"It all started back in 1999, sitting at work, bored out of my mind yet feeling slightly ambitious. I decided that skiing was taking a definite turn for the better, and the sport needed a core website to promote it. The original site was as basic as they come. No interactivity. No stellar content. Nothing but a couple of profiles of some sick riders, and three trick tips.
A year later, on a Saturday afternoon in September of 2000, again while sitting at work with nothing to do, a decision was made that would change Newschoolers.com forever. The site needed something more. It needed more content. More updates. It needed to be completely interactive. So on that sunny afternoon, from 20 stories above downtown Ottawa, with the visual buzz of tourists and mall-walkers below, the new Newschoolers.com was born.
The first interactive Newschoolers.com, which was released on October 1st of 2000, was a hit from the day it started. Members loved the interactivity, and guests loved the content. After only three months online, the site had attracted more than 500 members, a sure sign of good things to come.
As the site continued to grow to new levels, so did the glitches in the code. Every old-time member can remember the days of the re-code, when the site was completely rebuilt from the ground up. The re-code ensured that Newschoolers.com would not fold under the pressure of the thousands of hits it received every day, and after moving to another new server, the site was finally solid and ready for action.
Three years after the initial concept was conceived, Newschoolers.com has become the place to find information, talk to other skiers, watch videos, and look at pictures. The possibilities are endless as thousands of new forum posts appear each week, and new members join daily. As the sport of skiing continues to grows, so does Newschoolers.com. With magazines, ski movies, and ski hills noticing the mass potential of the site, only time will tell what will happen next."
July 29th, 2002.
As 2014 comes to a close, we've passed the 15th anniversary of Newschoolers.com, a website most of us use daily, whether it be to watch edits, troll 12 year old n00bs, or use it as a platform to publish user-created content. Although he has moved onto another part of his life, the founder of NS Matt Harvey will go on to be a name this community never forgets.
Last week Harvey answered member questions, and to what some consider one of the most epic Q&A's to ever go down in the forums, I'm here to give you the highlights.
What was your vision for the future of the website when you founded it? did you plan on having such a huge community here? -broto
MH: Skiing was in a very different place when I started Newschoolers. It was so surprising to see someone with twin tips that if you did, you would immediately say hi and ski together. After that happened to me a couple times, I figured we should probably have a place to talk about this twin tip freestyle stuff on the internet, so I started Newschoolers.
I had NO idea it would grow to be so big. When it hit 500 members, I was blown away and thought maybe it would grow by another couple hundred. Maybe. Then this happened...
What brought you to working in digital product at USA Today? and what were the big differences you saw in working on Newschoolers and Freeskier? (In terms of like the process, the vibe, etc.) I guess that'd be a bit different though with freeskier being huge and all -nutz.
Funny enough, David Levin, who I met on NS, convinced me to make the move. He promised unicorns and rainbows at every turn, and thus far he hasn't been too far off.
For the younger ones, Levin is the guy who made Scandalous and Blunt, filmed and edited for PBP, and was the first art director at Armada. We now work side by side at USA Today, along with other members of the ski industry we've managed to recruit.
There were huge differences in working for Newschoolers and Freeskier. At NS, I was the last say in everything, and it was really just me and cko doing it all. At Freeskier, I had a big say, but nowhere near the final one, and there was a team of 10 people working on things. Both were really fun in their own way, and I learned a lot at both.
(For what it's worth, Freeskier is actually quite small. USA Today, on the other hand, is HUGE!)
Do you still follow freestyle skiing? Why did you sell Newschoolers? -steezyjibber
I don't really follow freestyle skiing anymore. I check contest reports on Freeskier from time to time, and get filled in on gossip from friends (thanks, Shay!), but I don't really know much about what's going on. Anything I should know? Is Tom Wallisch still the man or what?
Why did I sell NS? That's a really good question, but is not mine alone to answer. When I left Newschoolers in 2004 to work at Freeskier, I ceased all involvement with the site, and Doug Bishop, Chris O'Connell (cko) and Paul (nopoles) took it over. When Doug called me to say that someone wanted to buy it, the four of us had a call to discuss how we felt about it. I won't speak for the others, but I was all for it. The buyer had good intentions for the site, those three would continue to operate it with semi-autonomy, and I would close a chapter in my life that I was very proud of. At the end of the day, it seemed like the right thing to do, and I still feel that way.
