Tuesday, February 7, 2012

#108 May 2011

The magazine business can be strange. I don’t want to bore you all senseless (any more than usual anyway) about the nuts and bolts of how The Horse goes together. I know all you want to hear about is bike-related stuff, but as I write this, the weather hasn’t permitted me to ride since early December, so I have to look elsewhere for inspiration!

There’s a sense that the editorial staff here dances to whatever tune the advertisers wish to play, and that just isn’t so. For instance, we never got our free sample from the “Asian Brides” ad that ran for quite a while. The ad department was quite amused at my reaction when the ad for the “Buffalo Helmet” was running. So generally speaking, the editorial and advertisement departments run quite separately. Occasionally, one of the advertisers will ask us to do a review of one of their products. When we do that, we try to be as open and honest about the review as possible.

There does seem to be a ‘trend’ lately, for advertisers to shy away from print ads and try to make more of a splash with internet advertising. S&S was one of the first “big” customers to do this, and to be honest, I have no idea how that’s working out for them. All I know, is that they pretty much dropped off the map. I don’t know anybody that clicks on internet ads. Even spam filters these days will effectively remove sales emails from the inbox before most people see them. We did see them at the Cincinnati V-Twin expo, so they are still around, and I know Hammer was talking to them about a KN engine for his new project, but in my view, stopping the print ads is a mistake. I know you’d expect me to say that anyway, right? The reality is: even though print ads bring in much needed funds for the magazine, as far as I’m concerned, it’s never made any difference to how I do my job. I just know that when I see new products and such in print, I remember them, and if I have occasion to need something like that, I’ll go through back issues and dig it up.

Of course, I could be totally wrong, and web advertising is propelling these companies to new and dizzying heights, but how would I know? I don’t click on web banners! How many of you totally ignore the ad video that annoyingly plays before the item you actually want to see shows up?

But there is also a fairly large segment that refuse to buy anything made of paper when there is so much free stuff available on the internet. Nowadays, it’s pretty easy for anyone to set themselves up as the King of the Cool Kids. They’ll have their blog telling you what is cool and disparaging others’ efforts, with crappily shot YouTube videos all over and getting their message out on Facebook. The problem being, of course, that they are just one of a trillion doing exactly the same thing. They have no personal investment in any of this; just a few moments of their time, and even though some of them have some really good stuff to show and say, they are lost in the ocean of flotsam and jetsam as if they were but one pixel on your 1080p 50 inch plasma.

I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m some kind of Luddite. I love new technology and accumulate all I can, I just firmly believe that the printed word, on physical paper, leaves a lasting impression, and even if you don’t remember exactly what was said, it’s easy enough to leaf through the old issues to find it.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think we shouldn’t expand into the New Media though. We’re acutely aware that people are reading more and more on portable devices, like the iPad, the Nook and the Kindle. Sometimes I feel like we’re in the same position that the Acme Buggy Whip Co. was in when they were reading about the new-fangled automobile “craze”, wondering whether to branch out into electric starter motors or to just make their buggy whips the best in the business, because there will always be horses. We just need to do it on our own terms and make sure some hacker has a hard time reproducing the latest mag 1000000000 times and spreading it to the masses gratis.

Maybe one day technology will get to the point where nobody uses physical publishing any longer. That will be a sad day that will, incidentally, put many Americans out of work. Until that day, far in the future, we’ll keep plugging along. Throwing the issue into the pick up truck to check out on a lunch break will still be preferable to trying to read microscopic print on the smart phone for some time to come. I’ll wager people are even less likely to tolerate ads when smart phone browsing anyway.

I just hope some of these great companies don’t go broke before I’m proven right about web only ads. Sometimes it sucks to be right.

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