Media Special: How the cycling press is tackling the digital age

Diversifying is the name of the game. Publishers tell BikeBiz how they're combating any declines in print
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Be it digital or print, the consumer-facing cycling press is vibrant and keeping pace with the constantly evolving media business. Mark Sutton pins down some publishing head honchos for their story...

Factory Media 
As the March BikeBiz print edition hits desks it’ll be spot on a year since Factory Media acquired Road Cycling UK and mountain biking website Bike Magic.
That takeover, according to director James Carter, has allowed the publisher’s business to keep up the pace on the steady, yet consistent growth in the firm’s five year history.
Carter told BikeBiz: “We’re covering the majority of cycling now. BMX is comprehensively looked after with Ride UK, Dig magazine, BMX Basics and race site BMX Talk, as well as Freedom, the leader in the German market. RCUK spans road, cyclocross and everything in between, while Dirt and Bike Magic do a great job in off-road territories. Although Bicycle Buyer has been put on the backburner for now, we feel that Mpora Gear fills that space, giving consumers a place to share information and reviews on product.”
From one acquisition to another, Factory itself has seen a majority stake investment from the Forward Internet Group. According to Carter, this will help the publisher expand the ambitions of its 25 online platforms all falling under the Mpora.com umbrella.
Carter said: “Forward bought out the VC backing that was held by Foresight Group and plan to quickly accelerate the business through a host of technical advances on multiple platforms including the web, mobile and Apps. Forward are online experts in understanding audience behaviour and among their brands are popular utilities site uSwitch.”
Verified figures seen by BikeBiz show the Mpora.com domain to have received some 2,426,851 unique visitors in the month from January 16th to February 15th.



Shred
Steve Toze’s A5 magazine continues to gain fans, upping its frequency to six issues annually and improving the quality of the paper stock in the process. Toze told BikeBiz: “We are still keeping the iconic style and paper print size that people like, but for the digital offering we have made some further improvements. We’ve continued and developed our popular Shred App, which now has even more functionality and an Apple NewsStand presence. Further to that, we’ve also tweaked the Shred Store for enhanced ease of use.”
The publisher’s partnership with the National Trust continues to flourish – a deal which sees the organisation supporting the editorial team’s activities during events.
­”With more resources in place, we are striving to lay down new features and content for the website and social media feeds on a regular basis. When we’re not doing all of that, we run running and triathlon events, as well as Cyclocross and MTB events in conjunction with our National Trust partnership. All of these activities are publicised and co-ordinated in a holistic and symbiotic fashion by SpikePR, Shred’s parent company.”

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The Ride Journal
Much loved magazine and varied collection of stories from around the globe, The Ride Journal continues to gain fans, launching the latest issue at popular London cycle café Look Mum, no Hands!
Publisher Philip Diprose said of the latest issue: “Having grown yet again it is now almost 200 pages. We’ve got riders in the cold, from Alaska to Oslo. Riders in the heat from Nullarbor desert to Mallorcan mountains. Absolute beginners, through to weekend warriors. Plenty of pro-riders, a Guinness record holder, a world champion and even an Olympic gold medal winner. Pieces to inspire the head, the heart and the legs of every type of rider. Whether you are a seasoned rider, or new to the game, big wheeled, small wheeled, dirt, track or tarmac. Hell, we’ve even got a rider being chased by a police helicopter. I think we’ve got something for most people.”
Also notable is the new line of branded cycling apparel for fans of the journal, made by Morvelo and available to order via the magazine’s website – theridejournal.com – itself due a revamp soon.
Diprose added: “The Ride Journal continues to be the first and hopefully the best genre defying, all wheel size embracing, globally covering, journal of riders tales. The final product is tweaked from issue-to-issue but the formula and passion remain the same: to cover the soulful stories that encapsulate what it means to be a rider. After a longer than usual break we are back with issue six and the seventh will be due in time for Christmas, with a bit of luck.”



