Archive for the ‘January 2011’ Category

Public Forums

Pundits who lament the end of civility in society often reference the poor conduct that takes place on various public internet forums. In fact, this loss of civility is especially problematic on such forums precisely because the users are allowed anonymity.

When I launched the Rodbuilding.org website (www.rodbuilding.org) in early 2002, I created a different type of public forum than the norm. One of the rules I instituted was that users would be required to use their actual first and last names. Of course, I got quite a bit of flak for this requirement, but I figured that anyone that wasn’t willing to put their actual name on any comment they made is likely up to some sort of no good to begin with. It’s been that particular requirement, in fact, that has made Rodbuilding.org such a nice place to participate and surely one of the reasons that it’s been so terribly successful.

Although public forums will always be haunted by a few out to cause trouble, the fact is that 99% of those who use them are good, honest, decent people. In the 9 years that RBO has been online, there have been just over 7000 registered users and only a very few have been problematic. The stories about how I ban anyone that disagrees with me lacks merit. Consider that out of those 7000 users, only 16 have ever been banned, and 14 of those have been subsequently banned from other rod building forums as well.  That’s pretty strong evidence that these particular folks simply do not play well with others, anywhere.

Most important in my eyes, is that we maintain a place where rod builders can participate without fear of being insulted or ridiculed. This not only ensures an active and helpful forum, but fosters an atmosphere where the rod building industry, the companies that make and sell the stuff we use, feel good about participating as well.

Tom Kirkman

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Magazine Update…

When RodMaker Magazine debuted in early 1998, it consisted of a small page number, black & white publication. Mid-way through 1998, I doubled the page count. At the start of 1999, I added a full color cover and full color photo gallery for the centerfold. But the bulk of the magazine remained in black & white.

While I would have preferred a full color publication from the very start, each page of full color photographs required an additional cost of $900… per page! Remember, we’re not talking about a low-end newspaper type publication – RodMaker is a high quality publication produced at 300 line screen and on heavy, glossy, bright white media. It’s already expensive enough to produce without an additional $30,000 or so per issue for full color on every single page. But, that’s about to change…

Beginning with the Volume 14 #2 issue, due out in April 2011, RodMaker Magazine will move to a 100% full color publication. Even better for our readers – there will be NO increase in subscription price! That makes RodMaker, already the biggest bang for your rod building buck, an even better value once again.

And there’s more… later this summer we’ll either increase the page count once again, or move to a monthly publication. Stay tuned!

Tom Kirkman

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2011 Expo Floor Plan

Following is the current floor plan for the 2011 International Custom Rod Building Exposition. While minor changes and/or additions are likely to take place over the next couple of weeks, what you see here is pretty much what you’ll see in person on February 26 &27, 2011.

Out of necessity, the exhibit hall has been enlarged this year. Many exhibitors purchased additional booth space for the 2011 event (they’re bringing more “stuff” for you to see!). Therefore, two formerly false walls have been removed which will make the hall a bit longer overall and a bit wider in the southwest corner.

I’ll update the plan in a couple weeks as I pencil in the last few exhibitors. See you there!

Tom Kirkman

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Visit the official Expo website at www.rodexpo.com

Expo Numbers

I like working with numbers. Viewed in the proper context, they can tell you a great deal.

The International Custom Rod Building Exposition has grown each and every year. Starting in 2004 with a crowd of just over 500 rod builders, the event pulled in almost 2500 rod builders in 2010. At some point, it will surely top out and no further growth will be possible. Or will it?

Beginning in 2010, a statistical index was added to the administration portion of the official Expo website. It allows me to view how many folks are viewing the page each day, or even each hour. It records how many “hits” we get, how many pageviews and how long each person stays on a particular page.

This past month I’ve been extremely interested in the actual number of individuals (unique IP addresses) that view the site each day. That number will skyrocket about one week after I send out a round of direct mail postcards. Likewise, when one of the Expo print ads hits the stands, that number climbs steeply for a few days.

This year, the amount of advertising for the Expo has been effectively tripled. And… the site stats tell me that folks are seeing the ads and taking a few minutes to visit the website. The thing is, even with the amount of additional advertising I can’t explain the absolutely huge increase we’re seeing in individual visits to the website this year.

