, I hear from readers every single [inaudible] day whether they like it or not. And obviously, there’s a lot of trolls online, and they find their way to AJ, but in general, it’s a very constructive connected and seemingly openhearted dialogue that goes back and forth. It’s huge. It’s tremendous.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I feel like that’s one of the reasons why we love it so much because it feels like it’s ours and I have to wonder if you were part of Weider Publications? Shape Magazine’s owner at the time. We wouldn’t have had the relationship with you and we would’ve been data points not people. I wonder if a large publisher could make the play from digital to print. I know they couldn’t do it as quickly because you’re nimble, right? And you’re probably deploying new tactics around print publishing that make you even more nimble.
Steve Casimiro: To me, a lot of this is, like, the heart of this, from a business standpoint, comes down to skill. Like, if you’re Buzzfeed, are you going to put out a magazine? I mean, and why? What’s the point of that? What’s your profit like? Like, where do you tip over from into the black? And for quarterly and for publication like Adventure Journal, everything is smaller. That’s what enables us to happen. Like, if this were–if I were coming out, going, “I have to have a 200,000 circulation by the end of first year or I’m going to go belly up.” It just wouldn’t work. At all. I mean, this is built so that at out of chute, it’s going to be profitable. It has to get to a certain level, I think, before everybody’s going to be happy with it and there’s going to be a comfort zone.
But we’re not going to lose money at any step of the way. it’s impossible for a big publisher to do that. I mean, there’s so much [inaudible] there’s so many things that they’re involved. And so I think that the key part of this with building Adventure Journal as a website and now building it as a printed quarterly, keeping it small and keeping it manageable and taking on financial commitments, fixed-cost only when it absolutely have to, it enables a freedom, like, a creative freedom in my decision-making about the editorial. Which I think, really, that’s the heart of matters.
If I don’t have to be that big, if I don’t have to get to 10,000 circulation [inaudible] the first year, I can just do the stories that I know are going to be the best stories and not necessarily the stories that are going to be, like, jump off the newsstand and pull you dragging and kicking and screaming into the magazine.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And that, actually, is my next question. So thanks for teeing that up for me. Why only print with this content? This is something we talked about before we hit the record button, and I think it’s fascinating. So can you explain kind of the [sweet?] that your community will have access to with the way that you’re setting this up?
Steve Casimiro: The stories in the quarterly are only going to be available in print. There’s no Kindle edition, there’s no e-book, there’s no PDF. You’re not going to be able to find them online in any form at all. The main reason for this is I want people to read it in print. They’re designed to be read on paper and in ink. And to sit down and to get away from your devices for a little while and get away from screens and not be distracted. The nature of the stories in this is they’re going to be thoughtful pieces and they’re going to be deeper pieces. And it’s not going to be all serious. [inaudible] it’s going to be a lot of fun stuff, there’ll be a lowbrow stuff, highbrow stuff, but it really is about–at the heart of the stories are about exploring what it means to be adventurous. Right?
And that relationship that you have with mountains or forests or rivers and how your heart opens to these things and how you scare yourself. And all of these things that are better communicated in a quieter experience, I guess. So part of this is having the–rolling the dice, I guess, and having the confidence to say, “You know what? You’re only going to get it this way. This is the way we want it to be. And we don’t want to be everything to be everybody, we don’t want these stories to be everything, everywhere. We want them to be consumed, read, experienced in this way.”
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: You can’t cuddle up with your iPhone or your iPad the way you can with a magazine.
Steve Casimiro: No, it’s not very warm.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: There’s also just this part to me and it could be because I’m old school but I’d still just love getting certain magazines in my mailbox. Like, they show up and it’s like a good friend is there. You know? And that’s how this feels like it’s going to be like, “Oh, it’s here.” You know?
Steve Casimiro: I think so.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And you spend time with it.
Steve Casimiro: I think so. And I think the quarterly frequency, I think, is the perfect frequency to all. Like, I don’t want people to get sick of this. Like, “Oh, you’re here again.”
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I didn’t invite you.
Steve Casimiro: Wait. [inaudible] of Adventure Journals back. You know, there’s about 112 pages of editorial in every issue. And if there’s a chance, I may just out of pocket, go up to 132 just because I’ve got, I just think, a lot more [inaudible]. I want to feel even more [inaudible] in to. But stories are being–and they’re going to be evergreen. They’re not going to go out of style in a month. They’re not going to be so timely that you pick it up, and by the time May rolls around, and it has no relevance. I want most of these pieces for you to be able to pick them up five years from now and you’re still gonna read them. There’s going to be [inaudible] storytelling level to this stuff.
I feel like people, I mean, think people read magazines the way I do. You probably skim it, you maybe read one, you set it down and come back to it. There should be enough [inaudible] that, like, it’s going to sustain you for a few months. And the next one comes in. And one of the problems with doing magazine every month or even a bi-monthly, and I think even for a publication that covers a broad role of adventures that you risk slicing things too thinly. Like, you do end up going looking for stories that may be were not as strong. Because you have to fill pages. Right? When you only do four a year, you’re like, there’s going to be nothing in there but just the absolute best.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Can you give us a little bit of a sneak peek on a couple topics or do you want it to just to be completely under wraps?
