The Most Ridiculous Thing I’ve Ever Seen in This Industry

09/18/2014 @ 1:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler59 COMMENTS

bear-on-tricycle

I have seen a lot of things in the motorcycle industry since I started Asphalt & Rubber, but never before have I seen something like this. During the autumn months, it is not uncommon for A&R to receive tips about new motorcycle models that are about to debut, and today was seemingly no different.

This morning we got an enthusiastic email from a purported regular reader (make that two readers now), asking why we weren’t covering the leaked details on the supercharged Kawasaki H2, which were apparently “going viral” all over the internet, as the email told us. To give us proof of that assertion, they included in the emails links to a Facebook page for a new web forum for the H2, which is where the leak apparently occurred.

A quick check on our massive RSS feed (roughly 600 publications now) showed the viral story had only been picked up by one other publication, Motorcycle.com. MO ran the story with the headline “Inside Info About Kawasaki’s Radical H2 Sportbike?” — which had been written by the ever loveable “Motorcycle.com Staff” author, and qualified with the profession’s ubiquitous “?” phrasing.

Our friends at MO certainly do a bit of traffic (I say that with sincerity), though I normally wouldn’t use a single publication covering a story as an indication of that story going viral, but ok whatever…hyperbole is part of the game.

Like any good editor though, I dove into the story deeper. What I found has me supremely worried.

The website for this “leaked information” is a bulletin board forum that has been online for roughly two weeks now. It has 51 members as of this writing, 69 threads, and 318 posts — practically a virgin site, in the web forum world (I have a bit of experience in this space).

The poster of the information was apparently brand new too, as his leaked information was his first and only post to the message board at the time of this writing. Of note, the user’s name – “Nessuno” — is Italian for “nobody”.

So literally, an anonymous Italian-speaker posts on a previously unheard of website that “a friend of a friend with inside connections to KHI” has leaked to them the details on a new motorcycle. Hmm…ok. It is the internet, this happens just about every day, right?

We dig deeper.

What I haven’t told you is that there is a link connecting the emails we received, to the forum in question here, and the Motorcycle.com story. That link is a company called VerticalScope.

One of the largest players in the motorcycle industry, VerticalScope owns just about every major forum in the two-wheeled space. They own Motorcycle.com. They also employ the people/person who emailed us twice today.

To help us verify information that comes to us via the A&R tips page, we quietly record the IP addresses of the messages sent, including the IP address (74.213.184.33) of our avid readers in our scenario here.

A simple IP address lookup shows that these emails came to us via a computers operated by VerticalScope, and that actually our “Mark” and “Michael” contacted us from the same IP address, though different email addresses, asking us to look into the story. Hmm…interesting.

So where does that leave us?

Seemingly one person from VerticalScope, tipped us off to a story that was “going viral” on their most recently launched web forum. They included links to two VerticalScope web properties. As of this writing, that company’s own “news” outlet was the only publisher to cover this “viral” story, albeit by an equally anonymous author.

Unfortunately for us the “Staff Writer” at Motorcycle.com, who was apparently too cowardly to attach their actual name to the story, could only verify that “this thing will be absolutely the quickest and most powerful Kawasaki motorcycle of all time, by far” — essentially admitting that they have broken the first rule in journalism, verifying a source.

That’s some of the best marketing Newspeak I’ve ever heard from a journalist.

It is good to know that the marketing hype could be confirmed, because after all, the meat of the story — the engine displacement, the engine design, and the power figures — has about as much credibility as my cat’s Tumblr blog.

I would be content merely to fling some mud at publication that I had just yesterday been singing the praises of, since this is some of the laziest journalism the motorcycle industry has ever seen since I’ve been at this gig, which is saying something with the current state of affairs in moto-journalism.

The trouble is though, there is something bigger going on here.

Internet leaks happen all the time, often on message boards. However, it is interesting for a source with actual knowledge to be posting on a forum that has just over 50 members and 70 threads to-date (most of which are seeded posts, I might add).

You would expect a moth to be attracted to the much brighter flame of the KawiForums, which is also a VerticalScope property I might add, which boasts tens of thousands of users. However, if you wanted a good way to solidify a new site as a go-to source for people interested in the Kawasaki H2, having a post like the one in question here would be a great way of doing it.

Thinking more about this poster, it’s interesting that this “Nobody” refers to KHI and not Kawasaki, the latter being the more vernacular verbiage, the prior being more in tune with the H2’s marketing thus far, which has focused on promoting Kawasaki Heavy Industries experience with turbines, rather than Kawasaki’s prowess in building motorcycles.