Singletrack
Following on from last year’s BikeBiz Award, Singletrack is in the hotseat again, this time a candidate in the Specialist Media Show’s awards. The recognition is based around the publisher’s strategy for the future and investment in print subscriptions and retail packages.
As the bike markets most prominent independent, Singletrack continues to broaden its loyal following and recognises this with both a dedicated retail package and a very tech savvy approach to subscriptions. The latter, end-user focused deal sees subscribers able to access the magazine in any format – be it tablet, PDF download or the trusty hard copy – all for a one-off subscriptions fee.
Publisher Mark Alker told BikeBiz: “In short we are subscriber focused with a bias towards bike shops as opposed to newsagents. Specifically, we are offering all formats on all platforms to all subscribers. Subscribe once – get the lot! That’s eBooks too.”
Subscribers are already granted access to exclusive website content and for 2012 the publisher is adding more options exclusively for subscribers through its website. A recent example of what is to come would be Singletrack’s ‘Light Trap’ story that offers subscribers downloadable wall paper for their computers or tablets.
Verified analytics shown to BikeBiz show that in the month of January singletrackworld .com received 698,175 unique visitors over 1,614,216 visits. 20 per cent of that traffic stemmed from mobile sources.
Of particular interest to bike stores are the two stockist models now available. The traditional SoR model remains in place, though a Premier Dealer package, said to be worth £1,000, is now on offer for a monthly subscription fee of £35. With this model, retailers receive ten copies per issue, resellable at £5.95 per issue. An online advertising package worth £480 per year is included, as is free POS material, a premier dealer listing in print and online, the option to sell Singletrack subs in store with commission and a one off Premier Dealer editorial article hosted online.
Alker added: “Despite changes in High Street buying habits we’ve increased our direct subscription sales by over 20 per cent in the last 12 months. The printed magazine has now been redesigned from the ground up and is printed on super high quality paper taking it from an already hefty 380g per issue to well over 580g. We’ve taken the opportunity to spread our editorial wings too, with more of the quality, in-depth features we’re known for, a broader contributor base and a refreshing take on the way we tackle product testing.”



The Albion
Having just completed volume one, The Albion is now an established magazine in the BMX trade and continues to offer free distribution via cycling stores.
Publisher Tim March told BikeBiz: “The Albion has been well received by readers, distributors and advertisers. The free model has worked for us and the BMX industry as a whole. Kids are getting into shops to pick their mags up and in the process this has created a buzz all over the BMX world. We are now pleased to announce that we are launching The Albion in the USA. Exciting times, scary times but most of all, fun times.”

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Future
The cycle media goliath has seen the digital side of its business become increasingly important, growing 41 per cent according to its Interim Management Statement for Oct 1st to Feb 8th. While print sales remain challenging, Future said it expects digital revenue to maintain a ‘vigorous growth rate’. But while print is generally in decline across the board, the ABC’s revealed growth for MBUK (2.6 per cent) and a modest rise for print giant Cycling Plus (see page 29). Other recent developments from Future include the creation of a streamlined one-stop-shop for bike and product reviews in its Sports Product and Testing Hub, launched last year.

Road.cc
Trade-voted cycling website of 2011 Road.cc has been experiencing phenomenal growth in the past year according to site editor Tony Farrelly.
“It’s been like being strapped to a rocket,” said Farrelly. “2010 was a great year: We doubled traffic on every metric and topped everything off by winning the BikeBiz Consumer Website of the Year award… and then we did it all again in 2011. And 2012? Well, traffic has jumped again – January was our biggest month on the site ever with visits up exactly 100 per cent year-on-year. At the start of February we surged past 300K unique users and by mid-month we hit 340K with page views and visits showing correspondingly similar levels of growth.”
The forum continues to gain in popularity, something Atkinson says is key to “creating a sense of community.” Further, the launch of a Fantasy Cycling game has thickened the stream of regular visitors further.
“We’ve also launched our Buy It Local buttons, because we think it’s important to show that online media can support IBDs; and we are going to be launching some other exciting new things later this spring. We will also be concentrating hard on being first with cycling news, and making our reviews and technical coverage even better – those things that helped make our name,” added Farrelly.
Analytics figures seen by BikeBiz confirm in 2011 the site saw 4.7m visits, two million of which were uniques, generating 14m page views.

