Interview with Ryan Faulkner-Hogg of Atlas Geographica


Ryan Faulkner-Hogg is the Founder of Atlas Geographica and a member of the team at Topical Magazine. Here we talk about the Atlas Geographica in the context of the other projects and work for Douglas.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start on the first major project, which is Atlas Geographica, the tag is “A Curiosity Blog.” What was the inspiration for the title Atlas Geographica and the tag with the title?

Ryan Faulkner-Hogg: The name Atlas Geographica is quite uninspiring, unfortunately. I wanted to call it WhatAboutWhen.Com, but the URL was taken. I was sitting in a room. It was Norway in a place called Hoddevik. It was along the countryside along the West Fjords. There was an atlas. It was written in Norwegian called Geographica. I put in Atlas Geographica in the URL finder. It worked. I always loved atlases. Also, Atlas Geographica gives a little whiff of international scope. That’s the foundation of the title. I am happy that this became the title because I consider this better than What About When. I am realizing more, and more, as I write more online blogs. The URL isn’t so important. It is the branding of the name. People can associate Atlas Geographica with the statue of Atlas, which is the logo of the site and the random curiosity-driven content.

The reason for starting it. Initially, I had the idea to commercialize online writing for affiliate income, affiliate-marketed income, for tour agents. I work for a software company, which empowers tour agents all across the world. I thought, “The way affiliate marketing is so synonymous with pushing Amazon’s books or various articles through online marketing. Nothing like this operates for tour operators.” I was in Finland sitting in a meeting with the CEO of a company, who do everything from a 50 Euro day-trip to a 5,000 Euro package. They don’t market nearly as effectively – no one in tourism does – as simple goods. So, I thought while sitting in this meeting, “Why doesn’t somebody write an article about this amazing trip through this company, put affiliate links throughout, then it is free marketing for the company and an income for everyone based on the links on the other end?”

I had this lofty goal to do that. It could still totally be a profitable business idea if someone wants to take it on. However, I quickly realized. For this to be functional, I required the company to code in an affiliate link specific to me. Just using them as one example, they were not interested in doing. This would have to be replicated across the board. All of the affiliate links would need to come from TripAdvisor. I have a sour relation with them. They are a pretty bad company. We realized this from where I am working now. You would be doing this marketing for TripAdvisor rather than the end-user, which would be the other company. This is a roundabout way of introducing it. After I took out the URL and started to write for it, I, originally, wrote three food tour blogs, which are no longer on the site. They were for Amsterdam, San Sebastian, and Rome. They give different images of food tours in these countries. I thought, “This doesn’t excite me at all. It may make a few dollars of income.”

I thought, “I have this URL. I have written content, which I have done in the past. Because I have always enjoyed writing.” I have always found if I enjoy something. The best way to have this in my head and articulate this is to formulate and write it down. I have drafts and written pieces, so I could start uploading them.

Jacobsen: Is the end goal to have a multimedia platform?

Faulkner-Hogg: Yes, it is. Again, it is an end goal, but purely out of interest. I’ve completely steered away from trying to make these media issues a monetizable thing, moved out of financial interest. It is out of interest. A media platform where I have a blog, an email list, and a YouTube channel. It is a way to put all creativity out there and to further legitimize myself if I look back on someday. I can show my parents or if I go into a job interview, “Look, here is my stuff, here is who I am.” Rather than storing it on a hard drive, storing it on the internet, I have romanticized knowing there is the chance of someone to stumble across this article and have it mean something for them. I am sure. You’re familiar with Tim Ferriss. He is an inspiring role model when I think about where I want to take media arms for me. Also, it is a very lofty goal. You will see the latest video put out was on the Tim Ferriss empire. All media arms are multimillion-dollar enterprises. I’m not bothered whether it makes $10 or $0. It is a place where all of my creativity can exist online.

Jacobsen: What do you think makes Tim Ferriss’ different arms of his octopus so functional and profitable? All of the branches built by him.

Faulkner-Hogg: I think the Tim Ferriss phenomenon is genius marketing by him. Before he does anything, he leverages his extensive network to create hype. He has SEO optimized all of the different legs. Also, it is the flywheel. All additional legs complement the others. Since he started the podcast with extremely famous and successful guests, who are people he met in a previous life as a venture capitalist and an author, he had a really good starting block. Also, he was one of the first movers in the podcast game. He quickly created one of the biggest business podcasts in the world, which boosted the blog and the email list. This reinforced authorship when he continues to publish books. His success is really outlier stuff because he has one of the highest-selling books of all time, one of the most listened to podcasts of in the world, one of the biggest email lists in the world, and one of the most read blogs in the world. He is winning on all fronts and an exceptional person.

There is not one thing to point out for success in all his media arms. But I can give an example. During the week, he released a “Tools of Titans” podcast. It is him piggybacking on one of the books that he has already written. He is probably not going to create any original new content. He is going to reformat from the content of the book. He will create a new podcast and have a new revenue stream through ad revenue and introduce new people who find the “Tools of Titan” podcast into the Tim Ferriss brand. They will become subscribers on the email list. They might subscribe to the “The Tim Ferriss Show.” Potentially, they might buy the books as well. He has this huge, huge network, which they can leverage as well.

