Digital Nails in Crabtree’s Coffin

Angler's MailWhen I read the sad news that Angler’s Mail was approaching its final publication, I was dismayed that our “Original & Best” was due to become defunct. After reading the publication (on and off) for the best part of fifty years, I was a tad surprised maybe even a little shocked, but I also have to admit… mostly unsurprised.

Thanks to inherent factors now ingrained within our social-media driven generations, The Angler’s Mail is simply the latest victim of digitization. Another one of those digital luddites, gasping it’s final breath in the casualty department of electronic progress.

For me, I always saw AM as the better of the two weekly fishing magazines, that are (were) available in the UK. But things change, consumerism is fickle, dependent upon trends and wholly reliant upon the end consumers and not least, their money and levels of disposable income.

Trying Something New

Lots of people have been attracted to hobbies that perhaps hadn’t considered previously, as a result of the digital revolution. They have been subsequently drawn into some new and engaging pastimes, thanks mostly to the undoubted ‘power’ of social-media. However, something many fail to recognise is; a great deal of today’s digitally driven commerce is simply marketing-hype, a conduit designed to relieve people of their hard-earned cash.

Anglerā€™s Mail was first published on green newsprint in 1964 by Echo Publications, a small publishing house in the West End of London. (wikipedia.org)

All that said and to paraphrase the words of Geoffrey Chaucer; “time waits for nobody”Ā  – not even me!

Every Cloud…

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have been a significant causal factor in the renewed popularity of some pastimes and hobby activities. Even more so after the resulting public-health protection measures. There is and continues to be (unsurprisingly), a significant upsurge in the popularity of outdoor activities, and angling in particular (English angling sees post-lockdown boom), once the enforced lockdown measures began to ease.

Participation surges, as the Nation’s mental health takes centre stage (The Angling Trust)

Thanks to Covid-19, many more people have (belatedly) started to see and (hopefully) appreciate some of the more simple things in life. They are enjoying the wonders of nature, they have found the pleasures of being in and at one with the countryside. They have realised that such activities are useful, in helping us improve our personal wellbeing. But sadly, newfound popularity also tends to deliver some of those associated first-world problems.

More People – More Problems

Unfortunately, the negativity that is usually attributed to ‘trendy’ Van Life dwellers (once berated as New-Age Travelers), appears to be getting ever more widespread, as more people head out from our cities and into the countryside.

Scourge of ‘dirty camping’ and litter on wild Scotland revealed in countryside survey. (The National)

Some of these people, who inhabit the free-spirited community, don’t comprehend the angst of others, that often results from the associated but increasing damage to the countryside. The damage that is caused by (some) people and their wild-camping activities.

‘Wild camping, parties, raves, and drug use’, the problems go on at Hodge Close in Lake District (Westmorland Gazette)

Contrary to any commonly accepted assumptions, it would appear that our now prominent throw-away social attitudes are inherent within many of these people. You could reasonably expect our new breed of free-spirited eco-warriors to know better, or at the very least, make some effort to try and practice what they preach.

Wild campersā€™ have earned a bit of a bad reputation lately but, True wild campers leave no trace. (pressandjournal.co.uk)

Sadly, some elements within our society actually compound the negative impacts of any increased popularity, or participation in outdoor activities. Sadly today, angling is not immune from many of these littering and environmental issues.

Usually, it’s not so much the specific activity creating these environmental and social impacts, more often it is the people following their particular pursuit or interest. These associated and increasing impacts appear sadly ever more prevalent. It is something that actually serves to spoil things for the rest of us. But particularly for us ‘oldies’ who were enjoying great outdoor activities, whilst respecting nature and the countryside.

Significant numbers of people have followed their chosen outdoor activities for decades. Certainly for far longer than many of the often annoying digital newbies, who commonly get paid for shouting how “awesome” things are via FB, Twitter or Insta. The digital nomads, influencers and content creators across social-media are (mostly) wasting their time… if they think many (older) people actually want to hear their loud observations, about what is / is not the “Coolest” thing to do!

However back to the pressing AM issue. It appears some of those associated with angling believed (or still believe) there is no ‘real’ money to be made from fishing. Or at the very least, not the ‘fast-bucks’ that they perhaps expected or thought they could or should make… and were probably searching for. As far as I’m concerned, that’s OK, at least in part.

The half-hearted and painful past marketing efforts of Future PLC, the owners of Angler’s Mail who have decided to bin the publication – due to ‘limited revenue opportunity in our digital age’ no doubt – probably haven’t helped matters.

