Angling Trade will not do product reviews that divert sales from fly shops.

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By Kirk Deeter

I’ve always thought that great marketing is the innate ability to understand where to invest dollars most effectively to get people to hear what you have to say; whereas, great media talent is the innate ability to produce content appealing enough to get an audience to pay you to hear what you have to say.

What’s interesting—especially in fly fishing and outdoor retail—is how those two worlds are intersecting now, and how quickly things are changing.  Those intersections and changes are having a significant impact on businesses like fly shops whether they realize it or not.

Consider, for example, things like affiliate marketing, referral commissions and so forth.  In a nutshell, say I write a product review, and wholeheartedly recommend XYZ waders.  Now, if I put a link in my review to the manufacturer, or Amazon.com, etc., they can track when a consumer reads the review, clicks the link, and orders the product.  And I can get a piece of the action!

What doesn’t sit right with us, is that that process cuts most retailers out of the mix.  I remember how angry fly shops were when you found out that your manufacturer/suppliers were selling direct online.  Now, not only are some of them selling direct online, they’re also incenting “media” to spread the word (for a commission), and then channel the sales back to the manufacturer (or vendors they designate).  Is this the final sign that some manufacturers, despite the lip service, really don’t give a rip about the independent dealers (other than the few they hand select and influence)?

I also wonder how independent and credible a product review is when it’s written by someone who’s a de-facto part of the sales force?  As a writer and editor, I never considered that part of my job.  Yet there are now so many instant experts… just add water!

I don’t fault other media for working the angles that make them money.  They’re smart!  But I am saying that this media—Angling Trade Media—was created, and still exists to support the businesses of fly fishing retailers (and manufacturers).  And the advertisers you see supporting Angling Trade still believe in independent, objective reporting, and they still support the notion of the fly shop or guides as the key “influencers” in this sport.  So if you or your customers are looking for unfiltered information, trust that it can be found here (any of you can use anything we write here in any of your promotional efforts, always), and we won’t be making money on the side selling opinions for commissions.

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks, Kirk, for the message. I believe you are spot on with this analysis. Times are changing and at some point, fly shops have to stand their ground with both the public and vendors in order to protect the industry and our businesses. Everyone states they want us but when the rubber meets the road, we tend to get run over from those same people. And as for Amazon – screw them!

  2. Jeff Holberg on

    Thanks for that! Fly shops have never been a cash cow. But they are part and parcel of our sport, something that brings great value to our experiences, not to mention a great way to escape the humdrum of our daily lives.

  3. Au Sable Dave on

    As a ff consumer who’s not industry affiliated (but reads Angling Trade simply cause I love all aspects of the sport), Kurt’s piece made me wonder what life would be like without fly shops? The answer for me was scary: a hollow sport with no personality or depth. Fly shops are the character and backbone of the sport. I couldn’t imagine things without them. Maybe people need an organized effort to remind them of what buying online really means to the people and things they really love in this sport.

  4. As you know better than anyone, I work with a lot of fly shops – a lot of businesses of all kinds – that have a stake in the conservation game. It’s the best job in the world. What I’ve learned over the last decade is that if you want to make good things happen (like removing dams on the Lower Snake) or keep bad things from happening (like mining in Bristol Bay) you better have small businesses on your side. Small businesses – fly shops, outfitters, small manufacturers – are powerful advocates for conservation. That’s not to say that big businesses are not. It is, however, to say that if you’re going to do good conservation and not get bogged down in divisive finger-pointing and partisanship, you better bring Main Street with you, not just Wall Street.

  5. Doesnt Matter on

    So based on this are you saying you have evidence that large amounts of the industries dollars are moving away from fly shops and are going into manufactures pockets directly? This pandemic has shown quite the opposite, the influx of people into local fly shops is historic. You are over generalizing the industry, there may be some instances where platforms or specific companies are moving a bit more towards direct to consumer sales, but overall the relationship between fly shops and manufactures are very strong, I’d argue stronger than most industries out there.

    Fly shops bring value to the industry that direct to consumer models can never truly have, knowledge and community. That will never be replaced with online reviews, facebook ads for products, or what have you. Is the landscape changing? Yes, and fly shops need to evolve and adapt to how the market is changing, but dont split the community up by vilifying people or companies that sell direct, or make money on social media to grow their business. You mentioned earlier this year in an article that we as a community need to stick together to make sure we can handle this large influx of new anglers, that we need to be stewards, and then you right this article attacking groups within that community?

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