When founding NS, did you build a team of co-founders, or do everything yourself? -JPOB
When I started NS, I didn't even know what a founder was. I really just wanted to create a place for skiers to talk to each other and post stuff online. Ironically, I started NS pretty much in the middle of the dot com crash, and even that I knew hardly anything of. So for the first two years, I did everything myself. Then I met Chris and Doug, and they helped me see that this thing had bigger potential. Ultimately, several of us ended up with equity in it, but it wasn't structured the way a startup as I now know it would be.
What was early NS like? -A_Burger
At the VERY beginning, there would literally be three or four of us online at the same time, and we all came to know each other. Someone new would pop on, and we'd message, "Hi, where are you from? Who are you? Which of the three twin tips do you use?" So weird.
It was so cool to watch it grow in little pockets. First it was Ottawa, then Toronto, then Montreal and Vancouver, then Washington and Vermont... Back then, we used the site to arrange meeting up with each other and sharing rides, even. I traveled to Montreal, Toronto and Whistler in the early days to meet people I met on the site.
Are you proud of what you created? How do you feel about the direction NS has gone in over the past several years? -1337
Hell yeah I'm proud of it! However, I know that all I did was create the platform. The community did all the real work.
How do I feel about the direction? I don't use the site a lot, so I'm probably not the best to answer, but I have noticed some things over the years... When the new homepage came out, and NS stopped covering events, I was pretty against that move. I thought NS's coverage of events was really good, and an important service to the ski community. But now that I think about it, it was probably the smart move. I still don't "get" the homepage, though. I stopped trying to figure out how to use it. Also, I think the design needs help. Last, I love the NSTV thing. I think NS has done online video better than anyone else in skiing.
What made you decide (for lack of a better term) to 'abandon' the ski industry and pursue a career with USA today? -ERICA.MN
That's a great question.
The ski industry gave me everything: incredible experiences around the world, connections with insanely passionate people, endless amounts of fun.... It was, and in some ways always will be, what defined me.
But eventually, my passion for the details of skiing faltered. I stopped caring about which ski was marginally better than the next, or which pipe run was better than the other. When that passion faltered, it was time to move on.
I hope I continue to enjoy skiing for the rest of my life just for the fun of it, but these days, my obsession is with the digital products that are shaping the world, and USA Today gave me the opportunity to execute on that passion.
What do you think about when you are running? -DJAK
Do you see yourself moving away from USA Today? -SDrvper
Eventually, sure. But I love the opportunity that I have here. We have millions of visitors across dozens of sites and apps, and we're just scratching the surface of what we can do to better the experience for our visitors. Once I feel like I've done all that I can do, I'll think about what to do next.
Name 1 thing you wish you had done differently with NS. .. Follow-up questions: Why? -Bagels
That's a really hard question to answer. Thanks for asking it.
I probably should have worked more closely with others in the industry when starting up. I've always been pretty shy, and was even more so back then, so I was content to just build my little website and let people come to it.
Looking back, had I appreciated how much impact it could have, I could've worked with the film companies and skiers and given them more of a platform to connect with the community, since the community clearly wanted to connect with them. If you think about it, Newschoolers existed half a decade before Facebook, YouTube, Twitter... hell, it existed before even MySpace! So there's that...
Is the website now what you envisioned it would be/be used for? -ski.loon
I guess you could say it is! I never thought it would be so big, but the first "tagline" I had was, "Bringing skiers from around the world together." I think that has stayed true all these years. That's pretty darn cool.
What are the biggest challenges you see facing the media portion of the ski industry in the next 5 years? -Mr.Bishop
There are two trends working against media outlets like Freeskier and Powder:
1. The fragmentation of content production as every skier and brand creates their own content, often on par or better than what the mags create.
2. The proliferation (and commoditization) of digital distribution platforms (including NS) that allows these skiers, brands and other individuals to reach skiers directly.
I see magazines' only real future being in gear reviews. But until their revenue stops being tied directly to the companies they're reviewing, they're never going to be entirely legit. And I don't see that happening any time soon, so...
Meanwhile, all NS has to worry about is losing to Facebook and Google, so I wouldn't lose too much sleep over it.
View the full Q&A here: http://www.newschoolers.com/forum/thread/798960/Matt-Harvey-Live-Q-A
## "Holy mother of god, I may be biased but that was the greatest conversation I have ever read on the internet." -Doug Bishop ##
Harvey was the beginning, and I think it's safe to say the community is the future.
Stay classy NS!