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Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well.

Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, in a short post to his “Cook’s Corner” column online, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine.

As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction, which also seems to be pushing hardcore journalists out of the medium.

Externally, classic print stalwarts like Cycle World, Motorcyclist, and Sport Rider (all publications I grew up reading) are struggling to find a profitable footing in an increasingly digital world that has shifting attention spans and diverse tastes.

Internally, the three publications, which are all owned by the Bonnier Corporation, are also working to find a distinct set of voices now that they are under one roof and sharing common resources.

Bonnier now has a marketing and public relations arm as well, which produces content and public events for industry players and motorcycle consumers. We should point out that a handful of the press launches Asphalt & Rubber attended this year were hosted by Bonnier, on behalf of a specific brand.

As this blurring of the division between business and editorial seems to increase as time goes by, we hear too that Motorcyclist will shift to become more of a lifestyle oriented publication going forward. A mainstream Iron & Air, if you will.

It is not clear how this will affect the Motorcyclist’s online presence, but that format change might be a strong move for Bonnier, and help Motorcyclist differentiate itself from the publication of record slant that continues to fuel sister mag Cycle World.

The question will be though, will this new venture be profitable enough to sustain Motorcyclist going forward, and will Bonnier’s other magazines be able to fill the gap that Motorcyclist leaves behind?

A last question might be as well whether all this change can occur while using the same set of ethics that old-school journalists espoused, or if a new set of values will have to manifest itself from new media players? As always, time will tell.

Source: Motorcyclist

  • Elton Alwine

    This is strange new territory and I have to admit I’m sad. The change to half the issues per annum is yet another indication of a more online world and I’m not a fan (no offense, A&R!). I like many of you grew up reading MC (along with CW and Sport Rider) and I wanted to be one of their writers, but didn’t have the talent. So I simply continue to subscribe, read and collect issues to this day. I’m worried for the oldest motorcycle mag in the world, and hope that these new transitions work.

  • MrDefo

    Man I really like their videos on Youtube, I hope that doesn’t change much.

  • I do think that print works as a great medium for a quarterly publication – one that hash long stories that I want to read on paper, not a screen, and with beautiful photos printed on high-quality glossy paper. Something you keep on a shelf, instead of throwing out, when you’re done reading it.

    That format could work with six issues a year too, I suppose. There’s a breakeven analysis somewhere in there.

  • Sniff70

    I would like to see them move to a subscription-based online video magazine. I would pay money for that! For traditional journalists, either migrate to the new medium and learn some new skills or go independent, the world has changed.

  • Paul McM

    I think one of the big Moto magazines has to go in a completely new direction. Have commisioned stories about real trips, have real riders talk about ways to optimize popular bikes (like the FZ09). Do honest, thorough comparison tests of helmets, jackets, boots. Tell the TRUTH about design flaws in new bikes. There is so little really useful information in the mainstream magazines any more. They have basically devolved into predictable hype-slingers for new models and little else. Other than Eagen and Cameron, there are no print media writers I trust at all. And there is so little creativity by the editors. Why haven’t we seen a simple comparison test of hearing protection? How hard would that be? Why haven’t we seen a hands-on report on renting motorcycles from three or four different agencies? Why has no magazine printed comparative insurance costs company by company? What about a tire life comparison? How about an analysis of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents? How about an article explaining how to safely ship a bike across the country or overseas? There are so many interesting possible stories … yet we get the SOS from CW and the other Bonnier journals.

  • Eric

    I fully agree. One of my biggest criticisms of print media these days is that they seem to think the print version should be like online content, meaning shorter, less in-depth articles. This is exactly wrong!!! They should have shorter articles and videos online, and make sure to keep really high quality, in depth articles in the print editions. Perhaps the print edition is less frequently published, but it must be higher quality than now, or they’ll go out of business, as their online content isn’t significantly better than fully online publications.

  • C’mon Man

    The “On Two Wheels” and “MC Garage” videos are excellent. Informative, creative, and the video editing is top notch. I, too, hope these 2 guys stay on and continue the good work.

