We are proud to be entering our 24th year of the Be-Mag journey. What started out as an email newsletter sent out Christmas 1996 evolved into one of the longest running print magazines in blading history, a full-fledged online magazine, as well as the largest messageboard and communication hub for rollerblading. We now must take the next steps to continue spearheading onward and upward.
2 years ago, we were at a crossroads. This has always a passion project run while working our day jobs (something familiar to most rollerbladers). We always managed to maintain a budget to take photos, film, write, and organize staff as best we could in the hard times our industry has faced. Then, we couldn’t. We found ourselves at an impasse and things came to a grinding halt. We weren’t able to continue as a media outlet because the backend of the site needed upgrading and the costs of running the magazine far exceeded the revenue brought in. We cross-financed with the distribution we started in Europe (distributing current brands like Vibralux, Dead, Eulogy; previously 4×4, Vicious, Nimh), though there is also only so much to earn in an industry with dwindling numbers and budgets. As we looked at the logistics of keeping things going, we contemplated shuttering Be-Mag.
Fortuna stepped in and the Be-Mag project was kept moving through the aid of the Danish company, Skatepro. They offered their patronage despite the endeavor not showing a profit. The believe in the necessity of the magazine in our community. Their partnership meant we could continue with the content we wanted and they would support us with all the technical issues we had. It was a welcomed professionalism and commitment to our industry. Most of all, it helped keep Be-Mag going onwards.
We are approaching a quarter of a century operating Be-Mag — an unthinkable feat when it was first started. As that milestone is neared, questions about the future and how to keep the magazine a staple in the rollerblading community arose. We realized there was a tough decision to make, one we did not take lightly. For the longevity of the magazine, we came to the conclusion that the infamous messageboard needed to be retired. The cons outweighed the pros — 10+ year old code that needed extensive updating, sporadic service to the community the past few years, and ballooning maintenance costs that cut further into editorial content creation.
The messageboard has been an integral part of Be-Mag DNA. In the era before Facebook, this was the place on the internet where rollerbladers would meet and converse. Friendships were forged, rumors were spread, pros and company owners would discuss decisions and ideas. The Be-Mag online magazine in conjunction with the messageboard was bigger than any other action sports website. It was a big phenomenon which plenty of people tried to replicate from different industries. It was something unique to rollerblading’s corner of the internet. The messageboard was a place of free speech and we upheld this value staunchly — even when lawyers threatened us, law enforcement put pressure upon us. In the face of this, we upheld the banner of free speech. It is our solemn belief that this should be a reflection of real life, on and off blades. The messageboard created connections around the world and influenced how rollerblading evolved and was perceived.
As social media platforms matured, communication shifted away from web 1.0 bulletin boards. Discussions moved to tech giants offering connections and services beyond blading. Despite this and the demise of other boards, the Be-Mag messageboard remained strong for several years against the trend. As the middle of the twenty-tens decade approached, member numbers and involvement slowed dramatically. It was in strong contrast to the heyday when you could refresh the messageboard once every few minutes and you would see a slew of new threads. This is now not the case anymore, with days without any new posts the norm. Conversations have shifted elsewhere and we too must adapt with the times.
Something that’s been on everyone’s mind is the recent hack to Be-Mag’s server. There was a critical point within the first day or two of the hack where we thought the damage done had brought down the messageboard and magazine altogether (we will detail what transpired in an upcoming post). While that turned out not to be the case, the fragility of running aging software became apparent. There isn’t a way to future-proof the messageboard as it stands without some drastic changes.
After lengthy discussions internally, the decision was made to archive the messageboard as read-only in a virtual server, keeping them as a snapshot of rollerblading’s early history while protecting us from future hacks. We do this out of respect to the countless rollerbladers all over the world who came home, checked the board, poured over threads, and gave voice to anything and everything on their minds. To those of you who spent hours on our messageboard, we thank you for being part of our collective history. We will flip the switch to read-only on November 21st and will keep the community informed once the transition is complete. User profiles and signatures will be kept for 3-4 months afterwards.
The resolution made is a necessity for Be-Mag’s evolution to coalesce our paths into a worthwhile singular effort. That being said, we want to introduce Jonathan Labez and Kevin Little who are taking the reigns in this next chapter at Be-Mag, assuming the day to day operations of the magazine. With this new chapter comes a completely redesigned, soft-launched website that is familiar and modern to the community its served. We hope that everyone reading this will continue patroning the Be-Mag project and join us on the next leg of our voyage.