PRINT MEDIA SPECIAL: Pressing on through tough times

Last year saw a lot of activity within the cycle consumer press sector. Magazines were launched, some of those didn’t go to plan, while others flourished as new cyclists took to the streets. Mark Sutton reviews the progress of the pedal press...
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Last year saw a lot of activity within the cycle consumer press sector. Magazines were launched, some of those didn’t go to plan, while others flourished as new cyclists took to the streets. Mark Sutton reviews the progress of the pedal press...

Future Publishing
Future’s group publisher gave BikeBiz an exclusive review of its magazines’ performances and aspirations going forward. Katherine Raderecht says: “We are delighted that Future now has the number one and two best-selling cycling magazines in the market and that all three of our titles posted ABC increases.

“We’re particularly pleased with Cycling Plus posting its ninth consecutive ABC increase – up an amazing 11 per cent year on year. The magazine was redesigned last year and it’s really pleasing to see the hard work of the team paying off with the phenomenal increase in circulation.

"The fact that Cycling Plus is now the second best-selling magazine in the market is obviously fantastic news. It’s also encouraging to see that What Mountain Bike is continuing to rise, after posting its second set of ABC results, and it’s great that Mountain Biking UK continues to maintain the position of Britain’s best-selling MTB magazine.”

Future has gone one step further with its commitment to cycling this year, adding BikeRadar Live to its portfolio. Raderecht says: “The first instalment comes on May 30th/31st at Donington Park. It’s going to be an amazing two-day festival packed full of rides, gear, races, demos, seminars, DJs, cafes, films, and family fun.”

Perhaps the biggest news of the year, however, comes in the form of a new magazine launch – Triathalon Plus. “It’s a natural step for us to look at extending the editorial strengths we have in cycling into areas where we see a market opportunity, such as triathlon – the UK’s fastest growing sport.

“When you combine our ABC figures with the huge growth in our web traffic, we reach over three million uniques a month. Our mission is to inspire more people to ride more bikes over more miles than ever before. We are actively investing in our portfolio, to develop our websites and magazines and to grow the number of new cyclists we reach.”

Four fixed gear London riders collaborated during the summer of 2008 to launch Fixed and Now up to its third issue, the mag didn’t launch without drama. Art director Victor Vauthier left before issue two landed, citing ‘creative differences’ as his reason for parting ways.

The magazine can be found in selected bike shops, mostly in and around London. Plans were in place to distribute the magazine globally, but BikeBiz couldn’t make contact to find out more about the magazine’s progress.

2008 was a rollercoaster year for Singletrack and its staff. After climbing 117 places in the national magazine ranking year-on-year (based on WH Smith news-stand data), the magazine’s accompanying website was cruelly taken to pieces by a hacker determined to ruin the publisher’s Christmas.

But the magazine remains a fixture in Tesco and WH Smith. The former has confirmed the title will appear in a further 29 stores in 2009.

Publisher Mark Alker tells BikeBiz: “For issues 49, 50 and 51, Singletrack will have 100 per cent coverage in WH Smith stores including front-of-shelf for the first two weeks of every issue."

Singletrack has also secured a range protection guarantee ensuring that in WH Smith Singletrack will maintain this level of distribution through to at least spring 2010.

“Singletrack is averaging 15-17k copy sales per issue, with a subscription base of over 4,500. Despite the negative trend in the cycling sector, 2009 will see Singletrack’s position in the main distribution channels increase,” he concludes.

Factory Media
The big news to come from Factory this year was the launch of The Bicycle Buyer – a title published with the aim of simplifying the market for the first-time buyer. Now on its third issue, the magazine’s design has been brought in-house.

However, among other news announced during February, MBUK’s founding editor Tym Manley joined Factory as an editorial consultant, with the specific goal of developing The Bicycle Buyer further. Kate Marley has also come on board as sales manager for the title.

The publisher’s two BMX titles both had successful years, with Ride retaining its crown of most popular UK BMX mag. With Steve Bancroft now at the helm, the title has been redesigned and has had two exclusive DVD cover mounts to bolster its sales.

Marketing manager Mason Young tells BikeBiz: “Retail presence in WH Smith has increased by 100 stores in 2008, plus Tesco supermarkets are expanding the title into more stores. Sales of Ride have increased three per cent, with subs growing 15 per cent.”

Ride magazine founder, Mark Noble, who had been with the media group since it bought the rights to the magazine, left to pursue a components and frame venture under the Deluxe label.

Chris Noble, Mark’s brother, left the company shortly after. Young says: “Dig BMX sales increased four per cent year-on-year and it continues to be the best global selling BMX title.”

Dirt Mountain Bike saw its first brand extension in 2008 with the Dirt 100 product guide, which was recognised by the industry when art director Jon Gregory won Designer of the Year at the Press Gazette Magazine Design and Journalism Awards 2008.

Retail support for Dirt magazine has seen an additional 35 mountain bike stores stocking the title, plus WH Smith Travel outlets expanding it into more stores for 2009. Subscription volumes saw the largest growth within the firm, recording a 33 per cent increase year-on-year.

The Ride Journal
Seemingly one of the most successful launches of the year (at the time), The Ride Journal was highly praised by trade and consumers alike, with the initial print run of 1,000 selling out in three weeks, with a second batch selling out later.

Charge MD Nick Larsen says of the £7 title: “The Ride magazine is so good. A breath of fresh air – I love it.” Editor Philip Diprose comments: “The next issue (two) is looking even better than issue one. There are bigger and better articles, better photographs and more interesting illustration.”

The Ride Journal uses unpaid guest writers only, who are asked simply to document what cycling means to them, their experiences on a bike or to write about their local scene.

Almost entirely read by subscribers, Velovision has its own dedicated following, something which is growing with the website’s ability to grab tasty exclusives – for example the world’s first Go Cycle review.

Editor Peter Eland tells BikeBiz: “Firm sales are around 2,500 total, with an estimated readership of 6,000 plus. Copies now go to 47 countries, with just over half going to the UK and the rest fairly evenly split between Europe, North America and the rest of the world. We also have 350-odd subscribers to the digital edition, with an unknown additional number who read the unauthorised pirate PDFs floating around the web.”

The magazine regularly surveys its readers and recently found that on average its readers’ most expensive bike value averaged at £1,800. Gross income was around £34,800, while average age was 47.

Eland has also written a book alongside legendary frame-builder Mike Burrows and Richard Balentine. The Practical Bike Buyer’s Guide was written as a reference point for utility bicycle buyers. Eland concludes: “The book will be available widely via the book trade and will help cross-promote the magazine."

A to B
According to AtoB editor David Henshaw: “We expected terrible things in 2008/09, but fortunately the phone hasn’t stopped ringing.”

2008 saw the title, which is traditionally folding bike news only, broaden its scope to include the electric market. Further expansion was also made online, but, against the trend, the title’s online share is ‘slightly receding’.

Henshaw says: “Our circulation has grown bigger than ever before as we go into 2009, but strangely the growth has been in paper subscriptions, with digital stuck at nine per cent of the total and actually receding slightly. The message, as far as we can see, is keep the magazine’s good value for money.

“We’ve also done some aggressive marketing, with cut-price deals to get people on board, but no external advertising, the value of which does seem to have dried up. The only bad news is that we’ve lost a few advertisers – some bankrupt, but others just tightening their belts.”

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