In Dolby Digital
On the off chance you pulled up the Slap magazine homepage today instead of linking straight to the messageboard, you may have seen confirmation of that which has been rumored for a while now: Slap’s going to an all-digital format. The obvious read on this is that Slap wasn’t pulling in the ad dollars necessary to keep a full-on print operation afloat, which unfortunately is all too likely in the current climate. Skateboarder subscribers would do well to think long and hard before the re-up, in this uninformed wag’s opinion.
While Slap’s the first to dive in, other skateboard publications are busy testing these waters–see also the allegedly all-digital consolation round for Big Brother, for instance. And those who went out and bought “And Now” guiltily hoping for another year of free TWS inside (yeah, me) found instead a generous offer for a free “digital subscription,” promising such intriguing features as “store trick tips” and “access from any computer!” It’s all Web 2.0 over there.
Shit. Even Thrasher has a website now, and Jake Phelps is a widely known caveman who was born in a cave and currently lives in a cave that was gut-rehabbed a few years ago in a rapidly gentrifying portion of SF. So this internet thing may have legs after all.
The downside for Slap of course is that you generally have to sell several web ads to make the money of one print ad, despite the fact that, you know, you can tell exactly how many people see the web ad and link it directly to the advertiser’s online emporium. However, advertisers like having their shit in a tangible form, which can be taped on junior highschoolers’ bedroom walls and passed around at trade shows. Another possible downside is Slap’s e-track record. If you add up the number of times Slap’s messageboard has crashed in the past eight years, divide it by the cast of webmasters, square that figure by their average tenure and round down for these people’s demonstrated proficiency… let’s just say Mark Whitely’s squad has its work cut out for it on the web front.
But if there’s any magazine to restructure itself around an online community, it would have to be Slap, who for reasons that still elude me managed to attract enough comprehensible posters that some level of intelligent discourse was fostered, and despite the best efforts of dearly departed anger-mongers such as Wheelbite.net, it’s managed to continue. All due shoutouts to Vov Vurnquist and the pontoon boat.
Slap’s recent efforts to incorporate the messageboard into the print publication have seemed sort of labored–too many inside jokes for outsiders, too little context for those who already know what’s up–and giving posters mini-profiles was the sort of purely bizarre idea that you have to respect in the way that you respect, say, for instance, Snuffleupagus. But I think they were doing the right thing by trying. God knows other websites would kill for the profile and weight the Slap messageboard carries, and Whitely & Co would be idiots if they didn’t try and harness it in some form or another.
So here’s hoping they Google it up and find a way to get ridiculously rich while making everything free and open to all comers. It’ll be a shame not to see Slap at the shop anymore–it’s still pretty much the only magazine consistently taking chances and making an effort to push the envelope in terms of accepted content, and Whitely’s spot in skateboard’s history books is certainly secure at this point. Fingers crossed that this transition is, to labor a metaphor, the first keystrokes of a new story, rather than the final touches on a brick-and-mortar gravestone.