In a world seemingly full of instant content, where the creators are the consumers and the advertisers, the place for high end content is becoming harder to find.
Less printed pages, and less long form content in favour of 1-4 minute edits and short easily digestible stories that are more often than not press releases under the guise of independent content… It ain’t all doom and gloom for independent media though, as this change in the media landscapes has inspired some to bring true curated content to the table, bringing together editorial and photos with no agenda bar being epic.
We caught up with the brains behind the operation, a long time creator that wishes to remain anonymous, we think…
Interview by // Matt Holmes
My first forays into the website had me seriously impressed and then wondering what big media co. was making it happen? Word has it, Eskapee is a small operation of like minded creative geniuses? That’s pretty incredible.
Yeah. It’s a very small operation behind the scenes but it’s also a huge collective of people who contribute – all of whom want to share their stories – so at the same time it’s small, it’s also pretty big.
OK, so what was the motivation to make all this happen?
Bored. Bored of the same old – same old websites, same old stories, same old press releases, same old cycle of media that repeats itself year-in-year-out. At times the cycle of media feels like ground hog day. It was also driven by a desire to change – change the way the mountain biking story is told and get away from the constant “tech” and focus on the real reason we all ride; for the love of it. Finally, it was about fostering a culture and image. Mountain biking is so splintered and there’s not really a single culture that has risen from the sport to create a foundation for the future.
And when did it all kick off?
Just a little over two years ago, but it’s been a thought bubble for over 10 years but we were too damn scared to give it a go. Then, one day, it was a “fuck it” moment and it happened.
What’s the modus operandi behind Eskapee?
Eskapee lives by its core values, which include supporting the environment, not being sexist and treating everyone as equal, mental health awareness, and is more than just a mountain bike site. It’s about telling stories, having a cause and having a meaning that’s deeper than just bikes. Bikes and riding are cool (man they are cool) but we are searching for more than just that.
So this group of contributors/collaborators that many will already know, plus a bunch of new faces and names behind the words and photos. It’s gotta be inspiring to bring these people together?
Yeah for sure. There was a core group of friends and contributors that helped start it all off. Their belief in the idea was also what helped make it all happen and they will also be important to Eskapee. However there’s also a whole bunch of “nobodies” that contribute and that’s equally important. We all have stories and they all need to be told and if we always stick to the same people and contributors then we wouldn’t hear all those different voices and see the world through all those different eyes.
Aside stunning photography, Eskapee content has some opinions behind it, far from the all to common MTB advertorial… Do you see this as lacking in some mainstream MTB media these days?
For sure. At times it has made us a little mad as we think that the big media players in the market should be using their more powerful voices to say things that probably need to be said. Maybe even hold a light up to the industry and not just be a puppet. But then we also realise that many mountain bike media outlets are just “entertainment” and thus they entertain, and opinions and causes sometimes don’t mix with that very well. That’s cool, we all like to be entertained and overtime we’ve come to accept that if we want something different then we needed to do it ourselves, so that’s where Eskapee will hopefully fill that gap.
The Depression and Pussy pieces are exceptional, tell us a little about ’em?
Those pieces are very important to Eskapee and what we stand for and we cannot thank the contributors enough for putting their hearts and souls out there. It takes a certain level of bravery to share your true feelings, deep issues, and emotions in the public sphere.
The Depression story came about after a long conversation with the author Danielle Baker. She’s an amazing writer and we had tasked her to write a little something on the subject of depression – something general, as we know it’s a subject close to many of us. It was never intended to be about her but one day out of the blue we received an email from her explaining that she indeed was suffering (and had for a long time) and wanted to share her own story. People close to her didn’t know she was struggling and when the story went live it was amazing. We were initially worried, as you never know how doing something like that may affect their mental state, but Danielle was swamped with so much support we didn’t need to worry. We think in some way it helped her and that’s the most important thing to us. And we also think Danielle sharing her story has helped others – and that’s just as important. We will continue the theme on mental health as it’s just too important not to.
The “Pussy” piece also represents another side of Eskapee that’s important. Basically fuck sexism and fuck sexist attitudes. Hanna (the author) also put herself out there by writing a story about what it’s like to be a women surrounded in language that belittles women. It’s interesing that the majority of the negative criticism we received about the article was from men. That’s like white people telling a black person that racist words can’t hurt them. We’re not saying that men cannot have opinions on the subject but as men we have to also realise we have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be a woman.
With curated content outlets seemingly disappearing and editorial budgets shrinking, was Eskapee somewhat of a backlash to that?
Ha ha – a backlash as long as there is money to pay for it all. There isn’t much money anymore for true independent editorial as most “content” these days is produced by the industry. We’re hoping that things will swing around again and we are seeing that change slowly happening in the “big media” world so fingers crossed it passes over to mountain biking too.
So, no editor or publisher telling you what they want. That leaves you open to document things the way you want?
Yeah. But to be honest, we’re still playing it a bit safe and far from the end product we have in our vision. Part of that is budget (we don’t have enough money to fund some of the things we want to do) and part of it is fear. This game is new to us (publishing, advertising, partnerships etc) so we’re learning as we go along and want to make small steps and let the audience grow with us as we continue along our long term goals.
Deadlines and pressure from advertisers to do and say what needs to be said, is that a thing of the past?
We totally understand and accept that when people (advertising partners) are paying money they should expect something. Back in the old days there however was less of an expectation about content control so we’d like to see a future with a little more balance and independence across the whole MTB media landscape. Eskapee is always going to be strong about maintaining that independence and as an example Specialized have been an amazing partner. They really believe in what Eskapee is doing and they have been totally hands off and the Matt Hunter story is a great example of that. We wanted to do something different while still supporting our partnership with them. We think we did a good job and people got to learn a very different side of Matt that really engaged with the story. It showed what a good partnership can do.
While I got stoked on the photos, stories and video content online, what blew my mind was the book that’s available… Tell us about that production ‘Anthology’…. It looks amazing….
Anthology is an annual coffee table book. It was our first printed product and is a partnership with Misspent Summers. We really do believe in print and know, as you guys do, that there is a huge landscape for this media to continue to thrive in future. So much so we recently expanded our partnership with Misspent Summers and they are pretty much taking over the entire Eskapee print side of the business. That’s pretty exciting as it will enable Anthology 2 to come out sooner, plus the possibility of other printed Eskapee products into the future. We’re working on some ideas for expanding the print and we’ll see what the future brings.
Hard cover books ain’t all you sell, I spy coffee? Whats the deal???
That was our first dip into the world of collaboration and all part of Eskapee being a little different from other media. Loam (the coffee parnters from Seattle in the USA) are a small very hardworking business with true roots in mountain biking and in some way they’re similar to Eskapee. Their story is pretty cool and in some way collaborating with them is a different way of telling their story. If you buy their coffee (and we encourage you to) then you taste their hard work and passion. We want to collaborate with other people in the future and in keeping with our goals then who knows what it might be.
What’s the future hold for the Eskapee project?
Hopefully a long one. Getting funding is really, really tough and honestly something we struggle with – from a skills and experience perspective. We’re chipping away and every day brings something new and exciting for us to chase.
We want to expand and get some people on “staff” to help out and just keep growing at a pace that isn’t going to kills us.
But the biggest changes you’ll see is on the content side: we’ve got some plans for some different things in 2018 and want to explore getting away the “safe” space we talked about a little earlier. When you allow yourself to see the world a little wider than the narrow blinkered view that is the current state of online MTB media then there really is an amazing world of stories to explore.
For more photo-brilliance and more check out eskapee.com