Articles

Published on June 26th, 2016 | by Boris

DEAR MOTORCYCLE INDUSTRY

We have reached a tipping point.

But I think many of you already know that.

The bleating has started. And so has the whining.

Much of the motorcycle print media has begun to realise its days are numbered and its future grim.

No doubt you have noticed the ever more frantic entreaties from various advertising sales-folk, all of whom are struggling to meet their sales targets – which I hasten to add are going up, because the actual sales of their titles are relentlessly going down – and well, hell, the money has to come from somewhere, right?

So let’s tighten the screws on the motorcycle industry. It has bottomless pockets, right?

We’re motorcycle magazines, right?

The motorcycle industry needs us, Goddamnit!

Well, that may have been true once upon a time.

And it has certainly contributed to the hubris and arrogance of the motorcycle print media, who feel a profound sense of entitlement when it comes to the motorcycle industry.

It’s very much a “Where would you be without us?” kinda thing.

Which is kinda cute when viewed through the prism of today’s digital media reality.

I wrote a piece a while back which dealt, at length, with the motorcycle media generally and focused sharply on the magazine sector. You may read it HERE.

Ultimately, the magazine industry’s problems are entirely of its own making.

They are not the motorcycle industry’s problem.

If every motorcycle magazine in Australia ceased to exist tomorrow, you would still sell the same amount of product you do today.

So their demise is no big deal.

The problem is the screaming death throes that are ensuing.

Your problem is phone call after phone call.

Email after email.

Promise after promise.

You can almost see their collective eyes rolling in panic and fear.

For reasons I struggle to comprehend, the motorcycle print media seems to imagine its demise is a) the responsibility of the larger industry to address; and b) a really bad thing.

A good illustration of this is Nigel Paterson’s recent bleat on Linkedin.

It was published on 17 June, and has had 26 views and two likes. Which is probably par for the course for Mr Paterson’s scribblings. Personally, this is probably only the third thing I have ever read that Nigel has written, and I am only using it to illustrate this piece. I know my linking it will certainly give his piece far more oxygen than it deserves, but it will serve quite well for the points I wish to make. And also as an illustration depicting why the motorcycle magazine business is precisely in the shit it’s in…

Nigel begins with this heading

“What fate the media?”

Yeah, I know. It really should read “What is the fate of the media?” but I think Nigel was trying for some neo-classical bombast at the expense of grammar. At any rate, all he has succeeded in doing is providing a heading that would give any professional sub-editor a nervous twitch, and which is entirely misleading. After all, his piece is not about all of the media, rather a small part of it; nor is it really about the fate of that media. You will see shortly what his piece is really all about.

He then begins…

“The media is in trouble, we’ve know that for years, but despite this I was shocked at the depth of trouble, highlighted on Media Watch a couple of days ago. I highly recommend everyone watch it.”

Um, I kinda hate to break it to Nigel, him being so earnest and all, but media per se is not in trouble. Large chunks of it are thriving. What is in trouble is the print media, generally, and the magazine media specifically. But I did enjoy his use of the royal ‘we’. It’s almost like he imagines he actually has an audience.

“Motorcycle media is also struggling, with circulations down across the board and advertisers deserting print media in droves.”

This is true, and this is, just quietly, the crux of Nigel’s plaintive bleat. And by “struggling”, I believe he means no-one is buying our shit and we don’t know how to fix it, because we’re really not very good at this, and it’s now starting to become evident.

“Cycle Torque still has decent numbers when you add them all up – print, iPad, iPhone, PDF and the online edition – but getting advertisers to believe it is getting harder and harder.”

Ah, Cycle Torque. That is the fishwrapper Nigel has produced for years and handed out for free, making his money out of the advertising. Great business model, once upon a time.

Let us not forget that Nigel has never produced a publication he was prepared to charge money for. So his expertise in that area is non-existent.

Now about these “decent” numbers he claims, revealingly does not reveal, but asks you to add them up. What are they? What makes them “decent”?

How is it Nigel claims a PDF (Portable Document Format – which is just a file format for capturing and sending electronic documents) is the same kind of thing as an iPhone, an iPad and an “online edition”? Dude, seriously? The PDF of your on-line edition is what appears on iPads and iPhones. What numbers are you adding up and from where do they come?

