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Getting “The Bight” – A Fisherman’s Dream – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Brandon Hayward, Publisher, Editor-In-Chief, The Bight magazine.

September 28, 2015

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…


“And I think that no matter what happens people are always going to be thirsty for good reads and information. I know that I have romanticized visions of print because I’ve worked in it for my short career after college, the last 12 years, but I just think that print is the perfect medium for this type of project. I don’t think this same project would work online, with the book type thing going on. I just don’t think people want to read 6,000 word features online or on their phones. They want to read short, punchy things and to not take anything away from a lot of current magazines, but my opinion is that a lot of magazines are trying too hard to be like the web, shortening down their content, making columns that are super, super short and blog-like, using hashtags and @ symbols.” Brandon Hayward

bight_cover_grande A fishing journal that serves its audience with both beauty and information; The Bight is reminiscent of reading one of the literary masters, with its long-form storytelling and vivid imagery. The magazine is named for the waters around Southern California where sport fishing was born in that area, with the word bight defined as a curve or recess in a coastline, for the most part. And with a slight hint of that ultimate fishing experience: getting the first “bight.” The title alone lets you know you’re in for a saltwater fishing expedition unlike any you’ve ever known from a magazine.

Brandon Hayward is the captain aboard this particular boat and admits The Bight isn’t for everyone; it definitely isn’t your run-of-the-mill, how-to-fish, where-to-fish magazine. It’s epic adventure, told in a lengthy way; it’s big, bold photo-essays that show no signs of stressing about how much room they take up within the pages of the magazine and it’s both excitement and relaxation for the reader. It’s the ultimate saltwater experience for that target audience.

I spoke with Brandon recently and we talked about The Bight and his goals for the magazine. And about the charter boat business he also owns that allows him the foundation for his printed dream. It was a fun and interesting discussion about a man, his love for the sea and print magazines, and a concept that involves limited advertising, long flowing journalism and photos that are breathtaking and come alive on the pages.

So, grab your deck shoes and your seafaring ways and climb aboard for a trip around The Bight. The Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brandon Hayward.

But first, the sound-bites:

On how he came up with the idea for The Bight and the reason behind its very upscale look and upscale cover price: I thought there were plenty of publications out there about “how to fish” and “where to fish,” so I wanted to come up with something that was more about the culture of fishing and more about why we fish and the people we meet along the way. And I had written three books on saltwater fishing before, so I thought that my kind of fan base, if you will, would take just fine to a $15 piece of printed material.

On why it’s only biannual and if there’s a plan to increase the frequency:
My plan is in 2017 to go to three per year, and then two years from then in 2019, to go to a quarterly. I have another business too, I own a charter fishing boat and I do, dare I say, not upscale, but I take limited groups on big game fishing trips in Southern California. I do that quite often. I don’t have the staffing or the manpower to do more than two per year.

Brandon Hayward practicing what he preaches...

Brandon Hayward practicing what he preaches…


On why he chose print for The Bight and why he thinks people still enjoy the tactile experience of actually holding a magazine in their hands:
The fishing industry has a smaller, less connected audience; it’s an older demographic. Fishing is actually kind of trendy right now and there are a lot of young people, teenagers and twenty-something’s, doing it. But still, the people who prop up the fishing industry are the baby boomer generation and the ones with resources; they spend time and money on fishing. They’re also the type of people who relate to print products a lot and still like buying fishing magazines.

On that “aha” moment when he decided he wanted to do his magazine similar to The Surfer’s Journal concept: It happened when I went over to The Surfer’s Journal and I talked to its owners and publishers, the Pezman’s, and they said they would help me to get the first issue out the door. We decided to do the first issue together and then we would reassess about whether to do a partnership or whether I would do it by myself. After doing the first issue, Steve Pezman was really looking to work less these days and not more, so I ended up taking it on by myself, but that moment was definitely when Steve and Debbee Pezman said, OK – we’ll partner up on this idea.

On how successful he envisions The Bight to be:
If I could get 20,000 subscribers, I would be very happy, and looking at the competing titles that are out there, and just the pool of West Coast anglers, I definitely think that’s attainable. And you don’t have to be from the West Coast to enjoy this magazine because it’s so high-end. So, I think once I get to 10,000 subscribers, I’ll have something really legitimate and my goal is to carve out 20,000 subscribers.