It is perhaps unnerving to see such a large entity, responsible for so many eyeballs in the motorcycle industry, pushing so hard on a story that lacks so greatly in creditability and contains so much marketing-speak.

At its best, this is MO is practicing some very sloppy journalism; and at its worst, VerticalScope and its properties are working very hard to promote the words of our “Nobody” protagonist, whoever that may be.

  • Chris

    Looks like it worked! ;)

  • jzj

    Jensen, I feel badly to have to ask you to do this after having just read a careful and detailed article, but I need you to draw the circle for me: are you saying that 1. likely the H2 does not exist; or, 2. there is a scheme afoot to artificially boost cross-referential internet articles (no!); or, 3. you’re appalled that Motorcycle.com’s journalist doesn’t search out info as well as you?

  • irksome

    “NO-body knows… the trouble I’ve seen…”

  • Jason, I’m not saying any of those three things.

  • horkn

    Well this is a heavy article. The pun was intended.

    That said, good work Jensen. You could have just taken the bait and rolled with it.

  • Drizzy

    It’s not rare or even odd to see a magazine or National … League cater to their advertisers. It’s also not surprising to hear that they’re manufacturing hype where none exists. To be so poorly covert is disappointing, but I’m sure they have the stats to verify that nobody really cares longer then one news cycle.

    Unfortunately, very few real journalists still exist, from what I can see. Thankfully Jensen is one of them.

    PS: While I’m at it, I think most of the various blog posts I read are regurgitated press releases, because that’s the bulk of what’s out there. That, in itself is sad enough.

  • Tall Jones

    The reference to Rolling Stone with the page title was a nice touch. Great article!

  • This article simply isn’t valid without a link to your cat’s Tumblr feed…

  • TheSeaward

    Great article, Jensen. Now can we get the link to your cat’s blog?

  • TexusTim

    this is news ? kinda like gossip and drama to me…supremely worried ? that’s for wars and stuff not forum gossip stupidity

  • …says the same guy who got upset because I wouldn’t publish a story that was known to be false, and was fed to an unknowing journalist as payback for a previous indiscretion.

    It’s a messy business this.

  • uv

    I once met a man called Nessus! Interesting..

  • Huh Oreally

    I was already tired of hearing about the H2! Each time I heard something, all of the information was vague, speculative and totally useless. Wasting my time reporting about nothing! Crap!

    Thanks for NOT jumping on the falsely created bandwagon, Jensen and keeping it real!

    Huh!

  • Bob

    “And the truth shall set you free!”

    Good work, Jensen, good work.

  • KSW

    I laugh because someone is paying those folks based on hits/comments and they are manufacturing them. That is the state of things along with endless free press releases all on the same day, same time. What is needed is an aggregator where all those mindless press releases can be seen and no where else. Make the lowly “journalist’s” actually report on something. Call it ‘Asphalt Blubber’. LOL

    Oh, I love the bear on the “Orange KTM” tricycle. Was this story sponsored by KTM? Ha, ha, ha…. LOL, LOL

  • jordan.gpx

    Great article! I’m amazed you wrote this up as quick as you did, you’re a bloody good journalist. Your education in law and psych (yay for the internet) definitely shows and it’s great that your using all these skills to do what you love. I’m about to start my PhD on visual and self-motion perception, maybe hoping to bring my love of into the mix myself. You also posted something that was right up my alley (on perception), thanks for that!

  • jr2

    Kawasaki has nothing on generating hype based on nothing. Look at Google…. And the Nexus 6 / X phone… This new phone has been generating no fact, repeated speculation on a world wide level for 6 months… Kawasaki? Amateurs! I say, Amateurs!

  • horkn

    Jordan, I credit Jensen’s insight more from him tossing his TLR down the street that any degree. ;)

  • Shawn

    I feel like I’m missing something. I get it – you’re lamenting the fact that there’s foolishness afoot in the industry. But I’m failing to see how this is “the most ridiculous thing” you’ve ever seen. It sounds to me like you’re wound up by a very sophomoric, transparent attempt at media hype. Aren’t you lending credence to it by drawing attention to it?

    This is the motorcycle industry, Jensen, not life and death. Wouldn’t it be more in keeping with your desire for excellence to not be drawn into pretty calling-out of ham-fisted amateurs?

  • horkn

    *than*

  • crshnbrn

    Can we just get on with the teasing?

  • Paul Cypert

    Very common practice these days across all media.

    The whole slow reveal from Kawa has been a bit lame on this bike. At this stage the bike better tear the asphalt from the streets, let me run over the top of SUV’s and magically drop women’s panties as I roll through town. Only then would it deserve the amount of attention many sites have been giving these updates.

