Having exploded over the past few years primarily through the Internet, it’s fitting that most of the media covering sneaker culture is online. Reaching 100,000s of visitors daily, sneaker blogs are the most accessible, and often the most informative source for sneaker heads. Many people, in the media world especially, discredit blogs; Format disagrees – obviously! The seven men below—representing Kix and the City, Kix Files, NSB, Sole Redemption, Nice Kicks, Kicksaholic, and Sneaker Files respectively—are responsible for delivering sneaker information to almost 100% of the online sneaker community. Format presents: Sneaker Blogs.
Format: Please introduce your site. When did you start it, and what was your biggest challenge in the initial development? How did you overcome the challenge?
Kix And The City: My name is Rich “MaZe” Lopez and I am the founder of KixandtheCity.com, an online magazine dedicated to sneaker culture. I founded KATC during Feb. of 2006. About four to five months before I started KATC, I left my job as a Senior Account Executive for an Urban Marketing/Advertising Agency. The biggest challenges in the initial development of KATC were not unlike the typical challenges for any publication; establishing your brand identity, and of course, promoting your publication. At first, KATC was my personal blog that documented my sneaker travels. Since I was buying sneakers nearly every weekend and going a lot of places to buy them, it was a natural fit. Even when the site was my personal blog, I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted KATC to develop into more of a magazine. Once I was happy with my direction and brand identity, I had to get the site out there, which wasn’t easy. I started by promoting it locally, telling all the retail spots that I bought sneakers from about it and telling all my fellow NYC sneakerheads about it. They spread it locally. They saw the job I was doing and how hard I was working and they really showed me love. Once the hood new about KATC, it was time to tell the world, so I hit SlamxHype and asked them if they could show me some love on their site, and they did. I’ll never forget seeing KATC up on Slam for the very first time.
Kix Files: We started out as a sneaker forum in summer of 2003 and expanded to include a news blog and personal blog in August of 2004. Coding was the biggest challenge during that time. We further expanded our website to include an online shop in 2005. From then onwards until December of 2006, we experienced numerous hacking activities and we finally aborted our forum to minimize our down time.
NikeSB.org: NikeSB.org (NSB) is the name of the spot we hold down on the Internet and its intricate series of tubes. We pretty much specialize in holding down SB Coverage as well as its affiliated culture. We actually first started way back in late 2004, I destroyed the initial database and kind of let it fade away but there was a small movement that started. On April 13th, 2005 NSB was resurrected from its grave. The biggest challenge in development was just learning the ropes of the net, as well getting ourselves out there to the public. Overcoming getting our name out there just happened with by word of mouth from our users, we tried all that SEO bullshit but having relevant content, a good User Interface, and dedicated user base are what helps us grind.
Sole Redemption: We started around summer 2004 as a sneaker release site and online store. About a year later, we realized that people were more into frequently updated information so we turned into a blog. The biggest challenge was getting our existence known in the sneaker community, but having a pretty small niche we were surprised that it wasn’t as hard as we originally thought it would.
Nice Kicks: NiceKicks.com is an online information site about sneakers. On the site we have a blog that has the most up to date info about upcoming sneakers, as well as many pages about sneaker history. In addition to those facets of the site, we also have an online community with more than 13,000 sneakerheads who chat and converse about all sorts of kicks. My biggest challenge in the initial development was trying to distinguish myself from other blogs covering similar topics. My focus and objective was to create a site just about shoes. I rarely write about clothing, fitteds, or toys except in the rare events that they ties in with shoes. There were plenty of sites on the net where you could get this news, but I wanted to zero in on just shoes. I knew that there had to be other circus freaks out there just like me who couldn’t care less about what stereo system you have or what edition iPod was in your pocket, I wanted to just have a site about shoes.
Kicksaholic: We started late 2005. Initially, getting recognition from the rest of the sneaker community was the hard part, we’re still not where we want to be, so I guess you could say we’re in the midst of overcoming it. We’ve been branching out to different subjects besides just sneakers in our blog network, and it’s going on pretty good.
