The war of words between Dan Bromage and Mark Noble continues. It all started when Noble took out an ad in Media Week, claiming to outsell some other action mags. Bromage, the cycle mag publisher at Future, wrote to Media Week and, rubbishing Noble's sales figures. Now, in this week's Media Week, Noble's ad is aired once more because the mag has published a letter from Noble. He writes: "MBUK may sell more copies yes; but is it the magazine the riders want to be in? Is it the publication the professional riders want to be featured in? Or, is MBUK the magazine that riders are actually embarrassed to be in, for fear of ridicule by their peers?"

Fewtch promises to pay for Dirt audit; 4130 says MBUK is a


Many thanks for the email, it’s good to hear from you. I gather that you are new at the post of Publisher of cycling magazines there, so good luck with the new post.

Let me bring you up to speed.

We didn’t once say that Dirt outsold MBUK in our new adverts. We claimed, and quite rightly so, that our magazines outsell all the other genres listed in the ad, with a view to enlightening the media buyers who purchase ads in

other magazine genres thinking that they are reaching a wide audience, when they are not. Hence, these guys would be better off advertising in our magazines. Pretty simple. After all, some buyers were paying up to five grand for a page in Adrenalin magazine, which barely sold 3,500 copies – and the same buyers were quibbling over paying our ad rates, in our magazines which reach directly to the key audience, and our magazines sell many more copies! Barmy. That’s the whole ethos of the new ads. We’re giving them a go and seeing how they work.

Yes, MBUK sells more copies than Dirt. Mainly to kids who want to buy some cheap tyres and a Fox T-shirt from the many mail-order adverts in the magazine, or who want to read about some dudes riding their bikes underwater

playing bicycle hockey, or some product tests and whatnot. The general consensus is that MBUK is good for the kids.

Dirt is considered a ‘market leader’ because it is a highly influential bike magazine. Worldwide. Our international subscriptions and sales on Dirt are amazing, the respect the magazine and its editorial team has with the international bike industry and scene is second to none. It has inspired plenty of Dirt-knock-offs around the world, such as Decline (in Canada/USA) for example, or Rush** (which is long gone, remember it?). You guys even have a page in MBUK called ‘Dirt’ which began when our magazine was launched. Don’t tell me that’s not coincidental…

MBUK may sell more copies yes; but is it the magazine the riders want to be in? Is it the publication the professional riders want to be featured in? Or, is MBUK the magazine that riders are actually embarrassed to be in, for

fear of ridicule by their peers… MBUK is often considered a joke by many people. Sorry to say. But still, the kids buy it. Great!

We have access to the same sales data that you have – via wholesale figures blah blah blah. In fact, we can see that your newsagent sales took a huge dive from around 45K in Sept 03 down to just 20K sales in Feb 04, but have

since climbed back up to almost 60K in Sept 04. Wow! Must be all the covermount freebies.

We’ll openly admit that MBUK sells more copies. Big deal. The Sun sells more than us as well. But still, Dirt is THE most influential bike magazine out there. And if brands want to hit the core of mountainbiking, to reach the readers who really know what’s what, they advertise in Dirt.


Dear Bikebiz,

We’d just like to clarify the vast difference in audience sizes between MBUK and Dirt following Mark Noble’s claim that a ratio of seven to one is wide of the mark.

Using wholesale trade sources it is possible to estimate copy sales for any magazine distributed through the UK Newstrade. Using this data we check the accuracy the method of estimating we use produces on our own titles. We normally expect issue level accuracy for any competitor for UK Newstrade sales to be within +/- 2 to 5%.

On this basis we know for certain that through the UK Newstrade MBUK & Dirt have a similar ratio as shown by the WHS High St EPoS we reviewed (i.e. MBUK outsells Dirt by seven to one). Whether they have exceptional Non-Newstrade, Subscriptions, Overseas & Free Circulation is uncertain but I suspect not the case otherwise they would ABC.

And Dirt comes out every two months; MBUK is published 13 times a year.

Dirt also say they meant to claim leadership in ‘Downhill’, but again this is bizarre. Not only do other UK mountain biking magazines cover downhill, but Dirt also covers other formats such as Freeriding.

This is nothing new for 4130. MBUK’s editor Tym Manley wrote back in 1998:

‘The Editor, ?Cycle Industry ??Dear Sir, ?I was puzzled by Mark Noble’s claim (Product Focus October 1998) that Dirt magazine ‘has a world-wide circulation of 35,000’. ?Puzzle number 1: My newsstand trace on Dirt shows a UK sale of 6,000 for each of the last two issues. These are rough and unofficial figures, of course, but have proved accurate enough for me to base commercial decisions upon. ?That leaves 29,000 to sell on subscription and ‘worldwide’. ?Puzzle No 2: The most recent figures for those magazines which have independently audited sales returns (Dirt does not) show that the best foreign sale for a British mountain bike magazine is 3,579. ?Mountain Bike Rider, which has been around for much the same time as Dirt declares a subscription base of 535. Mountain Biker International 1260. And Dirt is a magazine which focuses on er…British downhill racing. ?Puzzle No 3: This figure is printed in Cycle Industry as a matter of record. ?Am I missing something?’

Mark Noble said Dirt has a circulation of 32,000 of which just under 20,000 is via the UK news-trade.’ This is meant to imply readerships at this level, when in fact it’s just an inflated print order (if it is true it does give some cause for concern as it would mean Dirt’s newsstand efficiency is roughly 30%. Not good.)

I would go as far as offering to pay for one month’s audit, but somehow don’t think 4130 will be keen.

Best regards


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