  • crshnbrn

    ^ All good ideas for the next video.

  • L2C

    September 18, 2014 at 9:36 PM, Paul Cypert says:

    The whole slow reveal from Kawa has been a bit lame on this bike. At this stage the bike better tear the asphalt from the streets, let me run over the top of SUV’s and magically drop women’s panties as I roll through town. Only then would it deserve the amount of attention many sites have been giving these updates.

    ♫ Kawasaki lets the good times roll… Kawasaki lets the good times roll… Kawasaki lets the good times roll…

  • Bill

    One unintended consequence of this article is that I’m now interested in something I didn’t care about before! I guess you can’t win.

  • Nessuno

    Motorcycle.com proceeded to purchase the 125ccsportsbikes.com forum and let it perish into a void of spam and adverts. All major members left and the site is practically at deaths door, only one moderator is left and only checks up to see how barren the wasteland has become.

    Continued shady tactics.

  • JohnJohn

    Like any good editor, I dove…

    It’s dived.

  • I wouldn’t be so quick to blame team green. Didn’t one of the marketing folks from Irvine recently switch careers to land at VerticalScope?

    The plot thickens…

  • JohnJohn,

    Like any good editor, I know that both dove and dived are acceptable past tense uses.

  • Kevin White

    Ay caramba. Maybe I’ll just take a two week hiatus. Come back on October 3rd, all should be revealed by then I reckon.

  • Xan

    So, I have no idea what VerticalScope own, but I do know that several of the motorcycle news sites/blogs I frequent have published multiple articles on the H2. This includes, to my eyes, some authentic looking teaser videos from Kawasaki (like gradual videos, released once a week with more than the previous week).

    It would seem to be a super elaborate ruse to promote a new forum, and I honestly have no idea if the articles and videos on said news sites are all derived from the forum you spoke of. Either way, it seems like a gigantic waste of time for someone to try to hoax something like this for forum traffic.

  • C-E

    Jensen,

    There are no actual, clear indications of the use of sarcasm in your reply above where you state that “you don’t say any of those three things”, and yet the article clearly implies all three without actually saying it.

    What are we supposed to make of this? It’s either one OR the other. Can’t be both. Unless someone is also just trying to generate web traffic too…

  • The trick with these articles is that you have to read them all the way through…especially the last paragraph…where I summarize the whole thing for you…

  • Bravo!! Finally someone has the balls to out Verticalscope and their sites for what they really are!!!!

    Jensen – drop us a line. We have many stories to share!

  • C-E

    Jensen:

    Your last paragraph reads as follows:

    “At its best, THIS is MO is practicing some very sloppy journalism; and at its worst, VerticalScope and its properties are working very hard to promote the words of our “Nobody” protagonist, whoever that may be.”

    I’m just very thick. I’ve never made any attempt do deny, or even hide that sad fact. For me and those who are suffering from the same condition, could you please clarify what the “this” (capitalized above for convenience of reference) refers to?

  • Bubbbbbbbaaa

    Rickey Bobby has a valid point. Makes you wonder…

  • irksome

    Journalism: What a concept!

    Thanks for taking it seriously.

  • frEEk

    @Shawn, while I understand what you’re saying, seems to me you aren’t thinking this through very well. If no-one speaks out about this kinda crap, it can just become accepted over time, since no-one seems to object. Also, this isn’t, unfortunately, simply the work of amateurs, ham fisted though it may be. It is the work of the biggest player in the online motorcycle world.

    And please don’t play the “this isn’t life or death” card people. By that logic we’d only ever talk about a handful of topics and we wouldn’t even bother with apparently inconsequential things like theft or assault. Nevermind that we wouldn’t even have such a thing as sportbikes to begin with.

  • pooch

    Great work, proper journalism. this exact article is why I prefer to read only two ‘net publications, A+R, and motomatters, both run by blokes that look beyond the obvious, and present a big picture – and then some. GREAT work Jensen. Oh and don’t let the grammar nazi’s get you down, even when they’re wrong ;)

  • zx1441r

    Ninjah2.org popped up real fast , I read some if not all the posts to see what was up with this site ..The one thing that bugged me was it mirrored some of what we at ZX1441R.com had posted weeks ago ..Difference was it was posted as all facts and they added HP numbers to what we had posted . One can look at the dates the posts made at ZX1441r Vs the dates posted on Ninjah2.org and it appears they got the info from us and then made up the rest . VerticalScope does not own our site ..

