Format: Our last interview focused a lot on blogging and sneaker media. Let’s get a bit more personal this time. Please introduce yourself and discuss your history before starting Nice Kicks.
Matt Halfhill: My name is Matt Halfhill, I was born and raised in Fresno, California and fell in love with shoes while attending Edison High School (Go Tigers!). I now live in Austin and Iâ€™m very proud to call Texas home for the past four years with my wife, daughter, and son on the way. Prior to Nice Kicks I worked for an Internet marketing firm and then worked freelance focusing on search engine optimization.
Format: What was your inspiration to start Nice Kicks?
Matt Halfhill: I have been a member and an avid reader of a number of forums that discussed shoes, but the problem I found was that it was a challenge at times to find â€˜newsâ€™ buried in a 40 page thread cluttered by posts of people showing off their Space Jam toy collection or asking what is the worst Jordan every week. With time, I was able to find who on the boards had credible information. Many times it was hard to verify if the information was true and accurate so I felt there was a need for something more authoritative and direct.
Format: How did you transition from Internet Marketing to blogging full-time?
Matt Halfhill: I was between jobs at the time that I started Nice Kicks. I did Internet marketing projects freelance before so it was not too much of a change to work by own clock at home. At first I didn’t plan on blogging being fulltime — and now I wish that it was just 40 hours a week, but there really is a lot of work necessary to maintaining the site.
Format: Last year you mentioned that you’ve noticed a major interest in other brands besides Nike. What are the sneaker brands you’re personally interested in at the moment and why?
Matt Halfhill: There are quite a few I really like at the moment. I have been into Supra for a good year and really like what they have done. Others that really catch my attention include Clae, ALIFE, and 100 Styles and Running for casual/non-athletic style. For athletic, I am a sucker for New Balance and Asics. Both have made tremendous strides since I started the site in 2006.
Format: Your shoe size is listed in your e-mail signature. Do you get a lot of free kicks?
Matt Halfhill: [Laughs] I do get free shoes from time to time, but I don’t accept gifts unless the products have been out in the market place. I think that it is pretty important to be respected as a neutral media outlet. If brands send us samples to photograph they are either returned or donated unless they specify they wish for us to test out a product. Gifts can create a grey area between the separation of editorial and advertising — two sides of the business that should always remain separate.
Format: You also mentioned “the last thing we want to be known as [is] a taste maker.” As one of the biggest blogs on the Internet, you clearly are. How come you aren’t comfortable with this title?
Matt Halfhill: That’s a 50/50 for me. Something I stress to readers all the time is to choose for yourself and not let anyone tell you what to wear (unless, of course, it’s an endorsement contract). I think that what we aim to accomplish with our articles is to highlight products or elements about products that get overlooked or not even considered. If that makes us a â€˜taste maker,â€™ we are fine with that, but in no way do we want to be known as a site that is trying to tell everyone what is “in” or what they need to purchase to look good.
Format: With the continued growth of blogging as an accredited media outlet, to what degree have you encountered issues with credibility in the last year?
Matt Halfhill: In the past year things have changed immensely with respect to Nice Kicks being considered an accredited media outlet. When we started in 2006, the word blog was still synonymous with a â€˜just for funâ€™ website injected with personal opinion and what some would think as unprofessional. During our first two trips to MAGIC we were often brushed aside by some major brands despite reaching tens of thousands of their core market every single day. Now, we are welcomed in and treated with great respect and that to us is a real marker of how far we’ve come.
Format: Nice Kicks recently joined the Complex Media Network. Please speak about this transition and partnership.
Matt Halfhill: We joined the Complex Media Network as one of their charter members in the summer of 2007. One the surface they work on selling our ad space, but the relationship goes much deeper. Complex has really treated us like a member of their team and have taught us many things about journalism. We have collaborated on a few pieces and look forward to working on more joint projects.
Being selected as the marquee sneaker site for the network, we attained the highest award per se to our brand — receiving the Complex Cosign. That recognition by such a respected publication gave credibility to our name in a medium that it is very hard to achieve.
Format: What does Nice Kicks have planned for the future?
Matt Halfhill: A new layout and new features are coming within the next month and a re-launched members section by the end of the year. We just opened an office in Austin where we have four full-time writers working on Nice Kicks and other websites that we are building. We do have a something really special coming on the shoe front, but I can’t go into much more detail until closer to the release.
Format: Why shoes?
Matt Halfhill: Shoes say more about a person than a T-shirt, fitted, or pants ever could. Maybe one can’t make a witty or political statement like a T-shirt, but a pair of shoes can express to the world who you are as a person better than any other article of clothing.