March 9, 2018 by Irish Peloton
Cycling Weekly’s Digital Strategy
I saw a joke on Twitter recently, shortly after the change to allow 280 character Tweets was rolled out to all users (double the traditional 140). It said that wouldn’t it be great if Twitter kept on incrementally doubling the length of Tweets until we all could conceivably consider reading actual books again.
Our attention spans have decreased horrifically over the past decade. We can’t abide standing idly by for even a few seconds anymore without whipping out our phones and having a quick check. I have read (courtesy of the excellent QI Twitter feed) that chewing gum sales have fallen by 15% because shoppers are too busy on their phones to notice the gum beside the checkout. I also have my own theory that traffic on our roads is getting worse because the number of cars which get through each green light has gone down because of people dicking about on their phones.
The deteriorating attention span is snowballing. We can’t read more than 500 words anymore without switching apps to check something else, so articles get shorter, so we get used to shorter articles, so articles get even shorter so we get used to even shorter articles and on and on. Paragraphs are just one sentence now because the thoughts of seeing two or three lines of text all bunched together without giving our stupid brains a break is just too much. And of course there are listicles. Seventeen reasons why Fridays are better than Saturdays. Twelve things we learned from the Oscar speeches.
I don’t know about you but my Facebook feed used to be good. Actual updates from actual people interspersed with articles I would actually be interested in reading. Now it’s chocked full of suggested articles from bollocks websites designed to prey upon the notion that we’re all getting stupider – LadBible, Balls, Sporf. The worst kind of candy content.
Quality writing has been replaced by clicks, uniques and analytics. Despite being aware of all of this, I was still saddened to read an interview with a couple of the people behind the business side of Cycling Weekly magazine. The interview on BikeBiz.com was with the hobbies editor-in-chief and the head of market. I couldn’t read more than one sentence at a time without taking a break. Not because of my attention span this time, but because of the offensive levels of marketing speak bollocksology that was being spewed.
‘What makes a successful, progressive cycling publication?’ they were asked. Good writing maybe? Quality journalism? Oh no, not even close. This is what we readers want these days:
Our aim over the past few years has been to place our historic publication at the centre of a 360-degree landscape that includes digital, video and events. We’ve dramatically increased our share of the advertising market as a result of this strategy, which makes each component more than the sum of its parts – we use video to add value to our event sponsors, digital to amplify our print messages, events to deepen campaigns with our biggest spenders – it all works holistically as part of a package that no other publisher can offer.
360-degree landscape. Amplify our print messages. Holistically.
This is what it’s come to.
I lamented here two years ago when it seemed clear that Cycle Sport Magazine, having been around since 1993, had gone to shite. It had been slowly disappearing for a while, and sure enough it was only a few short months later that it was gone off the shelves completely. Obviously it wasn’t seen as part of the holistic future for Time Inc.
We are actually blessed currently with some really top quality cycling publications – Pro Cycling, Rouleur, Soigneur. As far as the general consumer is concerned, they are quality for two reasons, the production value and the writing. The writing, the writing, THE WRITING! The writing is actually good. How many times did Simon Collis or Sean Igoe mention the quality of the writing being an important part of Cycling Weekly’s 360-degree landscape? None.
That’s not to say that there are isn’t decent writing to be found on the pages of Cycling Weekly, there is. But for an interview about the future of this publication to have absolutely no mention of writing, writers, editorial or journalism does not bode well. Instead we get content, media landscape, stream of information, affiliate offering, different digital channels.
Cycling Weekly has been around since 1891 as they point out at the end of the interview where it is also said that ‘our brands have a long heritage because they change and improve’. Change? For sure. Improve? That’s not the word I would use. The ‘brand’ is slipping slowly into the chewing gum category of ‘content’ along with LadBible and all the others. Perhaps this is just a business decision and the best way for them to make money and I’m being completely naive by thinking that potential readers would enjoy, you know, good stuff to read. Maybe I’m just getting old. Maybe I need to embrace digestible chunks of content. Embrace the listicle.
Three ways to watch video content ‘on the go’.
Two ways to avoid getting old and fusty.
One way to destroy a 127-year old cycling magazine.