  • Nino

    Jensen is out to attach AR to the discussion, he’s taken up the opposite in a binary discussion, there is no refuting, its tag along to mass exposure. The only way to win was not to play and you played, I know we’re all to believe AR is a cut above yet its lowered itself to take up a position?

    You’ve picked low hanging fruit, IPs dropped at your door, VS and MO dont hide the fact they’re associated neither does the forum, so you’ve what, used your google?

    I applaud you Jensen, but for your own piece of creative marketing, which lets be honest this is. One big flag waving, look what I did!

  • KSW

    Nino,

    I totally disagree. I for one see Jensen as a singular, providing a breadth of information without the fear of Manufacturer or other backlash. The people that really matter, those at the top of the professional ladder, respect that. Jensen isn’t supported by large entities with cash to blow at what isn’t Vertical at all but totally Horizontal.
    I for one would totally support any venture Jens has his eyes on.

    In a highly competitive “fiction is fact” world its important to know who is fake and who isn’t. Vertical Scope is fake and unfortunately few are looking at what is really going on in this fake/virtual world. I know for fact Jensen has sat on information regarding the H2 as Kawasaki USA won’t confirm nor communicate back to him. That, Nino, is what respectable journalism is about. The photos you see on A&R aren’t faked like what Stephen Davison does posing riders all over the place, posing fans, posing children. There is a difference and it matters.

    Now, used Google? Wow, I can do all that and more without Google and anyone can. Every time you use a free wifi all that you do including the email text, text, search, your MAC ID is all visible. The internet is the equivalent of not having a door on your house or should you have one there is no lock. Jensen does what the world does, YEAH Jensen. At least he doesn’t tell what there income is, address, social security etc. which is all there if you know where and how to look. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.

    The big picture is that anyone of those VerticalScope clients would be better off under the A&R scheme of keeping it real, honest and accountable. Personally, if I was a client of VerticalScope, I’d fire them.

  • Great Journalism…. Now tell KHI / Kawasaki the first few vids were ok…. maybe they started a few days/weeks to early….. ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!

  • Nino

    KSW,

    You’re making the fundamental flaw of believing this is about journalism at all, this entire piece is one large advertisement for THIS website. Its designed to show off Jensens brand and position him as the opposite, in believing that you accept the frame and subsequently miss the advertising.

    Don’t letting your ideals get in the way of the business model, vertical scope kicks off a controversy which generates traffic for their properties, traffic which pays out in impressions to their clients. Traffic is gold to their clients and yet you want to fire them for satisfying the need their ad clients hired them to meet?

    Good for Jensen, he’s a respectable journalist and shows a true passion for motorcycles, I don’t question his character one bit. The big picture is that life is a bout getting paid, the trick is not to let getting paid become who you are.

  • I wish they would remove the H2 part of the name. It’s not a two stroke and it’s definitely NOT a triple, or doesn’t sound like one. I’m 50!

    You’d think they’d be following up on the Triumph and Yamaha FZ-09. That would make sense, but then not much makes sense these days in the modern world.

    Just when you think you have it figured out…

  • Bob

    Kevin: “God damn it, I’m old and things aren’t the same anymore and I know what Kawasaki should do with it’s brand names and get off my lawn and did i mention I’m old?!”

  • uv

    Nessuno would have set everyone straight.

  • KSW

    Nino,

    Yep Jensen promoted A&R and why it’s better. Wow, me too. The fact is truth matters and companies who are paying for BS data are making a mistake. Many these days are.

    Yep, all those sites managed by Horizontal Scope have how many of the same users? How much of there traffic is incest? You know the industry itself, other bloggers, Horizontal Scope employees and the host of others that don’t count? They don’t count because they aren’t spreading the word beyond the base and if you don’t “grow” the industry then you’re getting paid for what? Oh, doing nothing. Don’t talk to someone who’s been doing this for 30 years about how it works because the truth is all this Analytics for the most part is over hyped. Among the world’s greatest in there field very few are wasting time online there too busy inventing, curing, solving.

    So, feel good that you’ve commented on Jensen outing yet another bogus online entity. The only issue that is he linked to the original, as should be done and this site will in fact then up the bogus numbers for Horizontal Scope.
    The best thing is that anyone doing a search for Horizontal Scope will be directed here, learn how they do business and hopefully go elsewhere to a more legitimate entity. That’s how search engines work and A&R has enough data clout to move this to the front of the long line.

  • Harm Reducer

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were no H2?

    No, it wouldn’t?

    Yes, it would?

    If the existence of the H2 is not in doubt, what are we really talking about here?