Take a look at last year’s individual visits for the 2nd week of January, 2010:

Now take a look at this year’s number of individual visits for roughly this same time period in January 2011:

Something’s up. Not sure what it is but I’m happy to see it. Of course, none of this means that everyone that visits the website will attend the Expo. Regardless, the numbers are up. Way up. And it would be pretty rare for such an increase in overall interest to result in anything but the continued growth of the Expo in 2011.

Tom Kirkman

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The Mainstream Rod Building Craft

Where is the average custom rod builder? I’m talking less about geography and more along the lines of where you’d be most likely to run into the bulk of those who practice this craft.  Where does the mainstream craft reside? Because I deal with two vastly different mediums, the internet (www.rodbuilding.org) and the print industry (RodMaker Magazine), I have a good idea where the mainstream craft actually resides.

Many folks these days think the mainstream custom rod building craft, and those who participate in it, are centered around the internet. But that’s a very inaccurate assessment when you take a hard look at the number of builders active on the various rod building forums combined, versus the total number of builders known to practice the craft.

If you take every rod builder who’s actively participated on an internet forum by making a post of some sort in the past year, you’re only talking a few hundred. Of course, there are more lurkers than posters, but even still, add up every single registered user on every single rod building website and you’re still only talking about a few hundred people.

RodMaker Magazine has over 15,000 rod builders on its current mailing list – that’s several times over the total number of builders active on all the internet forums and chat rooms combined. And yet, even those 15,000 represent but a single digit percentage of all the custom rod builders out there.

Per the registration cards from the International Custom Rod Building Exposition, less than 1 in 10 of the roughly 2000 builders who attend each year learned about the Expo from the internet. The overwhelming number report that they heard about the Expo from the direct mail postcards sent out prior to each year’s event. Most say they’ve never visited any internet rod building website.

According to a study performed by the ASA about a decade ago, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 people who will build their own fishing rod in any given year. Granted, not all continue in the craft for very long but as some fall away others take their place. That number would seem to remain fairly constant. So where are they?

Big, successful companies don’t get that way by doing stupid things. Cabelas continues to print and mail hundreds of thousands of their specialty TackleCraft catalogs each year (and millions of their general product catalogs). Mud Hole Custom Tackle and Jann’s Netcraft are two of the few that continue to print and mail thousands upon thousands of component supply catalogs each year. They certainly wouldn’t take such a huge expense if they could simply reach the majority of the craft via the internet. But they can’t and they’re smart enough to realize it. In fact, the most successful rod building component supply houses are the ones that continue to publish and mail print catalogs.

The fact is, the smart money knows that what you see and read on the various rod building websites, forums and chat rooms compromises but a tiny segment of the overall, far larger, mainstream custom rod building craft. If you’re involved in the rod building industry and have lately focused most of your marketing resources on the internet, you’re missing at least 90% of the business. For now, the bulk of the mainstream rod building craft isn’t to be found on the internet. In fact, 90% of the craft, or better, will never read this precisely because it’s appearing on the internet. Ironic, huh?

Tom Kirkman

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A Good Idea, part 2

Continued from yesterday…

As Tom Greek was telling me that he was dropping his collective advertising service for his organization members, I countered with an idea for doing the same thing in a manner that wouldn’t require as much of his time. Something that would be almost self supporting and require far less of his time to operate.

My idea was to shift the collective advertising and manual referral service to an online service. It would consist of a national, even worldwide database, of professional custom rod builders listed via a drop-down state by state menu. In order to be successful, of course, the service would have to be advertised in national and local print magazines. After all, fishermen interested in pursuing the purchase of a custom rod would have no idea the service was available unless they saw it advertised in the very magazines they read.

That last part, the required print advertising, was the part that Tom wanted no further part of. In his mind, it already required too much expense against too little revenue. He respectfully bowed out of any such online service and shortly thereafter handed the remnants of his original organization over to his members in the form of a simple rod building club (in time they did implement a copy of my idea, but without the print advertising required to make it effective).

As you can imagine, some of Tom’s original members, many of whom had paid $150 in yearly dues, were not too happy about the change in direction. Due to my involvement in launching and promoting the organization, they pressed me to move forward with the online referral service idea in a separate venture. On their behalf, I did so.

In 2002, Tackleworks (www.tackleworks.org) was launched. Print advertisements in several national and many local fishing publications began and continue to this day.  The service currently lists over 125 professional custom rod builders. The fee to join is minimal and is a one-time, lifetime, fee.  Quite a few members report that the service has delivered them a good deal of business. Others report that the service has delivered few or no sales leads for them.

