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.