Jacobsen: When you’re having the different platforms for yourself, as a multimedia startup, are you intending something similar to that, where you have mutually reinforcing programs and initiatives?

Faulkner-Hogg: Yes, it is definitely something that I am actively trying to create. This is why you see the different tabs of Atlas Geographica, which can take you to the YouTube channel, to the podcast channel, and also to a subscription list.

Jacobsen: If you’re looking at 2020/2021, what are your actionables? What are you looking at as targeted objectives?Faulkner-Hogg: I shouldn’t shy away from saying this publicly. However, once you say this publicly, you are subject to ridicule if you do not reach the goals. I launched the YouTube channel. End of 2020, I want the channel monetized, which is 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time. It is not like you monetize this immediately into a lot of money. Once it gets the tick of approval from YouTube, it will become recommended to non-subscribers more. For the blog, I would like to see – a very lofty goal – 100 unique visitors per day. I would like 100 subscribers to the email list. That’s 6 months from now.

Jacobsen: Have you looked into Patreon account, donations, grants, in Australia for startup projects, especially during coronavirus times?

Douglas: I haven’t looked at any of it. The main reason is; I wouldn’t feel comfortable having people donating for the stuff produced by me. I am stoked if people get a kick out of reading the articles. There is no expectation for a monetary reward for it. In terms of grants, I do not consider the media enterprises as a business of mine. That’s why I haven’t considered that route. I haven’t looked at any of that. More for personal business, totally independent of media and looking like things like grants.

Jacobsen: Some areas of focus, they will be individually driven based on what is an interest at a given time for you. Some of the main areas have been on the environment, economics, and travel. What are some of the reasons for some of the touchpoints of the interest for you?

Faulkner-Hogg: Because it comes back to the point of the blog being something going to compliment personal interest rather than something targeted as a niche blog site to get more organic traffic. It is because these things happen to capture attention for me. I want to find out more about them. That’s why there is such a wide variety of unrelated content. If you take vagabonding, I really like Rolf Potts and the book Vagabonding. I wanted to expand on it. I found Tim Ferriss. I wanted to expand on that as well.

Jacobsen: Also, we are involved with some other projects with Topical Magazine. How are you looking to adapt some of the content and interests to a publication like Topical Magazine, and vice versa? Obviously, there will be a Venn diagram of overlapping interest in Atlas Geographica content produced there, and then future stuff coming out of Topical Magazine.

Faulkner-Hogg: Yes, I think Topical Magazine has a much more event-driven side to its content. So, I think Topical Magazine has more sophisticated takes on the events compared to Atlas Geographica. If we look at Ben David’s recent post of Nietzsche and the New Atheists, For instance, also, his recent Covid-19 and the enemy conspiracy theory one too. It is “Topical” “Magazine.” So, they want to touch on relevant time-stamped content. Whereas, Atlas Geographica is more than likely going to be time-specific and a little bit more ever-green as an introduction or a take on something that is an ongoing discussion or an ongoing theme/mood within society. For instance, if I look at the Christopher Hitchens and mortality post, which Atlas Geographica put out, recently, it is a piece of evergreen content. Whoever is interested in Christopher Hitchens, whether the beginning or the end of the relationship with Hitchens, it is there. What Ben did with Covid-19, the sophisticated part becomes the fact that he’s also breaking down what makes the conspiracy. Again, Scott, I’m sorry if I answered the question so indirectly.

Jacobsen: Any other areas to explore today?

Faulkner-Hogg: Not specifically, Topical Magazine and Ben, and being introduced to you, too, it is a compliment to Ben David to publish a piece in Topical Magazine and took an interest in Atlas Geographica. I think the story is quite funny how I met Ben David, Benji.

Jacobsen: Did you meet him in Norway?

Faulkner-Hogg: In Amsterdam.

Jacobsen: Of course, yes.

Faulkner-Hogg: I am working for this company. We have a bunch of people coming in for interviews. A lot of them coming into the interviews with who my manager likes. He asks, “What do you think about this guy?” I will give a shallow commentary on it. I never got to interview Ben. I gave an opinion from a quick look at him and the things the manager said. I saw. He was editor of Topical Magazine. Usually, we don’t get people with non-relevant experience.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Faulkner-Hogg: [Laughing] I was like, “That’s fantastic.” I went on the site and read an article on the Zizek and Peterson debate. I thought, “This guy is cool. I hope we hire him.” Ben and I had some business, I introduced the fact of writing for a small blog called Atlas Geographica. He taught a lot about the WordPress side of things, to make sure the site looks good. He invited me to publish some material on Topical Magazine. It is entitled “Forget Chernobyl and Don’t Listen to the Hippies.” We retitled for Topical Magazine to get more clicks. The story was about the fact that it boggles the mind that the left is so anti-nuclear power, when it is the greenest form of technology available to us. The article debunks the extreme outlier events like Chernobyl. It is a fun story about meeting Ben. I want to leave that as a compliment about Topical Magazine.

Jacobsen: Ryan, thanks so much.

Image Credit: Ryan Faulkner-Hogg.

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