Of the three venture capital backed cycle websites that promised to give print magazines a run for their money, BIKEmagic is the last one standing. Both 9feet.com and madformountainbiking have gone to the digital graveyard in the sky.
BIKEmagic was the first to scale and is easily the biggest, with 33 000 registered members. BIKEmagic’s Cullen Ward mourns the passing of Madformountainbiking because of the way its failure tarnishes all commercially-minded bike websites, but believes Madfor made the kind of critical mistakes BIKEmagic has avoided:
"Madformountainbiking certainly made waves, but it seems that their big
splash may have, financially at least, drowned them. High profile marketing
spend in the form of sponsorship deals and regular advertising only works if
it feeds right back into the business. In the case of Madformountainbiking
they don’t appear to have got close enough to the consumers and, perhaps
consequently, the industry to make the business pay."
Ward said BIKEmagic is going from strength to strength:
"Participation on BIKEmagic has never been higher. During October we served
over 1.5m page impressions; 190 000 unique user session; and member
registrations crashed through 33 000. Importantly though, this traffic also
delivered. Directly attributable business for advertisers, particularly
retailers, was the highest ever.
"But announcing great news is always odd when someone who may have been
perceived as a competitor announces that they are closing to business.
"The internet’s certainly not dead, nor is it sleeping, but it’s also not the
licence to print money that some once thought it would be. We believe that
BIKEmagic has been so successful because it knows its market and delivers
excellent results to advertisers."
Mark Alker of singletrackworld.com, and Singletrack magazine, believes print is far from dead and that a magazine with a partner website is the model most likely to succeed long-term:
"We discovered very early on with GoFar-mtb.com that informational websites don’t pay. As good as they are at delivering news as it breaks, you can hear the sound of wallets being padlocked at the very mention of the words ‘banner ad.’
"Despite the internet revolution, print is still king when it comes to revenue streams. Advertising on our website is free to our print advertisers or magazine stockists.
"Singletrackworld.com exists solely as a way of building a community of magazine buyers, a job it does extremely well. Over 12 000 high spending adult mountainbikers tune in each month to our site and that figure is growing fast. In October we served a total of 212 000 pages (hits) with a single banner ad on each one. A remarkable feat when you consider we have spent nothing on consumer advertising and started this game with only the
loose change in our pockets.
"Singletrack magazine now has more subscribers than Cycling Plus and back issue sales account for 45 percent of magazine sales.
"Yet despite all this success it is far from easy to make it pay. How a web only business can ever hope to show a return on multi-million pound investments remains a mystery to us.
"We may not be making a shed load of money yet, but then we aren’t burning it
and we owe nothing. I think we will be here for some considerable time."