Rod Building Demographics part 1

Working with two very different mediums within the same craft gives me somewhat of a unique perspective on rod building demographics. One thing I remain sure of is this – the mainstream rod building craft is not centered around the internet. At least not yet and from my perspective, it won’t be for a long time to come.

Occasionally I’ll do a cross reference between the forum database ( and the magazine mailing list (RodMaker).  I’ve never found more than a 10% cross over. The folks who use the forum and the folks who take the magazine are not even remotely the same folks!

The actual numbers are interesting too.  In 9 years the forum has gathered just over 7,000 registered users. In 14 years, the magazine has gathered just over 85,000 subscribers. A staggering difference even when you factor in the slightly longer period in which the magazine has been around. In fact, if you were to take every active user on every internet rod building forum and chat room combined, you wouldn’t likely come up with more than a few hundred rod builders at best. Toss in all the registered lurkers who view but never post and you might stretch that figure out to a couple thousand. Maybe. Conversely, RodMaker holds a constant readership of over 15,000 rod builders. Again, a staggering difference.

Most component supply dealers stopped printing catalogs a decade ago – choosing to focus solely on internet based businesses.  But the largest and most successful component supply companies continue to publish print catalogs. Why do they continue to spend so much money printing and mailing all those catalogs in this, the internet age? Simple – they’re smart enough to know that the bulk of the mainstream rod building craft isn’t centered around the internet. Most builders can’t be reached via the internet – they’re simply not there. To reach them you have to go the direct mail route. I find this to be true where the International Custom Rod Building Exposition is concerned as well. Less than 10% of the roughly 2300 who attended last year listed the internet as their source for information on the Expo.

Sure, most rod building folks are aware of and certainly use the internet, but they don’t spend a great deal of time there. Not the vast majority at least. The rod building craft is far larger than many imagine – but you’ll only find a tiny slice of it on the internet. Companies and individuals who are seeking to market to, or participate with the mainstream craft should keep the big picture in mind.  When you focus all your resources on the internet, you’re missing 90% of your potential market.

Tom Kirkman


Tomorrow – where the rod builders live…


  1. Greg Herboldt on August 25, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Cannot argue with your numbers, you would know. Speaking for myself I do use the internet a lot and read a lot of rod building message boards but have never posted anything. The conduct on public message boards of all kinds has degenerated into something that most regular people really do not want to be part of. We read but thats about it.I think most of us rod builders are older farts anyway and all the fighting and stuff is not for us.

  2. WC Colby on August 25, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    I wouldn’t give you a dime for any of the rod building forums, yours included. But I would give you a hundred dollars for a years worth of Rodmaker. Thanks for running some of my stuff. I firmly believe it is the best way to reach the majority of the serious rod builders.

  3. NJ on August 26, 2010 at 2:06 am

    The internet is not a fad and will continue to grow. But the forums and chat houses will run their course before much longer. To much conflict. I agree that most rod builders are older and will not get involved.

  4. Ken Preston on August 26, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    No arguing with your numbers facts are facts. However, demographics goes beyond current figures. Young people grew up with mobile telephones WIFI connections, hand-held computers and now 4G networks are about to become the norm. Personally I prefer hard copy catalogs I can look at several, compare and decide which products and components will “work” – which are more cost effective. Another “plus” for me is that I can open the catalog right on the rod bench, call a distributor, discuss and order the part without moving back to the computer. I certainly agree also with others that have responded = many of the forums can be “nasty”. Thankfully RBO has maintained a high standard