What do Fly Fishing and Print Media Have in Common?

Submitted by: Phil Riebel 07/11/2016

Two Sides interviews Dr. Joe Ballarini, Founder of Tail Fly Fishing Magazine about his decision to print a magazine.

"We wanted to give our readers something real and completely separate ourselves from the rest of the digital forest…having so many digital books out there really dilutes readership and sometimes the importance of the message that print media can provide."


Tail Fly Fishing Magazine is a hugely popular online fishing magazine dedicated to saltwater fly fishing.  They have gained over 35,000 readers in less than 4 years. And now…they are going to print!

As a long time fly fisher and outdoor enthusiast (and print and paper guy!) this piqued my interest.  I contacted Dr. Joe Ballarini, the founder of Tail Fly Fishing Magazine. We exchanged stories of fishing and paper and print, an interesting mix! I thought I would share some of these with you.

The first thing you should know is that Dr. Joe Ballarini is a medical doctor who works in the 7th busiest emergency room in the United States.  Tail Fly Fishing Magazine is his “other job” - an interesting anecdote for those of us who think we have “busy” lives!

Joe, what were the main factors in your decision to print a magazine?

There are many factors that had significant influence on our decision to go to print.  The short answer is that a large percentage of our digital audience which is over 34,000 strong were very emphatic about their desire for a print version of the magazine.

Fly fishers are nostalgic, they like to tie flies and collect vintage rods and reels.  If they’re like me, they have every copy of every fly fishing magazine they have ever received.  We wanted to give them something real and completely separate ourselves from the rest of the digital forest. We also completed our own independent research which indicated that consumers really wanted a printed magazine.  They want the ability to turn pages and pack a magazine for a flight or the daily commute.  

Nowadays almost anyone with graphic design skill can publish a digital magazine.  Some are better than others, but having so many digital books out there really dilutes readership and sometimes the importance of the message that print media can provide.

Do you believe the return on investment will help Tail Fly Fishing Magazine grow its business and reach?

The return on investment is really "pie in the sky" at this stage, but we are using our resources and revenues to market our new print magazine as successfully as we can.  

There are significant costs involved with starting a print publication and we haven’t even considered discussing profit.  All inbound revenue immediately converts to outbound as we prepare to launch.  

I think in time, perhaps a few years, we may look back and say we did the right thing from a financial perspective.  Right now it remains a labor of love for all of us involved. As long as we keep the skiff afloat, we are content. 

Have you taken any steps to source paper and print services in an environmentally responsible way given that your business is closely linked to the outdoors?

As of right now we are going with what is easiest to source until we cut our teeth.   We did insist on recycled paper for the initial run of our publication.

In time as we refine our process and have a little more flexibility with our resources we will seek out the best paper from the most environmentally aware companies.  Until then, we will continue with our publishing partner, Allen Press, to make the most environmentally conscious fly fishing magazine we can. 

Are there any other key points you would like to make regarding the move to print?

The move to print was really necessary. In order to solidify the place of Tail Fly Fishing Magazine as the only publication that is dedicated to saltwater, we had to make a “real” magazine.  

Tail has been enjoyed by so many, in over 85 countries in its digital format.  I need to extend a giant "thank you" to our early print subscribers overseas.  Subscribers from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Canada gave us a big boost when we weren’t quite sure how the overseas market would be for us.  Our goal is to give them and all the other subscribers a fly fishing magazine that not only meets, but exceeds expectations.  

Tail will be printed on 80 lb high gloss stock paper with a 100 lb high gloss cover completed with a soft touch coating.  The "perfect binding" process adds a real spine to the book.  The spine is also printed with the book title, issue number and a witty message which changes with each issue.

Word of mouth and support from readers is more valued to us than any marketing campaign.  Tell everyone you know, Tail Fly Fishing Magazine is coming to print!