Sneaker Files: Sneaker Files is a fairly new website, but not new to sneakers. Everyone that contributes to Sneaker Files is into sneakers. The official launch was in January of 2007, sadly we had a small fan base. At first it started with one person, Brian Betschart. I worked on the website up to eight hours a day to recover from the previous website that was stolen. I knew in my head that Sneaker Files would be 10 times better, and we would not only have news, but information, release dates, Player Exclusives and Rare stuff that some people do not see everyday. As I continued to work, people throughout the sneaker community started to recognize and a flood of positive comments came in. Those comments helped us grow and gave us motivation to work harder. So we must thank everyone that visits Sneaker Files, you are the real reason for it being what it is today.
Format: Since starting your site, what have been the most significant changes in sneaker culture, specifically as it relates to media?
KATC: Media wise, a lot has changed since I founded KATC. First, when I started KATC, there were only a couple of sites that solely focused on kicks. Now it feels like there are literally millions out there. It is so “easy” to get a blog going that everyone is doing it. Second, when I first started KATC, many sneaker brands kept blogs at a distance. Today, I regularly speak directly with most of the big brands out there. I feel that these brands have recognized the power of the blog platform and recognized that KATC is very unlike most of the other “blogs” out there so they reach out to KATC, which is great. Back when I started KATC, brands were a lot more hesitant to do that.
Kix Files: When we first started as a forum, there were only a handful of other websites and forums engaged in the same field. When we added our news blog, numerous other sneaker blogs suddenly popped up from nowhere in the next few months. Back then, most of our news came from websites of various natures. As we continued to grow, we started establishing relationships with major sports brands and have our own news, which we enjoy reporting a lot more over news collected from other sites. As most sneaker websites are still featuring news collected from other websites, we have been shifting our focus to original first hand information
NSB: I think with Nike entrance in the skateboarding and sneaker culture they actually pressed a lot of other companies for the better or worse to start rethinking their strategy and branding. We’ve seen other sneaker companies such as Vans adapt into the urban culture a little further than just the surf skate scene it has been loyal to.
Nice Kicks: I have started to really realize that there is a major interest online for brands other than the Nike and Air Jordan. I think that the reason why there is so much activity online for these two brands is that they are the focus of the major forums on the net. True these forums have sections for other brands, but the activity in these sections isn’t active enough to keep readers going there on a frequent basis. I don’t care who makes what, just as long as it is comfortable, is made of good quality, and looks good, I’ll wear it. I think that since starting the blog I have seen more and more people develop that attitude, but I definitely am not going to take credit for it. I have noticed that new brands have had a much easier time reaching the masses with the sneaker blogs. For example, I personally was a fan of what Greedy Genius was doing and the people behind the label and so I have done a lot of posts about them. I don’t know how much love they could have possibly received if their only hope at reaching sneakerheads online was on a forum where a large percentage of the topics were just about established brands.
Sneaker Files: I see more and more sneaker publications popping up, magazines and in newspapers. Funny thing is, I remember a while back people would look down on men who are into sneakers, and paying a large amount for one pair, but slowly this has stopped. Sadly, I have read more crimes involving sneakers, like people camping out to only be robbed, or being jumped for your brand new Jordan’s. As far as marketing goes, the only significant change is Jordan Brand. Back in the day the Jordan line was for the Basketball player and had the nice straight forward color ways. Now, everything is multi-colored with crazy color ways that we would never imagine Mike wearing in the NBA. You can tell they are targeting the younger generation, which I do think is a smart business move.
Format: With many development opportunities available on the Internet and in other media, why have you chosen to remain a blog?
