Industry Profile: Snowbroader Blogger Nico Fermont
23 Jun, 2009
Shay: Tell us about yourself
Nico: Hi, my name is Nico! I am 31 years old already. I am French but since I have lived many years in Switzerland I also have a Swiss passport. I had the opportunity to travel quite a bit as a kid and then as a student, moving around every 2 to 3 years from one European city to another (Zurich, Milan, London, Zagreb, Dortmund, Paris, Grenoble, Lyon, Ljubljana, and now Geneva). It’s a pretty sick experience because I got to discover cultures, learn some languages and meet lots of people. But going to the mountains has always been part of my life and when I discovered snowboarding in the early 90’s in my home resort of Leysin, I got totally addicted.
Shay: What was your first set up?
Nico: My first ever board was a Santa Cruz ASR 163! Asymmetric! I rode Santa Cruz bindings and Sorel boots!
Shay: What is your current set up?
Nico: I am pretty lucky to have a couple of decks now so I can switch according to the conditions. For example I rode this Furlan 176cm board in the deep pow we got this winter in the Alps. The length of the board makes it good for freeriding and its soft flex keeps it fun for tricks. Most of the other days I ride a Bataleon Riot with Union bindings.
Shay: What was your first job?
Nico: I did some pretty solid marketing studies and I have been mainly working in the automotive industry.
Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Nico: Definitely riding powder makes my day, especially in my resort because I know exactly where to go to score the best lines! But whatever the conditions, a great day of snowboarding is always one spent riding with my best friends because we are going to have fun for sure!
Shay: Who are your influences?
Nico: When I started riding the most influential riders were people like Daniel Franck, Ingemar Backman, Babs Charlet, Brian Iguchi, Michi Albin, David Vincent, Jamie Lynn, Peter Line, and on a more local level the Peach boys…These guys had so much style. I think I still look up more to these riders than the new generation because it simply reminds me on the times we had so much fun snowboarding!
Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Nico: I gave snowboarding a try for the first time in the winter of 1991. I remember it took me 45 minutes to ride down a slope I could ski down in 45 seconds. But I really started in 1993 when I got my own gear. So it’s been my 16th season on a snowboard!
Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Nico: Since I have a “real” job I can only ride on weekends and holidays. But I am lucky to be based in Geneva, Switzerland with incredible resorts (like Chamonix, Portes du Soleil, Verbier or Les Diablerets, to name a few) just 1 hour away from my place. Also I start the season early on the glacier and finish it as late as possible, so I manage to get more or less 60 days.
Shay: What is your website?
Nico: My website is called SnowBroader.eu – The European Snowboard Blog!
Shay: Who works with you at Snowbroader?
Nico: I started SnowBroader.eu in the fall of 2006 with my friend Phil. We met in Grenoble (France) in the very late 90ies when we were students. At the time we both organized snowboard contests and were playing around on the Internet trying to build websites. So when I showed him SnowBroader, he got stoked and we started to post. Now this winter, Phil started his own company FST Handwear – you should check it out – so he pretty much left me with the entire editorial content to produce. 😉 But I can rely on some good friends to help me out: Daka and Luka for the all the graphic design (SnowBroader logo, website design, wallpapers, T-shirts, etc…), Tits for the video flare we use for our BrOADER TV episodes, and Pinard production, an alcoolik crew of youngsters from my resort who always have a beer in the hand but still manage to produce sick videos for us! Thanks guys!
Shay: Is your website a full time job or do you have another job that pays the bills?
Nico: Naaa I wish! SnowBroader is more like a hobby/addiction. I work during the day to get a paycheck and dedicate some time to SnowBroader in the evenings. This season, we managed to get some cash in, because we asked brands to pay a subscription fee for their PROblog (only brands need to pay, so that we can give PROblogs for free to proriders, photographers, film crews etc…). I don’t like it so much because it pollutes the page but we also regularly ran ad banner campaigns. All this money allowed me to cover the costs for the upgrade of the website, the hosting, some merch and our travel costs when we move around to events. Otherwise we always manage to get some gear from brands, and lift passes from resorts, which is pretty cool.
Shay: What made you decide to start the site?
