Blogs VS Mags

I subscribe to most major cycling magazines. Recently, I have noticed a couple of articles on magazines where they sort of vilify blogs. They claim that we are bunch of amateurs and that we don’t know what we are talking about. They mostly classify blogs as a form of ‘entertainment’ and not a bona fide source of information.

I can agree that most of us may not have a journalism degree, and sure, some of us are not professional writers. However, blogs have one big advantage over print material: Time. Have you seen Intebike coverage in magazines yet? I didn’t think so. There were more than a few bloggers covering Interbike and we were feeding the information to the readers almost daily (we came to find out that our hacker was responsible for our Interbike outage, not our web host). I remember reading Sea Otter coverage and race results 3 months after the event, 3 months!!!

I also think that our type of media has been embraced by the bike industry. When it comes to bike commuting, websites are THE source of information. Sure you read stories about ‘Bike Town USA’ but when have you seen an in-depth review of their bikes or gear?

I’m not saying that magazines suck — after all, they do get to play with $10K bikes and have pretty ads of expensive cars. But I do think that that some mags feel threatened by our ability to spread news and reviews three months earlier than they do.

How do YOU feel about bike magazines or blogs?


20 Comments

  1. Ghost Rider November 8, 2007 11:37 am 

    I find it very difficult to stomach bike magazines that are filled with CAR and BEER ads. Beer is cool, and cars have their place, but a magazine about the health and environmental benefits of bicycles should actively shun such advertisement.

    Moe, you gotta remember that bike mags are becoming more and more enamoured of blogs…after all, Bicycling Magazine just did an interview with Bike Snob NYC! I think we’ll steadily see a blending between the two types of media…magazines with an online blog or similar electronic content (Dirt Rag springs to mind) to tide readers over until the next print issue.

  2. Jamie Fellrath November 8, 2007 11:50 am 

    Bloggers have a couple other things that magazines don’t. First, the ability to editorialize without fear of real repercussion. If a blogger wants to talk about how the newest BikeCo tires don’t grab the road on turns, or CycleTech’s new headlight dies out when the temperature gets below freeing, or how New Commuterville’s police don’t protect cyclists from cars, they can do so. They don’t have to worry about losing advertising dollars because, in the cases of non-sponsored blogs (which most blogs are), they don’t HAVE any advertising dollars!

    Second, and related to this, bloggers don’t have to temper their commentary to any one topic if they don’t want to. A bike commuting blogger like mine can throw in motivational quotes from a former football player if it wants, or comment on the Tour de France, or even stray away entirely and talk about their job a bit if they want to.

    Most of the complaints you hear from bike magazines about blogs (or any established media about blogs) has to do with misunderstanding the nature of blogs entirely. My goal is by no means to distract readers from bicycle magazines with my writing. I’m not trying to draw readers away from Bicycling or anything like that. My goal is to foster discussion about bike commuting and the issues that surround it. And to have a place to vent about my frustrations with it. And to offer up pieces of advice based on my experience, and here other people’s responses (hopefully with more advice).

    Basically, I blog because I like blogging. I like hearing the ideas of other folks who blog and with whom I swap comments frequently. I like hearing feedback about when people agree with me and when they think I’m full of it.

    If bike magazines don’t want to deal with that, that’s their deal. But the fact that I’m not a professional doesn’t make me any more or less valid a source of information.

  3. bert November 8, 2007 11:57 am 

    I have a free subscription to Bicycling, which occasionally has a good article. More often, the “articles” are merely a few words and splashes of color intended for what I can only assume are people with short attention spans and disposable income. For me, online forums and blogs are much more useful sources of information for the technical problems I encounter and product evaluations I need.

  4. Val November 8, 2007 12:16 pm 

    I would be much more inclined to take this sort of criticism seriously if I were to see any significant originality or worthwhile writing in any of the magazines. I pick one up and browse it every month or so, and all I see is the same repetetive series of “Dual Suspension Shootout” and “Get faster in Two Weeks” features. I swear Bicycling magazine is going green by recycling the same cover headlines on a 6-8 month rotation, the same way Cosmopolitan does. I’d probably like them if I had insomnia, but I ride enough that I have no problem sleeping, so I’ll pass.