Bottom line – Tackleworks remains a viable service and one that can and will continue to grow over time. A renewed advertising campaign is in the works and as the internet continues to see more and more growth, I believe the best Tackleworks has to offer is yet to come. Stay tuned.

Tom Kirkman

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A Good Idea, part 1

In November of 1998, I received a call from Bob McKamey at Custom Tackle Supply in Tennessee. Bob said that he had a friend there that wished to speak with me if I had a spare moment. So we spoke. The man’s name was Tom Greek and he said he had a business proposition to discuss with me, in person if possible. I agreed and was somewhat surprised when he said he was leaving Tennessee at that moment and heading my way. Said he’d see me in about 6 hours. True to his estimate, he arrived in just about that time and we left together to discuss his proposal over dinner.

Tom informed me that he was an insurance salesman but was looking at a new business to help fund his retirement years. It consisted of an organization for professional custom rod builders that would act as a collective advertising and referral service for its members. Tom’s idea centered around the fact that the individual custom rod builder couldn’t possibly compete with the marketing of the mega manufacturers. But collectively, he felt the custom builders could effectively compete. He told me that he’d been kicking the idea around for a while but had no means for launching his idea or reaching the rod builders. He said that RodMaker Magazine was the key to getting his idea off the ground and asked for my involvement and help.

I agreed to help him at no charge. In the Volume 2 #1 (January 1999)  issue of RodMaker Magazine, I launched the Custom Rod Builder’s Guild to the general rod building public. As planned, Tom Greek followed with a referral advertisement in the first quarter issue of Sporting Classics Magazine. Referral requests poured in. Another collective advertisement followed and again, referral requests poured in. So many, in fact, that Tom felt inundated and fell behind on sending those referrals to his members. Towards the end of that first year, he turned over the task of forwarding the referrals to Winston-Salem rod builder and organization member Mike Bolt. Mike was quickly buried under some 400 referrals that had never been forwarded to the members. And by that time, those referrals had gone stale. Some were over 10 months old. A tremendous opportunity had been missed.

Tom’s idea had merit. So much so, that it had exceeded his expectations to the extent that he felt his this present business occupation didn’t allow enough time for him to operate the very organization he had hoped would carry him into and beyond retirement.  Shortly afterwards, during one of our usual Sunday morning telephone conversations, he told me it was time to back away from the referral service – the very core reason for launching his organization. He was calling it quits.

Tomorrow – The death of one idea, the birth of another.

Tom Kirkman

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The Rest of the Story…

Some stories can only be told after the subject is no longer with us. Shortly after commissioning Gene Bullard to write for RodMaker Magazine in 2005, an episode began in which one of the very earliest rods which Gene had built in the mid-1960’s began a voyage which resulted in both a sad and a happy ending.

The rod in question sported what may have been among the very first decorative crosswraps ever placed on a custom fishing rod. It resided at the home of owner Ron Allison from Texas, a long time friend and customer of Gene’s. Ron sent the rod to me for use in Andy Dear’s RodMaker interview with Gene. After photographing the rod, I was instructed to send it to Richard Jankauskas in Florida, who also wished to photograph it for his personal collection. At that point, Richard then shipped the rod back home to Ron. That last shipment is where things went awry.

Somewhere on the voyage between Richard and Ron, the rod disappeared. Although insured for $2000, the shipper denied the claim. Richard did everything in his power to prove the historical value of the rod, but the shipper continued to deny the claim for that amount. After all, how could an old fishing rod possibly be worth $2000?

Richard then sent me a personal note and informed me that the shipper was adamant that the claim would not be paid without a letter from an “authority” which would establish a credible value for the rod. He requested that I write the claim manager and attempt to convince him of the rod’s value. I did so.

A week later, the manager paid the claim in the full amount. But the story does not end there…

Both Richard and Ron preferred that Gene not know that the rod had been lost. Nor did Ron want the money for what had been his rod. He preferred, instead, that the claim money be sent anonymously to Gene for help with medical expenses incurred against the illness that would eventually take his life. And so it was.

As Paul Harvey might have said, “…And that’s the rest of the story.”

Tom Kirkman

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Volume 13 Complete!

The year 2010 and Volume 13 is now complete. The best year in RodMaker’s history with not only more readers than at any time in our history, but the biggest and best issues we’ve ever produced!

