A Fanboy’s Obsession with Sneakers Built a Massive Following — and a Hugely Successful Business
From founding SneakerNews, Jordans Daily, and Stadium Goods, to bringing SneakerCon to life, Yu-Ming Wu speaks about his start and ultimate geekery with sneakers. Wu maintains his own sites, which are havens for shoe passion and the industry’s latest releases.
ZOG Digital spoke with Wu about how he became an influencer within the sneaker realm. He’s been fortunate to marry his talent of digital with his passion for sneakers, while working with many of today's biggest brands. We were able to grab some time with Wu and learn how sneakers shaped his everyday life.
ZD: How did you find your way into the world of fashion, specifically shoes?
Wu: Probably as most kids, you grow up needing to wear sneakers, especially as a young athlete – running, jogging, watching sports, or even just hanging out with friends. You find yourself wearing sneakers on a daily basis. I found that I paid attention to sneakers for a very long time.
Starting with my childhood, watching Michael Jordan play for the first time on TV, I remember going to class the next day and seeing one of my classmates surrounded by people talking about his shoes. I thought, “oh my God, I just saw those on TV last night.” Michael Jordan was wearing the same shoes. I thought it was amazing that he was wearing them. That was the earliest memory of sneakers.
ZD: When did you turn to blogging as a forum for displaying your passion?
Wu: Once I started doing all this research, I started to discover this massive world. It may not have been as massive at that time, but to me it was pretty big. People in Japan, Europe, and all over the place are and were really into sneakers. I started to uncover all this information and I really wanted to share it. It was really hard to navigate on previous forms of shoe and sneaker updates. Think of everything looking like reddit.
I discovered this word, blog, and I said you know what, this is kind of cool. I could do that and I want to share all this information. In 2003, I started to play around with it. I’ve now been in digital for a very long time. I started in high school by building my own cheesy little websites, in college I studied information design, graphic design, and digital design. So I started building all this stuff and I figured I’d try this on my own. No one was really doing any of this stuff back then, so you got to try to figure it out.
ZD: What does a typical day in the life of Yu-Ming Wu look like?
Wu: I’m kind of a night owl, so I don’t usually start my day out very early. I like to work into the night. When I get the most done is after 10pm, after dinner, after everyone else has gone to bed or watching TV. I get some focus and am able to put my thoughts together.
My full-time day is in the Sneaker News office, but my focus is everywhere when it comes to sneakers.
ZD: When and how did you decide to have different outlets like @jordans_daily, @sneakernews, and @stadiumgoods for example?
Wu: I think when I saw the success of SneakerNews, I saw a lot of opportunity, especially around Jordans. I just knew that there was a big opportunity. I always thought I could do something there and be successful. I have the manpower to do it and it took off to capture individuals at a more granular level.
As we saw all the technique and loopholes that presented themselves, we started creating accounts for them. Jordans_Daily was built out, just because we saw the need. We had a lot of luck and success with building that website and Instagram account. But the other things were a bit of ledges from Sneaker News’ success.
ZD: What does your audience converse with you most about?
Wu: I think by far the most outside of the homepage of the sites, are release dates, where to buy them, and how to buy them are some of the most important questions that we get. We’ve learned a lot from our audiences and bring the information to them, rather than having to converse with them so much.
ZD: What was it that made you realize you were an influencer within the industry?
Wu: It’s hard to say something like that, but one of the things that I always tell people is that I’m a super fanboy, I am a super geek. I’m like the ideal consumer. I love things, I love to buy things. I don’t just go one level in. I want to know everything. If I’m into it, I wanted to learn everything about it, so that’s whole the how the whole sneaker ideation came about.
What my thought process is to starting Sneaker News and all that stuff is that I want to be ten times more geeked out than the next person about this whole thing. I used that as my means of driving my business and living my life. Through luck and all the work, I was lucky enough to have all these press agencies, PR people, and brands see that passion that I have for all things sneakers. That’s really how I’d say that people would consider me as an influencer. It’s the level of passion that drive the same level of commitment to our audience.
ZD: What’s next for you?
Wu: I think we’ve done a lot of what I hoped we’d be able to. Starting this business in 2007, we’ve now reached a monthly audience of about 10 million people and a little bit more over the holidays and believe it or not, the drive of Kanye and other stars of the world.
In terms of where I see everything in the future, we’re pretty well-rounded at the moment. We have digital media, a live event, and we also have pretty interesting retail operations, as we’re not a traditional retailer. It’s that level of passion for sneakers that drive the business. I’d say I’m pretty happy with where we are today, but in terms of the future, I think there’s always more to conquer. I think we have a lot to learn about social media and the future of it, especially with the ever-changing landscape of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. I think that’s probably one of our main focuses.
Follow Yu-Ming Wu’s passion for sneakers on Twitter, Instagram, or any of his various publications.