This is the second part of our in-depth look at the cycle world's mags and websites, with interviews with some of the major players in the sector...
Pink Bike: Growth and targeting Europe
Pink Bike co-founder Karl Burkat speaks with BikeBiz:
In ‘98, online was much less of a big deal as it is now. I remember 2008 and 2009 as being awesome years. The economy crashing was a big benefit to web as for 20 years you had every big company spending $x amount with this print magazine and every year any other new players were like “well I’ve gotta like spend year after year”. I think when things crashed marketing budgets went to zero and the year after everyone was like “let’s reevaluate what we’ve been doing and they were like actually y’know what? Okay this makes way more sense for us.
So we started getting some scraps off the tables and we were able to hire more people and make better content. If you don’t have good content you don’t get advertising bucks so you’re stuck.
Do you think video has become more important over the years?
Yeah. My brother’s an engineer and I’m an engineer so we developed everything ourselves: Photos, video and every feature on the sight. We really focussed on building a community for communication. All of a sudden you could join a site, buy your first bike, read reviews and find out what products to buy.
How’s your European presence?
We would like to set up an office in Europe this year. We have a lot of contributors now in Europe, and we’re adding more. We have a tech guy part time; we’re hiring a photographer full time in Europe. We hired a second sales person for Europe two months ago. We’d like to set up in either the UK or France.
We’d like to do it in the next three months. I’d have to check my statistics, but Europe’s larger for us now. In the last six months that’s happened. Europe’s evolving so fast as an audience. We’re targeting it a lot more now. We just had a photographer travel through Germany and visit eight different factories and doing factory tours.
If there any other territories you’re concentrating on?
About a year and a half ago we hired a guy part time in Taiwan. He does a lot of translations into Mandarin so if you’re in China all the major stories are translated into Chinese for you. We recognise China has a huge growth potential five years down the road.
What other goals do you have for the next 12 months?
We’ll hit 30-plus staff this year, we’ve launched a trail maps app, so currently a lot of developments go into that and it’s grown. It’s got about a 100,000 fans in the database and we’re bringing that to Europe as well. We’ve launched a multi lingual feature as well.
What about the tablet/smartphone trends?
They are growing quick. It’s actually been pretty linear so at the moment we’re like 38 per cent mobile, the year before its 34 year before its 28. If you look at other sites, not naming any names but if you look at their traffic its like 75 per cent mobile traffic, which demonstrates that they’re getting a lot of referrals. If you look at our traffic it’s mainly from people searching Pinkbike. Which means that time we spent making that community all those years ago that’s probably the biggest factor.
What about longer term goals?
We’re trying to build some stuff for retail. There’s not really much stuff to talk about yet, but uh, we’ve got some things on the backburner. As a first step, what we have is a database of all the bike shops and if your shop isn’t listed, you can sign it up and the shop will appear on the trails app. It’ll help customers to find retailers.
Factory Jackson: One year in
Editor Andrew Dodd fills us in on Factory Jackson’s launch year: “Moving from a large team, on a floor crammed with staff on bike magazines – I found myself sat in a small office in Bath totally on my own, and quite often not speaking to a sole in two or three days!
It’s a dramatic change for me, but it’s been one hell of a year and I’m really happy with how things have been going.
With the job of building a social media profile and getting the site off the ground, things escalated a lot faster than I imagined. What started out as a fairly straight-up job as editor of a website has seen me turn in to some kind of man-media-band! I quote literally do it all – photography, video, writing, testing, posting, SEO, social media – and representing the site in person.
The task for the first year was to grow the site on a minimal budget, and start building the kind of content that we intend to expand on. Sounds easy enough, sure – but the reaction to Factory Jackson so far has been huge, and it’s rapidly becoming a runaway train.
In the first year on the site I’ve been to every single UK trade and public show possible and several distributor launches too. On top of that we’ve spent nearly 6weeks out the country on various press trips and shows including the foot-swelling Eurobike and hammering runs at Verbier Bikepark for some forthcoming content.
Whilst knocking up the miles on the road we’ve built up 4,000 Instagram followers and 5000 Facebook followers – totally organically. We’ve been building up a steady flow of in-depth and totally unique content too – you won’t find recycled content on Factory Jackson unless it’s something really special. We’ve also been focussing on the best quality images too – Factory Jackson is fully retina screen compatible and fully responsive. Have you seen how amazing the images look now our images are 30 per cent bigger?
The site numbers have steadily grown by 125 per cent, but we’re aware there’s a limit to the amount of content I can generate on my own.
So what’s next? We’re looking to start building a team to market the brand and dramatically increase its reach. The time is right now – 2015 was about getting the groundwork done, fixing problems in the back end of the site and turning a good looking site in to an amazing looking one. 2016 is about building and marketing the brand – and we’re just getting warmed up!
f-at: road.cc & new partnerships
Farrelly Atkinson, publisher of road.cc has set up multiple cycling site partnerships. Simon Stansfield tells BikeBiz: “With road.cc, we have blazed a trail as the UK’s original, internet only, cycling platform for over seven years. In that time the market has changed dramatically and we have changed with it. Ultimately what we do has changed little; Write great content about bikes, Review stuff honestly and always remember that without our community we are nothing.
