Gear Patrol founder Eric Yang: ‘You’ve got to pick a lane’ between media and e-commerce

Eric Yang started Gear Patrol as a side hustle to his job at CBS because the publications he knew we missing the mark when it came to product coverage. “The men’s magazines out there — GQ, Esquire — they were increasingly unrelatable to me,” Yang said on this week’s episode of the Digiday Podcast. “For me it wasn’t about a Brioni suit and living your best lifestyle in New York. I had my own personal interests, and that for me crossed over between automotive and tech, and you had magazines that were just really focused on bro culture in men.” That was in 2007. A few years later as Gear Patrol took off, Yang and his colleague Ben Bowers quit their jobs at CBS to dedicate themselves to the site full-time. They’ve since announced a minority stake investment from Hearst (last April), launched a print magazine and e-commerce efforts and landed about 5.5 million unique visitors in what was recently their “best month ever,” in Yang’s estimation. “We’ve been profitable every single year at Gear Patrol except for the year we took investment because we were growing,” Yang said. He adds that about 40 to 50% of their traffic comes from SEO, not social media or other sources. “It’s a lot of direct traffic, and the direct traffic is actually growing, for us.” Yang talked about when he decided to leave CBS and make growing Gear Patrol his full-time job, the thin line between media and commerce companies and how the website’s reluctance to depend on social media turned out to be a smart move.