Motorcycle Industry Council, JD Power agree: Internet now more influential than magazines

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MIC_presentation.jpgImage: MIC

Reports from both the Motorcycle Industry Council and J.D. Power confirm what all of us already know: the Internet now influences new motorcycle purchase decisions to a greater degree than print magazines.
According to the J.D. Power 2008 Motorcycle Escaped Shopper Study, “A
vast majority of customers (81%) report having used the Internet to
research motorcycles when shopping, 73 percent say they read magazine
reviews, and 28 percent say they attended a trade show or motorcycle
event, according to the study. Seventy-eight percent of motorcycle
buyers indicated they contacted or visited a dealership for information
before purchasing.”

Preliminary data* from the Motorcycle Industry Council Owner Survey,
displayed above, also indicates that the Internet is now more
influential than print magazines, ranking it in fourth place in
influence, above “Magazine Articles.” As indicated by the data in that
survey, the Internet has risen from sixth place in 2003. Among female
buyers, the Survey finds that the Internet is the fifth most
influential source, again above magazines.  

Also of note is the aging demographic predicament the motorcycle
industry now finds itself in. According to the J.D. Power report, 2008
Motorcycle Competitive Information Study
, “the industry continues to
struggle with attracting younger, first-time motorcycle buyers. Since
2001, the average age of motorcycle owners has increased from 40 to 47
years. This indicates that the current population of motorcycle buyers
is aging, and a large proportion of these owners are likely to soon
exit the market. Because first-time motorcycle buyers comprise 22
percent of all new motorcycle purchases–a figure has remained
relatively flat since 2001–it is critical for manufacturers to focus on
attracting first-time and younger buyers–primarily those in the Gen X
and Y demographics–in order to ensure continued growth in this market.”

*Results from the 2008 MIC Owner Survey are preliminary, covering the
first nine months of 2008 only. Full data will be available in March,

  • Strada

    Thanks for the insightful information.

  • Tom Ward

    Don’t let all that power go to you head, Wes…

    • Wes


  • Tom Ward

    Seriously though, any insight as to why the younger generations don’t seem as interested in motorcycles? They seem to be very popular at my college, but maybe that’s because it’s an engineering school?

    • Wes

      That’s a complicated question and I’d imagine the answer lies somewhere in between the extreme level of risk averseness people under the age of 25 were raised under, the motorcycle’s increasingly questionable place in popular culture, the insular nature of the motorcycle industry, its inability and lack of will to pursue a new audience and the increasingly older age of the majority of riders.

      It’s an issue we’d like to explore further, both in its causes and potential solutions. Any ideas?

  • Sam

    I think another factor is price. I’m not sure what things are like in the States but in the UK you can get a car for £100 without that much hunting around, however bikes start at around £1000*

    So this means that for a 17 year old kid looking for his first set of wheels it’s cheaper to get a car, even more when you think he or she won’t have to invest in some leathers and a helmet to drive.


    *Yes I know with ‘connections’ you can get them for much less.

  • Urban Rider

    Motorcycling skipped a generation in the UK. Until recently it wasn’t very accepted for the generation aged aged 18-40 to ride motorcycles. It has been seen as very high risk and the largest market was the sports bike market. This tends to be the ‘hardcore’ element of the motorcycle market which will always be loyal. This market sector doesn’t have a good PR image with the public due to high speed riding and noisy cans in built up areas.

    Despite this, more recently, there has been an upsurge in interest in 2 wheels for several reasons.

    1. Ewan and Charlie effect. The Long Way Down and Round were major BBC tv series. Hence the large growth in registrations for touring bikes. Big appeal to the middle classes.

    2. Congestion charge. Introduced a few years ago in London, scooters and motorcycles are exempt, whilst car drivers pay a daily charge to enter central London. Large rise in commuter 2 wheelers.

    3. Poor public transport. Anyone who has been to London will tell you we have a 3rd world public transport system which is incredibly expensive, over-crowded and poorly run. Scooters and bikes represent cheap transport and total freedom. A price worth paying for higher risk of accidents.

    4. Mainstream fashion. Through brands like Belstaff and Puma a connection between motorcycling and mainstream fashion has developed, making the concept of 2 wheel use more acceptable and cooler. Go into major high street shops like Reiss and French Connection and you will find ‘biker’ style jackets on sale. I also cite the resurgence of outdoor brands like Barbour.

    5. Credit crunch. Historically the 2 wheel market does well in a downturn as people get a bike instead of a second car. So far new registrations in the UK have held up well compared with the car market which is on its knees.