“With digital magazines – the ones you have to pay for – being an abject failure, I’m not convinced the bulk of our current motorcycle magazines will survive – many have been sold over the last 10 years or so, publishing companies are struggling and staff are being asked to do more (writing, photography, video) in less time for less money than ever.”

Nigel clearly isn’t aware of the digital magazines that have succeeded. He is also trying to link the failure of one entire medium (print) with the failure of specific digital experiments.

But he is correct in stating that very few of the 18 motorcycle magazines this country now has will survive in the medium to long term. He doesn’t state why (either because he doesn’t know or he is being disingenuous), but I will tell you, though you probably already do know. They will go to the wall because they are shit. Most of them are written and edited by mediocrities. Most of them are boring and badly designed with little or none of the craft that goes into making a great publication.

Certainly, their respective staffs are indeed being asked to do more and varied content production – which is doubtlessly quite disconcerting to people who are already not much good at what they do. And since most of these people were already crap at creating great copy and brilliant articles, asking them to produce things like videos is like asking apes to have a crack at building a space shuttle.

Still, it’s quite funny to sit in on an advertising sales meeting where the salesmen are being told what their new sales targets are by a manic publisher who is hemorrhaging money.

Ultimately, the magazines can lay the blame for this sad state of affairs at their own doorsteps. They are the ones who hired the fumbling mediocrities in the first place. They are the ones who failed to grasp the new paradigm of social media. And they are the ones who will go to the wall. And rightly so.

But Nigel imagines he is across this.

“Cycle Torque has been diversifying its media mix, with TV, Youtube and a very popular digital version of the magazine on the iPad and iPhone.”

Good to know! And how’s that TV thing going? Not so good, huh?

What about YouTube? Let’s have a look, shall we? Perhaps the 2015 launch of Yamaha’s R1?

That Cycle Torque video has 39,426 views.

AMCN’s YouTube video of that bike has 12,619 views.

By comparison, BikeMe!’s video on its YouTube channel has 250,340 views.

Just sayin’. No biggie.

So moving on and regarding this claim Nigel makes about his digital version of Cycle Torque being “very popular”. This may well be true, but since no actual numbers are provided, it’s kinda hard to validate this claimed popularity.

Then things get weird.

“The disappointing thing is motorcycle magazines really enhance product knowledge.” 

What? Is that even English? Is Nigel disappointed because he contends that motorcycle magazines “enhance” one’s knowledge of a product?

Actually, no. What Nigel wanted to say was that he is disappointed at the demise of motorcycle magazines because he feels they have some nebulous thing called “product knowledge” to offer the world. And when they go, so goes this wondrous enhancement of human wisdom.

But his hole gets deeper.

“Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram don’t review bikes.”

Actually, there are lots of bike reviews on Facebook. Google is a search engine that does not itself review bikes, but certainly provides links to places that do. And there are some hilariously accurate 140-character bike reviews on Twitter. But he is right about Instagram. Nice pictures, but.

“Youtube remits money to video makers, around $1000 per million views – and [sic] awesome bike review gets 100,000 views, which must help sell bikes but only pays the producer back $100.”

Cry me a river. Oh and these reviews “must help sell bikes” must they? Really? I am a little astonished that someone who has worked for so long in motorcycle media has failed to grasp that bike reviews actually do not help sell bikes. At least not any more.

Things have changed. The way people consume media has changed.

Nigel’s complaint here is obvious.

If my magazine or video is helping to sell bikes (but I cannot prove or quantify this in any way because it is manifestly untrue), then I deserve more money than YouTube is giving me for my shitty videos that no-one watches. And that money has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is the motorcycle industry. So pony up, bitches. You owe me.

Is that right? Is that how Nigel thinks it does or should roll?

This is maybe what he doesn’t get.

The customer, via his own on-line research and acting upon long-held and entirely unquantifiable desires, has already decided he will buy bike X. He really wants that bike, for reasons that have nothing to do with some unknown person’s dreary opinion. Once this decision is made, the buyer will then look for reviews that validate that decision and discard those that do not.

For the most part, the buyer/reader will almost immediately stop reading and click off tedious, badly-written reviews that do not engage him. His life is too short, after all.

