Issue 72 – Why the big changes?

by Mark Alker 43

We are just a few weeks away from sending issue 72 to the printers. It’s a landmark issue for us as so much is changing – and not just in terms of how the magazine will look once it lands on subscribers doormats but also in the way we are doing things behind the scenes.

So with the countdown to our relaunch starting to ring loud in our ears I thought I’d give you all an update and rundown of what our grand plans are and what you can expect from us in the future.

Firstly, why are we redesigning the mag?

Magazines are always redesigning themselves every few years – it’s part of trying to keep the look and feel of the magazine fresh and keep existing readers interested, but that’s not our primary reason. Our reasons are a response to two things: The economy and technology.

The economy is in the bin – this is not news to any of us. A result of this is the tightening of belts by pretty much everyone bar bankers, who are more worried about how empty their sub letted Swiss chalets are right now due to the price of the Swiss Franc (which is ironic as that’s pretty much their fault too – bet you never saw that one coming did you mr banker? eh? Ha!).

Anyway, the upshot of a tanking economy is that people don’t spend quite so much and one of the first things to go are the luxuries in life, and that includes magazines. So, we are not selling quite so many copies in supermarkets now as we once did. We are not alone in this – all publishers are having to come to terms with this reality.

The other factor is technology, and specifically phones, tablets and readers. 20% of visitors access this website using some kind of mobile device with iPhone users being the largest sector, iPad users not far behind.

We’ve had a 20% increase in subscription sales over the last 12 months too as a direct result of us combining our digital access system (premier) to all existing print subscriptions. Our aim has been that you subscribe once and get everything we have got, no matter what platform from print to tablet. If we develop some new way of delivering the magazine content then we bolt it in to your existing subscription. We don’t try and flog it to you as an ‘extra’. This seems to have worked. Our overall copy sales have stayed pretty level with new subscriptions off-setting the reduced high street sales.

So, what we have is a readership which is made up predominantly of subscribers. Now for a UK based mag this is quite unique and it has meant we can look at how we do things and make some nice changes…

Subscribers have technically already bought into the magazine for the next 12 months. This means plastering advertising in the form of coverlines all over the front of the mag is rather pointless. Coverlines are designed to catch the eye of the casual browser in the supermarket. That’s a very fast shrinking market so it doesn’t really make commercial sense pandering to it anymore when instead we can make the covers prettier and cleaner for our subscribers (and us – we love to make gorgeous mags as much now as we did when we started 11 years ago).

The decline in the high street has brought with it an unexpected financial benefit too. You see for every copy sold in a supermarket or newsagent there typically is another that ends up in a skip. To sell 10 copies from a shelf you have to stack up 20. It’s an odd quirk of retail psychology that empty shelves don’t sell. A single tin of beans will get left alone on an empty shelf whereas a fully stocked shelf encourages more sales of beans. This is why supermarkets constantly restock their shelves during the day. Full shelves sell – half empty shelves don’t. It’s the same with magazines and the end result is a 50% wastage of all magazines that get sent to the high street. Someone pays for those wasted copies that end up as pulp, and that’s us. But if we are selling fewer copies in the high street this means we are wasting less too. As a result we don’t have to print as many and we save money. Silver linings and all that. If you want a scary number, we typically spend between £35-40k per year on printing copies that end up being pulped.

So, having made the decision to stop chasing high street sales (not totally – you will still be able to pick up a copy of Singletrack in the high street, but there will be fewer copies to be had there) we can concentrate on our subscribers, since that is where our strongest area of growth is. We are reducing our supply of copies into the high street and taking the savings we make there and ploughing that straight back into much more productive areas like the paper stock of the magazine – The new issue is going to weigh in at around 550g compared to our existing 375g. We are also putting some of that saved money into editorial budgets to create better features with even better photography.