KATC: I’ve been asked this question a lot, especially from people asking why I haven’t I turned KATC into a paper based magazine. I’ve written for magazines and newspapers and I’ve been on TV talking about sneakers so I get into all forms of media. Right now I don’t think it makes sense for me to go out and create a magazine, the blog is doing fine for me. It is turnkey and it is very flexible, which allows for numerous creative possibilities. I consider myself to be a creative person and the blog/Internet platform opens up a lot more. I still feel that I have only scratched the surface of possibilities, there is plenty more coming. Other forms of media are too constrictive. That is not to say that I won’t continue to work with print, television, etc. Those forms of media are longstanding and well respected and I respect those forms of media. I am working on elevating the blog platform to that level so that one day, when we are probably all long gone, someone will ask “why have you chosen to remain a blog” and the question will have an entirely different meaning.
NSB: The funny part is we actually started out as forum, then as our growth begin to expand it became harder for the guest to find relevant content so we started the blog format to showcase items for readers and keep the forum around for discussion on a broader stream. I think also people want a spot they represent or hold down and you don’t want to change too much or you lose your user base. It’s cool to see some of the new guys stepping in the arena, helps promote innovation. I think there are a lot of great ideas out there other sites are putting together. We actually have a new site coming out soon called Sole Rhythm that will have features users want and can integrate with their favorite sites, which is some extent to for our crew of trying new ideas.
Nice Kicks: About a year ago we started the ball rolling to release Nice Kicks as a print magazine, but after getting through about 75% of the debut issue, I sat down and thought objectively about it. NiceKicks.com delivers the latest sneaker news instantly. Readers receive it instantly and at their own convenience. A printed magazine, though reaching a new market, would be stepping backwards in terms of technology. That being said, we decided to not go through with the magazine, and invested the money into creating an online community on the website.
Kicksaholic: Blogs are clean and simple, that’s pretty much it. A good, simple blog reports the news and doesn’t crash your computer trying to load something. A lot of people want the news and want it fast. They don’t care about fancy flash animation and gimmicks.
Format: With so much of the same content being distributed, how does your site separate itself from its competitors?
KATC: KATC offers a lot more than our competitors, a lot more. I think it is obvious what we do that others don’t. Plenty of people come up to me and tell me that KATC has the best and most in depth sneaker content out there, and it does. Why shouldn’t we? That is what we do. I know my competitors are reading this, especially because I am one of the more notorious persons behind a blog and they are either waiting for me to drop a jewel on them so they can bite it, or, waiting for me to speak ill of my competition, but, I won’t do either. There is a lot of the same content being distributed but we actually separate ourselves from our competitors through our content. I will leave it at that.
Kix Files: Remaining a blog allows us to reserve our already limited resources for future development especially when we are entirely self-funded.
NSB: Couldn’t agree more. Usually we have a good reputation of dropping the latest info on the SB/Nike scene, and showcase most of the homegrown talent of customizers in the scene. It’s also probably one of the top spots for resellers and entrepreneurs to showcase their product. I think one custom sneaker run we showcased sold out within an hour of being on our front page.
Sole Redemption: We like to think of other sneaker blogs as our friends instead of competitors. We basically have a very narrowed down niche, and we think all the sneaker sites out there exist to complete one another.
Nice Kicks: From day one I have noticed that many sites use the same sources and the same photos. With that said, the one thing that is not the same is the way the products are presented. My first gig was a salesman at a shoe store. What I learned from that was to take the product in your hand and point out all of the features—tech and cosmetic—so that the customer gets much more than just a visual of the product. Though I am not selling the product to my readers, I try to do the same with pointing out the different features as well as drop some more in depth info about how this shoe is similar to another product.
Format: To what degree do you feel your site develops, and/or, influences sneaker culture?
KATC: All in all though, it depends how you define “influence.” If you mean influence purchases, that isn’t our job or focus. Our job is to present our reader with an in depth look at the products and people behind sneaker culture. It isn’t our job to explicitly tell people what to buy and what not to buy. I have never and will never tell my reader to go buy this or that. That is up to them, I show them what is out there, tell them the story behind it, the rest is up to them. A lot of sites urge their reader to “go cop these,” we don’t and won’t. As far as development, I feel we help develop the culture. A lot of big time people from big time brands read KATC, and I don’t mean just sneaker brands. They see the power of the culture and now sneakers and sneaker culture are popping up everywhere. As my man Jeff Staple said in our video interview with him, sneakers are fueling a lot of business right now. I would like to think that KATC had a hand in that.
