UPDATE 9/17/20: Revzilla is reporting that Cycle World has pulled the plug on their quarterly print magazine edition. Octane, a powersports finance company, announced that it has acquired the digital assets of the former Bonnier powersports print magazines: Cycle World, Motorcyclist, Dirt Rider, Motorcycle Cruiser, UTV Driver and ATV Rider. I find it strange that as of this morning, there is no mention on Cycle World’s website about the acquisition and plans to stop the last print publication of the magazines formerly owned by Bonnier Motorcycle Group.
While times are tough for print magazines, a publisher like Hi-Torque (Dirt Bike, Motocross Action, Dirt Wheels and UTV Action) and super-cool magazines like Sideburn, Dice and Motorcycho prove that there are enough enthusiasts (and advertisers who want to reach them) to justify well-run publications. Racer X is another solid print publication that proves print is not dead. I don’t feel Bonnier publications were well managed or they would, could and should have survived.
THE ORIGINAL STORY
6/1/2017: My subscription to Cycle World ran out a year ago with their May 2016 issue that sported the worst cover I have ever seen on a motorcycle magazine. Glad I didn’t renew because it just kept coming until I received the June 2017 issue wrapped with a warning that this was “really-really” my last issue. I still don’t believe them so I’m going to wait to see if the issues just keep coming.
A LOT OF OVERHEAD
How is Cycle World doing? First, since I was in the biz for a number of years, I’m one of the few readers who actually checks the masthead. I counted 25 people on the editorial side and 17 people under the advertising department. The issue has 22 pages of advertising if you count the 4 pages run by the Adventure Rally Series (that you shouldn’t because it is sponsored by Cycle World). This means that everyone in the advertising department sold 1.3 pages of ads for this issue. Hope they are not paid on commission and thank God for insurance companies, WeatherTech and Harbor Freight. I lost interest before counting the executive and marketing staff.
A CROWDED EDITORIAL MEETING
The editorial gang punched out 45 pages of editorial so each editor was responsible for 1.8 pages of stories. But wait. The largest (and best) story in the issue was written by two guys who are not on the masthead! Take the 10-page cover story out of the 45 total and it turns out that each editorial guy only had to crank out 1.4 pages. Okay, I know that some of the names on the masthead are window dressing (I had John Tomac, Mike Bell and Jeff Ward and some of the boss’ family members on my masthead for years) but that is still a lot of guys crammed into an editorial meeting. I don’t remember an issue where I was responsible for less than 25 pages. These Cycle World guys have it easy except when they are trying to convince the boss that they are busy.
The cover story, “The Unnecessary Express” is a kick. It is a fun read about two guys riding a Ural motorcycle with sidecar non-stop from Seattle to Santa Monica. It is a great story that makes a reader want to do something fun and crazy on a motorcycle. Bravo. Kevin Cameron remains the best technical writer in the business even if nobody has a clue to what he is talking about. I suspect his piece on S&S drag racing engines is only comprehensible to 6 guys on earth. The KTM 1090 Adventure R story (Test? Not even close.) smacks of a 2-day, public-relations junket for a bunch of underworked and pampered motorcycle journalists. And what’s with running a snow-bike conversion story in the June issue? Guys, it’s summer already! Can we expect a “Best Summer Escapes” story in the November issue? Finally, I applaud the wall between editorial and advertising even if it seems a bit too impenetrable. No editorial content had any connection to an advertiser’s product that I noticed.
PREDICTING THE FUTURE
Bonnier, the company that publishes Cycle World, has 5 other motorcycle-related magazines including Motorcyclist. My guess is that a union of these two titles is probable in the future. Maybe the near future. That or some of the 25 journalists on the Cycle World masthead have got to show more interest at the next editorial meeting.