We are also changing the way we sell Singletrack. We firmly believe that the starting point for many mountain bikers is through good quality bike shops and that’s why we are concentrating on making Singletrack available in more of them. But it is more than a simple retail relationship we are trying to build with them. Rather than just deliver 10 copies of each issue to them along with an invoice, we are taking the subscription model that is working very well for us and creating a unique subscription package just for bike shops. Shops subscribe and we deliver them not just mags but also advertising and point of sale materials. In return they have to give something back to you the readers and so by flashing your new and improved Premier Subs card you will be able to be treated extra specially by them. The really good Premier deals offered by our dealers will be featured on our front page on a regular basis.

Fundamentally by working alongside dealers and offering them tools that work for them we are hoping to be able to bring more deals and benefits to our subscribers. End result – everyone wins! That’s the intention. If you are a bike shop reading this then yes, this last paragraph was blatant self promotion and if you are keen to find out more then contact jamie@singletrackworld.com and ask him for a Premier Dealer pack.

And what about pricing? Well here’s the rub. We can’t produce a thicker, better magazine and distribute it to shops and subscribers for the same price we have done – even with the waste savings we are going to make. Something has to give and rather than beat about the bush any longer here’s what we are going to do.

The cover price of a single copy of Singletrack will be going up to £5.95! Yup! That much!
But not until issue 73. That means the first of the new, redesigned and fatter issues will be available to all shop buyers at the old price of £4.50.

The subscription price is going to rise by £5/year to £35, which is designed to cover the extra cost of postage that being a big, fat and heavy mag inevitably brings.

BUT, that’s not going to happen until the 2nd April, which does give everyone the chance to subscribe NOW at the cheaper price and benefit from all the above until April 2013. I can’t not say it… There’s really never been a better time to subscribe…. sorry!

So, there you have it. Singletrack is going to look better, feel heavier, with more and better content and be designed specifically for subscribers. Our goal is to make it available on whatever computer or mobile device you happen to use in addition to coming to you in print and we won’t charge you any extra. There’s going to be more content that only subscribers can access via digital supplements attached to the magazine and stories and features on this website. You can look forward to a fresh face on the website along with the relaunch issue on the 15th March.

Now… Any questions?

Cheers

Mark

 

Comments (43)

  1. All sounds perfect to me!

    “Speaking” as a Subscriber who no longer buys “normal” Mags (MBR, WMB, MBUK) but buys Privateer and The Ride Journal. I can’t see any bad points in the above for me.

    £35 subscription rather than £30, insignificant to be honest over the course of a year. The mag sounds like it’ll be 17% or so better anyway.

    Look forward to hearing Issue 72 hitting my doormat with a hearty 550g thump!

  2. Looking forward to the new arty look. I only hope the postman does spoil it when he shoves it through my letterbox.

  3. … Obviously, I meant ‘doesn’t’.

  4. only thing I will say is, I subscribed because of the quality of the magazine I was reading in the high street, if there’s less copies there, maybe there will will be less potentially new subscribers in the future.

    Excited about the changes though.

  5. Remember Mark, if it aint worth paying for, it aint worth having. Good luck with the changes, sounds like a plan!

  6. If you have a digital sub, is it possible to upgrade to the full monty without resubscribing at the full price? So pay the difference…regretting buying the digital only option now..doh!

  7. Interesting read. Looking forward to getting the new mag now.

    Is it still called a magazine?

    Renewed my subs at Xmas – should I have had a new card by now?

  8. weegl, yes. You need to contact Jamie on subs@singletrackworld.com and he’ll do the calculations for you 🙂

    Plodtv, we aren’t completely withdrawing from the high street but the elephant in the room here is our own website. Tonight’s quick check of our Google Analytics for the last 30 days reveals we’ve had over 700,000 unique users visit our site. Our market is already here you could say – and we get to talk to and demonstrate what we have to offer to you all every day 🙂

  9. New cards are being rolled out in stages. We can’t produce 6000 of them and send them all out at once so we are working through them as subscriptions come up for renewal at the moment.

  10. As a long time subscriber it all sounds good.

    I only get time to read the paper mag so I’m really looking forward to it getting even better. As I’ve just had a recent addition to the family I did my usual ‘quick buy a mtb mag’ reflex for the NHS waiting time. While MBUK costs the same it’s still full on the same old…. £3 for that or nearly £6 for a quality, inspirational, beautiful mag with great writing…no contest.