NSB: I want to say in a positive light, we do our best to try to keep things moving forward but you can only do so much when you’re specifically branded to a niche/product (i.e. Nike). So what we try to do is develop around the niche and what people want to see when they hit us. I want to say out of anything is with the daily user base we currently reach, nothings better than throwing up a pair of customs someone did and seeing the feedback via comments and posts. These are dudes just like you and me that are able now to post on our site and reach a huge audience.
Sole Redemption: We’re more into sneaker culture preservation than actual development and/or influence. We’re pretty much old school when it comes to sneakers, we’re not here to change anything.
Nice Kicks: Something that we have tried our hardest to do was to try to create dialogue between our readers and us. We noticed that there were a handful of sneaker blogs before us, but all of them disabled comments from readers, which perplexed us. If this is supposed to be a community and a culture, why can’t people at least give their two cents about a product. We took things a step further and integrated a forum and member community with our site so that not only could our readers interact with us, they could interact with each other. On our new site the members section is going to be even better than before giving each member a lot more cool things to do on our site. As for influencing sneaker culture, we try to treat that carefully. True, many individuals read our site everyday, but the last thing we want to be known as a “taste maker” or someone who tells you what is hot and what isn’t. We try to stress to all of our readers to be yourself, and buy what you like. Don’t worry about what brand it is or whether you think your friends will like it, if it is something you like, buy it! I am happy to say that I have started noticing more and more people following this philosophy.
Sneaker Files: We do receive a lot of inside information from various sources that helps, along with store interviews with many pictures. Big thanks to Oscar and Steve from Shoeyork.com for the help. There are many other things we have like information on Air Jordan’s 1 – 22, and soon 23, Nike, Reebok, New Balance, Puma, Player Exclusives (Air Jordan’s and LeBron’s), sample/rare sneakers, and we feature special pages for upcoming releases.
Format: To what degree is your site a reflection of your personal interests?
KATC: Sneakers are my personal interest. I have somewhere close to 300 of them I believe at this point, I’ve lost count really. Even things that I do outside of the site have to do with sneakers. I study sneakers. I study sneaker culture. I have degrees in business and marketing so I study sneaker business and sneaker marketing. I study sneaker design. I study sneaker retail. I look at people’s feet all day. Sneakers to me aren’t about looking fresh or being “exclusive,” sneakers to me mean a lot more. We were poor growing up, getting sneakers to look fresh was unheard of in my family. You balled in the same Jordans that you flossed in. I look at sneakers very differently than most, but, sneakers are my personal interest.
NSB: General computer knowledge, maintaining databases, learning diving in new code and technologies, boring geek shat. I’ve actually learned quite a bit more through experience than a textbook. At the end of the day also just rocking some Nike’s knowing for the better or worse had some kind of influence to people that probably will never meet or see.
Nice Kicks: There is never anything that I write is not genuine. I think that part of our following has come from speaking in the first term rather than objectively. I want people to have their own opinions about products, but I definitely don’t want to talk about a shoe without mentioning all of the elements that make me a fan, or not. There are at times shoes that I will write about and not chime in with my personal opinion of the shoes, but I still want my readers the chance to see everything that is going on in the sneaker world and leave their comments about the products. Something that I think has really separated us from many was that we really encourage reader comments. I am a huge fan of free speech and I really like readers getting the same opportunity that I have to say what I may like or dislike about a product.
Kicksaholic: Kicksaholic only reports stuff that we like, we try to stay away from wack stuff that’s overhyped, be it toys, t-shirts, or fads. We’re mainly about sneakers and stuff related to sneakers and the history behind those items. A lot has been lost about the significance of shoes as memorabilia, and we wanna insert a little bit of that back into the sneaker game.
