BikeBiz talks to ten publishers, large and small, old and new about the evolution of print and digital media

Media special part one: The digital age of publishing

Many expected print would have met its demise by now, yet somehow it battles on. In part one of this round up Mark Sutton talks to five publishers, large and small, old and new to find out how each is performing and what evolution is required to keep the media business alive…

Future Publishing
As one of the few publishers to take part in the Audit Bureau of Circulation’s annual gathering of statistics, Future Publishing’s magazines have made both measurable gains and losses.
The big news is that Mountain Biking UK, the flagship title in terms of figures to date, has been leapfrogged by roadie bible Cycling Plus. Group publisher for the sports division Katherine Raderecht tells BikeBiz: “This is down to the road side of the business growing each and every year. Cycling Plus has, in fact, grown its circulation for 11 straight years and that’s largely down to the middle-aged man taking up cycling.”
Over half of the 44,683 copies sold on an average issue are via the newsstand, though subscriptions are heading on for 17,000, showing a growing commitment to the sector from Future’s readers.
So what’s happening to the former mountain biking stronghold MBUK? Last year, total average net circulation per issue stood at 41,772 and this year that figure has dipped below 40k to 38,482.
Raderecht added: “The UK mountain bike market is changing. Recent research by Future shows that the number of riders under 16 is declining, while the 25 to 44 age group is growing. Mountain Biking UK’s heritage as the only magazine for all mountain bikers means we have to work harder than ever to ensure we remain relevant in this changing environment. A major redesign of the magazine will go on sale in May, designed to engage all mountain bikers through four key editorial pillars: news; reviews; routes and riding; and tech knowhow, all served up in MBUK’s own inimitable style.”
Digital is recognised as a crucial pillar in the framework of the publisher’s stable going forwards. In the year to 2010 the number of global unique visits to Future’s online sites increased by 32 per cent to 19.6 million, while UK uniques grew by 45 per cent to 4.8 million. Pro Cycling is the first of many cycling phone and tablet compatible applications, something which Future editor in chief for iPad and tablet editions, Mike Goldsmith, says is “the perfect showcase for the diverse line of photography and video content” generated through the publisher’s action sports titles.

Factory Media
Encompassing Factory Media’s online portfolio, remains Europe’s largest action sports website, drawing around 3.8 million unique visitors users monthly and streaming around two million bike related videos per month, according to the publisher.
With a tech-savvy, well-travelled readership, Factory Media has early to create iPhone apps for its print titles. Initially the apps were just page-turning replicas of the magazine, however the second generation app allows the editorial staff to create alternative pages for the app, with live links, video content and even an automatically updated news feed, or social media feed, so each time the issue is revisited it has changed. During 2010, total app sales grew by 26 per cent, with subscription sales up 343 per cent, Factory tells BikeBiz.
The Bicycle Buyer is described as a ‘priority title’ for Factory Media in 2011, having secured strong newsstand listings in 2010, including in WH Smith stores, as well as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda. Newstand sales grew three per cent through 2010 and should continue to grow given the publisher’s plan to extend each copies shelf life with more content per issue. A digital version of each edition is now available free-of-charge for iPhone and iPad users. Further to this, each issue is distributed to over 2,000 independent retailers.
Following a rollercoaster year across its BMX titles, the publisher intends to move on from losing a few key staff, including ex-Ride UK editor Steve Bancroft. Despite setbacks, newsstand sales are reported to be up five per cent, while subscriptions top a rise of ten per cent. Continued cover promotion investment in stickers, posters and DVD gifts saw average sales uplifts of 39 per cent. On top of this, the Ride to Glory 2010 DVD issue had an incredible year, with the highest sales ever achieved since its inception three years ago, and the highest issue sale in nine years.
Year-on-year figures for are very impressive, even for a still relatively young website. Having seen the Google Analytics report, BikeBiz can confirm in the past 12 months has generated over eight million page views, a 144 per cent year-on-year growth. There have been 1,477,358 unique users over the past 12 months, too, which is 158 per cent more than the prior year’s statistic.
During the website’s 2010 Autumn peak, over one million page views per month, combined with 210,000 unique visitors were being recorded. The site’s editors now tell BikeBiz it is anticipated that these records could soon become normal as part of the site’s continued steep growth trajectory.
Farrelly Atkinson, the publishers of and Cyclescheme’s Cycle Commuter magazine, told BikeBiz: “It’s been a bumper year as the figures show and we still continue to nurture and grow the community of users by continuing with comprehensive news coverage and in-depth product reviews. In March, the site is to receive additional fitness and travel sections. Further to this, we’re the media partner to the Sunday Munch sportive at Mountain Mayhem, as well as partnering with Evans Cycles for a Fantasy Cycling competition.”
Cycle Commuter is this year to circulate more than 35,000 copies per issue of its bi-annual look at the commuter market. The magazines are distributed via dealers, distributors, manufacturers, supporting organisations, human resource departments of the thousands of employers that are signed up to Cyclescheme and through the 500-plus road shows for employers that Cyclescheme arrange each year.

CTC magazine
“As CTC membership grows, CTC’s award-winning magazine ‘Cycle’ maintains it’s position as the UK’s highest circulation cycling title – landing on doorsteps of over 63,000 members,” CTC commercial director Nick Fish tells BikeBiz. “With the most diverse readership in cycling and substantial growth in commuter and sportive members in 2010, Cycle magazine directly reflects the interests of cyclists visiting UK bike shops. To further cater for ‘special interests’, Cycle magazine has added unique editorial to each issue in the form of special features focussing in on one specific cycling ‘tribe’ activity. Rolling across the six issues each year ‘Cycle’ magazine focuses on – new season bikes and equipment, Touring, Sportive, MTB, Commuter and Family/Leisure in addition to content for all. Cycle magazine is posted directly to members of the CTC and therefore has a guaranteed circulation.”

Case BMX
Up until the recent announcement that Albion BMX was to launch, Case was the only BMX-dedicated title to sit on counter tops and go out to customers free-of-charge.
Editor Mike Netley tells BikeBiz despite the new competition he’s confident Case can continue to progress. “It’s been slow progress, but steady. We’ve grown a lot, we are growing constantly, and will continue to regardless of the position of other titles new and old on the market. That I’m sure of,” assures Netley.
“Over the next couple of issues we will be working really hard on creating original and artistic cover ideas, like the screen printed issue five, and as far as behind the scenes business goes, we are looking into production of the magazine in the USA and also to make the magazine bi-monthly.”
January of this year saw Case put on it’s first BMX jam at The Works skatepark in Leeds. “The turn out was amazing,” said Netley. Look out for a Case magazine trails jam to come to fruition over the next few months, too.”
Netley concludes with a message of thanks: “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every person who has picked up a copy of Case, bought a shirt, ran an advert, distributed the magazine, or simply said a kind word to us about all the hard work that goes into this project each issue. An extra special thanks to my friends and family and most importantly Louis Smith and Ollie Reeve.”

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