BikeBiz turns spotlight turned on Dennis and finds a rare print success story

Dennis scores rare ABC win, expands international and digital reach

During February, the month when the Audit Bureau of Circulation verified figures for print (and sometimes digital) magazines land, BikeBiz took some time out to interview several of the cycling industry’s consumer facing publishers. First in our round up, Dennis Publishing, the media house behind Cyclist, Bikes ETC and a soon to be revamped

If it’s ABC verified figures alone against which you measure success, Dennis Publishing is this year’s clear winner, having taken Cyclist magazine from dummy copies to the market’s second highest monthly ABC circulation in just 32 issues.

With an average circulation of 25,707, 18 per cent more than this time last year, Dennis’ first title in the cycling world was initially set up with a five year business plan to recoup the initial launch costs. That early forecast has now been scrapped, with the magazine having paid back it’s parent company’s investment inside the first year.

So, with Bikes ETC now accompanying the title on the newsstand, who said print is dead?

Publisher Nicola Bates told BikeBiz: Cyclist significantly exceeded our expectations. In terms of turnover, it’s now one of the largest inside the Dennis Publishing portfolio for mags published on a monthly basis. It’s also doing fantastically overseas with licenses for local language editions signed for, Germany, Australia and Turkey, with some other significant markets currently in the pipeline for 2015. On the back of the success of Cyclist, and with the team infrastructure already in place, we considered the launch of Bikes ETC a no brainer.”

Despite being one of the younger cycling titles on the shelves, the team behind the magazine packs a punch, with six editorial staff members contributing to each edition. The wider Dennis Publishing cycling team now consists of 20 full time members of staff. 

Advertising Sales Director, Sean Igoe, tells BikeBiz that during his time in the business he’s never seen a title have such an impact on the market: “Of all cycling advertising pages put into print in the UK annually, we believe that Cyclist and Bikes Etc command around 30 per cent share. That’s an incredible achievement in a short space of time,” says Igoe.

Sticking with impressive figures, the retention rate of those subscribing to Cyclist is again the best Igoe has seen in his time serving the industry’s cycling titles. “We’re sitting at around 88 per cent subscriber retention, that’s unheard of in this business, especially at a time when print is generally in decline. It just shows you what a loyal and engaged audience we have.”

With an introductory deal of three issues for just £5, the uptake on a £59.99 annual subscription has been strong for Dennis, with subscriptions now representing around half of Cyclist’s sales.

What the publisher has lacked to date is a digital presence, but that’s about to change suggests Bates. 

“There will be an interactive website coming in the spring. It’s important that our portfolio can offer more than just subscription marketing sites. It’s something that we’ve been looking into for a while and considering various routes to market. We’ve owned the domain name since 2012, and with Dennis’s strong digital background we’re expecting to be able to reach a wider audience relatively quickly. Our advertisers prefer multi-platform reach, so it’s certainly an area for expansion, and there will be further staff resource added as we build our presence on the web.”

Further projects for 2015 include two books, as well as a link up with cycle tourism firm La Fuga, with whom the publisher has organised a group trip this month.

For readers of BikeBiz, the publisher is looking at avenues for bike retailers to take stock, though the logistics to make it beneficial to all are still in development.

Cyclist magazine editor Pete Muir picks up a Cycling Media Award last year.

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