I am willing to bet a lot of you didn’t know the guy behind Vital BMX is the guy who started Ride BMX years ago. I caught up with Brad McDonald and had the chance to ask him some questions about Vital BMX and Vital Media. I hope you like this one! Let us know in the comments!
Vital Media is the company you are the head man behind along with Todd Toth. What exactly is that company and when was everything started including Vital BMX?
We got things rolling in March, 2006. Prior to that, I was running TransWorld Media, Todd Toth was in charge of advertising for some of the magazines at TransWorld, and Mark Losey used to be the editor of Ride BMX. The first couple months were spent setting everything up, and the site officially launched on August 15, 2006.
How many other people are involved with Vital?
There are about 10 of us who are full-time or part-time, plus a lot of freelance contributors. The main content people for Vital BMX are Mark Losey (Content Director), Kyle Carlson, Glenn Milligan, Terrell Gordy, Alex Auerbach, Brett Rohlfing, Stewart Munro, Larry Rhodes, Dan Panzone, Mike McQueen, Juca Favela, and more. There are definitely more contributors than this, but that’s our regular crew.
Brad on the Left, Todd on the right
Vital BMX is an “online community”, so is it essentially a Myspace/Facebook for action sports people? And what are some of the features that separate Vital from all the other action sports websites out there?
Vital’s overall mix is unique and a little hard to label. It’s a mix of professionally-created content, user-uploaded videos, social networking, BMX products, forums, etc. We’ve got different things we think riders are into. Facebook and MySpace are aimed at everybody, so it’s a completely different type of community. It’s kind of like the difference between being at big party when you’re in high school versus being at the skatepark or trails. The party is good if you’re trying to meet girls, the second one is better for hanging out with your friends who ride.
There was a site redesign a few months back, does that mean there won’t be any changes in the near future or is there going to be some new additions sometime soon?
We definitely have a lot of big ideas in the works. The redesign that people saw was actually part of an entire rebuild that we did. We spent about six months rewriting the code for our site so it would function properly, and also be a better platform to build on. The graphic part is what people obviously noticed, but that was a small part of the whole project. We’ll be steadily rolling out improvements for the rest of this year. If anyone has specific ideas, just let me know. Things are planned out for the next several months, but I always like to hear feedback.
With new riders, videos, photos, news, and all that stuff changing at such a fast pace due to internet, about how much time a day does it take for all the contributors to keep up with everything?
Fortunately, Mark and Kyle handle the content on a day to day basis, so I’m not sure about this question. I have enough other stuff to worry about!
Vital gets a large amount of traffic daily, what kinds of stats are you looking at on average in a month, and what are some of the problems you tend to run into most often with the websites?
We’re growing so fast that there really isn’t a typical month – almost every month is bigger than the last. Traffic has grown 100% in the past twelve months. Last month, Vital BMX had 204,000 unique visitors. Based on all the third-party info I’ve seen, as well as the traffic that other sites are claiming, we’re the biggest BMX site in the world. In just the past month, we’ve had visitors from 147 different countries. As far as problems go, it’s always something different. You fix one problem, and another one pops up. If we didn’t have so much traffic, it wouldn’t be nearly as difficult, so I guess we can’t complain.
You and Todd have been in the BMX industry for many years working for Ride BMX and other magazines. What was it like to be able to start something like this and have it become as popular as it has?
I started Ride BMX magazine out of my bedroom when I was 21. I built it up and eventually sold it to TransWorld, although I stayed on to continue running it. Todd started working at Ride with me about eleven years ago. Mark Losey became the editor about 10 years ago. So we all have a lot of experience taking something that’s small and building it into something a lot bigger. That’s pretty much the same thing with Vital, except it’s growing much faster than the magazine ever did. I think once you’ve done something that was successful, you have higher expectations for yourself going forward, and that makes you work harder to achieve it.
It seems like every month you guys have some sort of big contest like the Haro and GT contests. What is coming up next and what are some other things you guys have in the works?
Our members and advertisers are our lifeblood, so we’re always into ideas that will benefit them. I can’t really talk about what we have coming up, but there some good ideas in the pipeline.
A lot of people who come to the website are not signed up. What are some bonuses for signing up and becoming a member?
We’ve never required people to register in order to view the site. If someone just wants to watch videos, read the news, and lurk around, that’s fine with us. If someone else wants to contribute to the site, that’s even better. But we require people to register in order to post content. This makes people think about what they’re posting, which helps keep the tone of the site much more positive. Anonymity on the Internet inevitably leads to people acting like assholes. Probably more important, though, being a member let’s people establish themselves within the BMX scene. In the past, if someone wanted to get noticed, they practically had to move to southern California, and become friends with the magazine guys. Now, people anywhere in the world can make a name for themselves on Vital, whether it’s as a rider, photographer, videographer, or just someone with an interesting perspective in the forums. It’s definitely leveled the playing field.
I’ve noticed a lot of videos and photos that are featured are from freelance guys. Who should people contact if they have a higher quality submission? And do you guys ever use member submissions as features?
Mark Losey is the main guy for content. You can contact him at mlosey (at) vitalbmx (dotcom).
Obviously it would be a sweet gig to work for Vital BMX, do you guys ever do internships or are you looking to hire anybody for anything in the near future?
I’m always interested in talented and hard-working people. The main thing I look for is someone who is already doing for fun what they hope to get a job doing. Too many people think they can’t do something until it’s their job. That’s like thinking you can’t be a good rider unless you’re sponsored. I can be reached at bmcdonald (at) vitalmedianet (dotcom).
Do you guys ever sponsor events at all? Who should people contact to get involved with you guys?
We haven’t gotten involved with events, but we would if it was the right opportunity and a good fit.
Where would you like to see Vital BMX and Vital Media Network go in the coming years?
Continual improvement. We’re the biggest, but we don’t take our position for granted. We’re always striving to make the site better.
What kind of advice do you have for people out there looking to start up a website or blog?
Just get started. I think sites like BMX Union are great. There are very few technical hurdles to starting a blog, designing graphics, or making videos these days. It’s really about the talent and persistence of the individual, rather than who they know or how much equipment their parents will buy them.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for this interview, and thank you to the members and companies that are supporting us.
I picked this video to use because it has been the most popular video on Vital BMX for a while now.