This week on The Alaska Show Podcast I sit down with Kyle Moffat, the founder of The Alaska Life social media platform and www.TheAlaskaLife.com. We talk about our shared experiences starting a content business, how he built the largest social media platform in the state, his advice for people trying to start a similar business, growing up in the interior, and where to visit to get the quintessential Alaska experience.
The Alaska Life has been a project that’s morphed into several things over 8 years. It initially started as - Kyle was getting questions on outdoor gear and activities with kids - so he started a blog. It morphed into a larger platform than that. It was just friends and family at first. Through posting consistently he built an audience.
For his days now - Kyle’s been married 15 years. He works full-time and has a couple real estate projects and runs The Alaska Life - he also has several hobbies - so his time is limited. Kyle works with his wife and father and mother on The Alaska Life along with others.
Initially Kyle wanted to start on hunting and guns and gear review - but the market didn’t really want that.
Some of the writing is viral content. A few other people do longer content pieces. He likens shorter articles or listicles to “bags of chips.” But if someone is sitting around they might read a longer piece on Alaskan history.
Who is his audience? It’s a lot of Alaskans - he sees bumper stickers around the state - but numbers-wise it’s largely out of state people. Lot of west coast. Some internationally.
They started the business in May of 2012. By the numbers it’s been pretty steady growth. He likens it to red salmon - you don’t know which piece of content is going to grab people’s attention and do well. He’s been getting solidly viral posts since 2012. Put your net in the water to catch fish.
The bags of chips articles are very engaging. Lots of comments, shares, and visitors. But one thing that does well is the historical articles. He gets more comments on those articles than others on the site. Everyone in Kyle’s circle - outdoors people - wonders what this place would’ve been like in 1900. As tough as things are now - no one can go outside and not think this was so much more of a challenge back in the day. Look at the towns and roads and tunnels they built without the technology or equipment we have.
Alaska is big and bold and challenging in its own regard - 50 and 60 years ago the people were tough as nails.
What were people less interested in than you thought? Things Kyle is interested in is not as interesting to other people.
One thing Kyle would’ve done differently is don’t go too wide without going deeper. You want to have a website and do clothing and do a podcast and write articles and do all this stuff. If you’re a 2-3 man band that’s way too much to accomplish. The team is really Kyle, his dad Marty, and his wife.
They have a few people that write, but other than that it’s all they have. They don’t have a big team. Part of why they keep it up is they have the largest social media platform in Alaska. It’s fun to connect with people and answer questions. The social media side is an intense amount of work. They get 20 DMs a day and thousands of comments. They’re proud of what they’ve built and still enjoy it.
The other misstep they did is there really is no face of the brand. A lot of people think it’s like a state tourism board kind of thing. A lot of people recognize them when they’re out and about, but they really don’t put themselves out there so much. Kyle wants to put himself out there as the face of the brand a lot more.
They just started a classifieds section on The Alaska Life. Big platforms are cracking down on sales of guns. The Alaska Life has started being that platform for the state for a free place to post.
What role did social media play in the growth? They built the social audience before they built the website. Social media is everything for them. If they want to drive traffic to the website they will post on Facebook. Social is king for The Alaska Life. They started the social platform before the website.
He and his wife bought a hotel in Palmer - Colony Suites. He basically gets free advertising on the biggest social platform in the state for any business he starts. He also can do cross-promotional things on sub-brands.
The reason The Alaska Life never did video was capacity. He was the only person who could do video - he couldn’t add capacity to that. Photos are one thing - video is another. If he could rewind 8 years and do it differently, he would’ve spread ownership of the brand out to people who could’ve taken on the subject matter expertise of different parts. Some local guys are doing great like Dan Redfield.
Kyle was born in Homer, Alaska. His dad was a pastor at the church in Seldovia. He and his siblings were born there - the hospital in Seldovia was no longer working. He lived all over southcentral Alaska - grew up in Cantwell. He moved up to Healy for high school - graduated his Junior year - went to college in Soldotna - and went into the oilfield. Shift work isn’t for everyone. You need a strong person at home to take care of everything when you’re gone for two weeks in January and things get tough. He does two on and two off. One and one was too hard - too much traveling. He would never do that again.
The oilfield is in a tough place right now. BP doesn’t want any further business with Alaska and the price is low. It’s pretty slow right now - there aren’t value-added projects while the Hilcorp transfer is going on. Oil is the heartbeat of the state.
Why did you decide to stay and make a life in Alaska? It’s a hard place ot live. Kyle’s wife is from southern california - she is used to Disneyland and going to the beach. It’s all Kyle has ever known. His dad was a pastor and they didn’t grow up with a ton of money but they made it a point to get out and do recreation. It was woven into the fabric of who he is. When you’re outside - like sheep hunting - it’s miserable and cold but when you get home you think it’s so fun.
Kyle’s favorite hunt is sheep hunting, but the most life-giving is moose and caribou hunting. The whole family has been able to do that in the last few years including his children and in-laws. He loves that his seven-year-old daughter can shoot a caribou and brag to her schoolmates to try the lunch she killed. Moose hunting is a series of overcoming obstacles - even getting to the parking lot where you start is overcoming obstacles. When your kids are out there hunkered down in the rain with you not only are they learning to be tough but they’re learning to problem solve. He likes doing that with his family because his father did it with him. Kyle lives for August and September.
Kyle didn’t even see the ocean until 14 years old. He grew up in the interior. He was 25 before he hunted blacktail out of Sitka. He thought that was the coolest thing in his life. If you want to go somewhere and get the entire Alaska experience there’s nowhere better than Kodiak. You have to have the gear to go to these places.