Future: 'the Olympics is a massive opportunity for a bigger cycling marketplace'

BikeBiz speaks to BikeRadar and Cyclingnews' new associate publisher Mark Cantwell...
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At the start of the year Mark Cantwell returned to Future’s cycling portfolio. Jonathon Harker chats to the new associate publisher for BikeRadar and Cyclingnews...

You moved from Future’s cycling portfolio, to the world of video gaming and then back again. How was moving between the two?
There are huge similarities between the markets; both are full of passionate enthusiasts who crave information and news on their chosen interest – hence the mechanics of one apply well to the other. Morally though, I feel a bit better about encouraging people to get out and do some exercise and, to be honest, I always got smashed at Call of Duty.

We’ve seen the importance of online grow significantly, with Future revealing digital ad revenues rose 25 per cent while print ad revenue dropped ten per cent in Q4 2010. Do you expect that trend to continue, or is it tough to predict how the figures will eventually balance out?
I believe that magazines and the web perfectly complement each other. Research and immediacy are the web’s strong points and that is why the biggest and best websites are based around news or reviews. However, for someone that has a real passion for their subject matter, the experience of reading a magazine has a unique feel and sense of editorial authority.

You first worked on BikeRadar shortly after its launch – what’s changed in the interim?
It has grown significantly and the market has matured in the digital space. My original job was to establish an advertising model and to help our sales team and, to some extent the market, and understand more about digital. Now they are both teaching me new things. That is the joy of working on the web; it is very humbling and no-one has a monopoly on good ideas – there are some great sites out there.

Can you give us any hints about future developments on BikeRadar.com and Cyclingnews.com?
I am still analysing the data at the moment and I believe that both sites are very strong, whilst we intend to get better at what we do very well. I was asked to drive the sites onto the next level and that is what I intend to help the team do. I do believe that the future lies in growing the cycling audience in general and enabling more people to get on bikes. Hopefully as we help to grow the market the opportunity becomes bigger for us.

How did Future feel the new London Bike Show fared? Will you be back at the 2012 show?
I haven’t actually been to the event yet but both Katherine Raderecht and Dave Clutterbuck have suggested that it was a very promising new show that we were happy to support – and we will definitely be supporting it next year.

BikeRadar hit a landmark four million online users over the summer – an impressive achievement. Do you have a set target figure in mind for the sites?
I have challenged Jeff Jones [the editor] to grow the site by a specific margin this year and he has already risen to the challenge with 40 per cent growth in global unique users from Feb 10 to Feb 11. The trick is to maintain that growth whilst keeping our quality high. There is no fixed target, but we have our eye on specific market sectors where we see an opportunity for growth that we hope will benefit the entire market.

The Olympics are just a year away – surely web figures are going to rocket for cycling sites like BikeRadar and Cyclingnews?
We are more focused on the quality of our coverage, helping new cyclists understand the events and how they can participate in what they have seen. I see the Olympics as a massive opportunity for cycling to grow and we would expect audience growth as part of that. It is an opportunity to create more enthusiasts and a bigger overall marketplace.

Is there anything coming up for Cyclingnews or BikeRadar in the short-term future you can share with us?
We are at the early stages of our assessment but I was brought in to drive our sites forward. Although I wouldn’t want to give too much away, if you watch this space you will see some interesting developments over the next few months.

Have you got any final thoughts?
I would just like to state that I chose to come and work in the cycling industry as I believe there is an amazing opportunity to help facilitate the growth in the market. I look forward to working on BikeRadar and Cyclingnews for quite some time and welcome any feedback the industry has on what they feel they need from us to help fuel that growth. If anyone has any feedback specifically on how to stop my arse hurting after a one-hour ride on my newly acquired Whyte 19c Team that would be most appreciated.

Catching up with Future
Mark Cantwell’s return to Future’s cycling portfolio is not the only high profile change in personnel for the cycling side of the publishing and media giant over the past year.

In October Richard Schofield became group publishing director, heading up Future’s sports and automotive titles, having previously worked as group publisher for sports at Future. Like Cantwell, Schofield was involved in the formative years of BikeRadar and led the early expansion of Future’s cycling portfolio into digital as publisher back in 2007. Schofield replaced Peter Stothard, former publishing director of the sports portfolio, reporting to Future chief exec Mark Wood.

Earlier in 2010 Scott Longstaff joined as commercial director for the sports portfolio (in June). Having previously worked with Future’s in-house creative solutions team – which has worked with Garmin, Madison and Colnago – Longstaff replaced Sean Igoe.

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