Hiking with Shawn
Updates, Changes and New Strategies
2019 – Volume 1
Greetings Hiking with Shawn Fans,
In an effort to be transparent, I will be issuing Public Service Announcements on updates, changes and strategy additions for Hiking with Shawn. This is volume 1 for the first quarter of 2019. I want everyone to understand the direction I am taking with Hiking with Shawn. This will allow you to give feedback and take part in the projects that are being planned for our community.
Thank you for your support
I recently posted a memoir if you will about what Hiking with Shawn was created to be and what it turned into. In the post, I discussed if the public (you) are enjoying what I am creating with this platform and if you’d like to see it continued. I also wanted to show transparency and help everyone understand what my goals are with the direction that I am taking Hiking with Shawn in. I discussed some comments that were made negatively against Hiking with Shawn and creating videos of the forest in general.
Shortly after posting the update, I received dozens of comments of words of encouragement and support of what I am doing with Hiking with Shawn. It flabbergasted me to be frank. I’ve always known that many of you support me but reading all the comments made me feel like I had the largest family on earth. I feel at home every time I reread your comments. You all made a somewhat of a downed-mood night into a happy night and smile before bedtime.
I cannot say it enough. I am very thankful for all of the support you all have given me over these years of doing Hiking with Shawn. I recently created the hashtag #ShawneeProud and have been trying to make it a local viral campaign to show everyone we are proud of southern Illinois because Shawnee represents southern Illinois, Little Egypt, the best part of the state – whatever you may wish to call in. Today, I am extremely #ShawneeProud to know all of you and be supported by all of you.
Thank you so much for your support! Without each and every one of you, Hiking with Shawn would have never been known. I hope you all truly understand how much each of you mean to me.
Monetization Strategy Changes
Recently, I have demonetized all videos on Hiking with Shawn (YouTube). Other platforms where videos are present were never monetized. I did this because of fair use and compliance with National Forest policies. In order to profit from film (and photography!) shot within the lands managed by the US Forest Service and Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Special-Use Permits for Commercial Filming must be obtained. These permits cost roughly about $150.00 per person per day of filming/photography work. If more people are involved, there is also insurance requirements. I demonetized to comply with this policy.
Now please understand, this is not the fault of those who manage the Shawnee National Forest. This is a nationwide public lands policy. There is a lot of abuse of this policy in hindsight. This policy was made in an era when YouTube and small-time video creators were not popular. This policy was made for commercial film production companies with budgets and manpower. This policy was never meant for no budget video creators like myself and others. One day, I am hopeful, that the policy will change in favor of the smaller creators (aka the little guys). But until then, I wish to have as much of a positive relationship with the US Forest Service and Illinois DNR as I can have and that is what led me to my decision.
Now as I have stated before, I do wish to profit from Hiking with Shawn. I have effectively spent thousands upon thousands of dollars and a lot of time and energy into Hiking with Shawn. I would love the opportunity to earn that money back one day and even make this a full time job. If I had a large budget, I’d be the Shawnee National Forest’s largest customer because I’d be buying permits left and right to support the forest and the hard workers that manage it. But that is impossible at this time.
But making money from my content isn’t the main mission here. I love southern Illinois. I was born and raised in this region – I am a true local of southern Illinois. I love our forest and state-managed public lands. I don’t ever want to leave southern Illinois. But southern Illinois has a big concern, that is poverty and lack of economic stimulation. Southern Illinois can prosper from tourism and the local communities around all these public lands can be hot spots for tourism and economic spending. The main official mission of Hiking with Shawn is to get people out into the forest and public lands to promote local tourism, spending in local establishments and to promote health and fitness to people, families, children and even pets. I want to see the Shawnee and our state area thrive with tourism and I want to see our area shine with economic stabilization. My mission is southern Illinois because there is no other place I’d rather be. #ShawneeProud
In order to earn revenue from my work, I am focusing my strategy on new ideologies in profit earnings, these ideologies are as stated:
- The selling of official branded Hiking with Shawn merchandise including apparel, drink-ware and related items. These products reflect the brand of Hiking with Shawn which is a register trademark and property of Hiking with Shawn, LLC.
- Sponsored videos whereas I promote/review products related to the outdoors for affiliate profit or direct profit. These videos will most likely take place on private property unless the sponsor is willing to provide the fee for commercial use permits. I will never promote items that I would never consider a part of my gear, I want to make that clear. I do want to make money but I do not and will not cheat you all in order to do that. I turn down a lot more offers than I accept.
- Premium Membership – I am working on a premium membership feature that will cost about $3 to $5 per supporting member. This will give access to premium videos (how to and learning type videos, filmed on private property), merchandise discounts, special offers, contests specifically for premium members and article-type content. I will announce more on this as I develop it more.
- Donations. I do accept them if you wish to donate but please understand that you are NEVER obligated to donate.