    Please keep doing what you’ve been doing for another 11 years!

  11. Just to say really well explained. Usually when the price of something goes up the seller sounds like they’re making excuses, but that all makes sense to me.

    Keep up the good work…

  12. I’m really happy that I’ve recently subscribed. I don’t think that a price change will bother many consumers, considering what you guys are planning. The very best of luck to you!

  13. Hello Mark, the new ideas sound great, looking forward to seeing the results of all your hard work.

    With regard to the Subs Cards, I renewed in April 2010 and haven’t received a card. Emailed Sarah in November and was told it would be out in a couple of weeks but it has not arrived. Same thing in 2009 where I eventually got my card 4 months late after emails to the subs team. I know it must be a mammoth undertaking to produce and post the cards but if this is one of the benefits of the Premier membership it would be good if I didn’t have to chase it up every year and if it arrived some time near the renewal date.

  14. Sorry about that. The card system is something we’ve just invested a lot of money and time into in order to improve it from the way it was. You are right. It wasn’t good enough. The premier card system is a key element that we really have to get right. If you email me directly I’ll personally look into getting your card sorted.

  15. Can’t wait for a bigger mag to hit the mat! Bring it on!

  16. Nice clear honest explanation – good job Mark. Glad you guys are surviving and keeping it fresh. p.s. Jenn = ST Stig = “tame racer” in Iss70?

  17. Great work all at Singletrack. I’m excited for you, and it’s great to see someone writing with such passion and conviction about their product and company. Good luck guys. Can’t wait to see Issue 72.

  18. My DD subs renewal is at the end of May. Can I drag that forward to April to get the better price?

  19. Ignore above – I’ve e-mailed Jamie direct.

  20. BTW any current digital subscribers (apart from Direct Debit* subscribers) can upgrade to Print as well by accessing their account settings in their profile. Your existing subscription will be credited against the upgrade.

    *sorry DD people (there aren’t many purely digital subscribers paying this way) but we can only do this manually for you. contact jamie@singletrackworld.com if you are a Direct Debit Digital only subscriber and you want to upgrade to get the print mag as well.

  21. Thanks for the clear, concise and exciting update, Mark. Singletrack has inspired and entertained me for the past 11 years and I see no reason for this changing here. The best of luck to all of you.

  22. Seeing as my subscription is a birthday present from my Inlaws every March I don’t mind about the changes.

    However, i would say that I do occasionally buy other magazines on the high street and i wouldn’t pay £6 for one that I “occasionally” bought. I wonder if others would be put off by the price hike too?

  23. Exciting, looking forward to new ish. Will they fit through letterboxes?

  24. Sounds reasonable to me!!

  25. Oh go on then … just subscribed … makes sense given how much I use your website too … Happy to pay for all this content. Anyone else get as excited as I do coming home to the mid-week movies??

  26. Very best of luck chaps. Thanks to both you Mark on here and Chipps in the latest issue in explaining the issues and reasoning. It is a major breathe of fresh air to see a company explain their business model and reasons for changes. Rather than just “cost of production has gone up”.

    You really seem to have done your homework and come up with a plan. If only a LOT more companies (are you listening pubco’s [oh no obviously] would go to the lengths you seem to have). And I bet you didn’t buy in a high priced consultant to tell you how you’re doing it all wrong. I imagine you couldn’t afford to.

    I’m really looking forward to issue 72, can’t wait for it.

    And one final time, well done and all the very very best for the future.

  27. Singletrack to me has always felt removed from it’s shelf contemporaries and more in line with Privateer which I am guessing is the market you are looking at now.

    The whole online content for publishing is very interesting and fast developing. I’ve tried various on-line and app versions of magazines and they just don’t have the same experience of a magazine and so I look forward to the quality feel of the new look Singletrack.

    The guitar magazine iPad app has incredible interactivity and is lovely to use. It’s also a little un-involving somehow and doesn’t include all the content of the mag.