The brief one liner on their website – “the most interesting coarse and carp fishing magazine in the UK” – does little to attract new readers. The presented hyperlink, directing people to the AM website (www.anglersmail.co.uk) actually delivers www.advnture.com/fishing, which was also probably a significant marketing failure. On arrival, readers are hard-pressed to see or find much in the way of angling content.

To be fair, there was some fishing stuff but most of it was obscured by a mountainous quantity of hiking, camping and travel content. Much of it prepared and/or provided by the ever increasing band of digital nomads.

People who, despite being native Brits often speak in tongues of Americanised English. Why? So many of these individuals are (apparently), “Stoked and Soooo Excited to share their amazing experiences” with you. Smugly informing you how ‘their latest adventures‘ (of hiking & camping trips in this case) were “Sooo Bloody Awesome!” …that you would be mad not to give them a try.

OK, trips to Machu Picchu, or indeed any other such equally exotic destination, are possibly very interesting (for those involved), perhaps even one of those opportunities of a lifetime (for some) but, FFS calm down dear. Your hyperbole is nauseating and vomit inducing (especially for any aging Crabtree Kid like me) and… what does all that have to do with fishing in any case?

Despite research often proving the community and social benefits of angling and, given what could reasonably be seen as lack-luster marketing performance; coupled with the recent resurgence of angling popularity; Future PLC have probably gone off halfcocked, shot themselves in the foot and missed a now growing opportunity by closing Angler’s Mail. The wonders of hindsight eh?

It’s not thatĀ  I’m anti-outdoors, far from it. My life has been filed since childhood with adventurous outdoor activity. They have been a large part of what has kept me mostly (arguably) sane over the decades. Additionally, don’t assume that my observations result from some form of angling obsession, to the exclusion of any other outdoor activity. Wrong again.

Unlike some, I have been interested in a diverse and eclectic range of outdoor activities, throughout my life. I have enjoyed some of them (like angling) since way before many of today’s ‘experts’ were born. None were ever one minute wonders or, followed because of some pressing desire for financial reward. I’m not even sure that any income generated from participating in my favoured pursuit would do it for me. I was never a fan of match angling, the competition and pursuit of a prize always spoilt the therapeutic enjoyment and relaxation for me.

That is something that the more honest amongst today’s content creators and digital nomads will actually admit to…. making money from your hobby can become all consuming and irksome, for many of them. The process tends to remove the reason(s) why you once enjoyed what you enjoy no longer. That can also be the case amongst some of the lesser-known ‘influencers’ but less so, amongst those who have ‘celebrity’ status but, many of those are only telling you stuff they are paid for in any case. The worrying part of that is, too many are dim enough to soak up the covert marketing effluent that they are constantly spoon-fed

Instagram to crack down on UK influencers’ ‘hidden advertising’ – CMA investigation found Facebook-owned platform was not doing enough to tackle problem (The Guardian)

Many of the digital content creators, are mostly doing little more than padding out a contrived and/or lucrative piece of advertorial splurge. Either for some faceless corporate entity or increasingly, to improve their own personal status (and financial worth), amongst the now common new-age social-media influencers.

Wouldn’t I like to join them? No, not me and probably not ever. My personal outdoor interests are purely recreational. They actually form part of an important methodology, they are resources that help to maintain and improve my personal health and wellbeing… not ‘earn’ me a living.

My Stoic Coffin Approaches

As with many of the stark realities in life, or perhaps even one of those grating and anger inducing injustices, which appear to be prevalent amongst today’s digital discourse; sometimes all you can do is adopt a philosophical approach to issues and life in general. The application of a little stoicism can be calming and therapeutic. Some things are and will always be beyond our personal control. It’s not what happens that causes our angst, rather the way in which we choose to think and react to the events or circumstances.

Owning a rational, logical and accepting mind can be helpful. It provides us with a useful resource, especially during difficult times. For example, I’m sure that many people could have suffered a little less, from the troubling and negative impacts born of Covid-19, by applying a little stoicism to their response.

Goodbye Old Friend

Old Man FishingThe demise of Angler’s Mail has been another one of thoseĀ  unfortunate fatalities in the declining world of print media. And, as they hammer home the digital nails in the virtual coffin lid of another old friend, all I can say is; this luddite reader will miss you.

AM was so much more than just another one of those convenient but constantly emerging digital stepping stones. Why would anyone ever need to ‘evidence’ their ‘expert’ status, on route to becoming the next short-term subject matter grandee, even if they could be one with money? Certainly not me.