    As Wes says, on the whole the motorcycle retail industry is a pre-historic beast. Retail as an art is lost on most shop owners and they do not focus on breaking down barriers with people who could be coaxed onto 2 wheels. For some reason the industry as a whole is more interested in retaining childish cliques than making money.

  • Mike Greenwald

    There is a short list of reasons that motorcycling has taken a nosedive in participation.

    Groups such as the Motorcycle Industry Council, Motorcycle Safety Foundation, et all have made deals with legislators and law enforcement to change the rules and regulations of motorcycling.

    Ultimately, the result of their actions and inactions has taken the fun out of motorcycling, and not reduced the risk, catastrophic injury or death.

    They have proposed and forced inadequate gear to be worn as well as forced expensive training courses that have a provable scorecard of failure.

    It would seem that learning to ride in the traditional fashion that I learned is passe or de rigeur.

    Motorcyclists are a minority upon the roadways.
    Motorcycling is considered to be dangerous by most legislators and the general public.

    Motorcycle imagery that is promoted by the USA manufacturers is rooted in folklore and “B” movie imagery.

    For many, there is no appeal to trudge through all of that crap just to try to ride and experience the freedom and liberty felt on a bike.

    Deregulate motorcycles and motorcyclists. Let them get injured and die. Do not discount a motorcyclists life in courts of law. Take out all laws on the books other than property or cost of tolls on toll roads and you shall see a resurgence or motorcycling with the younger folks.

    Manufacturers might take note that simple basic bikes can be built and sold in abundance. Not everybody can afford to purchase the luxury edition of anything. One more thing, if you are going to pull a maneuver of bailout of financial trouble at some point in time. Keep on providing service and parts to your loyalists.

    • Wes

      Mike, I think you have a lot of that backwards.

      The work the MIC and MSF does is invaluable to make motorcycling safer and more appealing. We just wish they could do more.

      Helmet laws and safety courses aren’t off-putting, they encourage riders to ride safer, thus ensuring they can enjoy bikes more and for longer.

      The MSF course is a great way for new riders to learn how to ride on the street. It’ simply too dangerous out there to hand them a bike and say “learn from your mistakes.” We wish the course was more challenging and had follow-up, more advanced courses on offer.

  • Ty

    But wait, there’s more. Another piece of the preliminary findings from the MIC survey was that the aging of motorcycle riders has leveled off. Speakers presented by the MIC at its industry symposium two years ago sternly warned about attracting the next generation of riders, and that much work needed to be done there, so the issue hasn’t been ignored. We’ll see what the final survey results have to say in spring, but the news may actually be good here. Please, Mike, enlighten us as to what “deals” the MIC and MSF (and really you are talking about all the major OEs here, as well as major aftermarket firms, all of which are staffed by serious motorcycle enthusiasts) have made with legislators to take the fun out of motorcycling. Strange, but I seem to be having more fun than ever on two wheels, on better bikes, with better riding gear, with more women riding, with much more of the general public being more accepting of riders, with more coverage of motorcycling in mainstream media. I used to hide the fact that I rode bikes from potential employers. No need now. For the first time in 20 years, I visited the Bay Area OHV park where I served as a ranger in the 1970s and 80s. It was bigger, better, more crowded with dirt bike riders and their families than I had ever seen it in a decade of working there. They seemed to be enjoying it. Just how do you define fun?

  • Sasha Pave

    Well said @Urban Rider.

    I’m fascinated that motorcycling is as big as it is in the UK, especially considering the weather & unusually high cost of insurance.

    I’m also glad to hear other segments are gaining in popularity like adventure touring and commuting.

    Here in San Francisco we’re considering a congestion charge for the downtown area as well. I hope it passes. Already the gas price spike increased m/c and scooter sales. The toll will take it one step further.

  • Tom Ward

    “Groups such as the Motorcycle Industry Council, Motorcycle Safety Foundation, et all have made deals with legislators and law enforcement to change the rules and regulations of motorcycling.

    Ultimately, the result of their actions and inactions has taken the fun out of motorcycling, and not reduced the risk, catastrophic injury or death.

    They have proposed and forced inadequate gear to be worn as well as forced expensive training courses that have a provable scorecard of failure.

    It would seem that learning to ride in the traditional fashion that I learned is passe or de rigeur.”

    Could you be more specific? As a young motorcyclist, I don’t feel there are too many laws regarding motorcycling, although I might be opposed to new ones.

