The Magazine Assignment

This has been edited down from its original post count and made into 4 more easily readable pieces that flow together.


Where is the Magazine Industry Headed?

I am a magazine freak.  I love them.  I usually buy them by the armful and I stash them away in a closet after I’m done because I might need that information again at some point.  Maybe that makes me a hoarder too but I don’t care.  We are talking about magazines right now, not my questionable storage habits.  Specifically I rat hole dirtbike magazines and I had some questions about the future of that medium so I set out to find answers.  I emailed a handful of prominent editors in the field and will be writing about this for awhile, so stay tuned.

Over the last few years the magazine industry has started to change.  No longer are the pretty monthly paper copies the only source for up-to-date news about your favorite bikes and race results.  The internet, smart phones, and social media have drastically changed how people consume the information that magazines were once the only viable source for.  But have no fear, the beloved magazine is not going anywhere!  The publishers and editorial staff are hard at work making magazines relevant, cool and up to date.

When asked if magazines would slowly fade away, Aaron Waldron,  Associate Editor of a prominent RC car magazine said “I think that print magazines that serve niche industries will have a chance to survive – while daily news is digested and discarded as quickly as it is consumed, readers so moved by a particular industry in order to seek out content may continue to prefer the richness and tangible timelessness of print.”

The constant barrage of information available on a daily basis just means that the traditional medium of magazines will change.  Chris Denison of Dirt Rider magazine stated, “Because so much content is available online (and for free), the print magazine industry has been forced to shift away from delivering immediate content. For example, we no longer print results from individual races in Dirt Rider unless it’s a one-off/ special event, because people can go online and read these results well before the print story hits. Social media has had a huge impact here as well.”

This information should come as no surprise really.  Myself and others have noticed this over work bench discussions about races, having to pick up our phones or get on the computer to settle disputes over race results rather than grab the nearest new magazine.  Don’t be alarmed though,  that content isn’t going away.  Its just getting put up on the web alarmingly quickly after the checkers have waved.

In the next installment I will cover what editors are doing to change the face of their magazines and how that change is affecting their offices.


 To The Digital Age and Beyond

Last time I spoke about where the motorcycle magazine industry is going.  This time I’m going to talk about what the digital era is doing to the office at magazines.

In most cases magazines are having to scale down staff or go a digital office where they have contributors, editors and other positions all over the country.  What this means to the staffs and potential employees is that being good at one thing doesn’t cut it anymore.

“If anything, the digital shift has caused editors to become much more well-rounded. It used to be that the magazine editors of old just had to be able to write a print story and do a bit of copy editing. Nowadays, though, everyone on my team is a writer, a photographer, a test rider, a web producer, a videographer, a video editor, a copy editor and a social media expert. The old guard of journalists has certainly had a difficult time adopting this, and you can tell a big difference in performance between those who have adapted and those who refuse to embrace this change.”  Said Chris Denison, Editor for Dirt Rider.

The shift has not only challenged staffers to learn new skills and adapt but due to the ever increasing number of remote employees it has brought up other issues,  Self motivation and self discipline.  Chris Denison of Dirt Rider hasn’t had much of an issue with his staff but  Carl Parker of ADVMoto states;

“To be sure though, whenever the job becomes fast paced and complex, there’s no substitute for people actually working together in person. When individuals get together for real work, there’s a synergy which can’t be replicated through chat or video, and certainly e-mails.  Some things can, and need to, be done in the field but a lot of they heavy lifting is best performed by a tightly knit team looking at problems together and scratching heads.”

So it seems some magazines haven’t gotten on board with telecommuting to the office.  But that doesn’t mean they aren’t on board with the digital format.  They know that it pays to be in that market.   The demographics alone can tell you that.

Dirt Bike magazine demographics

Motorcyclist magazine demographics

Motocross Action magazine demographics

Transworld Motocross demographics


How do Magazine Editors “Get There”?

I often wonder how people get jobs.  Is it years of hard work, climbing a corporate ladder?  Maybe its just dumb luck, or knowing the right people?

The answer is a little bit of all those things combined.

I asked a few magazine editors how they got to where they are and this is  what I learned:

“I began contributing to an online blog and was noticed by an editor, who asked if I was interested in a tryout as a contributor”  Aaron Waldron, (preferred his magazine title to stay out of interview).

Chris Denison has  been around motorcycles his entire life and was even a professional freestyle rider at one point.  Denison climbed the ranks by first being a product tester and contributor then becoming editor at a sister publication before finally landing his current position as Editor-in-Chief of Dirt Rider magazine.

“It all started with taking pictures and riding motorcycles.  It will probably end with something along those lines” said Carl Parker, publisher for ADVMoto magazine.

All of these people have a few things in common.  One, they are passionate about what they do.  Two, they were doing their job on a smaller scale, for fun,  before landing their gigs.  And three, they all started out just like me; enjoying their sport, taking pictures, writing about it, talking about it and generally immersing themselves in the culture of their sport.


The Why

I want to be in the magazine industry.   Like most people I think it would be a cool way to make a living.

My first memories equating magazines to journalists came at an early age.  I grew up near John Zink Ranch and my family was heavily involved in the local motorcycle club the Tulsa Trail Riders.   My entire youth was spent going to races and helping put on the clubs events.   Most of the events centered around one goal.  Putting on the 1994 International Six Days Enduro.  As you can imagine, an international level motorcycle race attracted a lot of attention.  This is where the seed was planted.  It didn’t take long for me to realize some of the people were different from the other entrants at these races.   There 3 types of racers those that were professionals and got paid to ride.  The amateurs that had to pay to ride.  And the magazine guys.  Those guys were paid to ride, and paid to tell everyone how cool or awful races, bikes and products were.

Growing up in that atmosphere I ate, slept and breathed motorcycles.  And talking about them to friends and writing about them in class just seemed a natural extension of my passion.   Who doesn’t like to go races, ride cool motorcycles, wear cool gear and then talk to other like minded individuals about how cool all that stuff is?

I remember my first real introduction to the concept of journalists was sometimes in the early 90s at Zink Ranch when I wandered up to industry icons Tom “Wolfman” Webb the Editor for DirtBike magazine and Mark Kariya a photographer for many magazines.  They were talking about a particular shot they wanted and how they were going to get it.  I asked what they were doing and a few more questions and after a few moments I realized what they were telling me.  “These are the guys who make the magazines I love!  The magazines that always get me in trouble at school! The magazines that set me free, day dreaming about races, cool bikes and interesting racers,”  I thought!   From then on,  at every race I went to I did my best to tag along behind them because I knew that what they saw ended up in magazines.  I didn’t want to be in the magazine so much as I wanted to know what was going to be in the magazine a couple months in advance.

So now I’m going to school, running this website,  taking pictures and videos, doing podcasts,  networking and all sorts of other stuff just trying to live my childhood dream of being a moto-journalist.


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