Making a Scene with Mike Mockler

It’s a Saturday morning and Mike Mockler, founding publisher of Scene Magazine, is showing the downside of being the prince of late-night Northern Colorado. His eyes are puffy behind his dark sunglasses as he lazily saunters into Choice City Butcher for a late-morning breakfast of banana-bread French toast, but even in the revealing glare of daylight it’s apparent this guy is popular. Staff and patrons alike make their rounds to say hello, even joining him at his table. Truly, Mockler is a Fort Collins character, night or day.

April 1 marked 20 years that the Scene has been publishing in Northern Colorado. Considering how many Northern Colorado publications have come and gone, and the vastly different media landscape nationally, this is no small feat. And much of the Scene’s success, of course, can be credited to marketing, both of the magazine and Mockler. In fact, it all started with marketing.

When Mockler moved to Fort Collins from Brooklyn nearly 25 years ago, one of his first ventures was Relay Direct Marketing. Basically, they put flyers on doors. And interestingly enough, he employed another late-night staple, Old Town Jerry.

“Jerry was one of my crew guys,” Mockler says. “He would get homeless guys to flyer doors. I won’t do that again; one of them stole my car.”

Within a few years, he segued into more journalistic media with an entertainment section in the burgeoning publication, The Oracle. This was in 1989, and the New York Times published an article about how people wanted a “good news newspaper.” This point inspired Mockler to move away from politics in The Oracle, and turn it into a good-news entertainment paper. And largely, that is what the Scene has been. No one would ever accuse the Scene of being a journalistic masterpiece. Instead, it has been an important part of promoting Northern Colorado nightlife, arts and culture as if its goal is to market good news, which perhaps it is.

“If I went for high-end writers, I would’ve never made it,” Mockler says. “They don’t pick it up to read.”

But they do pick it up. Though the Scene’s circulation peaked in the boon of the ’90s at 25,000 copies a month, it still maintains a respectable 16,000 to 20,000 circulation at 1,000 locations throughout the region. And many do so to look for themselves in the “Late Night” photo section. If not, they’re looking for the best drink deals in “Cheap Dates” or entertainment in the calendar. Whatever it is, the end result is an encouragement not to stay in.

Through his years of marketing going out, Mockler has had some novel ideas. Perhaps the most memorable was the Scene limousine.  From 2001 to 2003, a late-model limo with the Scene logo trolled the nighttime streets of Fort Collins offering free rides to those who’ve perhaps reveled a bit too much. Mockler never drove the thing, however. That job was for “Tiny” his 350-pound driver. But the limo rides ended abruptly with an after-hours call from District One police, who told him, “You’ve got an issue with your limo.” Apparently, there was a scuffle in the limo between two groups of guys that both thought they were up for a ride. The result was limo days were over, but the marketing of the Scene had made a mark.

“It’s still out there in people’s minds,” he says. And it is. The young lady joining us for breakfast at Choice City asks about it fondly. To which he replies that if he were still hiring Late Night Girls – picture Hooter’s girls slinging papers – he would sign her up.

Perhaps the most notable marketing tool Mockler has implemented is his “Publisher’s Picks.” Alt-weekly newspapers like Westword started the cash-cow “Best of” issue, and since then everyone has adopted it. But the Scene’s is special. Whereas other publications do exhaustive surveying of readers to determine the best in any given category, Mockler just picks his favorites. And he likes a lot of places. For Mexican food, there can be a winner for salsa, a winner for taco, a winner for green chile, a winner for margarita, etc. The Scene offers equal opportunity endorsements, and one gets the impression Mockler really does like all these places. And the places proudly display their certificate with him giving the thumbs up. Mockler says people look for it.

“Networking is really important,” he says. “Thankfully a lot of people know me.”

Recently, Mockler leveraged this notoriety and helped start the Fort Collins Musicians Association, whose mission is to “provide education, support and networking opportunities for the Fort Collins music community.” The non-profit hosted its coming out of sorts on April 10 and 11 with the Fort Collins Music Experiment. The event presented over 100 local bands at a dozen local venues in two days. When telling people this, one will be met with the reply, “I didn’t know there were 100 bands in Fort Collins.” Mockler says a FoCoMA survey indicates there are 400 bands. Clearly, as the “bible of music,” as one venue owner has called it, the Scene still has work to do. And it will continue doing it.

Mockler recognizes the future of the Scene is online, like any other print publication, but he doesn’t think the region is ready to lose print.

“People are scared of computers,” he says. “People pick up my paper because they can’t open Safari. I’ve had a website for 15 years, and never made five cents on it, but the future is online. We’re going through the struggle of looking at the web.”

It’s barely mid-day at Choice City. Mockler is onto his second glass of orange juice and has begun making plans for the evening. Tonight, it will be Lush at Crazy Jack’s Saloon, and he is trying to convince our breakfast guest – and anyone else in earshot – to join him. Wherever he is, Mockler’s booming voice can be heard promoting nightlife in Northern Colorado. And if he isn’t there, his paper certainly is, and may be for another 20 years.