Most reviews, both video and written, do not engage the reader or viewer. At all. No, not even a little bit.

And here’s why. It’s because the people writing the copy or making the video clip do not know how to engage with their audience.

Video has actually become the great curse of the Australian motorcycle magazine industry. Its attempts at making video were a lame knee-jerk response to falling sales and a vain attempt to remain relevant in a fast-changing social media landscape – and those attempts have all been, almost without exception, abject failures.

Though those failures do make the good video reviews (and there are certainly a few of those) shine all that much brighter.

“If you’re a marketer, it might be worth considering how your marketing material is being disseminated and what credibility your brand gains from being associated with and whether supporting those titles might be smart business – because if they go away, you might only be left with blogs, Facebook and Google.”

And now we come to the actual point of Nigel’s missive.

Everything he has written is directed at the motorcycle industry and its marketing people.

Now aside from the fact his overly lengthy sentence is grammatically crippled (Read it out loud. Go on. Just for laughs), it also manages to be insulting, threatening, and pathetically pleading at the same time.

Quite a feat, I think.

Anyway, what Nigel is begging for is support in the form of advertising dollars.

And if those dollars are not forthcoming, “they” (presumably motorcycle magazines and presumably his) might cease to exist.

And if that happens, all you (the motorcycle industry) will be left with is the world’s biggest search engine, the world’s biggest social media platform and an entire Internet full of written opinion pieces about your products. And presumably a damaged credibility.

And that, in Nigel’s opinion, is the opposite of “smart business”.

To sum up, then…

“Giz money or I’ll stop producing dreck because I’ll go broke, and then you’ll all be sorry because there’ll be no more dreck.”

Seriously?

Apparently so.

Well, I am of the view the cessation of dreck-production is no bad thing.

I am of the view the motorcycle industry is starting to see it no longer “needs” really crappy motorcycle magazines to market its products.

I am of the view the motorcycle industry understands full well it can now use social media to target its customers directly and far more effectively than by buying advertising in a magazine whose readership slides ever further down the toilet with each passing issue.

I am of the view the motorcycle industry is quite over being bullshitted to by people who refuse to provide genuine sales figures for their magazines, instead offering nonsense such as “circulation” and “readership” and “multi-platform diversification”.

I am of the view the motorcycle industry knows if it’s shit in print, it will be shit on-line and on every platform there is. Shit is, after all, shit, no matter if it’s made of pixels or printed dots.

I am of the view the motorcycle industry does not need to be lectured about best business practice and credibility by someone who has never had to sell a magazine on its merits to anyone.

I am of the view the motorcycle industry understands better than the magazine producers how people consume media today.

I am of the view the motorcycle industry is starting to understand it is not obligated to fund the motorcycle magazine industry as it slides ever further into irrelevancy.

I am of the view the motorcycle industry now also understands it no longer needs to tolerate ego-maniacal rantings and abuse from people within the motorcycle magazine industry who were maybe not invited to a product launch, or who maybe don’t approve of the marketing direction a motorcycle importer has decided upon.

But most of all, I am of the view it is well past the time the motorcycle industry stopped pandering to the misplaced egos of an increasingly irrelevant bunch of talentless mediocrities pretending to be magazine editors, journalists and writers.

If a motorcycle magazine publisher wants to be taken seriously by the motorcycle industry he now relies on more than ever for money, he will have no problem with producing actual and independently audited sales figures for its titles.

Show us the sales figures. Not publisher’s guesses. Not circulation. Not readership.

Sales. Actual paid copy sales. Independently verified. Go on. I dare you. Let us all behold the contents of the wheelbarrow you’re pushing.

But it won’t happen, because we are approaching the End Game. You can tell by the hunted looks in the eyes of the ad sales people. We have reached the tipping point.

The motorcycle print media might still adapt and lift its game, change its approach, and embrace the future. But I doubt it. The most likely outcome is it will – and quite frankly it should – just wither and die.

No-one will miss it (get over yourselves), and it has no-one but itself to blame. It is reaping exactly what it has sowed.

Enjoy.

 

BTW – I have faithfully reproduced Nigel’s thing above, but you may read it for yourself HERE.

 

 

 


About the Author

is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.



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