Cycle World for sale, again

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cycle-world

Two sources with inside knowledge of the deal, who prefer to remain anonymous, have confirmed to us that Cycle World is for sale yet again. Albeit quietly. We’ve reached out to Cycle World to confirm this and have yet to hear back. The magazine was only acquired by its current owner, Hearst, last month. Being sold on again so soon is a sign which many will read as ominous. Why should you care? That America’s highest circulation and most respected print motorcycle magazine is struggling to find a permanent home is indicative both of the health of the bike industry and its future. As motorcycle publishing goes, so goes motorcycling.

News of the sale is somewhat anti-climactic. Cycle World was incidentally acquired by Hearst in May when the giant American publishing conglomerate purchased Hachette-Fillipachi from giant French publishing conglomerate Lagardere, reportedly spending $913 million, all in an effort to obtain women’s fashion title Elle and its myriad international editions. Last week, it was announced that CW’s Hachette stablemates, Road & Track and Car and Driver would be merging with Popular Mechanics under a new Hearst Mens Enthusiast Group. CW’s omission from that announcement was glaring, leading to speculation the magazine would be sold.

It had been CW’s hope that its relationships with OEMs could be seen as as a way to bring motorcycle advertising to other Hearst titles like PopMech and Esquire. The sad reality appears to be that there simply aren’t enough ad dollars being spent by motorcycle makers to make that proposition viable or appealing in the face of the huge buys being made in automotive or fashion.

Does anyone else read a tacit condemnation of the motorcycle industry into that sad fact? We do. Scared of the Internet and frightened of anyone under the age of 49, the sole resource motorcycle manufacturers use to reach their audience are magazines like Cycle World and its many imitators. If their ad dollars aren’t enough to sustain business nor appeal to the outside world, then how do they plan to bicker over the few remaining baby boomers with enough credit to buy new motorcycles? Smoke signals?

It’s not all the fault of the motorcycle makers’ tight purse strings of course. That a publisher interested in reaching men who like cars and men who like to work with their hands isn’t also interested in reaching men who like bikes is indicative of the motorcycle’s dwindling importance to the national consciousness. By dropping CW, Hearst is essentially acknowledging, at the multi-billion dollar corporate level, that motorcycles aren’t popular anymore.

If our sources are correct, Hearst is so disinterested in CW that it’s not even troubling itself with an official sale, instead allowing the magazine’s own staffers to shop it around in hopes of a purchase. Again, we’ve been unable to get Cycle World to confirm this.

Traditionally, magazines are priced at seven times their annual revenue. Cycle World would have been lucky to break even in 2010, a year in which motorcycle sales were less than half their 2005 peak, returning the industry to 1998 levels. Pricing CW is going to be hard this time around, at a minimum it’s saddled with subscription debt to the tune of 240,000 readers. Readers who contractually require a magazine in the mail every month or a refund. In 2005, CW would have been worth $10 or $20 million. Now?

“Despite the ‘façon cavalière’ in which I was ushered out of the building, it’s been troubling seeing the old alma mater stumble these last couple of years with plunging ad revenue, declining newsstand sales and an eroding subscription base,” says current HFL contributor and former CW editor David Edwards. “From its beginning in 1962 Cycle World was always the people’s motorcycle magazine, the most approachable publication, the one that was closest to its readers. As its 50th anniversary in January 2012 approaches, though, the magazine is seeming less and less relevant.”

“Having said that, and bleak as things might be, bad news is actually a good thing for Cycle World,” continues Edwards. “Hachette wanted out of magazines and Hearst thinks motorcycles are too small potatoes. Here’s hoping the magazine finds a new home with an enthusiastic publisher — one wise enough to know that now is the time for both the magazine and website to be seriously overhauled and redirected.”

David’s optimistic outlook mirrors that of HFL’s. We’d love to see CW find a buyer capable of restructuring both its business model and editorial into something that can again lead the motorcycle world. Motorcycling is in dire need of being recast and rethought for a new generation of rider. We need to be made relevant to publishers like Hearst again. With the right direction and the right investment, Cycle World could be the publication to do that. Good luck guys.

  • ktaisa

    paper is dead

    the future is now

    • DAVID

      agree. print magazines of all kinds are having issues. And CW doesn’t get the internet as they update their website only once every few days.

      on the other hand, maybe its general purpose bike magazines that are dead, as the bookstores have many niche bike mags.

    • JonB

      How is print dead when I subscribe to Sideburn, collect/cherish each issue, buy their swag and generally just love that magazine?