Netiquette: A-Train’s top ten list

The social code of the internet, otherwise known as “netiquette,” is increasingly becoming more and more important as technology and digital communication becomes the modus operandi for nearly everyone in every respect. In general, when it comes to etiquette, good manners come naturally for some of us. Maybe we were taught by our grandmothers, our mothers, or our teachers… For others, nobody ever taught them to cover their mouths when they coughed or to put their napkin in their lap when they sat down for a meal. Eventually, they have probably figured these things out



– most likely due to making the mistake of displaying poor manners and being corrected! When it comes to the internet and digital communications, “netiquette” is been a constantly evolving art. However, in a world where things are constantly changing, there are definite things that stay the same.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – everybody knows this one. But the “Golden

Rules” of netiquette might not be quite as obvious. Thankfully, we are here to help! Read on to find out A-Train’s 10 Golden Rules of Netiquette:

  1. Don’t assume any Internet communication is completely secure: never put in a mail message anything you wouldn’t put on a postcard.
  2. Spell check: obviously.
  3. Obey copyright laws: make sure to get permission before using others’ images, content, etc.
  4. Never use all caps: IT’S JUST RUDE.
  5. Tell the truth: this one’s easy – nobody likes a liar.
  6. Be yourself: after all, who else would you be?
  7. Do not spam: and we don’t mean spiced ham.
  8. Do not flame: if you receive a heated or aggressive message, wait at least 24 hrs to respond.
  9. Use a relevant subject header that reflects the content of the message.
  10. Use discretion: an obvious no-brainer. Or is it?


The value of online reviews

Google the name of your business and see what type of information populates the top of the list. If you aren’t appearing at all, it’s probably time for a longer discussion about the importance of search engine optimization. Most likely, something related to your business or organization will appear in the first few listings, and 25% of that content will be populated from online review sites like Google Places or Yelp.

Engaging online with consumers is a two-way street. While you are pushing content out to existing supporters, potential new customers and staff, those same followers may have valuable and insightful things to say about your organization.

In multiple studies about consumer behavior, marketers have found that consumer reviews weigh more heavily on purchasing decisions than other factors like location and price. Over 50% of customers will choose a business as the result of a positive review and trust online recommendations nearly as much as (and occasionally more than) personal recommendations from family and friends.

Review sites are not limited to restaurant opinions and retail locations. Internet users are finding doctors offices, health clubs, spa services, and vets all using the online resources in front of them. Don’t let your business fall behind because those who are searching are finding listings empty of reviews.


As part of a larger local search campaign, claiming your listings is the first step toward listening to and obtaining reviews from your most loyal supporters. Without claiming your business listings, you can still read the reviews but will be unable to post official responses to those messages (which is key if you have negative reviews). Even without intentionally engaging with your customers and supporters online, they are still writing reviews, and you should be listening to what they have to say.


We can start you on your path to review success or you can follow our list of tips to get started on your own:


  1. Listen to what your customers are talking about. Search for your business name and read the reviews related to both yourself and your competitors.
  2. Respond to what is said, especially if there is negative feedback. The loudest voice is often the most unhappy one – draft a thoughtful response thanking them for the feedback they provided and share how you will overcome those challenges in the future. Avoid being confrontational or defensive.
  3. Offer an incentive for online reviewers and display a table card in your location letting customers know how to claim their reward. For a coffee shop, a $1 off the next purchase for displaying the review to a barista is a good example.


Reviews are important, and the value of online reviews is limitless.  Accept criticism with grace and confidence, follow through with changes / recommendations from customers and you will stand out from your competitors.

Be Extraordinary

The new face of building your brand goes far beyond traditional customer service. When competition is fierce and the customer’s expectations are higher than ever before, you have to move great service to a place of extraordinary experiences. Prioritizing the entire customer experience (before, during and after customer purchases), can make your company go from ordinary to extraordinary. By taking the right steps to ensure that you provide a superior customer experience, you can optimize this opportunity to set yourself apart from your competitors and you can rely on repeat customers who spread the good word about the services you provide.



Map Your Customer’s Experience

Have you ever walked through every single interaction that a customer might make when working with you or experiencing your products? Some refer to this as a “touchpoint dashboard.” The most successful companies use it to connect the dots between the emotional and logical elements of a customer’s journey. A company like Starbucks considers every interaction from wanting a coffee to getting in the car to buy the coffee, to paying at the counter, sitting and drinking it and leaving the store. For an example of this exceptional experience mapping process by Little Springs Design, visit…/improving-the-starbucks-experience/


Remember the Individual

Don’t forget that every person experiences everything differently, and don’t let your customers have a generic experience at your company. Tailor each interaction with your audience to the specific consumer. Personalize it. Make them feel like they are the only one who exists in your world.


Work from the Inside Out

When you practice what you preach, it is contagious. Create core values within your company that include superior customer experiences, reinforcing your mission to your own employees. In turn you will be rewarded with loyalty and a stronger reputation.


Loyalty is Gold

Do everything you can to build on the relationships you have with your customers. When you create strong bonds with the ones who are already connected to your product or service, they are more likely to stay loyal and bring others along with them. Many companies focus all their attention on new business, leaving their faithful customers in the background.


A well-thought-out strategy for ensuring that all aspects of your customer’s experience are exceptional will reap your business countless benefits in everything from reputation to increased revenues. It is essential to focus on implementing these strategies to support and reaffirm your brand.