  5. Jeff November 8, 2007 12:53 pm 

    Magazines are afraid of blogs because it is competition. Magazines capitalized on the consumers want for information – and made them pay ($) for it. Blogs have the ability to offer the same content at no cost to the reader, and so now magazines are expected to provide some sort of discernable content. They have to raise the bar of their journalism and provide something that is worth paying for. They have the upper hand here though because they have a “grandfathered” credibility: because it is a print publication, the public generally understands this to mean that the content is credible and accurate. But that is not always the case.

    Blogs on the other hand do not have to cater to their sponsors, and therefore have complete freedom to cover what they want. Magazines envy this. However, blogs are discredited because anyone can have one – and you never know if the information that is given is from a credible source.

    Blogs are democracy – allowing the everyman to have a voice. Unfortunately, there will always be people you wish didn’t speak.

    Anyway, this is all my opinion. Good post Moe…gave me a chance to vent a little without having my name on the “post written by…” line.

  6. Gunnar November 8, 2007 1:00 pm 

    Most bicycle related magazines are garbage at best. They fill the pages with advertising and editorial designed to make you think what you have is obsolete and needs to be replaced. The reviews are heavily biased as they can’t make the advertisers angry.

    At least with blogs, you know you are getting a personal opinion on a product. It still may be biased, but not usually based on income. If a blogger has a good experience with a product or service, it carries more weight than when a magazine raves about that same product.

  7. Evan November 8, 2007 2:13 pm 

    I can’t speak for bicycle mags since I have never read any, but I can say with certainty that printed magazines in general are on their way out.

    Besides the obvious fact that blogs are more timely, I prefer them mainly because they are more interactive.

    In the comments section of a post, I can read valuable insight from people besides the author who may have a different view of the subject or something to add that I have never thought of.

    Also, I enjoy the fact that blogs are written by regular dudes like myself. It makes the information they have to say feel more relevant.

    I have come to depend on blogs and internet message boards for information I can not find elsewhere.

    Everything I learned about bikes (and I still know very little) has come from sites like this one and bikeforums.net, etc… Well that and guys at the LBS.

  8. Smudgemo November 8, 2007 2:28 pm 

    Same cry-baby crap as in politics. The bloggers get the story and aren’t afraid to tell it. The established media is either in bed with the politicians and big business or scared to lose their jobs and access. Then they get shown-up and cry foul or try to paint bloggers as unfair or less than credible or informed.

    Most bicycling mags are barely more than mail-order catalogs without firm prices. I’ve made friends of bloggers and gained a lot of insight in what others (like me) are up to, and I like it.

  9. RL Policar November 8, 2007 4:50 pm 

    This is a great topic and I’m sure the comments will be endless.

    So here’s what I think. Magazines are great for a few different reason. For one, they have access to product like no one’s business. If a magazine calls up a company asking if they can do a review, then the company rep says no, you can be assured that the rep will lose his job.

    The thing is, the word “magazine” holds more credibility than “blog” or “website” and truth be told, the progression of having blogs/sites gain the same credibility is a slow and painful process.

    Everyone is right about how mags are limited on what they can say just because they run the risk of loosing the $5K page layout from some big company.

    At BikeCommuters, we’re not afraid to say things, but we do want to be respectful of people. If we think something sucks, we say so, and if something is great, we let you know right away.

    But I’m sure there were tons of us that wanted to someday write for a magazine back when we were kids. I remember reading Bike and Bicycling and day dreaming of working for them to test out some goodies. Heck I still do, but if I were to work for a magazine, I’d go the same approach as Dirt Rag has and create an online presence with a blog. Cuz we all know Blogs are a powerful medium in getting real time information to the masses.

  10. Ghost Rider November 8, 2007 5:04 pm 

    Such good points, everyone! Keep ’em coming!

    If it weren’t for blogs, I wouldn’t have a creative “vent” for some of my commuting stories, tech tips, etc., and I wouldn’t be friends with all the good folks on this site and MTNBikeriders.com.