    My understanding is basically you need a title for the bike (unless it is a classic and was made before titles were issued with new motorcycles), a registration for the bike, a motorcycle license (which prefers but does not require a full safety course) and insurance and you are ready to ride. Some states also require helmets but I think my generation, which as Wes has stated, has had “SAFTEY FIRST!!!!” yelled in our ears since we were born are much more likely to voluntarily wear full-faced helmets anyway, irrelevant of what state law requires and would not view this as a deterrent. We are also more likely to volunteer for more training, like safety and racing schools, provided they are marketed right. See

    You mentioned you feel the old fashioned way you learned to ride is superior in your opinion. What exactly do you mean by “traditional” way and why do you consider it superior to the modern standards?

    Also, this post is sort of irrelevant if you live outside of the USA. I know the UK, for example, has much stricter motorcycle control laws.

  • Darek

    Back on topic:

    Internet is probably influencing more than magazines because as a whole the younger generations looks to the internet more than traditional media. That said, moto info on the internet is free, abundant, and can sometimes even be as insightful as magazines. Why wouldn’t people go there more often than, magazines?

    That said, traditional media id getting F*cked hard. The people working these outlets are often educated and trained to write and be analytical, they often have much greater experience to work with as they specialize and are trained within their given fields. The fact that people are using those resources less might just mean that people are probably basing their purchase on watered down information coming from questionable sources.

    I enjoy what you do here Wes, I don’t necessarily enjoy this new info.

    • Grant

      Darek, I think your statement “the people working these outlets are often educated and trained to write and be analytical” is an assumption that print offers more expertise. I’m afraid that’s just not the case.

      That said, I think traditional bike magazines are failing because publishers aren’t adapting to post ’90s editorial and advertising structures. They also aren’t understanding that the internet is a separate form of media that exists outside of print, with a completely different set of needs and constraints.

      The transitions from 1970 to 1980 to 1990 weren’t that big in terms of how media reached the public. The old business models only need minor tweaks every few years.

      This is no longer the case. We are now in a completely new era of how information is gathered, sifted, internalized or rejected. If publishers don’t perform major overhauls in accordance to how people now consume media, their magazines will die.

  • Urban Rider

    I subscribe to Bike magazine, which I enjoy for its in depth analysis of the latest machines but not a great deal else.

    There is no debate and interaction with traditional media. Why doesn’t Bike magazine have a blog? Why can’t you subsrcibe to an online Bike ezine?

    You can bet HFL gets more visitors than Bike magazine do readers.

    This comment thread is why I value online content so much. It’s instant and not only do we benefit from each others’ insights, there is a global dimension to the opinions and experiences.

    • Wes

      Urban Rider: Oh, we do. Just wait till we can afford to work on HFL full time.

      Grant and I both do freelance work for traditional media outlets from publishers like Conde Nast, so we have a pretty good insight into how print publications work.

      I think that the problems arise when you combine that experience and training with a need to pander to advertisers, massive egos and a corporate culture that rewards incompetence and conformation.

      The Internet is hardly the Wild West anymore and it’s a bit disheartening to see how long it’s taking the motorcycle industry to realize its value. In fact, I find the whole Internet Vs. Print argument outdated. The debate we should be having is Good Publications Vs. Bad Ones.

  • Sam

    Traditional magazines will have to evolve or die, but it’s not just bike magazines who are struggling to understand what to do with The Internet. All magazines are. I think the real problem is at a management level. People who grew up in magazines who can’t get their heads around the idea of free content.

    Also the bike industry needs to wake up a a bit to the internet. A long standing Motorbike Magazine is all well and good but if some chaps working in their spare time can get higher than them in Google, which website are people going to visit? Probably everyone who reads this comment will be able to work out the answer but strangely some of the bikes companies can’t (in my experience, I’m not going to name brands)

    As an aside, I’m impressed how HFL is so friendly. I know you don’t have a forum but even in the blog comments. So many motorcycle websites are just full of people shouting at each other about who is the better rider. This is even more weird because in real life bikers tend to get on really well as a group.


  • TonyS

    The internet is really influencing purchases more than magazines? Wow and just yesterday I thought the earth was flat.
    I also wondered why magazines stop just short of ripping the ass out of any obviously shitty bike, oh wait, ADVERTISING!
    That shitty rear shock? Calls to the manufactured confirmed that we got any early prototype and the production model will be fine.

  • magazine lover

    There’s no doubt that Internet is the fastest and most preferred way to get information and reviews about any products on the market.