The demise & the rise of the cycling mag

I’m a subscriber to Rouleur, it dropped through my letterbox last week. It took me four or five days to open the substantial packaging & start reading it, not because it’s something I’m uninterested in, but because it doesn’t matter whether or not I read it now or later, it’s virtually timeless. With the internet providing us with instant race results, photo’s, interviews, previews & other current stories, the ‘traditional’ magazine is pretty much redundant, it’s a business model that simply isn’t sustainable anymore. The new model of a high quality magazine carrying historic stories & snapshots into the current racing scene is currently proving to be internet proof, is this the format printed cycling publications will all have to adopt?

The Bike Mag

Those of a certain age will remember rushing to the local newsagent on a Thursday, to find out what happened in last weeks races, at home & abroad. ‘The Comic’, or its official title, ‘Cycling Weekly’ contained all this information five days after it happened. For most of us, this was the earliest chance to realise the latest results, the UK press didn’t carry any results & there was no internet to look up local race results, it’s all we had & we had to wait (what seems now) an incredibly long time for it. This is in sharp contrast to being able to watch Eurosport, legitimate streams, or pirate streams of virtually every UCI race live in your living room, or on your pc. We also have live Twitter updates on these races, plus now also on many UK races, not just major events, but you can follow results on some feeds from local bike races by clued up organisers or just a spectator. Things have changed considerably recently, 4 or 5 day old results are not a good use of content for bike mags, when that same content was available instantaneously.

The monthly pro results type of magazines are fighting a losing battle too, they can be reporting on events that happened over 6 weeks ago, a race you perhaps saw live, but if you’re buying a magazine, you probably know the result, or by some small chance, you are not connected to the internet, I’d assume the latter is an ever shrinking & very small market in 2013. These magazines are struggling to find viable content that doesn’t exist elsewhere else, but if you’re purpose is to report on current events, you’re now reporting on history & the fans are concentrating on different events showing live now.

The results based bike magazine is on its way out, but there is a very different approach which allows publishers to sell a different type of magazine to the punters.

Post Internet Bike Magazines

As I mentioned above, I read Rouleur, it really is nothing like the traditional cycling mag. The only other magazine I now read is ‘Cyclist’, which also doesn’t portray itself as a results service.

‘Rouleur’ must have initially been quite a gamble, with a mix of behind the scenes articles on what we’d consider obscure races, combined with some historic & nostalgic pieces & a smattering of comments on current racing, its strayed from the traditional cycling format & the content isn’t available on the internet. Rouleur’s other strength is it’s packaging, it’s blended into a keepsake, something you can dig out in 10 years time & the stories will still be valid, as they mostly deal with human issues, struggles, iconic images, etc. They also include some incredibly thought-provoking articles, such as the one about tracking down former Russian star Evgeni Berzin who won the Giro in 1994, nowhere in the articles does it mention his name, but we see how far his star has fallen as he tries to sell beat up cars in an obscure location in Italy, a masterpiece in depicting human tragedy & the effect that the circumstances of the time had on his body & soul. Rouleur manages to include not just articles like that one, but also some incredibly uplifting ones, this is why I read it, I can get my results elsewhere, but I can’t get an inside view on how riders struggle to make it, racing in the women’s pro scene or in Africa, hoping to make it to Europe & the big time. There’s a whole world of events out there, not just the ones that are marketed to us in the UK.

‘Cyclist’ is another gem, although it’s not really timeless. There’s always features on the science of cycling, incredible places to ride your bike, equipment, training, but little or no actual racing. You’ll find reports on riding iconic climbs away from the races that made them famous, without the advertising, where you see the real place, important as it’s likely this is what you’ll see when you go there to ride it yourself.

Sustainability

Cycling magazines won’t disappear overnight, there will always be a shrinking market, people often like to read something physical, but the new generation are not used to that, cycling magazines have to offer something else, something that’s not available on the net. Results are easily accessible on cycling websites, instant blow-by-blow action is available on twitter, post race analysis is available on websites & blogs, it’s no longer for bike mags to report days or weeks later.

I’ll continue to open my Rouleur late, I’ll continue to read old issues, not bothering to read the date on them, most articles are valid now & in the future. I assume all my other cycling content will come from the internet soon, but left out of that world is one publication, the timeless slick one, that maybe appeals best to a gentleman of my vintage, who remembers the Thursday newsagent visit for ‘The Comic’.

Rouleur Magazine http://www.rouleur.cc/

Cyclist Magazine http://cyclistmag.co.uk/

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