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

Agreed. It’s probably the fact that many won’t try and just move on. For the articles I really want to read I can usually find them on a subreddit or VPN to see them.

But for example, I didn’t even bother to check out the sweet new CX bike by Cervelo cause I couldn’t be bothered by trying to read the paywalled articles. Which on a very minuscule level, hurts Cervelo on getting the word/interest out on their new whip and maintaining brand recognition. Like the websites that don’t load quickly, I quickly lost interest.

This is a good point. I don’t know if the Cervelo article was sponsored, but I’ll bet sponsored content remains outside the paywall…which could lead to a misconception that the page is all sponsored content, and that’s when readership really takes a hit, like some of the Youtube channels that are perceived as nothing but paid marketing. Something CT and others are aware of, I’m sure.

I think you’re overthinking this when you get to “perception of paid marketing” vis a vis the paywall.

I think if anything, the fact that so many cycling websites are switching to various versions of the paywall model is encouraging for cycling; if the people reading the click numbers, counting the eyeballs, and assessing the return traffic have come to the conclusion that these sites can persuade people to part with their hard-earned in exchange for extra articles, then it’s a sign that there’s a lot more people out there more interested in cycling now than was the case 10-20 years ago.

Paywalls are going to be a part of the ongoing online cycling culture for a long time, for better or worse, so we should get used to them. At least until someone comes up with a better way to monetize the content without them.

You may have misunderstood the point I was trying to make (or I may have done a shit job of explaining it), so just for clarity, what I was saying was that if you end up with a high volume of sponsored content outside the paywall (which some readers abhor), you could end up with casual browsers concluding that most of your content is sponsored. That’s all. Kind of like how so many people used to love GCN but then got turned off by it and stopped watching.

Having said that, I’m sure GCN is doing fine and has tons of subscribers AND gets paid by sponsors and could care less that I don’t watch any more. That’s why I ended my comment with “but I’m sure CT is aware of this already”.

Apologies if that was clear the first time and you simply disagree.

I think there’s not a direct effect, but there is value in diffuse interactions with the sport that can make you more interested in it or love it more. It’s slightly harder to be “surrounded by cycling” now than it was a few months ago. I know that I ride more because Bikepacking.com is free and made me fall in love with the activity before I ever did it. It also got me into sewing, which is a great side effect.

I actually do sew less and ride less when I read less Bikepacking and I’d imagine that I’m not alone in this. As an amateur who just loves the sport, being steeped in it inspires me to get out the door. Not in a direct way, but in an indirect, absorption way that really makes a difference for me.

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I don’t know

Hi @Wheels_And_Wax - it’s a good question and one I’ve pondered for a long time.

Perhaps the biggest question is what would the cycling community and ecosystem look like if all the publications ceased to exist? Because that’s the inevitable path we’re all going down if we don’t figure something else out. Facebook/Instagram, Google/Youtube as well as its influencers have decimated our advertising revenue. That’s not to say that we don’t have some loyal and fantastic advertising partners, but they’re not enough to keep us going and to provide an increasingly better service for you. Plus, all the incentives for creating a better service are at odds with a 100% advertising funded business model.

I would argue that cycling publications as a collective are extremely important for the overall ecosystem when done properly. We’re not changing the world, but we do help you with purchase decisions, we do put pressure on the industry and UCI and hold them to account, we’re creating a digital record of the history of our sport. I’d go as far as arguing that we at CT did a small but important part in jumping into women’s cycling coverage and pressuring many others to do the same.

Our method of paywall aims to make sure that light users are able to get what they need for free, and the enthusiasts who really care about this sport and consume our content regularly will value it enough to support it.

It’s still early days, but our traffic hasn’t declined in the slightest since we launched the paywall so this is a good sign that it’s working as intended.

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That’s good to hear! I hope CT is able to dissect their traffic in not only clicks but how long people stay on a page or the website as this would be a good metric to have. I know IG is pretty nefarious in what they consider a “view”, which is 3 seconds, which I believe is highly suspect…not sure of anyone can read a deep dive CT article in 3 seconds! :smiley:

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Everything financed by adverts, a market today totally dominated by Meta (aka Facebook) and Google which take a big part of the actual revenue, doesn’t really work to provide quality content. Click bait driven sensationalism is what you get.

