Okay, so here’s the deal: My three favorite motorcycle magazines are Motorcycle Classics, RoadRunner, and Motorcyclist. Well, okay, I like Cycle World, Motorcycle.com, and ADVMoto, too. And maybe one or two others. I like probably like Motorcycle Classics the best because I write regularly for them and I like vintage bikes (if you want to see the articles I wrote for these folks go to www.MotorcycleClassics.com and type Berk in the search bar).
The magazine business these days is a tough proposition, though, because we are moving more and more to an online world. Nearly all of the magazines have an online presence, and the main reason for that is that a print magazine just can’t keep up with real time events. Basically, everything you read in a print magazine is old news (the stuff you read in a print magazine is at least 30 days old by the time you read it, and in many cases, it is way older than that).
To remain viable, the smarter print pubs realize they need a different angle. Motorcycle Classics was one of the first moto mags to figure this out. Their subject matter is less susceptible to late-breaking news (hey, they are all about vintage bikes, so by definition, what Motorcycle Classics prints is already old news and late-breaking news is moot). But Motorcycle Classics did something else to differentiate themselves. Their photography, their writing, and their print quality is way ahead of everyone else. As the other moto mags saw their page count go down, Motorcycle Classics’ went up (even during the recession). Every time I receive the latest Motorcycle Classics, I am overwhelmed with just how good it is, and then I wonder: How are they going to top this in the next edition? And then, of course, they always do.
What I see going on with other magazines is that they realize they need to make their stories more interesting, they need more depth in their writing, and their print quality and photography need to improve. I mean, really, does anyone care about the latest Gixxer graphics changes or more chrome doodads and fringe on a cruiser these days? You just can’t fill pages in a print magazine with that kind of drivel. It’s already been published on the Internet (probably the day it was announced by the manufacturer), and on the Internet, you get the info for free.
There’s another aspect to this, too, and that’s this: I think people are more interested in experiences than they are in things. If you have compelling stories about interesting experiences and if you can bring a reader into the story, people will find that intriguing. Stories about new products? Well, not so much, I think. One of the keys to our success here at CSC is our riding and how we share it with you. We don’t just want to sell you an ADV bike. We want to bring you into the ADV experience, and we do that with things like our Baja adventures, our books about riding in China and Colombia, and our blog.
So, back to the magazine thing. This issue doesn’t only affect moto mags (other mags are also experiencing the competitive crush of online pubs). I was very surprised when reading my latest Guns and Ammo magazine to see a story about riding KLR 650 Kawasaki motorcycles across Utah on a shooting adventure. It was a great story, with photography by my good buddy Fonzie Palaima (an extraordinarily-talented motojournalist and photographer). Imagine that: A motorcycle story in a gun magazine. I noticed that my latest issue of Guns and Ammo was physically larger, too, and the print quality had improved dramatically. It was a good move on their part, and I enjoyed reading all of the stories in that magazine.
I saw a post on Facebook recently that Motorcyclist magazine is going the same way. Their release said that Motorcyclist will “include larger cut size, thicker paper stock, and expanded feature articles…”
I think that what Motorcyclist is doing is great, and I think the writing and the stories in their new format will be absolutely outstanding. I think I know what I’m talking about here, as another good friend of mine, Joe Gresh (the world-famous moto-scribe and small motorcycle aficionado) is one of Motorcyclist’s regular writers. Joe writes the “Cranked” column and other features for Motorcyclist. When we first publicized our ride across the western US (featured in 5000 Miles at 8000 RPM), Motorcyclist magazine was the only publication that stepped up to the plate and sent a journalist to ride with us (and that was Joe Gresh). His story about that ride was awesome. When we did the China ride last year (which I wrote about in Riding China), Joe rode with us the entire way (all 6000 miles on an epic ride across a magnificent land). Mark my words: With their new format and emphasis on real stories by supremely-talented guys like Joe Gresh, I think Motorcyclist is going to do extremely well.
So that’s it for now. We have lots of exciting things coming up, including the Baja trip next month (watch for more information here on the CSC blog about that ride), and our March 4th ride to Crystal Lake up in the San Gabriels. Our Meetup.com group is starting to gain traction, with well over 40 members already. Our next CSC Saturday ride is on the 4th of March, and we’ll have some real motorcycle royalty riding with us that day. It would be a grand time to join us. We welcome all kinds of motorcycles and scooters, so if you want to meet a great bunch of guys and gals and ride an awesome road, this is a wonderful opportunity to do so!
Okay, one more photo, just because I like it. It’s my RX3 on Day One, on my ride home from the CSC plant about two years ago…