      Maybe generic MC Mags, poor design, and fence-sitters are all dead?

      • ktaisa

        your only looking at MC mags, and i bet sideburn is hurting as well
        WSJ / NYT every paper product getting delivered is getting creamed by the internet.

        i also get highly expensive Watch magazines delivered because there is no internet site taking their place.

        all in all paper is old school

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Check out http://www.hodinkee.com/, they’re friends of ours.

          • ktaisa

            aweeeesommeee, thanks for the heads up

            nothing better than watches and bikes

            now if only i could find a internet site with tons of hot chicks….

    • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

      It just needs an overhaul. A glossy paper magazine is never going to be timely compared to the internet. Magazines need to embrace their longer cycles and do more in-depth articles.

      For example, I get Motorcyclist and Motorcycle Classics. I can pretty much put Motorcyclist right in the recycle bin since I’ve already read all of the “news” that it contains. Motorcycle Classics, on the other hand, works well in the format. It’s not bound by time and they seem to devote the space and effort to really digging in to the bikes.

      I still can’t believe that the mags haven’t found a way to leverage their advertiser dollars and relationships into websites that aren’t complete shit.

      Though the converse of that applies to HFL; I can’t believe that manufacturers aren’t beating down your doors to get featured here. I guess they’re so used to the constant “every bike is great” that they’re afraid to get any exposure to a negative review.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        We’ve literally been told “we can’t work with you because you’re real journalists and we can’t guarantee what you’ll say ahead of time.”

        • Brant

          That sounds both gratifying and infuriating.

          • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

            Pretty much.

        • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

          Next time Triumph give you the cold shoulder let them know that your positive comments on the Street Triple R directly contributed to a sale. ;)

        • Jason

          That would seem as an impetus to not make products that suck.

          Also, your honest reviews usually steer me in the direction of particular products, or at least give me pause to consider them when buying or replacing stuff.

  • jason

    How about the current and former employees buying the thing to keep it going? There are a lot of respected writers in Cycle World’s past, some of them MUST have some cash.

    And so long as there are toilets and men have to take dumps paper mags will have a home. Maybe they can combine the two. Biodegradable pages to clean your ass with. Imagine the sales of the “All Harley” issue if they do that!

    • Sean Smith

      Journalists with money? Man, I wanna live in that world.

      • jason

        Yeah I hear ya. But I can’t believe that if you took all of the names that have been regulars in Cycle World, the old Cycle, Motorcyclist, etc. and told them the mag is available they couldn’t get financing……. if they wanted to.
        If that guy can get Cafe Racer not only made into a horrid tv show and mag but get a Boz bro to ride one of those hunks of crap (bearing failure my ass) then there is money out there. How about a Cycle World TV show? I’m 41 and I don’t save mags anymore, but I still get CW and Motorcyclist and used to get Road Racer X til they went under.
        I love this site (and agree that you guys don’t pull punches!) but I can’t pass a used internet article to a guy at work when I’m done reading it. And I’ve tried using my phone on the crapper…. just seems wrong.

        • 85gripen

          Speaking of television, the manufacturers aren’t afraid to spend advertising dollars during telecasts of WSBK and MotoGP. I’ve seen that Honda commercial so many times I’ve got that stupid “I wanna ride” song stuck in my head permanently!

    • Lowell

      iPad

  • robotribe

    Cycle World: Meh.

    Katana on the cover: bitchin.

  • Brant

    I wish an American bike magazine would copy one of the good English rags. Reading PB or FastBikes is actually fun. They do a better job of conveying the machines soul, not just the specs.

    • DAVID

      i like the Brit mags better too. They are much more adult, in a good way. Not just the telephone talk service ads (many of which engender a WTF England?)

      • Brant

        The granny ads always catch me off guard.

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    It’s sad to see, but it is a sign of the times: Cycle World just happens to be the fat getting trimmed.

  • http://theprojectbeta.com/ Anders

    How about HFL taking over CW?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      No comment.

      • JonB

        Dude.

      • Chris

        I’d be happy to take over CW if a venture capitalist came up with a little cash and a mandate to drag the magazine into the 21st century. It might be dead in its current format, but it can certainly be reinvented and made relevant again.

        Chris | Bike EXIF

        • http://twitter.com/BuddyJesus Peter

          If Cycle World EXIF for Leather ever happened, I’d probably die (in the best way possible).

      • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

        what what?? please hire me. i’ll get coffee and shit. and help grant take photos.

