Published Mar 13. 2020 - 2 months ago
Updated or edited Mar 13. 2020

The GFF Interview

GFF gets too little press coverage, so I interviewed myself, and asked myself a number of intelligent questions and offered some equally brilliant answers.

My favorite interviewer
My favorite interviewer
Martin Joergensen

Having been a journalist for a long period in my life, I have always had my nose into the wind trying to sniff up a good story. Looking at the nature and the history of the Global FlyFisher I have also always thought that the development of this site actually was exactly such a good story.

Think about it: one of the largest and definitely one of the oldest fly fishing sites on the web, run on a non-commercial basis and with voluntary and free contributions from users all over the world. A site with a truly broad and international scope and with content from the most basic beginner's articles to really complex and exotic articles aimed at the true fly-fishing nerd.
And pretty high quality material too if I may say so. Lots of excellent illustrations for each article, at least far more than the average fly-fishing site or even printed magazine. Good text, thorough and usually long and well-written and well-edited. Please excuse me for blowing my horn a bit there, but I honestly think so!
And according to our stats we put out about 10-15 articles per month and have about 7-10,000 unique visitors per day so it's even high volume and high traffic.
Isn't that some story?
I think so. And since no other media finds GFF interesting enough, I simply decided to interview myself!

I simply decided to interview myself!

I was actually interviewed for the excellent podcast The Wet Fly Swing back in the autumn 2019.

The less exotic, the more popular

Q:

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us on GFF, Martin. I know you're a busy man.

A:

You're welcome Martin! Thanks for contacting me. Journalists don't exactly stand in line to hear the GFF story, but should I select one media to talk to, it would definitely be yours. I just love your website!

Q:

Let's start with something easy: what's the most popular articles on your site.

A:

Well, you know what? It's an odd thing, because as much as we love bringing articles about specialty subjects like tying tube flies, fishing for Argentinean Wolf Fish and knowing about tying thread and bobbin holders, it's the plain beginner's articles about very common things that draw the most traffic.
We keep on piling up new and exiting material, but people still want to read about knots, setting up your first fly rod and how to build a fly tying bench.
And then there's the videos, of course...

1st generation video section
Video section
Martin Joergensen

Q:

Yes, the videos... talk us through the story of the videos!

A:

About 10 years ago I decided to kind of "do what they do". After having seen several online media - fishing and non-fishing - adding dedicated video sections to their site.
The idea was not to produce our own video content, but to showcase all the great video available online. I wanted to bring the best of the best fly-fishing and fly-tying videos that people post out there.
In my day job as a web developer I had built a video system that we used for clients, so I simply adapted that to the GFF format, and integrated it with all our other content.
And it took off like a rocket!
I did spend quite some time building system and adding videos, but as the days went, it became a routine to add new videos almost daily. And the audience responded positively to say the least!
The video channel is by far the most popular part of the site, surpassing the patterns by a factor of five! And patterns used to be the single most viewed section.
As we speak we have passed 10,000 videos and are closing in on 35 million video views. We show videos about 20-30,000 times a day.

Q:

Why not just have a video site then?

A:

There's so much else beside videos, and even though I know that people love the living image, I find it a little shallow to just add other people's videos every day.
I'm bursting with ideas for GFF articles, and we have a steady - although still too small - trickle of stories coming from the outside. I personally find that much more interesting than the videos.


The 25-year history

The Global FlyFisher June 2000
The Global FlyFisher 1997
The pattern section 1997
Incarnations of the Global FlyFisher
Martin Joergensen

Q:

Before we go on... can you briefly run us through the history of GFF?

A:

Sure. I started out in 1994 with my site Fishing Denmark aimed at people wanting to fish for sea trout in the Baltic. It was made as a response to people inquiring about our coastal fishing through mail, and after having sent the same reply many times, I decided to embrace this new thing called the World Wide Web, and make a web site with what had grown to be quite a lengthy mail.
At the same time GFF partner Steve Schweitzer made a site about his favorite subjects called the Midwest Flytyer. This site concentrated on fly-tying as the name implies and took its outset in the Midwest.
All this was back in 1994-1996 - the true infancy of the web more than 25 years ago.

Q:

The sites merged... how did you guys connect?

A:

We met at the International Fly-Tyer's Symposium in 1997. We immediately clicked and had a great time together.

Three fourths of GFF...
Three fourths of GFF...
Byard Miller

The year after I was invited to tie at the Midwest Fly Show & Tying Symposium, which was held in Chicago, where Steve lived back then. Again we had a great time, and soon after I returned to Denmark, the first mention of The Global FlyFisher was in the mail.
The world saw something "live" on www.globalflyfisher.com on my 39th birthday, October 5th 1998.

