Hold the front page: Who said print was dead? According to the cycle trade it’s alive, well and prosperous. Mark Sutton looks at the various avenues publishers are exploring in a new age of media...

Cycle Print Media Focus 2010: Part One

Launched in January 2009, Fastlaneis fast becoming one of the race scene’s premiere magazines. With backing from athletes like Shanaze Reade and having the Olympics just around the corner, Fastlane has set the trajectory for growth on a steep path.

David Lane, editor of Fastlane, tells BikeBiz: “In 2010 I plan to bring in new distribution to boost our readership through Europe and the rest of the world, all while keeping a strong hold on our UK presence. We have also launched a team to represent us in the UK and Europe when we attend race events. I’m going to be genuine here – we sell a bit over 2,000 copies an issue. Although saying that, a lot of new readers buy all issues to date in one hit, bumping up back edition sales.”

With long-term plans to see the magazine in WHSmith, Asda and the like, Lane’s main focus is print expansion, although online will not be neglected.

“The internet is of course another area the magazine is marketed very successfully in. It pops up on page one of Google under BMX magazine. Our team plans to bring lots of exciting stuff to the website.”

Lane concludes: “Our readers love what we do. The riders picking up the mag range from kids to grown ups. I never imagined as a child that the magazines I would spend my days with my head in, I would then go on to make. To be honest if it all stopped tomorrow it wouldn’t matter; I have achieved something I’m very proud of. And so I should be.”

Factory Media

The highlight for Factory Media over the last year has been watching Mpora.com grow into an absolute Goliath of a website. It’s Europe’s largest action sports website, attracting 3.8 million monthly users. The Mpora network includes magazine brand news and feature platforms for Dirt, RideUK BMX and Dig. Mpora, in conjunction with Dirt’scoverage of the 2009 Downhill and 4X World Cup, set a new high for up-to-date online event reporting with daily highlight videos that reached 60,000 views. Building on this success, Mpora and Dirt broke new ground in 2010 with the introduction of a free, six-part World Cup retrospective, entitled ‘Finally’ – that went live in January.

Mpora will continue to grow in 2010, with new functionality geared around community, a move into mobile with its innovative iPhone App, and further expansion into France and Germany with dedicated resources to cover these territories.

With 2,000 new members signing up each month, and traffic growing threefold over the previous year, the network has become a key source for action sports news.

In print, Factory’s bi-monthly Bicycle Buyer has grown its circulation 45 per cent since its autumn launch and expects this to increase. Also, 2010 will see it acquire full listings at WHSmith,
Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

According to Factory, in 2009, Dirt Mountainbike was the only UK mountain bike magazine to increase circulation, with sales up five per cent year-on-year.

For a magazine that has been built on the back of a hugely popular mountain bike website, it was a shock for the Singletrack team to start the year without one at all. Singletrack publisher Mark Alker tells BikeBiz: “Having rapidly built and published a new website in the space of a few weeks, it’s been a huge pleasure watching its monthly site traffic not just rebuild itself from scratch, but exceed all previous records.

“This January we doubled our website traffic of December 2008. Singletrackworld.com now reaches 300,000 mountain bikers monthly and delivers seven million pages, making it one of the most popular mountain bike websites in the world.”

The popularity of the web doesn’t mean that Singletrack is about to cut its print efforts though. Alker adds: “The new digital publishing revolution is taking shape, but instead of ditching paper for web pages, we are combining the best of both worlds. Subscribers can now access pages of extra features from audio and video clips to galleries and extended articles, to enhance the content of each issue. Our mag archive also gives subscribers access to our entire back catalogue of issues. It seems to be working – since the launch of our premier subscriptions in November 2009, our numbers have increased by 20 per cent.”

Singletrack now has a distribution that includes WHSmith, Sainsbury’s and Tesco and is available in over 3,500 outlets in the UK. “Our Premier Club scheme is encouraging more readers to spend their cash at our bike trade stockists by offering them exclusive discounts and deals accessed by their Singletrack Premier Club Card (yes, we can thank Tesco for that brainchild).

“Our first iPhone App is due out in the next month and the new iPad has caught our attention too. Our readers still appreciate the quality of print, but they don’t want to be restricted by it. Electronic delivery of our traditional magazine content through video, audio, web and mobile phone is a potentially huge area for continued growth.”

Velo Vision
Velo Vision now sells 2,500 copies for an estimated 5,000-plus readership, across 47 countries. It also attracts advertising from manufacturers, distributors and dealers as far afield as Australia, the USA and from many European countries.

