Singletrack publisher Mark Alker has revealed that the magazine's website is soon to start charging for uploading and distributing the brand-produced videos of sponsored riders. On Facebook, Alker complained that "another sponsored rider has just sent us their latest very pro/expensive video episode with a request to share it to the massive audience we've spent 15 years and a [load] of money building. No is the answer."
The self-proclaimed "grumpy" publisher added: "If sponsored riders want to get exposure by creating their own content (presumably with the financial backing of their sponsors) then build your own audience to distribute it to, or pay us like all our advertisers have to so we can be around for the next 15 years. Our reach is available to buy."
Brands that produce videos starring their sponsored riders aim for the videos to go viral, and usually reach out to online magazines to help kickstart the process. By not paying magazines to distribute this content it can be considered a form of "guerrilla marketing". Brands in other sectors rely on such tactics to smuggle their content on to TV during major sporting events. For instance, Puma will be using "ambush marketing" at the 2016 football European Championships in June. It's not an official sponsor of the tournament but in Puma's “Play Loud” campaign the brand's sponsored stars will wear a pink boot on the left foot and a yellow boot on the right foot.
The official sponsors of the Euros – and the Euros themselves – don't take kindly to such ambush marketing, and Singletrack's Alker believes similar tactics have long been used in the bike industry, to the detriment of magazines.
"If you are a media outlet hitting publish on this stuff without thinking what is behind it then have a word with yourselves – you are killing all of us," said Alker.
"However, if any sponsored riders would like us to consider publishing their latest 'episode', 'sick edit' or video then make sure you remove or pixel out all your sponsors logos first. Oh, what's that? Now there's no point? Yeah, see? The doors swing both ways. You want access to our audience? That's what we sell. That's the business we are in."
His message is uncompromising: "Back door advertising dressed up as content and expecting entry for nothing can f•ck off!"
Alker said that brand owners should start paying for placement of such videos otherwise they are just "free ads". He said: "advertisers have blown their budgets paying the filmmakers and sponsored riders to create the content in the first place. Why would they pay us for more ads when we've just published their biggest ad for free? What we do get is more network ads and a poorer experience for the readers, who certainly won't pay for this stuff as they can get it for free from the next publisher. Round and round we go and the biggest losers are the publishers who never saw any of the money ploughed into that video in the first place. Yet we published it anyway! Crazy!"
He revealed that Singletrack is ready to start charging for such video placements: "When we roll out our prices I fully expect to get no takers at all while all our competitors continue to keep publishing them for free."