  • Steven Breslow

    In 1963, I was in Boot Camp in Memphis Tenn. The U.S,. Navy. I pried my way (via a rusty hinge) out of my barracks-WHY? because the next issue of Cycle World was due to arrive at the library. ( it did) The punishment was a week in the Brig if caught ( I didn’t) . I never missed an issue till now. All the M/C magazines (and auto magazines and news magazines etc) have been dumbed down so that a person with a snails intellect could look at them-or at least look at the pretty pictures. When Peter Egan bought a Road King, I had one, When he bought a Duc 900 SS/SP I had one (before he did) He beat me to the new Triumph 120-but I still beat him to the Thruxton. Enough waxing poetic- My point is that conveying knowledge via the printed word in dead. No pursuers of the art and no readers to care.

    Good Bye Bob Greene. Good Bye L.J.K Setright. Good Bye Road and Track ( who no longer write about cars costing less than $110,000) Rest in peace Henry Manning. Also Good Bye soon , Ari and Zack -the friends I never met-you are too good and care too much to not get eaten up soon. I will Take my Pauchco framed EVO Hard Tail out tomorrow and do a ride in silence for all the people who do not know what they will miss.

  • There will never be an honest insurance comparison in any major US moto media brand. Companies like Geico are amongst the biggest advertisers in the moto industry, not only via display advertising but also commissions paid per click.

    The closest English language magazine to what you’re describing (and it is bloody good too) is the Bauer mag ‘Bike,’ published in the UK.

  • noahzark

    and Gordon Jennings and the crew at the original Cycle!
    I still have the final issue of Cycle!

  • Paul McM

    Chris, — it is timely that you mentioned that. I have enjoyed reading Bike in print (where I can find it in the USA). I just subscribed to the BIKE digital edition, which is distributed online. I always wondered what that magazine could do with the long riding season here in the American Southwest…

  • Walter

    No no! Not the original Cycle- which was pretty much an industry pep talk magazine.

    You mean the Cycle that became what it was when Jennings took the helm, and thereafter.

    Lots of people have the last issue.

    I have all of them from the 50’s through the last issue LOL

  • Elton Alwine

    Yes, you are exactly right. Much like what Rupert Paul is doing with MCN Sport. Quarterly and very much kept on the shelf. I have to admit, that with the right direction and a brand new design the new Motorcyclist could become an epic motorcycle culture magazine with their signature web series a bonus. I actually feel better about this transition after your reply, J. Maybe this change doesn’t portend doom…

  • Elton Alwine

    A lot of this is due to Ari Henning and Zach Courts rapport and knowledge and general passion for the sport. These two hopefully stick around for a long time… Their stuff has kept me interested in MC.

  • Elton Alwine

    Bike is and has been since 1999 my most absolute favorite moto mag around. I think it is very “thin” compared to pre-2008, but so is everything in this industry. But this one magazine in the UK is the gold standard, and I perhaps unfairly judge every bike mag by their long shadow. This is how it should be done. And I don’t even know if they have a website… I still want my quality photos and stories in print, and I turn to A&R and other motorcycle journalists online for news.

  • Paul McM

    Unfortunately, in the print magazine biz, it seems six months a year is too often followed by zero months a year… It’s a definite sign that the ratio of costs to revenues is headed in the wrong direction…

  • Bike doesn’t really have an online presence of any kind: Bauer puts most of its digital budget into Motorcycle News, the weekly newspaper. That goes against conventional wisdom, but it’s probably a wise decision. I look forward to receiving my copy of Bike in the mail every month, and you can see where every Pound is spent. It’s beautifully produced and exceptionally well-written.

  • Singletrack

    There’s a lot to chew on here. I love printed magazines and hope they will continue for my lifetime. I have long speculated that the optimum format they’ll survive in is as high quality, long-story format coffee table periodicals, as Jensen suggests. If CW and Motorcyclist find unique missions, then maybe each can publish in alternating months, 6x per year. Quarterly is too long and I’d guess that most readers would lose interest after 3 months between issues.

    Michael Uhlarik (now back at Cycle Canada mag) just wrote a piece about the battle between the online world and print and I hope he can stick around in print to prove his point. Far too many unqualified people write online, which muddies the waters. For every quality site like A&R, there are too many poor blogs online.

    I think everyone writing an online blog should consider printing 20,000 copies before submitting a story online. Sober second thought, good copy editing and the risk of real expense would help to filter the wheat from the chaff.

  • It’s also one of the few print pubs where you can find the work of Jensen a Beeler…so, you know it’s got to be good.

  • ‘Mike Smith

    Considering that I read this website first before going to any other bike site, I’d say they all screwed up not begging Jenson to get on board. Maybe they did, but what do I know. Either way, A&R is the best of the best.

