Cycle Media 2016: Dennis, Immediate & Time INC UK

Cycling's magazines and websites speak directly to the bike trade's customers. BikeBiz speaks to the publishers, journos and directors behind the titles
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Pundits have been predicting the death of print for a long time and the forthcoming closure of the print version of The Independent has added weight to the theory. However, the specialist market has its own, different challenges, not least the huge range of choice out there. BikeBiz speaks with some of the major players in the cycle media who are talking directly to the bike trade’s customers…

Dennis: Cyclist bucks printrend with growth
Dennis has not been a publisher to stand still since it entered the cycle media market a few years ago, swiftly following up the launch of Cyclist in 2012 with BikesEtc in 2014. According to our maths, that means there’s a new cycle mag due to arrive this year. If that’s the case, the firm remains tight lipped, but Dennis did unveil a brand new fitness and wellbeing title – Coach – towards the end of last year. It was no small deal, being Dennis’ biggest launch of all time with a colossal print run of over 300,000. The free magazine – backed by online portal www.coachmag.co.uk – is hand distributed in cities at commuter locations and selected sport and leisure clubs. Though not cycle-specific, the reach of the mag is not to be sniffed at and has attracted bike-focused advertisers like Cycle Surgery.

Getting back to cycle specifics, Dennis is branching into events with a Cyclist Magazine Track Day at Olympic venue Lee Valley velodrome, on April 17th.

“It sold out in the space of just a few days,” publisher Nicola Bates tells BikeBiz. “It’s the first time we’ve put on an event and it’s going to be a nice exclusive day for our readers, with top end bikes to ride and high end goodie bags.”

Down to brass tacks. Cyclist is one of the cycle media world’s few titles that are ABC audited and in a world where print subs and copy sales are declining, the firm has bucked the trend with an audited increase. Print is up five per cent, while overall the rise is four per cent for the title (26,734 total and 24,362 for print).

Social media reach has developed with a reach now numbering over 30,000, while the Cyclist site continues to accrue readers (www.cyclist.co.uk) and match the mag’s content with the team hoping to reach 500K UUs by the end of 2016. Copy sales have levelled slightly in the UK, but sales are still growing overseas, Bates and ad director Sean Igoe say, in the US and Canada particularly. Cyclist now also has more licensed editions that any global cycling magazine, and has signed up Italy, to add to Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Germany, and UAE, with further prospects on the horizon.

IMMEDIATE MEDIA: Heavy hitters
There have been quite a few changes behind the scenes in the last few months at Immediate Media – publisher of BikeRadar, CyclingNews, Cycling Plus, MBUK, Pro Cycling and What Mountain Bike, among others. David Maher-Roberts is MD for Sport at Immediate and joined in November, reporting directly to Julie Harris, Group MD.

“I have overall responsibility for the Cycling and Triathlon portfolio,” Maher-Roberts tells BikeBiz. “My background covers both print and digital with 11 years at Future where I was a Board Director responsible for European expansion for the first global digital launches of GamesRadar and TechRadar.

I have been focusing on strengthening our team, bringing even more digital experience to the company. I am delighted to announce Paul Douglas as new editor-in-chief of BikeRadar. He has fantastic experience and specific skills that will power its development. We also have Steve Hulbert as new group manager for Digital Partnerships, who has great commercial experience in the cycling media industry alongside content marketing.

Alongside Steve we’ve made great appointments to give us a broader experience with digital and data skills to capitalise on opportunities with native advertising and ways of unlocking the value of our three million-plus road and two million-plus off road digital audience and almost two million digital followers on social.

Alison Worthington joined last year to oversee our Sport print titles, including Cycling Plus, Mountain Bike UK and Procycling. Alison brings 14 years of experience at Immediate in editorial and publishing. She is responsible for driving Immediate’s Sport events strategy including the National Tri Show which has been re-imagined, taking place at the Olympic Velodrome in April 2016. 

Are there any key successes you can share from the last year?
Despite a host of new challengers latching on to growing interest in the sport, our print brands remain number one by a wide margin. Cycling Plus continues to hold its strong position as market leader in the road cycling sector with a combined monthly circulation of 43,746 from the most recent ABC figures; 17,012 more copies than nearest competitor, Cyclist.

Immediate cycling brands dominate MTB holding a combined 70.3 per cent share of the combined market, with flagship title Mountain Bike UK occupying a 50.8 per cent share alone. MBUK has a combined circulation of 28,992, over 12,000 copies (12,047) more than closest competitor Mountain Bike Rider.

We have also see rapid growth in digital over the past 12 months. CyclingNews and BikeRadar are both up ten per cent y-on-y in uniques, and we expect that to continue. We have strong growth in the UK and internationally. We also have a significant social media footprint with close to 2m followers, with more content than ever and our ability to do bike reviews on an industrial scale thanks to our facilities in Bristol. 

What can we expect from the cycle portfolio in 2016? 
2016 is all about focusing on delivering growth, audience engagement and the best possible solutions for our clients and partners. We have access to incredible amounts of user and behaviour data and we are using that to understand our audience better than ever. This growing knowledge of our users can provide relevant opportunities to unlock a previously untapped potential and this is pretty exciting. This will be happening across all channels: in print, digital, social and increasingly live events!

