This evening I gave a talk to the members of the Imperial College Yacht Club. I love talking to sailors - especially young intelligent beautiful people fresh into near adulthood. The fact that they turned up in a lecture room on a rainy evening to meet an old windbag was rather flattering. We met at six and started eating pizza and coke before we started.
We chatted while eating pizza and it turns out that they do most of their sailing in Sunsail Boats and usually out of season. Twenty of them were out in the Solent over the weekend. They got no wind and sunshine on Saturday and overcast, cold and a bit of wind on Sunday. Blimey they do love thier sailing so it was great to be with such high energy enthusiasts.
I used to prepare talks. Then I discoverd that the best thing to do is to get the person who asked me to come to choose the films they want to show. I never want to know ahead of time what their choices are. It makes it more interesting for me and means that the course we take is more spontaneous. It makes every talk different - for me at least.
The charming chairman of the yacht club, Bilal is a diminutive dapper young hydraulics engineer man who has been snapped up by BP before he has even finished college.
I was worried that I would the dimmest person in the room but fortunately, my brother who works at Imperial had turned up - making me the second dimmest person in the room.
I always use the talks as a way of doing some market research. Scattered among the audience were a few greys heads from the staff who had turned up the talk. I meet lots of middle aged to old blokes - but not that many youngsters. We started talking about finances for the journey and I mentioned PBO - I held up a copy and the grey heads were all aware of it and a couple were subscribers. I asked the youngsters - not one of them had ever heard of it and here is the most amazing thing, not one of them ever bought any magazines at all.
Some of them had visited my website - although only Bilal had actually subscribed to KTL - and he said it was the only thing he paid for on-line. They basically regarded journalism, books, music and films as being free at the point of demand.
I am lucky that I have been able to get the magazine work - but there is a sort of fin de siecle feel about magazines now. Just the physical feel of them - the glossy paper and high coloured images. Sadly they are probabaly doomed when my generation dies because they will plain run out of readers. Their other major income has been all but destroyed by the cheapness of on-line advertising. First the web ate the classified business and now it is starting to kill the market for display adverts.
However, I have the column in Small craft Advisor which brings in $600 a year and here in the UK Practical Boat Owner said that they got a great response from the four pages I wrote for them about shallow sailing.
Website traffic did triple in the few days after the item came out. Hardly any new subscribers joined but I did sell a few DVDs - maybe an extra 50. So the link between the web and print is not a strong one.
PBO has just asked me to do a couple of pages about the Duck Punt - so that is another couple of hundred quid in the kitty. It is odd going back to print just in time for its sunset.
As for the films Bilal chose to show to his fellow students.
make of that what you will.... but they laughed in the right places..... bless them.
Sadly getting their generation to pay for journalism, music making or storytelling of any sort is going to be an uphill struggle - not sure where that leaves me.