VeloVision & Electric Bike magazine
Peter Elands’ two magazine stable of VeloVision and Electric Bike Magazine continues to move with the times, with both titles now downloadable via an iTunes app and also offering android compatibility.
At just over a year old, Electric Bike Magazine has just published its fourth issue, with a print run of 10,000 copies, most of which are distributed through partnering bike shops FOC.
Publisher Eland told BikeBiz: “Advertiser support is growing, particularly in Electric Bike Magazine. Given our dedication to the sector and offer of editorial reviews of our supporter’s bikes, I think we offer something quite unique.”
Both titles are now published three times per year, though growth permitting, Eland will look to increase the frequency in time.

Cycle Commuter
Cycle Commuter is a twice annually distributed magazine published by the contract publishing arm of Farrelly Atkinson, the minds behind Road.cc.Hitting the customers buying into the Cycle To Work program, the 35,000-plus copies are evenly sent out across the six month shelf life, with the spring/summer issue landing in April and the autumn/winter landing from October. Magazine distribution is backed by a hefty road show presence from Cyclescheme. Elaine Curtin of Farrelly Atkinson told BikeBiz: “Content is focused on empowering new cyclists with product and practical advice on cycling to work, written by Dan Joyce. He also supplies product, maintenance and tech info content to the community section of cyclescheme.co.uk.”

Rouleur
As revealed in BikeBiz’s December edition, Rouleur is branching into events, further broadening the publisher’s business. Sadly, at the time of press things are still hush hush on what we can expect from the Rouleur Gruppo event, but what we do know is that it’ll target road cycling fans and will tie in with the London Nocturne over the weekend starting June 8th – itself attracting 11,000 spectators and the cream of British racing.
Publisher Bruce Sandell told BikeBiz that it’s been subscription sales driving his portfolio forwards over the past three years and that a slow down is not anticipated.
“Our mix is roughly 60 per cent subscriptions with the remaining 40 per cent split equally between web sales and retail, said Sandell. “The magazines are not time sensitive and are extremely collectable – so we have a thriving back issues business, every issue sells out. This year we’ll spend on subscriptions marketing to further grow our base – our demographic of 35 to 50-year-old affluent men is a perfect subss audience. They are settled and have money.”
Magazine publishing aside, cycling books continue to sell well with Rouleur backing and due this spring is an illustrated version of Need For The Bike by Paul Fournel. This launch will be followed in the autumn by the sixth instalment of the Rouleur Annual, along with a new book on a yet-to-be-named legend of road cycling.
On to digital developments, both Privateer and Rouleur became available on Apple’s newsstand late in 2011 and are said to be performing well sales wise.
Sandell told BikeBiz: “In April 2012, we will be launching a three tiered subscription offer (print only, digital only and print and digital) – in addition we will have upgrades for our print subscribers where, for a small fee, they can upgrade their subscription to print and digital. Rouleur’s subscriber survey back in October 2011 identified that 45 per cent of subscribers already owned iPads – we expect this to be significantly over 60 per cent now, which is well above average for a UK-based magazine. This highlights the potential of the tablet for our audience. We will launch some one-shot digital mags later this year and also will be offering enhanced advertising for our customers.”

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IPC
Just prior to Christmas IPC made the announcement that it was to launch the Road Cycling Show, set for Sandown Park on April 21st and 22nd this year. In a link up with TCR Shows, organisers of the Traithlon Show and Running Show, IPC will work alongside ex-Cycle Show director Andrew Brabazon to bring about a wholly road orientated show. The show will be a mix of trade and retail and the organisers are working with manufacturers, distributors and retailers to offer visitors the chance to see, test and buy the key models from many ranges. Seminars with some of the country’s top riders and cycle industry experts will also be taking place throughout the weekend as well as a focus on grass roots cycling in the Club area.
Keith Foster, publishing director for IPC’s cycling titles, said: “We’re very pleased and excited to launch this show. With the huge growth in cycling in the UK, especially London, we feel the time is right to take this opportunity. Feedback from the trade has been very positive and we look forward to working with TCR and the industry in creating the best road cycling specific show in the UK.”

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