  • ‘Mike Smith

    Agree 100%

  • Emptybee

    I just can’t get used to taking the laptop into the bathroom. By the time it’s all booted up, I’ve finished my business! Seriously, though, even though I spend my day at a keyboard as a writer/editor and create plenty of online content, I much prefer reading print publications. You can pick them up and set them down time and again. Online content comes comes and goes so quickly.

  • Elton Alwine

    I have dreamed of writing for Bike for so long I can’t remember. One day I’ll find something interesting to contribute… An irony is that I used to write to Colin Schiller incessantly to be a writer for Fast Bikes. I think he printed every awfully mundane letter since 1999 that I sent him. I guess I made it to print after all…

  • JS

    There are a few generations between the hey-day of great motorcycle magazines led by Cycle.. My generation that turned 18 in the early to mid 80’s. All four mags arrived in the mailbox each month; Motorcyclist, Cycle World, (forgot the 4th)… I think we were the end of the “On Any Sunday” generation that grew up riding Schwinn Stingrays and Honda 50cc’s and 80cc’s running from The Man on the remaining open land that was being quickly built up around LA…
    The magazines back then pointed out the pro’s and con’s about the bikes and gave good reasons why they liked one better than the other, and basically ranked them..
    They do not do that as firm nowadays, they are extended PR departments afraid to lose Ad revenue. They are forced into this due to competition and the economy of the internet… This has been pointed out sparingly thru the years by Editors retiring or their Magazines shutting down…
    A good example is the current Multistrada…
    The seat puts you in one position (similar to the original Street Triple) and there is no room for your feet (size 12, my buddy’s size 10 too).. If you put the balls of your feet on the pegs – your right foot hits the exhaust and the left hits the center-stand.. But it is definitely the sportiest of its category..
    In my opinion, that is something that should be pointed out… My buddy was torn between the new GS and the Multi, so we rented them for a full day of riding to let him decide…

  • Singletrack

    Most of the problem with bike reviews is that bikes are so good these days that finding fault comes down to fit, as you noted above. Really, is a Multistrada any worse than a GS? or vice versa? In the 80’s, bikes still had real glaring faults to identify as makers experimented with suspension linkage design, turbos, watercooling, multi-valve heads, fairings etc. Now, most of those engineering problems have been well sorted.

  • Singletrack

    So, ironically, I just came back from a big-box book store with a copy of META magazine. I’d never seen it on the shelves before, even though this is supposedly the 6th issue. Jensen, have you seen it?

    A 3x yearly periodical, that in their words is “an ornate publication that will delve into the core of
    motorcycling through unrivaled imagery, myriad adventures, evergreen
    content, culture-driven fashion, polished design, and stately quality
    that is being crafted as a centerpiece for bookshelves and coffee
    tables.”
    It’s hefty, with nice suede paper feel, matt finish for a vintage look and artsy photos. Maybe a bit too hipstery for me. But I dropped almost $20 for it. I’ll report back to let you know if I’ll spend another $20 in March.

  • In the UK, Bike magazine ranks motorcycles really clearly. They give them a mark out of 10, and in the group tests, compare them closely. The issue with foot placement is exactly the kind of thing they’d talk about, and would have opinions from several different test riders.

  • silas laubmann

    Britan’s Bike Mag makes me long for better photo editing in all 3 US motorcycle mags. Most US pubs (I only get CW) don’t seem to ever show a riders view of the bars and instruments of any new bike they test, or a clean view of both sides of the bike…the photos selected and tiny format of them are awful in print…more about poses/ posing than showing the actual bike. You cannot even tell what the damn bike looks like in person. I’ve sent this complaint to cw editor…no response.

  • Jon B.

    Meta & Sideburn are required buys, there’s always some awesome to read in each issue. Print isn’t dead, rather it has evolved.

  • Tanner

    every motorcycle publication seems to be exactly the same these days – merely marketing extensions of manufacturers

    The “journalists” go to all the same manufacturer-sponsored event, cut and paste the same marketing material in their articles, and even have almost the exact same pictures, taken by the manufacturers.

    I get my recommendations from forums and user reviews, not the dreck from the magazines.

  • C’mon Man

    If not, you think Ari and Zach have what it takes to spin-off and do their own show? In my mind, they are half way there as the American motorcycle version of the Clarkson Top Gear.