I welcome being able to pay for quality content and it’s nice not needing any paper magazine to read it.

Paywall is definetly a knife in the heart for bad websites.

CT and Pinkbike are the only websites that i will pay for. I dont want to pay for all the sites i visit, and therefore i only choose the ones with good content.
With that said, i do now have higher expectations, f.ex that i dont want large ads that spoil the reading experience and i dont want a lot of sponsored articles.

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And this is really what it boils down to….

I think you overstate the influence of paywalled media models such as CT, VN, etc in the contemporary media landscape. There’s been such an explosion of content, most of which is user created and non-remunerative, that virtually every aspect of cycling is awash in a surfeit of commentary and documentation-a trend that pervades many areas of contemporary life.

The paywall model of information gains traction in a market constrained by scarcity; in our time of data abundance, such entities mediate less the flow of info. Competition, kit, culture, technical, etc. these aspects of cycling have moved toward flatter, more distributive and amorphous platforms of propagation where content consumers are also contributors and publication doesn’t require structured hierarchies and brands, both requirements of paywalled entities.

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Cycling culture is good? I make it a point to befriend people who don’t ride as I find the culture and people that do this sport to be a big negative. Regardless, seems like the only thing healthy and growing especially among new riders and different demographics is gravel which really wasn’t covered much by cycling Churnalists until relatively recently.

Unfortunately the bicycle media landscape has changed so quickly in the past 5 years. The rise of social media content via Instagram and YouTube has vastly changed how a majority of people want to consume content. Far less people are looking for anything in-depth these days, it’s all about quick-hit content via video for many. Obviously I might be generalizing a bit here, but we also have to remember the CT community is by and large a self-selected community of people who have already made a choice to consume “long-form” media. But believe me, there are a 10:1 ratio at least who only want the quick-hit stuff.

I’ve said this elsewhere on the forum, but I think the paywall discussion comes about as a result of early days of the internet and everything that media put out was considered supplementary to its print options. For example, VN had its magazine, and the website was supplementary. As a result, we all got used to the notion that anything cycling related on the internet should be free. This is unfortunately the stigma that any media company instilling a paywall has to battle.

As to getting people into the sport, I think we are likely stuck with the quick-hit free content available on social media. This means many will miss out on say the tech insight offered by someone like James or Dave, and end up watching Hambini on YouTube and thinking he really knows his stuff. A few people will decide to see what else exists, and maybe end up discovering a site like CT, and a subset of them will subscribe.

Monday ramblings…it’s snow-raining in Greater Vancouver and I’m “working from home”.

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Thanks for the constructive comment, @Luke !

Exactly like it looks now, but with less paywalls. CT is a solid infotainment site going but pretending the likes of CT or VN are driving the cycling community or facilitating an ‘ecosystem’ is a huge stretch.

Don’t get me wrong, you drop the occasional article that offers a degree of unique value and insight but by and large you’re just pushing the types of product reviews and race coverage that there’s already 73 copies of available from various sites, blogs, and youtubers. I legitimately enjoy James and Shoddy’s content, and they’re probably 85% of why I follow CT, but most of the stuff on CT is really not much different/better than anywhere else. And when it comes to reviews, if I want non-biased reviews then I’m going to someone like DC Rainmaker for more substantial deep dives into products… and in general, YouTube is a way better medium for that type of content vs a web magazine in any case.

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Apologies in advance for the length. Just reread and it went on a bit.

Outside Media universe - decades long Outside subscriber, Peloton subscriber since day 0, past subscriber and occasional purchaser of VeloNews print, regular user of VeloNews web, CyclingTips web.
Other media - multi year Bicycling print subscriber, Cycling News web user, Peacock subscriber thru Comcast for live and replay viewing.

