Whitelines began life in a tiny office outside Oxford. Its mission – and that of its sister title Sidewalk Skateboard Mag – was simple: showcase the local scene, have fun, and stoke out the readers.
The founding editor duly obliged. Between news on the ‘thieves and rich kids’ that make up British snowboarding, he basically just took the piss. There were the ever-changing names on the spine of the magazine (Corpse Disposal Made Easy, Dwarf Throwing Monthly, Fun with Uranium), the random geese photoshopped onto action shots, interviews with local tramps and an infamous summer rollercoaster tour. Not all of it was strictly shred-related but hey, photos (not to mention travel budget) were in short supply in 1995. Creativity was the order of the day.
As the magazine established itself and gained more contributors, the stories broadened out. Snowboarding’s scope has been explored from the UK snowdomes all the way to Kashmir, Iran, Antarctica and beyond. We’ve sat down for a chat with every kind of rider, from Terje Haakonsen to an up-and-coming dryslope kid called Jamie Nicholls. And we’ve tested more toys than Santa’s elves in the noble cause of providing gear advice – a tough job, yes, but somebody’s got to do it.
These days, Whitelines and Sidewalk have moved out of that dusty two-roomed office in Abingdon and are part of a bigger publishing house, Factory Media – alongside many respected action sports titles including Dirt Mountain Bike, RideUK BMX and Onboard. Having that kind of backing has enabled us, as a group, to grow our online brands and keep up with the times. In fact WL now reaches many, many more people via its website and social media channels than we ever have in print – several million a month this past winter.
As digital has grown, of course, the print market has got tougher – both in terms of advertising and news trade. It’s the same old story we hear about with newspapers, record labels and TV channels: the internet is taking over. You only have to walk down a train carriage and see the number of smartphones, laptops, iPads and kindles to see how reading habits have evolved – and while this represents a brave new world to some of us, it is the natural order of things to a generation of snowboarders for whom picking up a physical magazine – like buying music – has never seemed necessary. With all that in mind, I explained in my last editorial (WL120) that I was about to concentrate on the online side from next winter, leaving the deputy editor to head up print.
Well, these are fast moving times indeed, and with the ink barely dry on that issue our publishers have announced their bold intention to cease producing paper magazines altogether – that’s Whitelines, Sidewalk, Dirt, Onboard… the whole Factory Media stable. As dramatic as it sounds, this is not some fire sale; the mags were still viable. However, they were gradually becoming a smaller part of the picture whilst still demanding the lion’s share of our time.
So why not keep offering both? Online content for the instant fix and print for that tactile experience we know and love? Well, though we appreciate the merits of print better than anyone (mags do look awesome on the coffee table and can turn bathroom visits into a daily highlight) we also know exactly how much effort they take to create. They are labours of love that cannot just happen ‘on the side’, and we owe it to our online readers – which is to say, the majority – to provide the best possible experience. Beautiful, one-off special issues? Never say never. But continuing to juggle both formats every day would be like trying to plot the future of music from the counter of a vinyl record store.
Factory Media’s proposal to sacrifice print frees up the editorial staff to channel all that passion and energy into their websites, including this one. As a team, we’re obviously gutted to see the end of a paper publication into which we poured heart and soul over two decades. But with the good ship WL celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, we’re also excited to see where – with a renewed focus and a healthy budget – we can take it next. Expect a slicker website delivering more unique video, more gear reviews, more how to’s, more travel… more of all the things you enjoy. In 2015, original, high quality content is the order of the day.
Ultimately, however, it’s just about staying true to that original goal of stoking out the readers; if you guys are here online, then that’s where we need to be.
To everyone that has ever bought a copy of the magazine, I would like to extend a personal thank you – and most especially to those subscribers who have been fundamental in supporting WL this long (don’t worry, you’ll be contacted regarding any outstanding subscriptions). To our contributors – the photographers, writers, riders, artists and designers - thanks for making the mag what it was, and I look forward to working with you in a digital stylee.
I hope that you’ll all stay with us as we take you down this new line. And trust me: there will be powder.