We are pleased to have announced a significant partnership with Sweetspot to become the official media partner for both the Women’s Tour, the Tour of Britain and the Tour Series. This deal shows our ability to engage our audience around every facet of their hobby. We also have the highly anticipated Bikes of the Year for both Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike, a huge annual fixture on the cycling circuit and two accolades that deliver a dramatic sales uplift for the winners and shortlisted entries. 

What do you think about the state of the cycle media sector? 
I believe that you will see the brands that understand how to best engage cyclists across multiple channels thriving. In digital, it is the brands that leverage data and insight that will become stronger. And those that understand what consumers are looking for from social media and on mobile will see rapid growth and deliver deeper engagement. In print, our mags will work harder than ever to ensure their market leadership and to work in partnership with advertisers to engaging consumers. Having made the right investments and appointment, and continuing to invest in genuine ‘first choice’ brands puts Immediate in the best possible position in cycle media. 

Time Inc UK: Milestones & acquisitions 
Time Inc UK’s publishing director Steve Prentice takes us through the behind the scenes changes:

"At the start of the year I was appointed publishing director of Time Inc UK’s cycling portfolio (Cycling Weekly, Cycle Sport, Mountain Biker Rider and Cycling Active, cyclingweekly.co.uk and mbr.co.uk). I’ve been a riding-obsessed club cyclist since the age of 15 so working on these brands is a dream come true for me.

"At the end of last year we announced key editorial appointments. Simon Collis was promoted to content director, responsible for managing editorial content and resource across all brands in print, digital and video. After many years as deputy editor of Mountain Bike Rider, Danny Milner is now editor for the brand. Luke Evans has returned to Cycle Sport as editor for a second time in his career, and Simon Richardson is now editor of Cycling Weekly, after years as deputy editor and several months as acting editor. We relaunched Cycling Active last year, which Hannah Reynolds now edits, she will be a huge asset to the brand as she successfully headed up the health and fitness content across many brands in the portfolio.

"We have a really talented group of editors focussed on giving the audience the content they want, however and whenever they want it. They lead teams of industry insiders who have the experience, knowledge, energy and passion to further our growth and enable us to build and continue to place Time Inc UK at the heart of the cycling media industry.

What about recent successes?
Cyclingweekly.co.uk achieved a major traffic milestone and significant growth in digital and video last year. Over 2015 it delivered 14,008,357 unique users (+127.18 per cent y-o-y) and 69,683,876 page views (+139.94 per cent year-on-year), which is an average of 1,526,697 unique users per month. MBR achieved 2,312,016 unique users (+100.52 per cent y-o-y) and 11,629,404 (+122.44 oer cent y-o-y), which is an average of 231,764 unique users per month. Driving this growth is a rapidly increasing and engaged audience on social media, a broader mix of content and greater focus on delivering authoritative fitness and equipment advice. Whatever the measure, page views or unique users, this is tremendous achievement and there’s even more potential for additional growth. 

Cycling Active relaunched last year to reflect how its audience has advanced, from being either new to the sport or reborn cyclists wanting to get back on their bike, to being serious road cyclists investing more time, and money in the sport. The relaunch sees a sole focus on road bikes and sportive content.

Then there’s UKCE, acquired in 2015. The expansion into experiential offerings was a natural step and supports our audience development strategy which positions us as the market leader in UK cycling sportive events. It has an exciting growth plan, as the events will be bigger than ever with 80 this year, which we believe will offer a superior consumer experience. 

We’ve also had a big win last year with Simon Collis winning Digital Editor of the Year – Consumer at the BSME Awards. Our successes in digital and video, driven by Simon, have tapped into our print and digital resource.

What about your 2016 plans? 
It really will be the year for our portfolio. We now have a true 360-degree reach with digital, print, video, social media and live events, which take place most weekends throughout the year. This is an exciting time for consumers because they are able to engage with our content however they want to. It’s also a great opportunity for advertisers because they can connect with our audiences in many different ways.

This year also brings an exciting new chapter for us as we’re moving to our new offices in Farnborough, Hampshire, in early summer. The move will bring high-quality and brand new state-of-the-art workshops and test facilities, which means we will be in a position to create content that is even more compelling and enable us to accelerate our growth ambition in a first class environment.

We are working hard to connect our advertising clients with our audiences, with continued focus on relevant ad formats, partnerships, marketing services and innovations. Significant and sustained investment in our digital platforms, extensive research and redevelopment of our print brands, plus our acquisition of UK Cycling Events, all demonstrate our determination to deliver first class brands, with targeted audiences. Through digital, print and experiential events, we can now connect our advertisers with more cyclists than ever before and that audience continues to grow. 

The power and scale of our reach across the multiple platforms means that we are better placed than any other cycling media, to provide advertisers with opportunities to communicate and deliver tailored marketing campaigns of any kind and scale. 

Our growth in traffic and on-site video plays, plus growth in participation events with UKCE, shows that the cycling industry is benefiting from strong growth and is thriving more than ever before. Our cycling brands are already proving they can be as relevant today as they have ever been. 

This article first appearing in the March edition of BikeBiz, which you can find here.

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