It was Kelly Slater who first informed me of the giant swell that was about to hit the Fijian island of Tavarua. By Twitter (his handle is @kellyslater), in fact, when he announced that instead of travelling to South Africa to compete in the Billabong Pro in Jeffries Bay, he was going to chase a mega swell in Fiji.
He wasn’t alone. A collection of the world’s best big wave surfers were also heading there, as word spread that this could be an iconic session. Turns out they were right. By the next day photos and vids were pouring through online, showing perfect 20 foot waves, clear skies and some of the biggest, meanest and cleanest paddle-in waves ever recorded.
Within 48 hours other edited clips were also online, documenting a potentially historic session – including this Billabong effort showcasing their team’s entire wave-chasing mission.
So within two days I’d seen the videos, salivated over the photos and heard directly via Twitter from the main protagonists. Now coincidently, it was around the same time that a few of the world’s leading surf magazines asked me to pitch them a few new ideas. In the old days (say, two whole years ago), this swell would have taken up a good 20 pages. But the online world now has that so completely covered now that magazines simply can’t compete with this type of sexy, high definition breaking news
So what can magazines do, suddenly starved as they are of one of their main content lifelines? The simple answer is that they’ll have to adapt or die. They have to concentrate on their strengths that the new media can’t provide. Humour, for example, is often a missing ingredient as websites scramble to upload the best images the quickest.
Then there is analysis over longer time frames. Research still counts and creative ideas that need time and effort can inspire readership. Ironically, time is now the magazines’ biggest weapon against the online tide. They don’t have to compete with breaking stories, but instead can create and cultivate their own, in their own time. It’s a challenge, but an exciting one. The alternative? Well, the alternative is extinction.