The Demise of Magazines, and the Rise of Media

 

With great sadness I hold in my hand the last print issue of Cycle World. The brainchild of Joe Parkhust started publication in 1962 but ceased printing of magazines in 2020 as they transitioned to online media only. As the print version died, so did my dream of ever seeing my name in an issue of Cycle World.

As digital media wages its slow, methodical war to replace periodicals there had to be casualties. Recently Motorcycle Consumer News, American Iron, even Motorcyclist, which had been in print since 1912 all stopped printing magazines this past year. I was hoping that Cycle World would survive. It didn’t.

The demise of major motorcycle magazines is emblematic of our societal shift away from paper and toward screens. Advertisers have recognized this shift and are moving their dollars where they get the best return, forcing media outlets to follow the money. With electronic media, website’s analytics can tell advertisers who is on the site, where they are from, what article they read and even how long they spent reading it. Smart companies can then spend their advertising dollars targeting their choice demographic.

Yet I still see the advantages of print. Magazines never require internet access and never need to be plugged in to recharge. Unwanted advertisements never pop up in the middle of the page, a magazine’s shelf life is pretty good and they never take up any more memory other than what little I have remaining in my head. On weeks-long moto-camping trips I always packed a magazine in my saddlebags for reading on the road. I found it oddly comforting to be in my tent reading a motorcycle magazine by headlamp while a highly polished author wrote poetically about what I was already doing.

However the advantages of online media are hard to ignore. Reading Road Dirt does not require a subscription and new material arrives more frequently than once a month. You can leave comments, chat with the authors and as long as you have your device you can access every article of Road Dirt instantly from anywhere, which is a lot easier than scouring the garage looking for your favorite back issue. When you find your favorite back issue or article, sharing it with friends anywhere across the globe is just a few clicks away, something not possible with print media.

But it still saddens me. I had a subscription to Cycle World for decades and poring over monthly issues is what fueled my ambition to get into the journalism side of the industry. I wanted to be in Cycle World, covering races, riding cool bikes around the country and writing the stories of where I had been and the people I had met.

A phone call from a guy named Rob Brooks with a precise vision and a charming southern drawl changed that dream. In the nearly 2 years since joining Road Dirt (has it been that long Rob?) I have covered racing, spent quality time with world class riders and ridden a variety of bikes with remarkable people in places around the country. Maybe my dream of being in print was misguided. Maybe, as Garth Brooks said, I should “thank God for unanswered prayers.”

So as the giants of the print industry die off and/or transition to online media only, with more sure to follow, I will mourn their passing. I wanted to be one of them one day.

I think I had the wrong dream all along.

Ted

13 Comments

    • Avatar

      Or a redirected dream. I always wanted to be on staff at Motorcyclist. Wrote freelance for them several years, but never got hired FT. Became clear why, when Bonnier bought then shuttered their print mag. Same with Cycle World. So, like Ted, I took the new road- launched our own motorcycle media here at Road Dirt, and the rest as they, is history.
      Good to hear from you, Bob.

      Reply
    • Ted Edwards

      Thanks Robert. Maybe it was good timing. I think I landed at a good publication. I kinda like it here at Road Dirt. Rob seems to keep me around despite my faults, and the fact that I sneak his dog cookies under the dinner table. Shhhh, don’t tell him.

      Reply
      • Avatar

        Ok, that explains why Dez took to you so quickly. Then would be hyper all night from the sugar rush. The truth is revealed.

        Reply
  1. Avatar

    Good article. Interesting that I have to give up my PD to leave a comment.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Nearly every site I’ve ever commented on requires a login of some kind to post.
      Glad you liked the article, Emerson.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    Print is still alive, with Rider a monthly, and Motorcycle Classics bimonthly, RoadRUNNER bimonthly, ADVMOTO bimonthly, and a couple more on the newsstands., And the club magazines.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      I hope these stay around, as the world and each subsequent generation keeps moving ever more digital.
      Thanks for reading and chiming in, Clement. Have very much enjoyed and been enriched by your writings over the years.

      Reply
    • Ted Edwards

      I think what makes me most nostalgic about print magazines are the advertisements. Remember when you met the nicest people on a Honda, and when Kawasaki let the good times roll? Online ads will never have that panache.

      Reply
      • Avatar

        Those ads and others of the time fostered a culture of riding, fueled a generation to hop on two wheels and a motor.

        Reply
  3. Avatar

    Café Racer is also in print. Florian recently told me that RR has been doing great and expanding. Fate&Fervor is a new title as well. The audience dictates the direction of a magazine these days. I will say the news stand is far less interesting these days.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      I hope they all can endure, Robert. Buzz Kanter was regularly making the same boast concerning American Iron, all the way up until the day they shocked us all by not only shuttering the print mag, but closing up shop completely. Marc Cook once told me, before he left Motorcyclist, that if print were to survive at all, it most likely would be in the form of smaller regional, niche-specific, and/or independent mags.
      We shall see,

      Reply
    • Ted Edwars

      Robert, I remember reading in Cycle World (if I remember correctly, which I sometimes don’t) about your trip across the country on your Indian Chief named Elnora. Anyone who does that is someone I need to have a beer with.

      Reply

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