With this being said, I’ll always provide my main videos, photos, articles and other content that we are all used to, for free, always.
Video Strategy Changes Planned
I am planning multiple changes to the strategy in which I film for videos provided for free to all of you. For starters, while keeping southern Illinois as the MAIN focus of my platforms, I wish to start branching out into other nearby states such as Missouri, Indiana and Kentucky – as these states have awesome public lands to explore. I’m hoping to work with other social groups in these states on collaborations as well. If you represent one, please contact me and we can discuss it. I want to work with you on projects that will benefit both of our organizations. I have some projects planning including filming at the St. Louis Zoo and a bike trip later in the year of the entire Katy Trail System. I will likely be integrating my biking videos back into the main channel and focusing entirely on Hiking with Shawn and the one channel/brand. Just because it is mainly about hiking doesn’t mean biking and other activities can’t be added, right?
I will no longer film areas that others cannot reach. What I mean by this, areas like Native American Rock Art, Timber Rattlesnake Dens and such are areas that you do not want to give directions to because they can be defaced and trashed. It isn’t fair for me to upload a video of these areas and say that I can go there but you can’t. It isn’t fair and it isn’t ethical, in my personal and professional opinion. So when I visit these places, which is rare because most are extreme difficult to get to, I will be doing it on a personal level and not filming. Now at times, private property owners have invited me to video their property and features on their property. With that type of permission and a good disclaimer at the beginning of the video, I will upload videos for those activities to show people places they may never know exist otherwise. I will also try my very best to not trespass and not film property in which I am not permitted to film. I admit I have done this in the past but was unknowingly accessing the property. I know have apps on my phone to help prevent me from doing this (shout out to OnXHunt! Great app!). If you ever see your property in one of my videos, please contact me and I will make it right. It is never my intention to trespass! I urge everyone else to also follow this method – don’t trespass, it isn’t fair to the people who pay for their lands.
I’ll be updating all video descriptions very shortly. I will be adjusting them to be more user-friendly and friendly for marketing methods. I’ll also be updating external links, social links and providing “how to get to this area” links to all locations I visit. I also plan to add a basic short FAQ section to the description to help you plan for your visit in terms of safety, gear to brings, ruggedness of the trail and so on. These changes are meant to be helpful in giving you a better experience when visiting the areas in which I film.
I will also be adding better content to my videos including more personal audible disclaimers warning you of the conditions of each trail. I’ll also be adding more educational content and giving my tips to help you have a better experience when hiking/biking/whatever in the area that I am filming. I wish to make my videos more interactive and give you all more to take away from them besides the obvious waterfalls, bluffage, rock formations and silly bantering fun that I have. And finally, I want to do more overnight backpacking-styled videos that you all have requested quite a bit.
The more I plan for my videos, the more you will know.
Creating Local Causes that Matter
In the coming months, I am focusing efforts on creating local causes that I feel are important for Hiking with Shawn and southern Illinois in general. The causes will be 100% not for profit. Two particular causes that I will be developing are a cause for ‘enjoying the forest in a safe manner’ through a campaign that will be known as #ShawneeSafe. It will be entirely focuses on keeping us all safe when we are out enjoying the outdoors and reporting unsafe conditions. I hope my efforts with these causes encourages IDNR and the US Forest Service to participate as well as any other organization, business and even you, the individual. The second cause is called #LoveMyShawnee which I have kicked off for this coming Earth Day. This cause is intended to encourage pack it in, pack it out and the willingness of other hikers to help us all clean up the forest. I’ll be announcing more on these causes as time passes and I do hope you all participate. I’d also love to see agencies, businesses and organizations participate as well.
I am developing a plan for offering FREE group hikes with me as the leader. I want to make sure these group hikes do not conflict with other organizations that also put on these hikes such as the River to River Trail Society which I am very much invested in. Many of these hikes will likely happen in their off seasons such as during the summer and winter months. I am still working out all the details and making sure that I follow Forest Service and DNR policies on this sort of activity. I will announce more on this when I have more information to announce.
And Finally…Creator Encouragement
I’ve recently seen comments that claim that video creators and photographers ruin the experience of the forest and the natural environment. I wholeheartedly disagree with those statements as long as the creator is being ethical to the natural environment in which they are filming or taking photos of. I want to make it my mission to help new and upcoming creators start their brands (be it YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, etc.) and thrive off of it in our wonderful public lands. Our videos and photos help southern Illinois and no one should tell you otherwise. I’m willing to help you start your brand into something great as long as you will practice ethical strategies in doing it. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested. To those of you who think the video and photos ruin the experience, why don’t you just quit getting on the internet because it will never stop, it will only increase. And I support it as long as it is ethical to the environment and nature.
Thank you all for reading this update and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail! 🙂
Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.