It’s not been a good start so far this year for motorcycle journalism. Two print magazines closed down – Hot Bike in the US and Performance Bikes in the UK – and the editor of CityBike in California moaned publicly about being asked to provide free pre-event promotion for an event in exchange for media access. It all sucks.
Is professional journalism losing the fight against FaceBook and Instagram influencers and YouTube Vloggers? You might think so, and yet…
Journalists have been railing on about “the Death of Print” for the last two decades, and with it comes the rise of online media. All of us at Canada Moto Guide have worked at some time or other for printed magazines or newspapers – some of us still do – and we understand that media has fundamentally and irreversibly changed. The difference is that we’re embracing this and welcoming it as, probably, so are you. Online is convenient, easy, and far less restricted in what it can offer compared to a printed magazine. CMG has now been publishing exclusively online for more than two decades, and we’re only getting better, and stronger.
The obvious advantage is that an online publication has much lower associated costs than a printed mag: there’s no paper, or distribution. However, there are printed magazines that are still successful and they compete by improving their content to a level that somebody will actually want to pay for; this includes better quality paper for reproduction, and higher standards of journalism and content. Careful management to balance everything is essential. When a magazine begins to look thin and flimsy, and its words reflect nothing different than can be found online for free, then it’s done.
In fact, those vloggers and paid-for influencers might be the saviour of printed magazines, because they encourage those of us looking for honesty and integrity to seek out such information. Sit back with a magazine and there are no pop-ups. There’s no phishing or spamming, and definitely no trolls.
And then there’s the middle ground, where Canada Moto Guide has been staking its claim since 1996. We’ve tried different ways to fund the site over the years, including a subscriber-based Riders’ Club, but ultimately, we rely on corporate display advertising. It works well for us, too, but only because we remember that readers will seek out the same honesty and integrity online that others look for in print. We know that motorcycle manufacturers aren’t looking for fawning reviews of their products because they know readers will dismiss them as irrelevant; they want objective and constructive criticism as much as you do. They just hope their product is good enough to warrant it.
We’ve never changed in this outlook. I’m writing this column now because I recently found an unpublished draft of a column from 2015 by our founding editor, Rob Harris. Back then he wrote: “I believe very strongly that the path to success is through a sizeable and engaged readership and that can only be obtained by a conviction and fundamental belief that being honest and saying how it is will get you more readers.” The column was never published because Rob went on to slag off and slander most of the American motorcycle media, and he clearly thought better of it once he’d calmed down. Good thing too – it was pretty libelous.
We’re now owned by AutoTRADER.ca, which believes in the strength of quality automotive journalism, and we’re looking forward to a new year of telling you about our shared passion of motorcycles. Like the car industry, and like the media industry, motorcycles are constantly changing and improving. The technical advances of machines and gear are astonishing and it’s going to be quite the ride.
I have a unique view on this problem working in the online advertising space, for a leading “programmatic advertising exchange”. Advertising dollars are absolutely essential for the survival of online publishers and sites, to pay for the salaries and infrastructure required. Website visitors, however, hate advertising. Therein lies the problematic Internet disconnect.
Take it even further – independent websites more than ever need to provide advertisers visitor demographic data, to get good advertising dollars, but users increasingly hate the idea of having anything remotely personal shared about them. Look at GDPR in Europe.
I really hope a happy medium is found for acceptable/tolerable advertising. and a fair understanding by website users that advertising is kind of the life blood of the online services they use.