  • Bubbbbaaaa

    My god… some of the most dense, impossibly obtuse people ever seen ITT. Or they’re trolling, i can’t even tell anymore…

    Yes, the H2 is a real bike, how are you people even discussing this? There are trademark documents, patent documents and a factory media campaign all proving this.

    Harm Reducer – we’re not debating the bike; what we’re “really talking about here” is the media treatment and possible (likely) media collusion in marketing it.

    theken – Welcome to 2014! Racing doesn’t sell bikes anymore. Racing classes don’t determine new bike development anymore. You do know this, and you’re just a troll, yes? Please tell me yes! Please?!?!

  • crshnbrn

    re: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were no H2?”

    That would be one elaborate hoax! A month-long April Fools if you will. I have no doubt the H2
    exists and will be produced. I believe this because pictures, video, and discussion of it are on the internet, and nothing is on the internet that isn’t true – I learned this little tidbit from a tv commercial, and I know that has to be true, otherwise it would be considered false advertising, and there are laws against that.

  • Allan

    I was awaiting a flight home, Sardinia to Colorado, with little to occupy my time so I bought the latest copy of the Italian weekly Moto Sprint. In it are photos of the H2 Kawasaki turbo, evidently taken at a recent Tokyo motorcycle show. The article was quite extensive but I won’t attempt to quote second hand knowledge from a magazine I can barely read.

  • Nick

    Unfortunately, this further demonstrates Vertical Scope’s business ethic (or lack thereof). I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of advertising on a few forums managed by Vertical Scope over the years. It comes as no surprise to anyone reading these comments that forums can pay big dividends if the originator struck the right nerve with the right market. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a good gamble. In most cases, it seems that Vertical Scope doesn’t actually start a forum of their own. Rather, they look for an enterprising individual (or collection of enthusiasts) to do the hard work. They swoop in, offer a package to buy it out and the original owners walk away with some cash in their pockets.

    Sounds like good business, right? Well, as always, the devil is in the details. On more than one occasion, I’ve worked advertising arrangements with the site founder(s) when the site was in its infancy. These were mutually beneficial relationships early on that were intended to grow and prosper as the business climate changed. Not so in Vertical Scope’s eyes. In each instance, Vertical Scope would enter the picture and essentially nullify any previous agreements. It didn’t matter that agreements were in place (and documented). They simply didn’t care. There was another time they terminated our advertising contract due to a $1/month billing error on their behalf. We literally had to cut a $12 check and sign new contracts in order to keep the advertising operational. I can go on…and on, and on.

    These things can usually be forgiven (scratch that, no it can’t), but further insult to injury was realized when we learned that none of our ‘account managers’ own a single motorcycle between them. In fact, most lived in Toronto and didn’t even own a car.

    All is not lost, though. Vertical Scope may be the Wal-Mart of the internet forum, but there are still a few mom and pop stores in operation. Find those forums and give your support. They…nay…WE, owe it to each other to minimize the corporate BS we endure for our hobby – our passion. Vote with your clicks, because that ultimately leads to advertisers voting with their dollars. Be an educated (media) consumer.

  • NickFan

    Nick, you are awesome. The more i learn about this industry, the more i find myself thinking of sausage and Sinclair.

  • crshnbrn

    @ Allan

    If you bought a magazine printed in a language you can barely read, then you obviously didn’t buy it for the articles. That is a prime example of the term motorcycle porn.

  • I feel a parallel to the rendered Beemer story….

  • HairyPalms

    That bear looks like he is going to tip over. Be careful my fury friend! And wear a helmet for crying out loud! Animals these days. Sheesh!

  • ThatMexicanFromNOLA

    To paraphrase and borrow a bit from Neil Peart (some BMW rider from up north that dabbles in percussion and lyrics):

    “One likes to believe in the freedom of Motorcycling. But glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity.”

    Nice article JB. All we can do is sigh at the collusion and ride…

  • alex

    The bike is gonna be nuts because my neighbor says so…. true story.

    The main problem is that Kawi is a honey pot for marketers because they seem to think they are bringing out something that deserves alot of attention but arent exactly sure where to look for it.

    Chances are, before next months end some video will have it riding into the sunset along the Vincent Thomas bridge towards downtown la like some helmet manufacturer is doing for a booth at the aim show, because thats what there pr outlet thinks people want – malibu, the coast and the vincent thomas bridge (at night like your returning home)

    Kawi should probably dump a dozen of them on street racers in Georgia and Alabama instead of this nonesense because the resulting ghetto rap videos on youtube with burnouts and wheelies will probably sell alot more of them than what they are doing now.