It’s been a busy few months for cycling journalists, and mostly not in a good way. A huge cull at Time Inc (publishers of Cycling Weekly, Cycling Active and Mountain Bike Rider) during the summer of 2015 has resulted in a game of musical chairs at the magazines and websites over the last few months.
Time Inc realised, rather belatedly, that their road cycling titles were on the slide. They still had legs, but they weren’t washing their faces (or something). What Time Inc needed were brand-centric media-neutral proactive content provision solutions across multiple platforms (yes, I was in the room when Sly Bailey actually said that out loud, and I hardly laughed at all). Or some such shite about low-hanging fruit, grey panthers, easy-wins and turn-key thinking.
Anyway, Time did what Time does, which is to make their editors jump through endless hoops en-route to a relaunch, which resulted in Robert Garbutt leaving the Editor’s chair at Weekly and Luke Edwardes-Evans leaving his chair at Cycling Active. This is a well-established technique in publishing — get the Editor to perform somersaults to save his magazine and his job, get him to work furiously hard on a relaunch, and then either sack him or make his life so miserable he just wants to leave. I have no idea if that’s what happened to Robert and Luke, but it’s not uncommon.
So Simon Richardson stepped up to the Big Chair at CW and Hannah Reynolds stepped up at CA. Meanwhile half a dozen other staff were axed and the rest face being relocated to Time’s new (cheap) offices in Farnborough because they sold the London HQ. I thought Time Inc was making more money sub-letting space in the Blue Fin building than publishing magazines, but perhaps not.
Meanwhile, over at Dennis Publishing, something strange was afoot. A year after its launch, BikesEtc lost its Editor, Wesley Doyle, and its Deputy Editor Andy Waterman. Normally there is an established way of handling changes of Editor — the outgoing Editor writes an Editor’s Letter in his final issue saying what a great time he’s had, what a great team he’s had, and wishing the new Editor the best of luck (check this out). In the next issue the new Editor writes a piece saying what a great job the last Editor did and how they hope to continue that good work and take the mag to new heights.
Except when they sack you. Then it all gets a bit complicated. Then there are NDAs, lawyers, tribunals, and such like. Sometimes they’ll let you depart gracefully, sometimes they make it very personal. Sometimes they let you pen a farewell to your readers, sometimes they don’t.
I don’t know what happened to Wesley Doyle and his deputy Andy Waterman, but there was no farewell Ed’s Letter or any mention of them leaving. Suddenly Pete Muir (Editorial Director, and Editor of Cyclist) was writing the Ed’s Letter, and after a month or two Nick Soldinger and David Kenning appeared on the masthead. After another month or so Nick started to write the Ed’sLetter, and it all carried on like nothing had happened. Except for the editorial direction of the magazine, which has taken a serious nose-dive. Clearly the publishing team wanted a new direction for BikesEtc, and just when it was starting to find its feet and look half-decent they brought in Soldinger to infantilise the whole thing. Even my kids think it’s too dumbed-down to read now.
Over on the interweb, more changes are afoot. James Huang, the Angry Asian and Tech Ed at BikeRadar is moving on. He didn’t say where, but industry gossip since before Christmas says he’s off to CycleTips, the excellent Australian cycling website. This is after CT successfully landed Shane Stokes not so long ago. I also hear that Neal Rogers (ex of Velo and most recently at GCN) has taken up the role as US Editor-in-Chief of CyclingTips. With Stokes, Huang and Rogers, CT has some pretty big hitters on their team now, and we can expect the already excellent CT to go from strength to strength. If they could get some designers in to make the site a little more visually exciting, that would also be good because at the moment that’s the only thing letting down an otherwise great site. Oh, and the headlines could be punchier and more SEO-friendly.
Over at Immediate Media everything looks fairly settled and stable since they bought Cycling Plus, Pro Cycling and BikeRadar (among others) from Future Publishing. They are busily populating the metaphorical 5th Floor with assorted suits and middle-managers with fancy titles spouting corporate managementspeak: “blah blah brand extensions blah blah developing a more experiential part to our business to connect consumers with the brand and with our key clients blah blah.” Yeah, whatever. Check this out for the full SP on what they’re thinking (if you can stomach it).
The big question is this: is CyclingTips going to take on BikeRadar head-to-head? CT seems to be recruiting quite aggressively, and they’ve certainly got some big names on board (yes, I’m still waiting for the call!). Does this mean CT will replace BikeRadar as the go-to site for news and products? At the moment CT doesn’t have anywhere near the content-churn of BR, but their recruitment policy seems to suggest there will be more content going up there, and a more global outlook from the site. I think there will be exciting times ahead.
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