On where he came up with the name “The Bight” and the whole culture of fishing concept:
The definition of a bight is that curved indenture in the coast. And here in Southern California, we have a bight, it’s called the Southern California bight and it goes from Point Conception to the Mexican border and both of those points are kind of dividing lines in terms of where we catch certain species of fish. It’s a different world north of Point Conception, with cooler water, and down here, we get more of the exotics. But the double meaning part is the bight is an area that fish sort of find irresistible. And it’s a very specific style of fishing in Southern California with the rods and reels and the tackle, so it demands that it have its own kind of title for this area. In terms of the culture of fishing and why I’m into it; I’ve just never had any other job my entire adult life, besides working in fishing. My summer job when I was in high school and in college was being a deckhand on fishing boats in San Diego. Somehow when I got out of college I landed into outdoor writing and this is something that I’d rather do.

On whether he thought of linking his charter business to subscriptions of the magazine and whether he keeps copies of The Bight onboard when he’s booked for a fishing trip:
Yes, I have it on the boat and a lot of my charter customers are people who have followed my outdoor writing over the last 10 years, so they’re familiar with it. I’ve thought about doing the combined charter/magazine approach, but I just didn’t want to force anyone into subscribing. But I definitely think there’s some sort of a play there that could come with it for sure.

On his dream goal for the magazine:
I’ll feel like I’ve made it with The Bight when I, and I wouldn’t even have to hit that 20,000 mark, when I get around that 10,000 number and I start treating The Bight more like my primary source of income versus my charter fishing, that’s when I’ll say I’m happy and I’ve sort of “made it,” if you will.

On what makes him click and tick and motivates him to get up in the mornings:
On the professional front, getting something from a contributor that just blows your socks off. For example, there are a few rafts of photography that we got for the issue that comes out in November, where as soon as I saw them I was just so excited to hook into the words and think about layouts, because it’s really neat, you’ll get these bundles, and it’s like going fishing. A good fishing magazine, in my opinion, or a good fill-in-the-blank magazine that’s about some sort of discipline, should make you feel like you just did that activity. So, I get the same excitement that I get from catching a big fish or putting a client on a big fish when I get one of these incredible groups of photography or when someone hits me with words that are just really wonderful.

On the fact that so far his colors for the magazine have been bright and bold and what the colors for the November issue might be: The color for November is very, very dark and instead of a shot that involves water and fish, it’s a person on the cover this time. And there are also a few tweaks in terms of cover design. I realized that with all of our issues, this fall issue, the two we do a year; the fall issue is the one issue that we don’t sell or release if there’s a big fishing trade show called the Fred Hall Show. So, I wanted to try on something different instead of having something expected, like the real bright color, I wanted to try something a little bit different this time and see how it’s received.

On anything else he’d like to add:
The default with a lot of people anytime you talk about magazines or mention anything about print is that it’s dead and I just think with The Bight there’s something different and that we’re able to do big huge photo-essays, 20-plus pages, long-form journalism, 4,000 to 8,000 word features, and by having this edit well, that has no advertising in it; it’s a real editorial playground.

On what keeps him up at night:
On a professional front, what keeps me up at night is I know that The Bight could hit that 20,000 mark and I know that it could really take hold and be a lot stronger if I had more of my own time and resources to dedicate to it. I do this charter fishing business and sometimes I’m up at 2:00 a.m. and getting home at 8:00 p.m. on those trips or I’m fishing all night for white seabass or lobster and it really takes a lot of my mental and physical bandwidth to run a charter boat.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Brandon Hayward, publisher & editor-in-chief, The Bight.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the magazine, it’s very well done. Tell me a little about The Bight; how did you come up with the idea for the magazine and why did you decide to go very upscale and very expensive with it?

Brandon Hayward: I’m 35-years-old, so most people in my position, their default plan would most probably be to try and do something online with a digital magazine or something like that. But after college I started working for a weekly newspaper called Western Outdoor News and it was more about how to go fishing and topics like that than anything else.

And a few buildings down from us there was a publication called The Surfer’s Journal, same concept as The Bight, limited advertising, maximum content, and something that was a real evergreen and would live with the reader forever.

I thought there were plenty of publications out there about “how to fish” and “where to fish,” so I wanted to come up with something that was more about the culture of fishing and more about why we fish and the people we meet along the way.