Sneaker Files: Well the main factor is I am big on sneakers. Since I was a child watching Michael Jordan win championships and soaring dunks. But not every pair of kicks I like, as it is still news, they will be posted on Sneaker Files, since we all do not share the same opinion.
Format: What are the biggest challenges your site is currently dealing with?
KATC: It is interesting but, the biggest challenge that we are currently dealing with, is, Sneaker Culture. We attract a specific type of sneaker consumer. We attract the more experienced sneaker consumer. The way we cover sneakers, and the sneakers that we cover, possibly because I am one of them myself, attracts the more shrewd sneaker consumer. Right now, the more shrewd, jaded, and hardened sneaker consumer is somewhat disenchanted with sneakers, almost over it. Most of these types of consumers feel that they aren’t being catered to, and because of this, are really back lashing against sneakers and are now reading and keeping up less on sneakers. Most of the sneakers dropping now, they won’t wear. So the market is all over the place right now, we have to try to adjust accordingly without losing who we are and what we do. Hopefully, the brands that we all now and love will bring the shrewd and jaded sneaker consumer back into the game. It isn’t that hard.
Sole Redemption: Traffic, growth, branding. We like to penetrate the entire sneaker community if we can, but most people only care about the hype as opposed to what we try to preserve, the sneaker legacy.
Nice Kicks: I would say that the biggest challenge we are faced with is being respected as a credible form of media. When I approach PR firms or divisions representing major footwear companies, I am often written off a just a blog despite the fact that our monthly readership far exceeds many magazines their company not only tries to place product, but pays to advertise. Because of that problem, we are just about to launch a new version of Nice Kicks that we think will get us the recognition as an online magazine rather than just a blog.
Kicksaholic: Making a mass appeal, most kids today are on the hype rather than the history. But, we’re working on it. Other than marketing and readership, there’s always other challenges that come with running a website. People always make strange requests, and there are always predatory people on the net who are out to put a wrench in your machine just to get amusement out of it.
Format: What advice can you offer to someone interested in starting a blog for commercial interests?
KATC: Don’t do it. A blog is a true and intense labor of love, not a commercial endeavor. If you don’t love what you are going to blog about and you if don’t have a plan on how to truly develop the blog and if you don’t have a plan on how to incorporate this love outside of the blog and into other endeavors, don’t waste your time. The Google ads don’t pay the bills.
Kix Files: Only do what interests you most and be totally committed.
NSB: Never start a blog or site directly for commercial interests. Just do it because you are learning or getting something out of it that you are passionate about. When hosting fees and growth become problems—good ones to have—then monetization is proper. Most of the new sites out to a lesser degree reach a mathematical fixation of not working because traffic that is coming to your site are actual people and can see through this and if your content is lacking what’s the point? If you are interested though in starting something just throw it out there and see what sticks, just have a rhythm and reason for your purpose.
Sole Redemption: Passion. You may have heard that content is king. It’s pretty much the only online secret you need to know about starting and maintaining a successful blog. If you’re not passionate about your niche, it will reflect in your content and people won’t bother to read you.
Nice Kicks: Rule number one in life that I learned from my father – you do your best at something you love. I didn’t create the blog with the thought that I would make any money at it. I created the blog because I love sneakers. Don’t do anything for the money, especially a blog. Readers will know right off the bat how much you care about what you write. Whether it’s the presentation of getting the best photos, to the quality of the writing, readers can really tell who just states the obvious and who gives them content worth reading.
Sneaker Files: Best way to put it, with everything else in life, you get what you put into it. Also make sure to be very consistent.
More Info: http://www.kixandthecity.com | http://www.kix-files.com | http://www.nikeskateboarding.org | http://www.soleredemption.com | http://www.nicekicks.com | http://www.kicksaholic.com | http://www.sneakerfiles.com