Could all of these paywalls eventually hurt the cycling industry/community/culture?

So, I know the CT paywall specifically has been discussed ad nauseum, but it got me thinking about the bigger picture on all of the paywalls on cycling websites like CN, CT, VN and even, dare I say it…Bicycling.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to any of these sites as I’m already subscribed to death by other things and don’t want any more in my life. However, I have noticed that I have a lot more free time because I’m not reading all the cycling websites. I just read the headlines, if even that now.

Which got me thinking, these articles (e.g. rider profiles, tech profiles, company profiles, cycling culture, etc.) are the things that connect old, new and potential customers and fans to the sport and these paywalls could be keeping them away. So, I hypothesize, that over the long run we (the cycling community) could potentially stagnate and not grow nearly as much (the sport is niche in most of the world) if cycling websites start to really “crank down” on the paywalls.

For example, I know longer read about new and upcoming American riders on VN because they are behind paywalls (or cool stores like Lambie’s 4km WR) but I do get to read about upcoming riders from Belgian and Holland because the sites I visit are not behind a paywall. I also use to check out the new bikes/tech that are profiled and now that many are paywalled I now don’t even bother.

What are your thoughts?

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In the “before times”, you had no choice but to pay / subscribe to get the information you wanted. So why does that need to change in the age of the internet?

The work product of these sites still has value and costs money to produce. While the delivery vehicle may have changed, that doesn’t erase the value or costs of the work.

If I were to show up at your place of work and demand your services for free, I’m guessing you would not feel particularly obligated to indulge me….

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I thought the “before times” (ie before paywalls) were/are ad supported websites? Sure in the way before times ad supported didn’t exist but that’s not the point of my post.

This is comparing apples (e.g. ad based websites) to oranges (e.g. fee for service like legal help). It’s not the same.

I’m not arguing against paywalls for any specific website ( they can do what they want), what I’m discussing is the cycling industry as a whole and long-term interest in the sport if everything is behind a paywall. How to do you get/keep people interested in the sport if they can’t read about it very much? Generally speaking, when people get stoked on a new activity they want to read about it as much as they can and paywalls, in the long run, may hinder that. Eventually, maybe even casual fans become disinterested because they get tired of dealing with paywalls and all you’re left with is hard-core fans…hardly a way to keep interest in the sport in the long run.

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I feel ya, I consider myself a cycling super-fan (been riding and racing since I was 15 and I’m now 41). Up until now, I was a voracious reader/viewer, and sharer, of all things procycling (road, mtb, CX, track and self-professed tech dork) but all of these paywalls have slowed it down and I don’t read or even share as much as I used to because I know my casual cycling friends get mad if I share pay-walled articles. lol

At least with magazines, especially in big-box bookstores, when they existed, I’d buy a coffee and scone and plop down on the couch and read the articles in the store. We don’t have bookstores like that anymore where I live. Amazon ate them.

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I was referring to the “before times” as a pre-internet, when you had to subscribe to magazines in order to access their content. The industry thrived under that model.

Revenue generated form online advertising does not sustain the work of journalists. This has been demonstrated clearly over the years. People had no problem paying for access to information in the past (newspapers, magazines, etc)…just because the delivery method has changed does not mean it should be free.

[quote=“Wheels_And_Wax, post:4, topic:3323”]
This is comparing apples (e.g. ad based websites) to oranges (e.g. fee for service like legal help). It’s not the same. [/quote]

The type of work is immaterial. The point is that your labor has value and you should be compensated for it. The same is true for journalists. Expecting them to provide you with the fruits of their labor for free is not realistic.

Now, the journalism industry has brought much of this on themselves as they willingly gave away their labor for free (subsidized as it was through regular subscriptions). But the current economic model is not sustainable and adjustments are being made.

You are free to support whatever sites you want, obviously…if you can access the information you want without paying for it, have at it. I personally have not made any decisions yet as to which sites I will subscribe to and I can’t. / won’t subscribe to all.