And I had written three books on saltwater fishing before, so I thought that my kind of fan base, if you will, would take just fine to a $15 piece of printed material.

Samir Husni: And why only biannual? Why not four times a year or six times a year; is there a plan to increase the frequency?

Brandon Hayward: My plan is in 2017 to go to three per year, and then two years from then in 2019, to go to a quarterly. I have another business too, I own a charter fishing boat and I do, dare I say, not upscale, but I take limited groups on big game fishing trips in Southern California. I do that quite often. I don’t have the staffing or the manpower to do more than two per year. And I’m not in a financial position where I can just stop my guiding and go all in on The Bight, because it’s a startup and as you can imagine, it costs a lot for buyouts and printing and everything else.

Samir Husni: You’re 35-years-old, and according to your demographic, you should be more absorbed with the digital sphere of consuming content, yet the fishing and the deep-sea fishing activities you’re involved in all require touching and feeling. You can’t have a virtual fishing trip and get the same enjoyment. That said, why do you think people still cherish the print experience, holding that magazine in their hands and relishing the feel of it?

Brandon Hayward: To me it’s a combination of two different things. One is that the fishing industry has a smaller, less connected audience; it’s an older demographic. Fishing is actually kind of trendy right now and there are a lot of young people, teenagers and twenty-something’s, doing it. But still, the people who prop up the fishing industry are the baby boomer generation and the ones with resources; they spend time and money on fishing. They’re also the type of people who relate to print products a lot and still like buying fishing magazines.

And what’s happened with a lot of publications is that ad dollars have gotten kind of snugger and they’ve had a tougher go at it. As you know, there’s not even a line anymore between ads, advertorial and content; there’s a lot of buy-this-ad-and-we’ll-write-a-story-about-you. But we don’t do any of that stuff; we are a real purist publication and we do no more than 14 advertisers or sponsors. I think a lot of the readers out there got tired of the BS reading experience, where they’re just reading advertorials and they know they’re getting something pure with us.

Samir Husni: When you decided to publish The Bight, and you mentioned earlier The Surfer’s Journal, which in fact I have every copy of that magazine in my office, what was that “aha” moment when you saw The Surfer’s Journal and you knew that you wanted to do your own magazine similar to that? What was the genesis of that I-must-do-this-magazine feeling?

Brandon Hayward: It happened when I went over to The Surfer’s Journal and I talked to its owners and publishers, the Pezman’s, and they said they would help me to get the first issue out the door. We decided to do the first issue together and then we would reassess about whether to do a partnership or whether I would do it by myself.

After doing the first issue, Steve Pezman was really looking to work less these days and not more, so I ended up taking it on by myself, but that moment was definitely when Steve and Debbee Pezman said, OK – we’ll partner up on this idea.

But currently, with the issue that’s out now and the one coming out in November and from here on out; I’m the sole owner of the magazine. I own 100%.

Samir Husni: As you look at your competitive set, we all know that even the specialty magazines are having trouble in terms of advertising and ad revenue mainly because of the economy. How big do you envision The Bight to become? For a magazine to have a cover price of $15, immediately you’re saying “I have a very specific audience and they are who I’m after.”

Brandon Hayward: If I could get 20,000 subscribers, I would be very happy, and looking at the competing titles that are out there, and just the pool of West Coast anglers, I definitely think that’s attainable. And you don’t have to be from the West Coast to enjoy this magazine because it’s so high-end. So, I think once I get to 10,000 subscribers, I’ll have something really legitimate and my goal is to carve out 20,000 subscribers. And as I said, that would make me very happy.

The thing about The Bight is it’s not for every fisherman; we cater to, dare I say, kind of a little bit of an affluent, more white-collar type of reader. So, there are a lot of specific things to The Bight that sort of whittles down the potential reader pool: the cover price, as you said, the type of content that we have and the fact that we’re not about where to fish or how to fish. Some people want a publication that’s going to tell them how to tie knots, where to go catch a big fish, that type of thing. And while I know some of that is going to interlace within our content, there are not a lot of how-to fishing articles in it.
But I also know that has already been done and the reader is a little bit bored with some of that.