RodMaker Magazine remains the premier publication for custom rod builders. RodMaker also remains the least expensive publication for custom rod builders. With value like that, it’s not hard to understand why rod builders have made it the most widely circulated and read magazine in the history of our craft and industry.

One of the reasons I started this blog was so that I could offer folks special bargains from time to time. So here we go – if you’re not a subscriber and would like to obtain all 6 issues from Volume 13, I’ll make it easy for you. Mail a check for $30 to RodMaker, PO Box 1322, High Point, NC 27262 and I’ll pack up all 6 issues and mail them to you via USPS Priority Mail at no extra charge. This offer is good only by mail order and only until January 20th, 2011. Enjoy!

Tom Kirkman

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Volume 13 #1

Veneered Carbon Tube Handles

Rod Building Symbol Weave

Fitting Multi-Piece Ferrules

A Removable/Replaceable Butt Cap

Retrofitting Reel Seats

The Sizmatic Ferrule

Letters

Rod Building News

Q&A Column

Color Photo Gallery

Rod Building History

More!

Volume 13 #2

Free Form Thread Wraps

Wine Corks to Rod Grips

Soft Leash Attachment Points for Kayak Rods

2010 ICRBE Rod Expo Report

The Speed Merchant

Letters

Rod Building News

Q&A Column

Color Photo Gallery

Rod Building History

More!

Volume 13 #3

LSH/USH Handle Revisited

Swivel Mount Tool Bases

Shop Tour – Williams Custom Rods

Weight Reduction Facts

Fit & Finish – Glue Lines

PVC Checkerboard Clamps

Kayak Trolling Rod

Carbon Skin Finishing

The LSH/Ush Handle

Letters

Rod Building News

Q&A Column

Color Photo Gallery

Rod Building History

More!

Volume 13 #4

Heavy Duty Saltwater Rod Construction

The Case for Offering Bamboo

Creating Reel Seat Windows

The Marchisella Cutting Jig

Lessons Learned

Fit & Finish – Component Junctions

Two-Part Baitcasting Handles

Letters

Rod Building News

Q&A Column

Color Photo Gallery

Rod Building History

More!

Volume 13 #5

Invisible Identification Rod Security

Building Kite Rods

The Sparkler Wrap

Overview of Early Rods

The Extend-A-Butt

A Simpler Cork Clamp

Drying Burls

Blank Safe Tiptop Removal

Hooking a Generation

Letters

Rod Building News

Q&A Column

Color Photo Gallery

Rod Building History

More!

Volume 13 #6

Clear Acrylic Handles

60 Years of Rod Development

Overhead Blank Storage Rack

Batman Weave Pattern

What about Rod Spine?

Dancing Star Wrap

Another View – Bamboo Rod Blanks

Gudebrod Thread History

Letters

Rod Building News

Q&A Column

Color Photo Gallery

Rod Building History

More!

The Proof is in the Pudding

Shortly after I launched RodMaker Magazine, I got a call from a former magazine editor/publisher who wished to offer me a great deal of advice.  After listening patiently for about 30 minutes, I asked him how his publishing ventures had faired. He quickly admitted that all 4 of the magazines he had been responsible for had failed.

The proof is always in the pudding. The question for any publisher wishing success is this … “What do the readers want?” Give them what they want and you’ll succeed. Fail to give them what they want and you’ll fail. It’s that simple.

Many editors and publishers run into trouble when they begin reading their publications from a strictly personal point of view.  We all believe that what we write and/or print should be of interest to everyone else. Whether or not it actually is, however, is found in the subscription numbers. It makes little difference what you think they should like.  If your numbers are up and rising – keep doing what you’re doing. If those numbers are stagnant or falling, however, it’s time to do something different.

I speak with a lot of publishers. Some are experiencing hard times but few of them will accept the idea that what they’re printing may not be of particular interest to their readers. They don’t want to hear that what they personally feel is a tremendous story or idea, could possibly be of little interest to their readers. But let’s face it, if the majority of their content was of interest to their readers, they wouldn’t be facing a falling circulation.

The proof is always in the pudding. RodMaker has always been light on editorials and heavy on practical rod building articles – “how-to” type stuff. The renewal rate remains above 70% and the daily number of new subscribers more than offsets any attrition. That’s how I know RodMaker remains on the right track. The proof is always in the pudding. Editors and/or publishers that fail to understand this fall by the wayside sooner or later. Usually sooner than later.

Tom Kirkman

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