BY NICOLE FORMOSA
SAN CLEMENTE, CA—Industry publishers are debunking the idea that print is passé in today’s digital world with a new round of investments in the traditional medium.
In the past three months, three new road and triathlon magazines have rolled off the presses—Paved, Peloton and Lava—and all seem to have garnered initial support from endemic advertisers.
“It’s probably the best program that I’ve seen response from in 15 years of working in publishing in the bike industry,” said Derek DeJonge, publisher of Paved magazine and its sister publication Bike.
The premier issue of Paved, a quarterly aimed at capturing the culture behind road cycling, hit newsstands in early September. Feedback at Interbike was positive with commitment from 90 percent of the potential advertisers Paved staff met with at the show, DeJonge said.
Suzette Ayotte, who handles advertising schedules for Fizik, said she was under budget this year, leaving some extra dollars to dabble with in Lava and Paved.
“I knew it was going to be an interesting looking product because [editor] Joe Parkin was doing it,” said Ayotte. We don’t really support Bike and we wanted to find a way to support those guys so when I knew they were doing Paved, it just made sense. They were going to introduce at Interbike, and at the same time they were willing to support us with editorial.”
John Duke, publisher of Lava Magazine, the new Ironman-owned publication aimed at the hardcore triathlete, has also seen early success with his six-times-per year magazine.
“I’ve tripled my projections in the first three issues,” Duke said. “People want to be involved with our consumer. The industry knows the best consumer is the Ironman consumer.”
Duke, who will expand Lava to a monthly in 2012, had a built-in distribution model when he launched. Since Lava is owned by the World Triathlon Corporation, the owner of the Ironman brand, Lava had instant access to thousands of top athletes, a huge advantage as a start-up.
“The two important things in the commercial magazine business are distribution and your message for ad sales and we had them both going out the door. It takes years to develop your audience and I had it on day one,” said Duke, who was publisher of Triathlete magazine for 14 years prior to starting Lava.
Unlike Paved and Peloton, Lava is sold only through subscription. Lava also offers a digital subscription catered to its international audience, and counts 7,000 iPad application downloads to date.
Although the print product remains Lava’s bread and butter, offering a digital component is pivotal in today’s high-tech world, Duke said.
Brad Roe, founder of Move Press and its first publication Peloton, agreed.
“You have to have an iPad version of a magazine. The magazine has to be accessed on an iPhone. Are there 25 bike companies building iPad specific advertising? No there aren’t. It’s still beginning. There’s great hope there for us to be able to offer the title in all different mediums and hopefully advertisers and clients will be able to reach people as well more effectively there,” Roe said.
Early support for Peloton’s model, which includes standard print advertising, long-term sponsorship of online content and pre-roll spots on video reviews, has been strong, Roe said.
“There are people that get what we’re doing so quickly it’s unbelievable and have supported us from the first 15-minute conversation,” he said. “I think people are ready for a change; they’re ready for a new story. If you love cycling and you’re a brand or you’re a reader why wouldn’t you want a beautiful new magazine to look at?”
Greg Cowan, who heads up Castelli USA, has made a multiple issue commitment to Peloton in print and a one-year sponsorship of the photography portion of its Web site. Like Fizik’s Ayotte with Paved, he was partially driven by knowing Peloton’s staff, which includes Roe, the former editor of Road Bike Action, Tim Schamber, the former editor/creative director of Road and Ben Edwards, founder of www.testrider.com, a site Peloton acquired.
“There is some personnel there who are good, they have a lot of experience in the industry and we also think it presents a nice look,” Cowan said.
With advertisers still buttoning up budgets for 2011, many are determining how they will split dollars between the new titles, as well as maintain a presence in 10 or so existing road and triathlon publications in the U.S. For most, ad budgets aren’t growing in 2011 so it’s all about figuring out where to get the most bang for your buck.
“The magazines themselves are going to have to compete hard for ad dollars,” Cowan said, adding that he thinks the market is large enough for the new players to coexist with established magazines. “I don’t see anything going away in the near future.”
David Zimberoff, global marketing director for SRAM, which advertised in all three new titles through its SRAM and Zipp brands, also believes there’s space in the road and triathlon markets for three new magazines because the sports are still growing.
“New titles are easy to support because if you’re a new title your rates are pretty attractive. The proof will be in the longevity of them,” Zimberoff said.