An extra 500 subscribers access the magazine via the full digital edition, which is now accessible on the go via the likes of iPhones and iPads.

During 2009, the publisher also managed to knock out a bicycle buyer’s guide via SnowBooks of London. The Practical Bike Buyer’s Guide provides beginner-friendly buying advice across all utility cycling genres from urban commuting to folding bikes, to special needs cycling.

In a move that drew interest from all over the industry, Velo Vision bagged world first reviews of both the highly anticipated GoCycle and Taga’s bike/child stroller. In partnership with Germany’s Spezi show, Velo Vision now has distribution to the show’s crowds, which total over 10,000 visitors from all across Europe.

The publisher also runs a coach trip to the show, taking readers there in a ‘rock band’ tour bus driven by one of its subscribers. Sadly though, the 2010 trip to the show is already fully booked.

This year Rouleur has gone bi-monthly for the first time in its history, with a larger issue planned around the Giro and Tour de France. The publisher has also introduced a standard four-issue subscription charge worldwide, so no longer do readers have to pay postage and packaging surcharges. This is particularly beneficial to the magazine’s large following in the USA and Japan.

Editor Guy Andrews tells BikeBiz: “Subscriptions are definitely our future, especially as we are a global publication and we are investing a lot of time and effort into developing the infrastructure behind this. It’s a tough job when you are a small publisher, but the subscription base is growing very rapidly and we have to keep up. This growth has meant that we could switch to a new distribution supplier and potentially to a better price too.”

Retail stockists are fairly select, with those who support the mag financially being the main stockists, as well as a select few who continually express interest over the years. An additional two books are due to be launched from the publisher this year, as well as the annual photography edition. The first of the two titles is a biographical account by Michael Barry, called Le Métier – the name that professionals give to their trade.

Andrews explains that the second book has taken years to come to fruition, but is something that he feels is a must see. “We’re publishing a photography book by Timm Kolln called Le Peloton. It is a collection of some of his portraits that have taken five years to assemble. It is a documentary on a generation of riders, from classic specialists to Tour winners.”

Andres concludes: “It’s an exceptional body of work and will feature interviews with the riders too.”

Future Publishing
Having held its circulation steady across its cycling portfolio, despite a general downturn in the publishing world, Future’s cycling magazines are in a strong position to grow, especially with backing from BikeRadar.com and a venture into events.

Publishing director, Pete Stothard tells BikeBiz: “Future is an entrepreneurial business, so where we identify viable opportunities, we will go for them. This could be with new print propositions such as our Ride to Work bookazines aimed at the commuting market, events like BikeRadar Live, demo days, online initiatives, video developments and mobile apps. In terms of plans and developments, we’re committed to an ongoing programme of investment in products and marketing. In print we have already added our dedicated 37-page Buyer’s Guide to What Mountain Bike, and will soon be introducing a complete road cycling buyer’s guide with Cycling Plus. We’re also redesigning Procycling, which launches in April.”

Interestingly, the ABC figures suggest road cycling titles are growing in popularity, with Future’s Cycling Plus clocking a 15.8 per cent increase in net circulation year-on-year. Stothard attributed the growth to a couple of factors, one being the recruitment drive, which has given the portfolio far more resource worldwide. “Our success is underpinned by our constant product review process, and our global 24/7 editorial team, hence our recent international appointments. The internet has broken down traditional barriers, so we have responded to this by creating a distributed team all contributing to our websites to create constantly relevant and fresh content.”

BikeRadar Live has further bolstered the way the trade views Future’s presence and dedication to the cycle market.

Of the event, Stothard says: “We’re continuing to invest in the show. It gives us a fantastic opportunity to meet our readers, as well as allowing them to engage directly with our brands and fellow enthusiasts. We’d like to see it grow considerably, but always maintaining that festival feel, with something to do for every type of rider. In five years’ time, perhaps we’ll have versions all over the world.”

The trade itself is a key resource for feedback on Future’s portfolio and following BikeRadar
Live, Stothard took on board some suggestions. “We listened to what both the trade and consumers said and as a result of some changes, the show will now be bigger and better. We have an extensive marketing campaign and working with organisations like the British Heart Foundation will ensure we reach a broader audience.

"These visitors come to BikeRadar Live expecting to be able to test bikes and equipment, and to buy top products. The event is a real opportunity for the trade to engage directly with consumers in an environment that excites people about cycling. We’ll support those working with us at BikeRadar Live with promotions in our magazine portfolio and online for months around the event, giving unrivalled support to our partners.”

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