Part of the reasons why we lack dive industry statistics and market data is that we do not have a real dive industry trade publication digging and sharing impartial information and statistics on the dive industry.
1. What would be a dive industry trade publication?
A trade publication includes information that is of no interest to the general public but highly valuable for professionals in that industry. By publication, nowadays, we mean printed or online, including podcasts.
In an industry trade publication, you find information on changes in the marketplace, trends, financial results of companies in that industry, changes in executives in those companies, changes in consumer expectations or demands, mergers and acquisitions, etc. In other words, the trade publication allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.
In the Outdoor Industry, there are numerous ones. Just Google “ Outdoor Industry Trade Publication” and you’ll find quite a few. The same applies to the Sporting Goods Industry.
For instance, in the March 2015 edition of SGI Weekly Intelligence (SGI stands for Sporting Goods Industry), we find that Head (the parent company of Mares & SSI) had a 5% increase in sales but a 46% decline in net income. You also find that the Mares/SSI division gained 9% in revenues to about $70M — but it was due to the integration of the revenues from the newly acquired SSI business, while there was a decline in gear sales.
Where do we find that kind of information in the dive industry? Where do we find an analysis of the industry?
Just look at the “areas of coverage” by SGI News. Tell me if having this kind of information in a dive industry trade publication would help you manage your scuba diving business. Right. It would be precious.
2. What publications do we have in the dive industry?
We have quite a few good scuba diving publications. We just do not have a dive industry trade publication. Let’s have a look at what we have.
Publications for Scuba Divers (Consumers)
These businesses live by selling advertising, mainly to dive gear manufacturers and dive resorts. Articles in those magazines are always “positive.” The publisher’s goal is to communicate the passion of scuba diving to consumers and please their advertisers. It’s fine. But they do not cover what a dive industry trade publication would.
Besides living from ads, some of these consumer magazines are a promotional arm for a dive training agency. For instance, Sport Diver was the official publication of the PADI Diving Society until the Society died. And Scuba Magazine is the official dive magazine of BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club).
With the 2019 acquisition of Bonnier’s dive media brands (Scuba Diving, Sport Diver, and Skin Diver magazines) by PADI, it seems we have even fewer impartial consumer dive magazines.
Training Agencies Publications
Although they are not targeting the general public, they are very similar to consumer magazines. They “promote” whatever is suitable for the training agency owning the magazine.
If you are a PADI client (they call you a “member”), you receive the “Undersea Journal.” It’s a beautiful magazine. Very well done. But what do you find in there? It seems like there’s nothing from the list of what a dive industry trade publication would include as discussed above. It’s mainly a pep talk, in written form. It’s a PADI medium to convince you to buy more PADI products and services — with some information about changes in teaching standards.
Dive Center Business
Dive Center Business is a very special and unique magazine.
This magazine is sent to dive shop owners and managers in North America. The Dive Center Business magazine contains a lot of great articles on how to better manage your local dive shop. If you do not already read it, I strongly suggest you start.
But is it a dive industry trade publication? Although it is written for and distributed to dive industry insiders (local dive shops), it still doesn’t contain what we discussed above. It’s a management tool for dive center managers and owners, not a comprehensive dive industry trade publication.
Dive News Wire
Dive News Wire is known as the “Industry’s News Source,” and it does, indeed, contain valuable information. If you are in the dive industry and you do not receive it, subscribe. It’s free.
But it’s free because it’s a press release distribution service. It’s not an independent trade publication. Dive industry companies pay for their press releases to be distributed on Dive News Wire.
Undercurrent is another particular beast.
This online magazine covers some of the topics a dive industry trade publication would cover, sometimes. For instance, it wrote about a lawsuit against Suunto regarding their dive computers. The juicier the subject, the more likely Undercurrent will cover it.
However, their primary focus is on reviews of dive destinations for scuba divers.
3. What are the consequences of not having a dive industry trade publication?
There are two main consequences of not having an impartial dive industry trade publication.
No Point of Reference
By definition of what is a trade publication, lacking one means we have no way of keeping our finger on the pulse of the industry. By extension, we lack information and statistics about the dive industry.
If we compare our business to a sailboat, I think we are sailing blindfolded. And we wonder why the dive industry has a problem with growth!
Misleading Dive Professionals
Lacking an impartial dive industry trade publication also creates overly optimistic dive pros and dive shop investors. They are being misled by the numerous “pep talk” found in magazines published by scuba diving training organizations.
New dive professionals invest in becoming an instructor and a dive shop owner, believing all the hype from the training agency. And, then, they realize they didn’t get the whole story and wonder what they just did!
When you ask your training agency rep for help with your marketing plan, what do you get? Usually, you get a list of PADI products he thinks you should buy today.
The dive industry is sailing blindfolded while misleading dive instructor candidates and dive center owners.
4. What’s Next?
We are missing a dive industry trade publication. The solution is pretty simple, right? We should create one. But there’s a problem.
For this dive industry trade publication to be credible, it needs to be independent. It means that it must be a stand-alone business. Therefore, the question becomes: How can such a company be profitable while remaining independent?
Look at the price of a subscription to SGI News. It’s $545 annually. Meanwhile, there’s only a handful of dive shop owners who pay for a DEMA Membership. We regularly hear that such a DEMA Membership is too expensive. It’s only $200 annually. And we save at least $115 on our DEMA Show registration.
Therefore, we can assume it would be hard for such a new company to collect subscription fees in the $500 price range.
On top of that, it’s unlikely that $500 would even be enough. The dive industry is much smaller than the sporting goods industry. We such a niche market, an independent dive industry trade publication would probably have to set its annual subscription price around $1000.
So, the question further becomes: Why is it that players in the dive industry don’t see value in industry information, data, and statistics? Could it be that we have many hobbyists and a few business people? Many of us are in the dive industry because we like scuba diving. That’s a severe disconnect.
We need people passionate about retailing, customer service, business growth, and the like.