    I never really dreamed about writing for one of the big bike magazines, though…but I DID used to think, “man, this is crap — I can write better than this!”

    I’ve been an off-and-on reader of Bicycling since the late 70s — there was always a stack of them on the back of my grandfather’s toilet. Perfect place for that magazine, too…just flush it with the rest of the crap!!!

  11. Mike November 9, 2007 7:57 am 

    One of the points to be made is that blogs can be very much more focused. Where Bicycling is pumping out drivel that has to appeal to, what?, at least hundreds of thousands of readers, a blog can focus on a much smaller segment. Like bicycle commuters. I have yet to see Bicycle Commuting magazine in a store, although I’d probably pick it up if I did.

    Right now, we see bicycle magazines trying to stay relevant with online presence, but before too long, it might be the other way around. BikeCommuter magazine as a quarterly or something, presenting kind of the “best of” the online blog content. Only real technical issue would be repurposing art if not shot at print resolution… well that, and a print bill, distribution, etc. Pesky details.

  12. Karen November 9, 2007 9:16 am 

    We’ve been debating these questions over here quite a lot… it seems like blogs and other web-based content is great for expanding on what we put in the magazine. Space is tight in print, but limitless online, and it’s nice to be able to put those tidbits online that wouldn’t fit in print, or to invite discussion about an article, or to provide related links, etc. And yes, it’s a great way to get stuff out there quickly.

    As far as other blogs, it is cool that everyone can do it, but you have to be cautious believing everything you read online (whether more so than in print is another debate). Generally if someone is writing for a magazine they’ve been in the industry in one form or another for a while, and have some valuable experience. There are some veteran bike nut bloggers dispensing invaluable advice, but there’s nothing stopping Joe Schmoe who just rode his bike to work for the first time from telling you all how to do it properly.

    We go through a lot to make sure our stuff is accurate. Fortunately the online bike community is growing to the point where it can police itself, and if an erroneous post shows up, savvy readers can point it out right away.

  13. Ghost Rider November 9, 2007 9:37 am 

    Karen, I think what you’re doing over there at Dirt Rag is the perfect blend…some rehashing of the print stuff for folks who want to save trees, some “Web exclusives”, etc. That’s why I picked your magazine as a model in my original comment. Even better, the print version of your magazine is head and shoulders above your competitors!!

    Excellent points about being cautious about believing what you read online. Although our crew here probably falls under the “Joe Schmoe” banner (none of us have ever been in the industry or written for a magazine), we try to provide a “real world” look at some of the products and issues facing today’s commuter. I hope we’re doing a good job with it, despite our lack of experience!

  14. Karen November 9, 2007 10:02 am 

    Cool, thanks!
    Nothing wrong with being a Joe… RIDING experience is much more important than “insider” experience.

  15. Ghost Rider November 9, 2007 11:03 am 

    Oh, we’ve got plenty of riding experience…asses tougher than a brand-new Brooks saddle! Right, boys?

  16. Gabriel November 9, 2007 12:12 pm 

    The occasionals feature in Bicycling magazine are worth the look, but yeah, by and large, it seems magazines talk mostly about gear, and blogs talk about bicycling and the people who do it. I vastly prefer the latter. Maybe I’d feel different if I had a ton of dough to spend on more bikes… but probably not.

  17. Dominic Dougherty November 9, 2007 3:10 pm 

    I like to subscribe to bike mags so I can see all the ridiculous ads. Have you seen the Campy ad with the 19y/o kid in his garage working on his brand new Record cranks, whilst climbing through the main triangle? Why is he working on NEW Record cranks? Why isn’t he using the right tools? Why is he climbing through the frame?!

    The only mag I can’t complain about is Adventure Cyclist. I’ve never seen a car ad, and the stories are more like The Odyssey than an article. Gear reviews, route write-ups, and a sense of humour.

  18. Smudgemo November 9, 2007 3:37 pm 

    Yeah, Dirt Rag is an exception in my opinion, and the last magazine of any kind that I subscribe to. Please keep it up.

  19. Quinn McLaughlin November 11, 2007 7:41 am 

    19 comments before me- nothing to ad.

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