Samir Husni: For some reason and I don’t really know why, the magazine reminded me of reading Ernest Hemingway’s, “The Old Man and the Sea,” which I read in 7th grade English class in Lebanon. It invoked those same feelings. Tell me where you came up with the name The Bight and that whole culture of fishing. As a 35-year-old man; how did you combine your joy of fishing and taking people on chartered fishing trips, with living the “culture” of fishing from a literary point of view?

The Bight, here we come...

The Bight, here we come…

Brandon Hayward: When I was naming the title, two different names sort of rattled around in my head, but I wanted to have something that kind of had a double meaning and something that not everyone would get, but if you saw it, you’d get it immediately.

The definition of a bight is that curved indenture in the coast. And here in Southern California, we have a bight, it’s called the Southern California bight and it goes from Point Conception to the Mexican border and both of those points are kind of dividing lines in terms of where we catch certain species of fish. It’s a different world north of Point Conception, with cooler water, and down here, we get more of the exotics.

But the double meaning part is the bight is an area that fish sort of find irresistible. And it’s a very specific style of fishing in Southern California with the rods and reels and the tackle, so it demands that it have its own kind of title for this area. And enough of it blends throughout the West Coast that it works for the whole region.

In terms of the culture of fishing and why I’m into it; I’ve just never had any other job my entire adult life, besides working in fishing. My summer job when I was in high school and in college was being a deckhand on fishing boats in San Diego. Somehow when I got out of college I landed into outdoor writing and this is something that I’d rather do.

Even when I had one of my first meetings with the Pezman’s at The Surfer’s Journal, I remember them asking that even if I didn’t make any money at this would I still do it, and I said yes I would; I just love outdoor writing; I love this area and I think there’s something kind of missing in the landscape.

Samir Husni: Have you considered offering the magazine as a combined perk of your chartering business? You book a charter and you get a subscription to the magazine? Have you considered alternative ways of distributing The Bight and putting it into the hands of more readers? And do you have the magazine on the boat when you go out on a charter?

Brandon Hayward: Yes, I have it on the boat and a lot of my charter customers are people who have followed my outdoor writing over the last 10 years, so they’re familiar with it. I’ve thought about doing the combined charter/magazine approach, but I just didn’t want to force anyone into subscribing. But I definitely think there’s some sort of a play there that could come with it for sure.

Samir Husni: When you were asked if you would publish the magazine if you weren’t making any money and you said yes, that’s very noble to say, but at the end of the day we all know that this is a business and if you’re not making money, you can’t afford to just keep on publishing. What’s your long-term goal? Let’s say by next year you have 20,000 subscribers; is that the mark where you’ll say, “I’ve made it, this is it.” Or what’s your dream goal with this magazine?

Brandon Hayward: We’ve done three issues; the third issue is coming out and the other two have been profitable, just based on the model, it’s more like a book than a magazine, so there’s limited advertising, but we’re not cheap; we charge $6,000 for a spread, inside front and back covers, $3,000 for a spread in the book, and $2,500 for a single page.

The reason why there’s only a $500 difference between the inside-book spread and the single page is that my long-term goal is to get all spread advertising in it and get rid of the single pages and the way that I’ve gone about that is to just make it a small bump for a company to go from a single page to a spread.

I’ll feel like I’ve made it with The Bight when I, and I wouldn’t even have to hit that 20,000 mark, when I get around that 10,000 number and I start treating The Bight more like my primary source of income versus my charter fishing, that’s when I’ll say I’m happy and I’ve sort of “made it,” if you will.

Samir Husni: So, the day you retire the boat and become a publisher and editor-in-chief full-time is the day when you believe that you can officially say you’re there?

Brandon Hayward: I’ll never retire the boat until I truly retire from everything. Instead of doing 150 trips per year; when I start doing only 50 trips per year on my boat with my best clients and working on The Bight four days a week, that’s when I’ll say I finally got it right exactly where I want it to be.

Samir Husni: Needless to say; you’ve done a wonderful job with the magazine. I can feel your passion. I don’t know you and I’ve never met you, but I can see you through the pages of the magazine. And I can see the passion on almost every page of the publication. So, what makes you tick and click and motivates you to get up in the mornings and say it’s going to be a great day?

