Monday, August 18

Outdoor Blogging - A view from the inside

The ever excellent Roman has written an insightful piece reflecting on his experience at the recent Friedrichshafen OutDoor Show. And in particular the line those of us writing on Outdoor matters learn to tread warily, as we become more aware of its existence.

Our reports of outdoor matters are from the outside looking in. An amateur's view with no industry commitment or direct ties. The views offered are as an "end-user" rather than an employee/trade representative. I like to think that my own articles are the sort of comments I'd make if I was talking to you whilst we were out walking together one day (possibly with more swearing - ahem)

But on that basis alone the Blog as a communication vehicle can be in danger of becoming a diary. Not to my own preference. To dig deeper into the trends and goings-on in the Outdoor world I decided this year to get behind the scenes a little more, not just to attend more shows and meet-ups, but to ask the sort of questions that you may pose, given the same opportunity.

My first insight in this new role was an awareness of the power of the Press Pass. It could work like a magnet, or a danger sign.Some staff at the '08 NEC Show were happy to chat about Outdoor matters, especially the retail/ideas scene. Others would clearly be checking me out. Assessing my publicity factor, and the likelihood of using my services for their own PR benefit. Fair enough - floorspace at the NEC doesn't come cheap after all.

In turn I was watchful of body language to spot whether I was talking with an enthusiast, delivering something they thought was important to the UK Outdoor scene; Or a corporate/sales representative, there to deliver a product as a career pro.

Happily I found less of the latter type, but the speed with which I could be passed around a stand to the 'appropriate spokesperson' typically indicated how much real information I was likely to glean. In certain cases my greeting was positively dismissive, and sometimes just very confused if it fell outside the parameters of the person's immediate product knowledge.

I recall one conversation on walking the Hadrian Wall Long Distance Path. Wildcamping naturally. Despite the stand being created to only promote the HWLDP, and staffed by people local to that geographical area, I'd obviously requested information not on their Show FAQ sheet. Much confusion and shaking of heads as they realised that I didn't fit their preferred customer profile, and hence I received a total lack of real information. A lost opportunity, but easily resolved if there had been just one person could understand the LDP experience, and those who seek it in their own way.

Post show reflection revealed one important factor that the Blog can deliver, aside from those instant feedback reports. We can ask the idiot or difficult questions, unconcerned about any potential conflict with a retailer tie-in, or advertiser funding. Where a product didn't make sense, or was poorly presented, as a potential customer this would be challenged. And our personal opinion, based on what we are told, and our reaction to it, is available for your own consumption. To assist you in forming your own view, if you want to pickit up.

But that line we tread is a thin one, with an implied obligation to try to understand the commercial reality of those offering change, whilst considering what is offered from our own stance as a potential user of that offering.

It can be interesting at times, especially when peeking under the lid of what drives the Outdoor industry. Often it is hard work, done at our own personal expense, particularly when it diverts scarce free time better spent on our own outdoor forays.

So why do it? Is it the urge to share that love of the outdoors and pass on personal experience to help others get that vital kick from the Outdoor's wilder places? Or maybe because it can be Fun as you get to meet those characters that are names read in books and magazines.

Whatever the reason. If you can string several words together, and fancy a trip to Germany next year (at your expense) to see the latest Outdoor buzzes, why not drop Roman a line, and try it for yourself.

The hours will be long. The financial reward is low (i.e.£0) But the potential to get in amongst what the Outdoor industry has to offer is there for the taking.

Oh. And let's assume plenty of strong German Bier for those essential post show review meetings.

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Excellent piece. I hate it when you are this good ^__^

You also should mention that we bloggers are also free of the space limitation as well. So when we review something we can write as much as we like on the item and include plenty of pictures. How many mags can do that? We are also free to write about stuff that would not make it into a magazine as it would be too niche.
.......and many more reasons I;m certain
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