    • HammSammich

      Ugh…

  • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

    At least Motorcyclist puts out a podcast every week or two. It’s pretty good, too. Even the interviews of its own writers were entertaining. Evolve or die. CW needs (or needed) to figure that out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

      Turds with sprinkles are still turds.

      • Bronson

        Awesome.

    • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

      Interesting that I hear about the podcast on HFL and not in their magazine that they mail to me every month.

      And by interesting I mean complete failure to reach your customer.

      • jason

        Ditto.

      • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

        Can’t recall how I learned about it, but one of the first episodes had an interview with Azhar Hussain. It’s very hard to find, actually. http://www.ernlive.com/shows/motorcyclist-radio.html and they’re on itunes.

        • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

          Exactly, why is this hard to find? They have my address, email address, etc.

          Search on iTunes for “motorcycle” in podcasts and there’s nothing worth a crap either. And this podcast does not come up.

  • 85gripen

    It seems to me that there is a glut of motorcycle magazines, actually. In addition to general motorcycle interest magazines such as Motorcyclist and Cycle World you have specialist magazines like Sport Rider, Easy Rider and Iron Horse, then you have niche mags like DicE, Motorcycle Classics, Cafe Racer and Greasy Kulture.

    And that’s just the American mags (well, except for DicE and Greasy Kulture). Seems to me motorcycle manufacturers would be better off with less expensive targeted advertising in specialist/niche mags than the big ones like Cycle World and Motorcyclist.

    Then there’s the excellent British mags…

    • Thom

      Well hate to say this but many of the Brit magazines , especially those by BAUER media ( that would include MCN Bike and CAR ) are hurting as well , cutting their content , reducing pages , eliminating permanent staff etc .

      Print aint dead by a long shot , but far too few of the old guard magazines have figured out what it takes to survive in this day and age , not ” Competing ” with the internet but rather offering a well defined and tangible option to online mags .

      Specialty mags such as Surfers / Rodders and Fretboard Journal have not only managed to survive , but flourish in these times , while those such as Cycle World etc. are hitting the skids .

      Having said that though , losing Cycle World , assuming they don’t last thru this next buyout will be sad . It wasn’t fun dropping my subscription because of all the issues lately , so to hear of its demise will be heart breaking .

      Hopefully if CW does disappear Peter Egan can find a new home .

      Wes ? HFL maybe ?

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        Not an Egan fan. He’s been phoning it in as long as I’ve been alive. I think we have better writers here on HFL in the form of Edwards and Michael Uhlarik. I just wish I could get Gary Inman to write more frequently.

        • Thom

          Awww shucks ! I kind a like Peter’s stories at the front of the magazine . Been missin em since I dropped the subscription . Oh well .

        • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

          Egan’s book “Leanings” was my go-to book for vacations. Finished it and now I’m going to get one of his other collections. I enjoy his writing style.

  • Thom

    @ Wes ;

    If you would . Why the Hell are the M/C OEM’s afraid of the internet ?

    Honestly I’d like to see an article on that . With all the OEM’s trying so hard to reach out to the youth market , what’s to be afraid of online ?

    But as far as Motorcycling being ” Out of Vogue ” well maybe with the Mega Print media executives , but it seems to me with the likes of Ralph Lauren, Chanel etc jumping all over Bikes , using them in Ads etc. M/C’s are now more in ” Fashion” than ever . Seen an issue of Mens File lately ? Seen the prices of Classic M/C’s of late ? Yikes ! Motorcycles not ” IN ” ?

    Why do I get the feeling companies such as Hearst are completely out of touch with their target audience ?

    Madness I say !

  • http://plugbike.com/ skadamo

    I don’t know how much cash Motorcycle.com / Vertical Scope has but that might be a cool home. I think they used to do print.

    I still love me some print. But hey I might be part of the oldies at 35. :D

    • Thom

      Ha ! Got you by a good 20 years there son !

      But yeah , I enjoy holding a magazine or a book in my hand verses reading on the Lap Top or Smart Pad . Then again I also prefer my Leica M6 rnage finder w/B&W to any Digital camera , as well as recording my projects on analogue tape and having a conversation rather than email tweet etc , so there you have it .

      Not to mention if I drop the magazine/book it still works and if it gets stolen , say at the beach etc. at the most I’m out what $10.95 max if its a Brit mag ? $12.95 if its one of the Journals I mentioned ?

      There definitely is and needs to be room for both . They meet two different needs .