Q:

The site has changed - and grown - a lot since then

A:

It certainly has. In the beginning we simply agreed on a structure and moved our current content into the new sections. The site was manually built with so called static pages, which we edited one at the time like text documents. All links, menus, images and whatnot had to be added manually, one by one with no automation.
As we started, we also invited the two new partners Bob Petti and Bob Skehan (AKA Raske) to join. Petti had contributed a couple of articles to Fishing Denmark and Raske had the web site "The New England Streamer Page" and had problems finding free web space for this site.
We merged his site into ours and both he and Bob Petti were contributing new material.


The system and the server blues

Another server
The first GFF server
Servers...
Martin Joergensen

Q:

But manual maintenance? That must have been a lot of work!

A:

Yup! And too much! I was working as a computer journalist and got acquainted with web scripting and databases, and decided to develop a so called CMS (Content Management System) for GFF.
Regulars and old-timers on GFF may have followed the development of this system. We started out on a US web hotel, but ran out of space and bandwidth after a few years. So I bought us our own physical server and had it installed here in Denmark, but as GFF grew and the traffic increased we had to fight some battles with both the server and the hosting company. It cost a lot of time and money. Today we run through US based host, and even though we still have issues due to high traffic, the site usually runs smoothly. The Disk Space Blues entries on the blog tells part of the story.


The money

Q:

Speaking of money... it can't be inexpensive to run a site such as GFF.

A:

Oh, don't get me started...! There has been quite a lot of expenses in connection with GFF over the years. Steve took care of the expenses in the beginning years, and since then I have been paying. We have managed to cut expenses back a bit by transferring the site to a US hosting company with very good service and reasonable prices. But it's still expenses.

Q:

Why not turn commercial? There must be some advertising potential?

A:

There probably is... but every time I check it, it seems to be more trouble than income. At the same time we swore a an oath many years ago that we'd try too keep the site ad-free and non-commercial.
I broke the oath and took a short stint with ads many years ago, but I decided to abandon them again. It was a lot of trouble and work, the ads were mostly ugly and irrelevant and there was very little money to be made. The money was supposed to cover the expenses, but didn't get anywhere near that, so I dropped the ads again.
Keeping money out of the equation and staying non-commercial also makes it much easier to run an independent site, and even though I cover the major part of the expenses now, I can deduct some of them in my small company, since I use the GFF server and web hotel for client development too. That makes it bearable.

Q:

You have had some bids on the site... potential buyers.

A:

Yes, a few times during our long history we've had offers, but honestly, they have been so low that they weren't worth considering. If you take into account the amount of work invested in the site and the potential trouble of sharing the money, none of us would earn enough money to justify loosing control over the site - or loosing the site completely for that matter.
The site is so much fun and generates so many good contacts, great feedback and a few perks too, that I have long ago decided that I prefer modest expenses and full control rather than a modest income and no control.

Q:

But people can chip in now?

A:

They can! I've had the option for visitors to contribute to the site through PayPal, Patreon and Ko-fe for a some time now, and the generosity has been tremendous! I'm so thankful to all those who have taken the opportunity to send a little money this way. It has essentially made running the site cost free for me, which is a great improvement compared to the most expensive years. It even leaves me a bit of extra to use when shopping books, hooks and materials for site articles, which is really great. I'm so grateful to those who donate and contribute. Thanks to all of you! Should anybody feel like doing the same, this is how you donate money to the site.


The future

The current Global FlyFisher HQ
The current Global FlyFisher HQ
Martin Joergensen

Q:

What's the future of GFF?

A:

More of the same and more new stuff. As I said: I'm bursting with ideas. Unfortunately the number of articles from the other partners aren't as numerous as they used to be.
Raske's once so active and still very popular section on New England Streamers hasn't seen an article from his hand since 2005 and we have almost completely lost contact with him.
Steve has published a couple of things during the last couple of years, but before that, we need to go back to 2009 to see a Schweitzer byline. Steve has been busy publishing books and is very active in his local fishing and tying community, so his time for GFF is scarce. Recently he wrote the excellent Designing Poppers, Sliders & Divers.
Kasper, who is the latest partner, has been working, moving to Denmark and taking care of his family, and his number of articles is far from what it used to be.
Bob's pace is slightly higher than the rest, but Bob also has limited time for the site.

I respect their priorities fully. I have no expectations that they can muster even a fraction of the time that I put into the site. It has become a part of my life. I don't even consider it work anymore, but simply have fun doing it. Like doing a puzzle or the crosswords. It beats playing Candy Crush, doing Sudoku or being on Facebook or Twitter all day by an order of magnitude!

Q:

Well work or not... thanks for giving this interview and good luck going ahead Martin!

A:

Thanks Martin. Any time. I'm always happy to appear on your excellent website.

Global
Global
NASA

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Since you got this far …


The GFF money box

… I have a small favor to ask.

Long story short

Support the Global FlyFisher through several different channels, including PayPal.

Long story longer

The Global FlyFisher has been online since the mid-90's and has been free to access for everybody since day one – and will stay free for as long as I run it.
But that doesn't mean that it's free to run.
It costs money to drive a large site like this.

See more details about what you can do to help in this blog post.