Grew up a ball sport kid and follow most all major sports to this day. No guilt visiting espn.com regularly since a large monthly payment goes to Comcast to support that habit. Came to cycling in late 20s thru mtn biking, came to the road about 10 years after, and now getting back to mtn with some light gravel tossed in. I’m drawn to the activity for fitness and friendly comparison (don’t race), but I’m also drawn to the sport because of the passion and history. Cycling is unique in that I can participate at a relatively high level, and I can be a fan of multiple disciplines at many levels. I consume cycling media to touch both the personal interest and the fandom. Until very recently that cycling media online has been at no additional charge (I have a serious problem with the word “free”, ask my kids) other than purchasing items from producers that advertise. Though I will admit it’s been a guilt inducing no additional charge. I’m not new to cycling - the n/c media wasn’t fishing for the likes of me. It was holding me though, and occasionally leading me to unexpected places. Joyfully (Iain) unexpected.

A few months back I had some $ leftover after a new bike purchase (I know, poor planning on my part :wink: ) and was considering a decent sized three figure, one-time support to CT, VN, and CN after regular reading over the years. Almost exactly at that time the announcements start dropping about Outside Media gathering up cycling mags and sites under one umbrella. Pause. Now what. Did the money I spent on Outside allow them to purchase CT? Did the money I spent on Peloton make them more attractive to Outside? Hmm.

Here’s how it looks to me now. I have 3 favorite $20/plate restaurants. I would’ve paid $23/plate at any. Food and service worth it. A large building owner bought all 3 and moved them into the same building, but with 3 separate entrances and menus. They now share staff. I went for the grand opening and it’s $26/plate. After not eating at any for the past month or so I paid for a year’s worth of preferred seating at my current most favorite. Probably won’t eat at the other two during that time. A little sad now. My gut reaction is yes, all of the cycling paywalls (plural), will hurt cycling culture. But, on the other equal-sized hand my hope is that the building owner shares my $ with all of the deserving staff so they can keep their jobs and keep producing.

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There’s a (possibly apocryphal) story about eBay stopping all advertising for a month and not seeing a statistically significant drop in traffic during that time. I believe their immediate conclusion was the spend wasn’t worth it, but they switched advertising back on anyway. I assume because they realised that although traffic was consistent the number of new visitors was impacted first and 100+new-churn to the power of time results in 0 if churn is even just a tiny bit more than new.
That’s my only concern with the paywall but I think it’s mitigated by the allowed number of articles.
All of us (most of us…) understand the value that CT brings, so I hope that the paywall doesn’t prevent more new people learning about CT too.
If it was my call I’d be looking most closely of all at new activations and considering removing some important articles from the count. Conversion is likely to be a slow burn so you can’t rely on data so some kind of user conversation will be key to understanding what the value perception was (including polling people who lapse).

Agree. I do like CT (and other good cyclingsites) but the cycling community would be the same without. Maybe with a bit less focus on buying new gear. And that would be great.

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Agreed - people would still ride their bikes, people would still talk about cycling, people would still find out about product, events, news, etc.

Track racing is perhaps a good example of a segment of cycling that barely has any substantial coverage and media attention (aside from the Olympics). You need to be a pretty hardcore fan to know what’s going on in the sport, and the sport suffers from that. Until the past 5 years women’s cycling suffered from that as well. Legitimate media coverage (including mainstream TV) helps create a healthy ecosystem for these segments (for the industry, sponsors, participants, and the professional athletes).

I’d argue that Eurosport/GCN buying up the rights to all the pro races and putting them behind a paywall is far worse for the sport than anything else we’re talking about in this thread if this progresses to the extreme. It’s fantastic value for the enthusiast like you and I, but if those races don’t reach mainstream audiences via free-to-air tv and it vanishes from their consciousness, things like team sponsorships stop working.

The Inrng summarised this well saying:

Enjoy Milan-Sanremo? In France only 20,000 people watched the race according to audience measurement data, compared to over one million one year ago. This could be a problem for the sport as what happens in France today risks happening in other countries too.

But again, if the extreme event of pro racing were ever to cease to exist, we would still ride our bikes, we’d still buy product etc and sadly our own cycling communities wouldn’t change that much. I guess it depends on what type of world you want to live in.

"Supporting your outlet isn’t just about your own consumption needs, it’s also about supporting the type of society you want to live in. And that’s one where we should guard against the expansion of media deserts, and stress the need for strong original reporting from across all parts of the information ecosystem.” – Damian Radcliffe

I know this sounds very self-righteous and is plucked to support my own views, but it’s also what I believe in. Not everyone will see things this way, and that’s okay.

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