Brandon Hayward: On the professional front, getting something from a contributor that just blows your socks off. For example, there are a few rafts of photography that we got for the issue that comes out in November, where as soon as I saw them I was just so excited to hook into the words and think about layouts, because it’s really neat, you’ll get these bundles, and it’s like going fishing. A good fishing magazine, in my opinion, or a good fill-in-the-blank magazine that’s about some sort of discipline, should make you feel like you just did that activity. So, I get the same excitement that I get from catching a big fish or putting a client on a big fish when I get one of these incredible groups of photography or when someone hits me with words that are just really wonderful.

And I know, not that I’m a person who says this is the best ever or this is going to be the best one, but the current issue that we just sent to the printer, this is sort of the crown jewel of The Bight. It’s the one that just blends everything perfectly; the photography is incredible; it’s written well and we definitely picked it up a notch in terms of the layout and just on every level. This is the issue that really defines The Bight.

So, what makes me tick is waking up in the morning, and aside from eating breakfast with my kids and hanging out with my family; it’s hooking into that second round of proofs and looking at what’s to come. That’s definitely my passion and there’s nothing else that I’d rather do. I work both of my dream jobs and I know that’s kind of cliché and people say that about a lot of stuff, but if someone knocked on my door right now and said that I could have any job in the world, that I could do whatever I wanted; I’d have to say thanks, but I’m already doing it.

Samir Husni: I’ve noticed that you use those extremely bright colors, such as yellow for the issue zero, orange for issue one; can we get a hint of the color for the November issue?

Brandon Hayward: The color for November is very, very dark and instead of a shot that involves water and fish, it’s a person on the cover this time. And there are also a few tweaks in terms of cover design. I realized that with all of our issues, this fall issue, the two we do a year; the fall issue is the one issue that we don’t sell or release if there’s a big fishing trade show called the Fred Hall Show. So, I wanted to try on something different instead of having something expected, like the real bright color, I wanted to try something a little bit different this time and see how it’s received.

The big thing with The Bight on a sidebar is no matter what we do, we always want to be very, very surprising, so after two issues where one was an underwater picture of a fish and the second one was an above water picture of a fish with these bright colors, I wanted to really mix it up on this issue so that when people opened up their envelope and pulled their issue of The Bight out, or they get it from their tackle shop or Barnes & Noble, wherever they go to get their bound and printed magazine, they’ll say wow, this is the new one? And I feel what the cover might lack in terms of action-fishing appeal, whoa, look at that fish, I want to catch it; it’s going to make up for it in terms of people being intrigued.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that you’d like to add?

Brandon Hayward: The default with a lot of people anytime you talk about magazines or mention anything about print is that it’s dead and I just think with The Bight there’s something different and that we’re able to do big huge photo-essays, 20-plus pages, long-form journalism, 4,000 to 8,000 word features, and by having this edit well, that has no advertising in it; it’s a real editorial playground.

And I think that no matter what happens people are always going to be thirsty for good reads and information. I know that I have romanticized visions of print because I’ve worked in it for my short career after college, the last 12 years, but I just think that print is the perfect medium for this type of project. I don’t think this same project would work online, with the book type thing going on. I just don’t think people want to read 6,000 word features online or on their phones. They want to read short, punchy things and to not take anything away from a lot of current magazines, but my opinion is that a lot of magazines are trying too hard to be like the web, shortening down their content, making columns that are super, super short and blog-like, using hashtags and @ symbols.

My point is I think that when people point to magazines and titles and say they failed or went away, it’s probably because they weren’t very good magazines in the first place.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Brandon Hayward: On a professional front, what keeps me up at night is I know that The Bight could hit that 20,000 mark and I know that it could really take hold and be a lot stronger if I had more of my own time and resources to dedicate to it. I do this charter fishing business and sometimes I’m up at 2:00 a.m. and getting home at 8:00 p.m. on those trips or I’m fishing all night for white seabass or lobster and it really takes a lot of my mental and physical bandwidth to run a charter boat.

So, to do a job like that where you work minimum 14 hour days and a lot of times 18 hour days, and then come home and expect to create good content and give things a good edit is really difficult sometimes.

And what keeps me up at night is just knowing the fact that I have this really great platform, but I’m not able to dedicate 100% of my own resources to it. So, I would say that’s it, but I fall asleep knowing that I have a good, sort of mini team; we all have our own separate jobs that are all full-time, everyone that works with me on The Bight is really talented. And we piece it together and we make it happen.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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