“We launched in the midst of the Foot and Mouth outbreak and on April 1st. Famously I made a graph that showed a two year plan that’d see us all in flash cars. The graph was spot on, apart from the axis were the wrong way around,” jokes Mark Alker, who 15 years ago today launched Singletrack.
Having started digitally, the Singletrack of today endures in print too, with Alker telling CyclingIndustry.News that despite some challenges, good old fashioned magazines are bouncing back for his business.
“I’m thrilled that after 15 years we’re still shipping 10,000 copies of the magazine and growing every month. It’s funny how things come full circle with digital and print. A few years ago we were being told tablets were the future of magazines. That’s turned out to be far from the case, in fact mobile is stronger for us and 1,800 of our subs read the digital edition. 7,000 of the 10,000 readers are subscribers and we’ve a feature planned in this next issue to celebrate the fact that a core of those readers have been with us since the beginning,” says Alker.
Also with the off road specialist publisher since the beginning has been the independent bike shop.
“We started out in stores and they remain a big part of our community, “explains Alker. “There’s over 70 partners in retail who carry the magazine on their counter tops and there’s a number of other benefits to them as part of the £35 monthly fee. If a partnered dealer has a demo day, for example, they simply have to post a #stpremier hashtag on social media and we’ll help them out with the promo.”
The remaining Singletrack copies are sold in the likes of WH Smith, Tesco and a handful of other outlets.
Since February 2014, Singletrack has become much more than a fat tyres media resource, with celebrated industry writer Chipps Chippendale initially taking the reigns of drop bar gravel and muck title Grit.cx. Chipps has since become the title’s managing editor, while Jeff Lockwood, formerly of Dirt Rag has taken on day-to-day editorial control.
“Grit.cx followed the Singletrack template, but with the infrastructure already in place things have been much simpler. Now the print mag’s in full flow we’re shifting entire batches in 48 hours. That’s both a good and a bad thing, we should and probably will print more than the 1,000 copies we did for the last issue. That shows the strength and loyalty of the communities that build around our titles though, i think. Online we’ve now between 12 and 15,000 unique users logging on regularly and we’re investigating things like Apple News. Early signs here show we can add a further 7,000 readers a week to that figure. New distribution channels are opening up all the time.”
Asked about highlights of the past 15 years, Alker fondly points back to the Singletrack Reader Awards ten years ago and jokingly vows never to head south on purpose again.
“Having my name pronounced really badly by Phil Liggett who we paid to host the Reader Awards in glamorous surroundings in London about 10 years ago,” that always makes me smile.
“We retreated back north and have since held events in less glam, but more familiar venues.”
Alker admits that nowadays his role is more focused on graphs and analytics than writing, but says semi-regular rants under the Room 101 banner still offer up the chance to put the industry to rights.
“We’ve always felt like we’re different to other titles,” concludes Singletrack’s publisher. “Our titles create a bridge between the rider and the off road industry. Our content targets the everyday rider and our 11 staff are all exactly that, regular enthusiasts with a passion. Perhaps myself and Chipps will have stepped aside, but in fifteen years time we’ll be doing the same thing, why would we do anything else?”
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