Steve Casimiro: No, I think it’s fair for people to have a sense of what’s gonna be in it. I mean, I don’t have.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: If we were having over, there we gonna have over.
Steve Casimiro: So the lead story in the issue in first issue is about the North Shore Vancouver mountain biking scene. And it’s by Vernon Felton who does a lot for the website, and a great writer, he’s awesome. Just some very smart guy who’s [inaudible] there. Super tapped into this community. And what’s happened on the North Shore, for those who don’t know, back in the 80s–so the North Shore of Vancouver, it’s comprised of three mountains and a temperate rainforest. Gets a ton of precipitation, great mountain biking there, great riding, but that the trails disintegrate pretty rapidly. So people started with this guiding built kind of this bridge just over a sort of swampy area. But then kind of a light went on it when people started building these very elaborate elevated trail systems with teeter totters and bridges that–I mean a lot of people are in flight with us.
So this quick refresh are [inaudible] for those who are–so it became super radical. I mean, really, really radical, insanely difficult stuff. And it actually have been tremendously influential around the world. I was in Norway and some of the guys that I’ve gotten friends with over there after the videos that they saw from the North Shore in the 90s. They went built their own. So people are doing this all around the world. They’re building these kind of these chutes and ladders [inaudible]. Well, what happened was this was all unauthorized. These were all pirate trails. And the land use managers found out about this. Some kid fell of something and burst his spleen and it kind of went in there. And they went, “Oh, my God, what have you people been doing?” Oh, we haven’t been looking. And they started coming with chainsaws.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Oh, that’s a travesty.
Steve Casimiro: Taking trails down. So what’s happened is they’re actually–the North Shore now is in the middle of a Renaissance. But it’s really different from what it was before. And it’s actually becoming a destination with full backing of the local [inaudible] guys, the local businesses, it’s becoming kind of an establishment place. But one of those trails look like–they don’t look like what they did before. A lot of them do. So it’s all very controversial. So Vernon’s done his deep dive into this that understand, like, how have the trails changed that there are the people behind it.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That sounds super cool. He was embedded.
Steve Casimiro: He was embedded. He’s been [inaudible] so he’s been going back and forth quite a bit. And this is what’s really cool. Like, in a typical magazine, that story would run 8 pages. And we’re, right now, planning at running it at 16, maybe 14. So just a lot of space, a lot of room, lots of photos–really, let it breathe. And one of my little sort of catch phrases were–it’s a luxury reading experience. We’re not writing about luxurious stuff, but the experience of reading this is going to be luxurious. It’s going to be giving yourself the room and the space to sit down and make a real connection with something. And that is true. As we’re laying it out, as we’re editing it, and then on the other side was readers. That it has room to breathe, I guess.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Well, and we’re all about delivering experiences, right? And that stood through the past decades. But obviously, we do that in different ways now through what’s going on online and everything digital. And I think you’ve done a great job delivering those experiences through adventure-journal.com. But what you’re basically saying is you’re going to be allowing us to do–to cannonball into the deep end like you’re escaping with your passion. That’s kind of what I see. Like, 16 pages of this it’s–I don’t want to use the phrase bike porn. You and I have talked about van porn before. But it truly is going to be, like, something you could just be completely lost in and unplugged for a while, frankly.
Steve Casimiro: Yeah.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I have a question. I’m already wondering, when I get my issue and I read through this, and I want to go participate somewhere, like, do I just go to adventure-journal.com? Are you planning on building any kind of, like, two-way conversation around the print magazine?
Steve Casimiro: You know, I’m not. And I haven’t–
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I mean, I understand why you wouldn’t. But at the same time, I guess, we’ve all gotten our server’s journal over the years and we never collaborate about them. We just had them and, when we went to each other’s houses, we’d see the collection.
Steve Casimiro: No, it’s a great question and it’s not something–it’s something I sort of, like, only in passing, [inaudible] even thought about it. “Oh, should we do letters to the editor?” Like, what are [inaudible]–
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Right.
Steve Casimiro: Like, in some ways, it’s, like, you taking–you’re building this thing that is completely static on something that is really dynamic. A website. And that is something that is just in print.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: So part of the reason I wanted to have you on my show today was to talk about the fact that you’re expanding, you’re growing. This is new. It’s new and it’s not new. But it’s new for Adventure Journal and it’s new for you in terms of doing this in today’s climate and the era of today with how people consume media. Right? And you and I have had several conversations recently around just the fear of risk and just being scared and whatnot. But when listen to you talk about it this way, I don’t actually feel like there’s anything to be scared of.
Steve Casimiro: When I hear myself talking, I’m, like, you just tell yourself this every day.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Right.