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I personally don’t think that reading about cycling on the internet or in magazines is the main or even an important part of getting into cycling - this is not Formula One or monster truck racing. You get the bug from cycling, the desire to read about it comes later and is a secondary pleasure.

So my answer to your question would be: the positive aspects of having a sustainable journalistic business model outweigh the negative aspects of having quality information less accessible.
I fear not.

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The answer to the question “why don’t you ride your bike more?” has never, ever been, nor will it be, “because it costs too much to read about it on the internet.”

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That’s not the point I’m making or what I am discussing.

I am specifically talking about interest in the sport from a commercial/fandom standpoint. That is the pro riders, the cycling culture, the cycling companies, and cycling tech not how much you ride or why you ride, or even what keeps you from riding your bike.

Sure we can all ride without paywalls but I’m specifically talking about fostering interest in professional cycling and pro cyclist. It’s the personal stories, reading/watching the feats on TV and if all that’s behind a paywall, how do you create and sustain a large fan base, especially a casual fan base? That’s what I’m asking. Are the collective paywalls, writ large, a hindrance to maintaining growth and fostering growth in the interest of procycling/cycling culture? Does the 80/20 rule still apply to a niche sports like cycling like it does with bigger things like general news, big sports like soccer or F1? Or, are all the paywalls on English speaking websites a little too soon?

All of the paywalls on English speaking cycling websites seem to have risen very quickly and in unison. I’m not asking for myself, just asking in general.

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Fair enough.

Then to paraphrase my previous response, the answer to the question “why don’t you watch the Tour de France?” has never, ever been, nor will it be, “because it costs too much to read about it on the internet.”

Now, if you were to ask about the various distribution models of international viewing/streaming rights, and their various obstructions preventing people who actually WANT to watch the sport from watching it, that is a conversation that could touch on ways to bring new fans to the sport.

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Again, until about 25 years ago, there were always “paywalls”….they were called subscriptions. No one worried about the subscriptions “hindering” growth in pro cycling then….

It is not the media’s job, even a media dedicated to specific subject, to grow interest in whatever the subject may be. In this case, the sport of professional cycling is responsible to grow the interest, not the media. The media’s job is to cover the sport.

I’ll also add that teams and athletes can reach more people directly through social media and not “traditional” cycling media.

Agreed. Yeah, 25 years ago things were so different. There is probably an order of magnitude more distractions that take eyeballs away from cycling coverage (of all types) now that we have social media, 24 hour news cycles, kids watching hours of twitch and many other sports and activities to dabble in. If there is “friction” to getting the information you want people will leave. People won’t even look at a website if it takes too long to load these days and paywalls, all in unison, may be just enough friction to get people to quit looking at rates that could slow interest. It would be hard to test though, I’ll admit that.

I’m not so sure about that as take a look at the women’s pro peloton having spent the last 5 year’s demanding the media cover them with some success depending on what metric you use. The [cycling] media and procyling need each other to grow.

Agreed. Social media has helped out a number of athletes across many sports but the reality is guys like Sagan and Legion of LA have been helped by leaps and bounds by regular media. If that is cut out of writ large by paywalls then would they have gotten as big? Again, not saying one way or the other just thinking out loud as everything very quickly moves behind a paywall.

This is a good point/question as well and is something I ask myself. I do have a subscription to GCN+ and overall the quality is hit or miss and many times I’ll use my VPN just to find better coverage/more reliable coverage. Only ardent fans will pay for these subscriptions and is it enough to grow/maintain the sport with so many other distractions? ¯_(ツ)_/¯

You can’t really use the TdF as an example because it’s so huge and all encompassing (it’s a literal culture icon of France). I’m really talking about other aspects of the sport like the classics, CX, MTB, Track, tech, culture, urban planning, etc.

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Right, I think that’s where the difference comes in. It’s the job of race promoters to get he broadest access/profile for their event. Hence races like CX, track etc, if wanting to promote their sport, ought to be making access to said races as broadly and freely accessible as possible.