Nico: It started as a fun experiment. At the time I was already into blogging and wanted to try to create a “professional” blog where I would write on a subject I could show some passion and expertise about. Snowboarding was an obvious choice. When we started most of the traditional snowboard media was not using the interactive “web2.0” tools to interact with their audience, so there was clearly an opportunity. Finally, we felt like we could bring a different vision of snowboarding. Something a little bit more raw and closer to the reality compared to what the traditional media was delivering. They sell the dream; we can’t clearly do that, but we can show how living snowboarding really is. We called it SnowBroader, because we liked both the definition and the trick on word:
broad·er, adj.: Relating to or covering the main facts or the essential points; Not narrow or conservative in thought, expression, or conduct.
So we went out with our crappy digital cameras and started to publish our video conversations with riders, event organizers, snowpark shapers, photographers, and industry insiders…the response we got was pretty amazing from the start!
Shay: For someone not familiar with Snowbroader, describe what the site is about.
Nico: Since this past winter, SnowBroader.eu offers two main features:
The BROblog is dedicated to our own editorial content. Every day we select the finest European shred news and publish it. It can be the newest video teaser, the latest major contest results, a new product release, some rider news, you name it. Next to this news stream, we also produce our own “premium” content: video conversations with major industry actors, video/photo reports from events we go to, product tests and reviews, snowpark checks and conditions, etc. As much as we can we try to give a raw, behind the scene feel to it, for our audience to get a realistic vision of what being part of the industry is like.
And then there are the PROblogs! We think blogging is great in many aspects and that everybody in the industry should blog: a brand can use a blog to create a real affinity with people, it’s a channel where it can be more free and authentic, for a rider it’s the perfect platform to market himself online and please both fans and sponsors, for a photographer it can be a gallery to showcase his art but also get some feedback; for a film crew a way to involve people while they are shooting for their up and coming video; for a snowpark the possibility to keep riders informed on the park’s conditions, contests or parties and get their opinion on what they would like to see happen there.
To sum it up PROblogs allow our readers to get a real feel of what industry players are experiencing every day!
Shay: When it comes to Snowbroader, do you work collaboratively or individually?
Nico: Collaboratively for sure. Even tough Phil is not involved as much as before, I always consult him on new ideas, and projects to get his opinion. I also like to test run them on some of my friends as well for their feedback.
Shay: Do you work with companies when it comes to editorial content?
Nico: We hit the radar screen of many companies and press agencies so yes we are receiving press releases and do publish some that we find valuable. As time allows, we try to give our own point of view and not just publish stupidly. For example, if a brand releases a new product we’ll systematically ask for samples – not always successfully -, or propose the brand to organize a webcomp so that at least one of our r(i/ea)der will be able to test it. But it’s important to mention that we are not linked to any brands/advertisers. If we publish something it’s because we like it and we feel like supporting it. If – in our opinion – it helps push snowboarding in the right direction we will back it, otherwise no way.
Shay: Do Action Sports need more honesty and brutal truth?
Nico: I can’t comment for Action Sports in general because some sports – like skateboarding – are more hardcore than others. But for snowboarding, I would say yes. The sport has grown a lot and the feeling is really not the same anymore as back in the days, when snowboarding was alternative and fun. Today the sport is a lot more like a big business, which is good in some way because people can make a decent living out of it. But the whole industry and the media in particular are putting to much emphasis on the commercial side. It’s harder and harder to find an honest opinion out there. That’s why I believe that grass root blogs such as yours and ours are really valuable because we can just speak up and voice our opinion. If something sucks, we have no pressure to say so and at the end of the day, brands should be happy about it because at least we – aka riders – give out some constructive feedback.
Shay: Snowbroader went through an upgrade last summer, what was the transition like for making that happen?
Nico: Progression is a major part of snowboarding and we feel we need to come back every year with new ideas and concepts for our website as well. So we introduced the PROblogs because it totally fitted with our concept of “rider generated content”. The transition was pretty smooth.
Shay: Who are some athletes or companies with blogs on Snowbroader?
Nico: The most active PRObloggers we have are riders such as Anne-Flore Marxer, Verena Janssen, Basa Stevulova, Kalle Ohlson, Jeremy Jones, TJ Schneider, the Ero One film crew, photographers Christian Brecheis and Vanessa Andrieux. In terms of brands, the really active ones are eesa, FST handwear, Les Ettes, Aaven snowboards, Hot Zone, Blue Tomato.
