The world of print journalism is definitely changing. Much of it is in decline, but new segments are appearing because of it. Those who do want print (about motorcycling at least) seem to want an experience more than they want a cheap thrill. Flagging sales are hitting the entire industry in an increasingly online, bite-sized world of shallow-ish posts that try to cram as much information in as possible before viewers trail off. One of the major players in print is ready to do something about it.
Motorcyclist magazine is about to change from monthly to bimonthly format. Along with this change, Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook is leaving the publication. The magazine already provides great online content, especially their Youtube channel headed up by Ari Henning. Now they look poised to rejuvenate their print production, which is still being offered for the same subscription rate I was paying in 1999.
Instead of something you can read in an afternoon, readers (especially the coveted younger readers) want something on high quality paper, with deep stories supported by rich photography. Without seeing their research data, I can still believe what the folks at Motorcyclist are aiming at. No one has an afternoon to burn through a print mag (I did this every month in 1999-2001, you betcha), so why not have more of a book? Something you can get lost in for 30 minutes, when you want to unplug but still be stimulated, then put it down knowing you have a ton of good content to still look through? Still, It’s a bit funny that the generation lambasted for short attention spans is interested in a magazine they can carry around for weeks, read and reread, share with friends…
The move should also help the magazine establish its own voice in a changing environment. It shares the field with several magazines, but is especially close to sister publications Cycle World and Sport Rider; all three are own by the Bonnier Group. The need to differentiate is much more noticeable and this seems like a move in the right direction. They have been together in a suite of “lifestyle” magazines for decades and it was less of a problem when sales where higher, but the similarities are glaring in the face on online competition and changing reader habits.
Although Cook starts his goodbye mentioning how he started in a time when journalists told the story and were not part of it, he and his column, Cook’s Corner, are an edifice in motojournalism to me. I definitely hope to see his column and freelance work in their future issues, and perhaps a book now that he has free time?
Even as the market for print shrinks, the demand becomes more intense. Change breeds innovation and adaptation. People want information, and the less we read the summaries and sound bites (and I am aware this post falls in that category), the more we seek (demand) depth and quality and nuance in our information, the less time we will spend in meaningless Twitter wars. It has already been said before so I will paraphrase John Naisbitt and say we are drowning in information and yet starving for knowledge.
Here’s to Motorcyclist raising the bar.