The F-At Collective, which we’re announcing here, is another trailblazer: road.cc is now partnering with three niche engaged sites: stickybottle.com, Ireland’s premier racing site. moredirt.com the UK’s top MTB trails site. twowheelsbetter.cc the fast growing site for new and returning mountain bikers.
The Collective is our way of creating engagement at even greater scale by pulling together sites with massive active communities and unique offerings.
Every campaign for every advertiser is different and we never apply a one size fits all approach. We start with your objectives and go from there. The growth of the Collective won’t change this approach it will just mean we can apply the same methods to a wider group of avid cyclists, both road and mountain bike (01225 588855).
Gruppo Media: Rouleur’s Classic
Bruce Sandell,Gruppo MD speaks to BikeBiz: “Our business is split into four parts, all focused on the premium end of the road cycling market. Despite some of the doom and gloom in the marketplace currently, that part of the market is in rude health – with more and people filtering up to our place in the market. The printed publication is the anchor of the brand and gives us permission to operate in other areas: Online Content, Online retail and events.
We are seeing good growth in all our key revenue streams on the magazine – subscription sales, newsstand sales and advertising. We were delighted to increase our market share of advertising in 2015 – which is testament to the strength of the brand, our strong market position and the superb editorial product created by editor Ian Cleverly and his team. We have some exciting plans for the publication, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2016 – these will be released to BikeBiz over the next month.
Our online retail turnover has grown by over 15 per cent and we will accelerate growth in 2016. In May of this year, the online shop was taken over by our shareholder Paul Bolwell – who is running it alongside other business interests. We will build the range around three categories: Rouleur branded products – branded clothing, mugs, art prints, accessories and collectables; Rouleur Collaborations – typified by recent John Smedley x Rouleur collaboration, a number a high-end fashion deals are being acquired in 2016 and beyond; Third party products that fit the remit of Rouleur Retail – with a level of exclusivity online. This is typified by the recent exclusive deal to be the only cycling online retailer for David Millar’s new clothing range CHPT3 from Castelli.
We launched the inaugural Rouleur Classic with our partners Telegraph Events in November 2015, sponsored by Maserati. The event is an exclusive, intimately curated celebration of the very best in road cycling – with an exhibition, a theatre and gallery space, all put together with Rouleur’s eye for detail. This was a huge step for our business and judged a great success amongst our paying attendees, exhibitors and the current/former pro cyclists that attended – from Eddy Merckx to Alberto Contador and Fabian Cancellara. We delivered a very high quality audience who engaged with all our fantastic exhibitors – there were no ‘tyre kickers’ looking for free stickers.
In 2016, we move the Rouleur Classic to a new venue in Holborn (Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, WC1B 4DA), again with our partners Telegraph Events and sponsored once more by Maserati. The venue is superb, with a proper art deco theatre, perfect for all the amazing content. We will theme each day of the show in 2016 around a Grand Tour, which allows us to do some really exciting things around the content and also the food and drink – so the show will cover the Tour de France on Thursday Nov 3rd, Giro d’Italia on Friday Nov 4th and Vuelta a España on Saturday 5th Nov. We have some exciting special guests that we will be announcing in March.
How’s online progressing?
We have made good progress in 2015, with growth in traffic on our site, plus significant increase in followers via social media channels. We have a website re-design coming ahead of the Spring Classics and some new content channels that will further drive the site traffic – focussing around more product and also travel.
What can we expect from 2016?
We are strengthening our management team, having just taken on new non-exec director Tony Harris, who will be working with me closely in a commercial role, to accelerate growth across all areas of our business. Tony has worked in media for over 30 years. Most recently he was CEO of luxury magazine Boat International, which is a modern mixed media international business that leads its sector with many parallels to Gruppo Media Limited.
Generally speaking, I think we will see consolidation in the media market, as in retail. The recent set of ABCs showed a decline in UK newsstand sales for every cycling magazine – which surely makes some titles unsustainable now. Our focus will remain where it has always been – road and premium - that market is here to stay. Our growing customer base will riding their bikes more and spending more money on their passion in 2016 and definitely not be kite surfing next year (or whatever is next year’s big thing might be), like the more faddish customers elsewhere in the sector.
Singletrack: Subscriber offer
Singletrack has a refreshing take on providing value to its readers, rewarding subscribers with enrollment in its Premier user benefits club. That club gives readers access to offers from a plethora of bike businesses. It also gives users access to discounts of up to 20 per cent off everything in Singletrack’s online shop. Joining our club costs from £15. Readers are then sent eight issues of the mag and they get chance to “claw back every penny… and more”. Of interest to bike retailers in particular is the fact that Singletrack has an iOS App for helping readers quickly find Premier Dealers.
Mark Alker tells BikeBiz: "Our Newsstand sales are up 7 per cent and that's the first time that's happened in five years. We've seen a 22 per cent year-on-year increase in mags read in digital format, while App development is marching on with clever things happening. Oh and we just sold out of Grit.cx issue 007 before it's even officially gone on sale.. and that's print, that is!"
Factory Media: print to online
It’s little over 12 months since Factory Media announced Dirt and Ride UK would be moving online only. At the time, CEO Darryl Newto said: “Although moving on from our heritage as a mag publisher is an emotional shift, it also represents a significant opportunity to create even more content for a significantly larger online audience without the barriers of accessibility and affordability. All titles will remain online and will produce editorial.”
This article was originally published in the March 2016 edition of BikeBiz, which you can read online for free.