Shay: What is the most valuable content for Snowbroader readers?
Nico: Our stats are always hitting big numbers in January/ February with the tradeshows and the presentation of the new collections. Our readers, as much as ourselves, are excited to discover the new products, styles and innovations from all our favorite brands. But otherwise our audience gets stoked on the content that showcases behind the scene information on the industry. For example this year, the interview we made with John Colvin from the Elan Snowboard Factory about snowboard manufacturing really got a lot of attention.
Shay: You started Broader, a site devoted to social media for action sports. What were the reasons behind starting that?
Nico: In the past 3 years, we have used SnowBroader.eu as a laboratory to experiment with all sorts of Social Media tools. Today the experience we gained is at the foundation of our Social Media Agency. The Social Media tools we used helped us to give our blog more exposure but most importantly to engage with our audience. Thanks to all these tools we have build strong, loyal followings and a sense of community around SnowBroader.eu! Social Media is definitely a hot topic within the Action Sports industry right now. All the brands know they have to start “using” Social Media, but most of them don’t have the expertise, or the time to do it right. Same goes for athletes and events. That’s mainly why I have created BROADER – The Social Media Agency for Action Sports Brands. We are here to help Action Sports brands, athletes, and events listen, understand and most importantly engage in Social Media.
Shay: Do you see social media as an important future in marketing?
Nico: Yes it’s totally fundamental and Action Sports brands better realize this very rapidly!?First of all Action Sports brands’ major target group is the Generation Y. This is our generation, the one that has had access to digital technologies since an early age and uses Social Media intuitively. Secondly in the near future rather than consumers chasing for content, content will come to consumers. Therefore brands need to be ready to let their content distribute to the social web and spread to communities, they need to be ready to engage in honest and meaningful conversations in social media, in order to earn the credibility to participate within these communities, gain advocates and increase sales through word of mouth.
Shay: Do you feel that action sports companies can benefit from social media?
Nico: Yes! Like a good session with friends, Social Media is all about connecting on a personal level. Authentic people practice Action Sports; it’s as much about the sport itself as about the lifestyle. And Social Media is the perfect opportunity to do “stuff” (as marketing/communication stuff) a little more authentic!
Shay: What do you see for the future of snowboard magazines?
Nico: I used to dig reading snowboard mags and I believe that mags are really part of the snowboarding “culture”. Riders are still stoked when they score a cover. But Internet changed the game. I don’t see why people will continue to pay for a snowboard mag when they can get the news online, instantly, for free, and in a more interactive way. That’s why today, all the mags have a strong Internet strategy. I don’t think snowboard mags will disappear, but probably only the best-established ones, the ones that focus on high quality content, or the ones that manage to integrate online and offline strategies efficiently, will survive.
Shay: What’s your average day like at work?
Nico: Boring – you don’t want to know anything about that part.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences since starting Snowbroader?
Nico: The best experiences are definitely about meeting some people that I have been looking up too for so many years, read about in mags and watched pushing it in videos. I was totally stoked about sitting down for a beer with Jeremy Jones, having a chat with Travis Rice, or Mike LeBlanc, getting to know Joni Makinen, chilling with Hampus Mosesson, being there when Romain De Marchi, JP Solberg and JMZ decided to name their brand YES. It’s also really cool to get invited to TTR contests and witness the new generation pushing the level banger after banger.
Shay: What has Snowbroader done for you (any cool events, work environment, job perks)?
Nico: Most importantly SnowBroader has allowed me to meet lots of cool, interesting people in and out of the industry, online and offline. I am pretty stoked to have developed this network and it’s definitely a big asset today for BROADER for example, but also for other projects. I also got the chance to get invited to some really sweet events, and to discover new resorts to shred all over the Alps. I definitely learned a lot about the industry, the media and the web. So I am really happy about it! I’m ready to work in the industry now! Anybody got a good, well-paid job for me? 😉
Shay: Final thoughts?
Nico: I would like to thank you and all the people who are showing their support and helping us make SnowBroader a fun experience!
*Pictures courtesy of Snowbroader.eu
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