Steve Casimiro: Because you sound really [inaudible].
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: But when you think about just serving your readers, your family, if you will, like, that’s really what it comes down to. And you know them very well and you’re just taking another piece out of your career and serving them with what you know how to do. But what I love about this so much is there’s, like, a dichotomy around pulling a print publication together today versus when you were doing it before. And many [inaudible] through many different publishing companies. And I just think it’s fascinating that you basically have gone along in the trenches, happily camping in the dirt with your readers.
And now you’re pulling this out of your hat and you’re, like, “Hey, how about this?” Because it’s almost like you’re leading us but at the same time, we’ve evolved with you. And this is exactly the type of product that I think Adventure Journal should evolve into. I mean, just look at the name Adventure Journal. It’s almost a little scary to call it digital publication than a journal, I think. This feels a lot more like a journal to me.
Steve Casimiro: Yeah. Yeah, it does. And then I mean, this has kind of been the vision of it all along. The website itself has evolved over the years. And I found some stories just don’t really work online. They just don’t. And that’s part of the reason why the quarterly is coming to life.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Well, I can’t wait to get my mitts on the first issue. I really am excited about it, and I also just want to say as kind of a parting thing that you said before we hit the record button, again, you can’t put a price on your values, right? And this is giving you the opportunity, I think, to bring so much of your vision, so much of what you learned, and the brain trust that you have going through, basically, three decades of publishing and growing up in these markets, into this product for us. So I’m really stoked and I’m just wanting to high five you because I know this was scary and big and it does make complete sense. And you know what? Not everybody would’ve done it. There’s a safe zone you could’ve stayed in, but I’m really glad that you’re continuing to create and also expand our experiences.
Steve Casimiro: Well, thank you. I mean, it would be kind of hypocritical if I spent all day every day writing and talking about adventure and I didn’t take risks in my own business.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I guess it would be.
Steve Casimiro: It kind of would be. And what I have to tell myself when I get these really sort of anxious, worried moments, like, what’s–first, I’m, like, “What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen here?” I have [inaudible] failed many times with things that I’ve tried on the website. Some things work, some things don’t. But I don’t know how you would define failure or success with this. And people are really excited about it, they’re really jazzed about it. It’s to just continue to touch people in really important ways, to share stories that, I think, are maybe overlooked or undershared but still really important.
And so, I mean, 99% of my ambitions about this are creative. And so it’s on the right track. People are already responding to it. I think it’s going to be great. And I’m like you. I cannot wait to get the first issue at everybody’s hand. I mean, I’m so excited about it, I just can’t wait. Just want to fast forward till spring.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Me too. And just so everybody knows, I’ll be providing more details when this podcast comes out on the podcast notes page. But I’m going to be giving away five subscriptions to five lucky listeners. And so you can hop on over to the podcast notes page and check on. Check out how to enter your e-mail and your name to become a possible a winner of those and get your own issue come spring. Super exciting. Congratulations, Steve. Seriously. This is a big move and I’m just also so proud that you’re on my show talking about it to my people because I think my people are your people.
Steve Casimiro: Oh, there’s no question about it. And thank you for the time. Yeah, it’s fun to talk about it. I could go on all day. It’s just there’s something about people who live adventurously. Back when [inaudible] gear is mountain bikers and paddlers. And I mean it’s such an amazingly healthy, exciting way to live your life. And everybody I’ve met really inspires me. I mean, that sounds so trite but, I mean, it’s true. Like, people who are adventurous are rad. We can call those other people that were among that. I mean, I can’t think of a better group of people to feel really connected to and a part of.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: There comes a time in the trajectories of our companies–at least I think they’re [inaudible] where we see an opportunity to lair in a serious dose of passion. And that’s exactly what I see Steve doing with the new AJ print publication. This guy’s got decades of print publishing experience and he’s melding it with everything he’s learned publishing a digital title in adventure-journal.com. It’s kind of interesting to take something you hold in your hand that you can’t have a conversation with and melding it with experience around the two-way conversation, the principles of community and sharing, and just kind of that membership mentality gained on the digital platform.
I’m really curious to see how this has combined and what it’s going to yield in the print publication of Adventure Journal. And that’s going to be happening in April of this coming year. I think that Steve is definitely blazing the trail here. And I’m hoping that that lights the way forward for you. Because every single entrepreneur I know has that little voice in the back of his or her head telling him to embrace the risk, trust their gut, and keep pushing forward. And as entrepreneurs, we get to do that. That’s what I love most about it. We get to do that as many times as we want to, as long as what we’re doing rings true to the experience we’ve promised our audiences.
Thanks for listening to this important episode today. And to show my appreciation to you, I’m giving away three free annual subscriptions to three lucky listeners of the forthcoming Adventure Journal Print Quarterly Magazine. Head on over to livinguber.com/giveaways and enter your e-mail to win a chance to this awesome price. And until next time, go big.