    I came across IMB yesterday and being able to see workshop tips and footage seems a natural extension to the Fresh Goods Friday and Wednesday Movies that the Singletrack website offers and I hope that this can be integrated into your online issues of the magazine in the future.

    I’ve no doubt though that online wizardry requires an awful lot of money to develop.

    Good luck with the changes.

  28. @Mark , thanks for the reply, all sorted, upgraded the sub to print & online.. superb!

  29. Can we have a sneaky peek at some DPS?

    Look forward to it, if it’s as nice as you say I might have to get the printed version as well.

  30. Excellent info Mark, thanks for sharing that with us, it makes the changes very easy to understand and it really rings a bell of what I understand the whole Singletrack ethos to be about.

    I started buying the mag as it was so informative and just what a mountain bike nut likes to see and read about. I think you have great forethought and will really benefit in understanding how today’s mags are delivered to the readers and obviously the loyal subs. I was bought a sub for Christmas but needed to call and sort it out as the paperwork in a gift box isn’t tailored to a renewing subscriber and I couldn’t have got a better service anywhere.
    Keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing the new mag

  31. I subscribed again last month, but had a small issue with my account. After a quick call to Jamie everything was sorted within 10 mins (top bloke).
    Little things like this make a big difference and make it worth paying a little extra.
    Can’t wait for issue 72 landing on the mat.

  32. Thanks for all the support. It makes a stressful time less so knowing that we have the support of our readers. Of course the pressure won’t be lifted until we deliver a great mag. We go to print a week tomorrow then we are planning a work trip down to the printers the following week to watch it come off the press 🙂

  33. Thanks for this Mark, it all sounds pretty well thought through. Its nice to hear the backstory as to why the mag is going up in price but also what the benefit to all parties will be….

    Its been great reading so far and it sounds like its going up a gear again so I’m looking forward to the half kilo floor tile cracker….

  34. Is the mag getting more content or just heavier? TBH, i’ve struggled with the last few mags (71 wasn’t your best work, IMHO.) And was considering cancelling my subs, as one of the first 300 to sign i have a strong attachment to the mag. So not something i would lightly.
    Cheers Paul

  35. Subscribed since day one. Sounds like a move in the right direction. Hope it works out as planned.

  36. As one of the original 400 ‘yes please lets have a mag we like’ subscribers too, I’m really pleased to see the mag evolving. Would also echo the above comments about Mark & Chipps et al providing good, clear, honest communications about the ‘what’ and importantly the ‘why’ of change. Singletrack’s connection to and relationship with its readers, is what keeps it relevant. Happy to be along for the next decade… where did the time go …

  37. Whoohoo! As a longtime subscriber this sounds like a really positive step forward. Looking forward to the new mag. Good luck guys!

  38. Brilliant stuff. All good, glad to see you guys thinking this through. One thing though (and I’m not that good at this) but whats the best way to read STW on my iphone ? Do I have to pay £3 in the app store or do I just download a pdf (or something) from your magarchive ? Nice one

  39. The best way to read on your iPhone is as an ePub file. You need an ePub reader app for this. Apple’s own iBooks is great and free. Once you have it installed just navigate to the Mag Archive on your phone, click the ePub link for the issue you want and it will download to your phone, giving you the option to open it in iBooks at the end.

    You can also view PDF version on your phone using iBooks too. Downloads in exactly the same way to your phone.

  40. Please please please keep a paper version for numpties like me who have no desire for anything with an ‘i’ in it.

    Good luck to you all and thank you for inspiring me to ride my bike over the years.

    Fairly long-term subscriber here.

  41. Good luck with the new format, I became a subscriber after seeing the magazine at Glencorwg, I hadn’t seen it previously so if you can get the magazine into quality bike shops that’s a plus I feel.

  42. After reading your excellent justification I got myself a membership – my colleagues used to give it to me every year but didn’t this year. They obviously hate me. Or think I should spend more time thinking about work…

    Wonder what response you’ll get from the weightweenies…

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