      • http://plugbike.com/ skadamo

        “There definitely is and needs to be room for both . They meet two different needs .”

        I agree. I think HFL will help keep CW honest. The only question is can the print business find a way to keep making enough money as HFL/web continues to take it’s place in the enthusiast world?

        I love web because you get the information very quickly and LOTS of it. I can pick my way through it and find what interests me. Print should be a summary of popular interest.

  • http://plugbike.com/ skadamo

    3 friends and I did a dualsport ride last weekend. 4 copies of Cycle World ended up on the table. 1 from me and 3 from my cousin.

    We chatted over pics of the Motus and I told them to read the TT article in this months issue. We looked at the Zero motorcycles ads and talked electric. (btw, they are not on board with electric but it was fun to talk:D)

    We had 2 laptops on the table too. I did use one to pull up Guy Martin’s fireball from last years TT but print was referenced more often.

    • Thom

      Holy Crap ! You had an actual conversation with three other guys rather than text , tweet or email each other ? Even if you were in the same room ?

      Do we need to take your pulse ?

      ( read the above post to see the sarcasm intended )

      • http://plugbike.com/ skadamo

        I got harased for surfing my phone :D

  • Lowell

    There is a business model here, but the mags are blinkered in their ability to get there. I believe the business has 6 main components.

    - A high quality monthly or quarterly glossy in the mold of Adventure Journal
    - An online opinion driven daily read like HFL
    - A curated “all the news/best of the web” offering powered by technology, but overseen by people.
    - An opportunity for readers to talk and participate via forum or Twitter app
    - Real world events that bring readers together.
    - The ability to get the product in several nicely designed formats; Print, Web browser, Phone, iPad

    Lowell

    • JonB

      spot on.

    • Kirill

      Here’s the problem: all of that costs money, a considerable amount of it in fact, and because motorcycling as a whole is pretty niche, you’ll be waiting for a long time to break even on your investment, nevermind making a profit.

      In addition to the aforementioned stacks of cash, takes a small army of people (by modern publishing standards). Even if you scale the scope down somewhat, the profit ceiling for a motorcycle publication is just too low to make it worth it. Thus, you end up with print mags that have shoestring websites and web-only joints that focus on specific parts of the industry (and often have terrible designs/layouts/writing/etc).

      Now, some of the tech costs can be amortized if the publication in question is part of a larger publishing house (for example, Hearst), and they can just use the tech developed for other, more-profitable operations, but (apps, websites, etc) – but you still need people to design the medium, take the photos/videos, and write the stories.

      • Lowell

        My company builds a significant part of the software that would make the above possible. I don’t think the costs are nearly as significant as you may think. I do agree that creating a platform for several publications would allow for the kind of scale demanded by a Hearst or Conde Nast.

  • HammSammich

    I occasionally pick up a copy of Classic Bike Magazine (in the US the newstand price is cheaper than a subscription) but even that is very seldom. Triumph sends me their Adver-tainment Mag a few times a year as well. I enjoy reading through magazines, but I hate the clutter of collecting them, and it feels wasteful to toss them after reading through them in a few hours. On the other hand, there’s typical online media, which is often too focused on up to the second, ultra-breaking news and rumor, which becomes tiresome in its own right. HFL’s Photography rich Features have done a lot to bridge that gap. I think that as tablet type devices improve, becoming more prevalent and less expensive, we could see a rebirth of magazine-style media, in digital form. This revival is unfortunately dependent on overcoming proprietary platforms and single point publishing access (Its hard to imagine HFL or any other publication giving up full editorial control to allow Apple, Amazon, or any other “Gatekeeper” the final say in providing access to a customer base, but many publishers are, in order to get out on the iPad and other devices).

    • JonB

      I must say, reading/looking over an issue of GQ on the iPad is pretty neat. Bound by tradition somewhat but still neat.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The trick is to make a website that doesn’t need a bunch of silly apps and just works on everything. Seen HFL on an iPad or a Galaxy or an iPhone or a 27″ iMac? It’s beautiful on all of them.

      Apps are just a bandaid for failing print content.

      • HammSammich

        Agreed. HFL does look good on various devices, but in my opinion it’s best experienced on a touchscreen device. I’d like to check it out on a tablet that has flash support…

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Yeah, it’s annoying that some embeds have to be flash. Stuff like blip or issuu is outside our control though.

          • Archer

            Just back from two weeks in Turkey. Did you know half your content is banned there? “illegal website” pops up on a great deal of your content.

            • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

              Ha, that’s kinda funny, but also sad. I’ve never looked into Turkey’s restriction before, but I might now just out of curiosity.

              • Archer

                Among other things it seems Vimeo embedded content is banned- but they also restrict everything that shows up in sidebars and most of the photos.

                If I recall correctly, YouTube was banned until relatively recently. Seemed to work fine this past week there.

                But, yeah, HFL is totally crippled in that country (and I imagine, China and a few others).

                • HammSammich

                  I’ve got friends living in Tarsus right now, and the restricted internet access has been an ongoing complaint from them. It’d be like being in my office, all of the time!

      • Miles Prower

        I was a longtime subscriber to PC Magazine — until it went digital-only.

        And when it went digital, it was only available as a Zinio publication.

        From a user-experience perspective, Zinio is about as brain-dead of a digital strategy as you can get.

        Imagine scanning every page of a print magazine to put it into a “reader” application that forces you to scroll up and down pages to read an article; scroll left and right, from odd to even pages, if the article spans more than one page; and then “turn” the page if the article continues. That’s pretty much the Zinio experience. Nothing really “digital” about it. Epic Fail.

        Therefore, I canceled my PC Mag subscription, and I refuse to subscribe to any magazine that is Zinio-only.

      • Miles Prower

        I mostly read HFL on my Android phone or my iPood when I’m waiting in line, sitting on the can, or otherwise have downtime… or when I’m on a Skype or telephone conference.

      • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

        Agreed, a good website should work fine on all devices. And HFL does.

        You should upgrade to WP-Touch Pro though, you would be able to customize it further more and the basic license is just $39 (i have the developer one so it benefits all my clients, worth every penny).

      • http://www.karinajean.com karinajean

        the *only* problem I have with HFL on my iphone is that last I looked, the comments weren’t threaded in the mobile version, and it’s hard to keep up with the witty repartee.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Scroll to the bottom of the page and you can toggle mobile mode on and off.

          • http://www.karinajean.com karinajean

            yep – just slower to view the non-mobile version and I’m impatient to read all the motorcycle awesomeness.

            • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

              Hence the need for a mobile version :)

              • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

                Wes, the Pro version of WP-Touch also allows the threaded comments thing.

  • Greg

    Please, someone just find a home for Kevin Cameron, that is all…

  • John

    I don’t think internet media would/should replace print, rather be an addition; I subscribe to the British magazines ‘Performance Bikes’ and ‘Bike’ and look forward to both the writing but most of all the photos every month. It seems like the British and Italian magazines think its worthwhile investing in the quality (especially of the imagery/print), which I agree with to the extent that I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. Both US bike magazines seem to be of a cheaper quality. I subscribe to them as well because the subscr rate is so cheap and I think its important to invest in US motorcycling entities, i.e. to support it here…maybe if they took more risk; you might end up appealing to fewer people, but they might be more hard core supporters;

  • DucatiGuy

    There’s more to this than meets the eye. Here Down Under, AMCN is doing great business, publishing double the pages of CW, fortnightly, and arguably to a much higher standard (quality paper and articles, plenty of ads). All this in a market about 1/20 the size of CW (including international).

    I suspect the right person/company could pick CW up and make a tidy pile out of it.

  • Tim

    I was a regular reader of Cycle World since the mid-70’s, but haven’t bought an issue since they fired David Edwards. I got sick of reading about the latest $2500 titanium exhaust systems and pricy carbon fiber doodads that shave a half a pound off of a 500 pound motorcycle. I couldn’t help but think that maybe you could skip a couple of cheeseburgers & fries and achieve the same thing for way less money.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that they don’t write about how much fun motorcycles are, and instead concentrate on a bunch of stupid crap for squids with too much money.

  • jason

    Wes do you think you guys could post a links page of sites that you guys are friends with and recommend? I notice that you do it as hyperlinks sometimes (if that’s the right word). I said above that I still like print, but finding cool sites in the world of techno-tards that I live in is tough.

  • http://www.karinajean.com karinajean

    maybe Hearst heard that a huge number of WOMEN love motorcyling too, and therefore, deemed it totally unacceptable to lump Cycle World in with “men’s enthusiasms.”

    seriously, hearst. whiskey tango?

    here’s hoping CW will land at somewhere less regressive and more innovative.

    • aristurtle

      The group in question contains “Road and Track” and “Car and Driver” and “Popular Mechanics”, so I kinda doubt that that’s it.

      This speaks more to the death throes of the print industry than the motorcycle industry.