By contrast, sites like CyclingTips are trying to make a living for their staff by creating content about cycling, about cycling sport and culture and technology; if they feel a paywall is the way to achieve that, I’m happy for them to go ahead with that.

Ultimately, it is the sport and the fans who need to support a sport and see it grow.

So if this is such a concern for you, you can do your part……I would suggest you subscribe to the site(s) of your choice

I get your point. I think the answer is that people who don’t want to pay but still want content will turn to other free media. There will always be free competition out there. As an example, I didn’t re-up on GCN+. Too many races weren’t available in the US, and as a result, I started watching highlights and overviews from places like Lantern Rouge, and eventually decided the subscription wasn’t worth it. I rarely watch a full stage anyway, and tend to prefer the 20 minute version. That’s me, but there are other people who will prefer the full races, who use a VPN, who live in places with more race access, etc., who will see value and subscribe.

I see value in CT. I have paid for it for a few years now. I like the reviews and the in depth analysis. I like the race and rider highlight pieces. I like that there is an article or two that interests me every day, but that there isn’t just one big monthly dump like a magazine. Having said that, next year I will go down to the cheaper readership level as I don’t really get value from Slack or the Partnership discounts.

I have subs to magazines that have gone digital and I find I don’t read them any more. I prefer to hold the magazine in my hand, flip through, and read an article here or there. Online magazines just don’t work for me and the way I read. I don’t like the way libraries work, pages work, and zooming in and out to read things. If someone comes up with a better way to do that, I will likely pay for it, but until then, I’m going back to print.

My point is that consumers will find, and pay for (or not pay for) media in the way that best fits them personally.

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I think you have an interesting point there, personally for myself I have accessed CyclingTips less and for some strange reason it feels more healthy with regards to internet time. I do look at a couple of forums including this one but in general I spend less time on the internet.

I may or may not be good example but the paywall has deterred me so I’m sure there would be others. But to add when I have used the free access I feel this site (sorry) and others lacking in some degree so I’m not encouraged to spend on a subscription, there just isn’t enough to grab me. So the second deterrent is the lack of appeal from the articles or journalism. Not enough quality in the quantity unfortunately.

I do not disagree with the paywall system but today the quality of cycling website media is a lot poorer than it was in my opinion. The difference these days is many people want the news right now & then, on their phone, iPad or computer.

Like you too I used to like the deck and bike reviews but now I really don’t care, the appeal isn’t there in the product both physical and virtual.

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I’m not sure they’re anything more than an annoyance… they’re exceedingly easy to defeat for anyone with a bit of technical competence so I’m really not sure what the point of them is.

The OP wasn’t about financial value of the material or being compensated for their work, it was whether the format of paywalls act as a deterrent from new people to the sport of cycling.

“Before times” you could browse a magazine in a newsagency to see whether it was worth buying it, the five free accesses each month is similar in a way. I rarely subscribed to a magazine, I would pick and choose which one I bought due to the content. I never had a problem paying for a magazine because it was a tangible object I didn’t require a device or data to access, once you payed for it it was yours.

The proof in the pudding is that websites are going to have to earn their dollars like everything else.

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Absolutely and I definitely don’t hold that against CT or any others with paywalls, I am just wondering if with all the paywalls going up so fast if it could slow the growth/interest in procycling/cycling culture enough that all the paywalls actually end up hurting everyone in the end as all the websites try to save themselves.

I will be curious to see how this all plays out in the long run. I hope we can get answers to questions like:

  • Will paywalled content be actually “better” than non-paywalled content?
  • How much hiqh-quality, non-paywalled content will there be?
  • What will the growth in the sport, especially the pro-side of things, look in the near/mid-term?
  • Will cycling influencers be able to “influence” as much if they can’t get a decent amount of traditional media time that isn’t behind a paywall?
  • Will non-paywalled providers of content receive better ad revenue if they no longer have to compete with the paywalled guys
  • Lots more questions and I guess time will tell!
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No schitt…that is what I have been saying.