Immediate Media’s cycling strategy explained
Amy Duffin spoke to Steven Seaton, managing director of sport at Immediate Media, about the portfolio’s typical reader, brand extensions and international expansion.
It’s been almost a year since your acquisition of Future’s cycling portfolio. What’s happened since?
Cycling is a great sport to be in, it fits perfectly with the Immediate story and it’s only going to become bigger as a sport and activity. The first few months have focused on building the infrastructure to absorb the new teams into our business. We created a new Sports Division within Immediate and merged the cycling brands with our existing 220 Triathlon brand, creating efficiencies and economies of scale for both. We have also built the facilities we need to grow and develop the brands, including world-class bike testing facilities and bespoke photo and video studios.
How does cycling fit within Immediate’s strategy?
It is rare to find such a perfect fit in a business acquisition. Sport and peoples’ aspirations within it sit at the heart of what Immediate stands for: Content, passion, engagement and we are hugely excited about the potential for growth of the sport. These are market leading, highly profitable print and online brands with an influential, upmarket audience.
Were you pleased with the recent ABC results?
The ABCs are one measure of success and it is encouraging that we continue to outperform the market. Despite a plethora of rivals and new launches Cycling Plus is head and shoulders ahead of its rivals, outselling its nearest rival by nearly 2:1. Meanwhile we dominate the mountain biking sector holding a combined 70.5 per cent share of the market, with flagship title Mountain Biking UK occupying a 50.6 per cent share alone. But the UK print ABCs are really just one measure as we cross publishing boundaries, both in terms of platforms and a growing international footprint. Immediate is now the world’s biggest cycling media company with an audience of 4.4m road cyclists and 3.3m mountain bikers engaging with our brands every month.
Who are your competitors?
We are the market leaders in road and off road and have world leading global digital brands. We tend to look at our business internationally but in terms of the UK print market there are a number of competitors. In road cycling: Bikes Etc, Cycling Active, Cycling Weekly, Cycle Sport and Cyclist. In Mountain Biking: Mountain Bike Rider and Total Mountain Bike. Digitally competitors include: VeloNews, PinkBike and road.cc amongst others.
What role does video play in your strategy?
Video is an important element of our cycling strategy. We have a significant in-house production team in Bristol working on our video content, which has now generating around 1.5m views per month just on BikeRadar’s YouTube channel. It will only become more important as a medium.
How important is social media to the brand, how has it increased?
Social media is the way communities, built around interests, interact with each other so you have to be active in that space. Increasingly, we are seeing our world class video content being shared on Facebook and YouTube, so this is a vital way of extending interest in our brands. We now have 175,000 YouTube BikeRadar subscribers and 255,000 Facebook fans of Mountain Biking UK. This offers a terrific marketing vehicle for our content and engagement opportunity with new audiences.
What is the portfolio’s average reader?
With 10 brands, we cover all aspects of this rapidly growing sport. Cycling News is our key audience of sport fans in contrast to the trendier fixed wheel set of Urban Cyclist. Cycling Plus has championed the rise of the trend for road cycling and we are also seeing a growing number of enthusiasts for off ride cycling, recently christened the MAMBA (Middle aged man in Body Armour). As well as appealing to existing readers we also think there is a largely untapped potential audience of women cyclists, which we are trying to address with BikeRadar women, a new section of BikeRadar we are rolling out later this year.
What about ecommerce?
To date ecommerce hasn’t been a part of our sports offering but retailers are important clients for all of our brands and we do need to think like retailers to facilitate the connections between clients and users.
How international is the portfolio? Are you planning to extend it?
Cyclingnews is the largest road cycling news website in the world, while Bikeradar, which is already dominant in the UK also has a rapidly growing presence in the USA and Australia, where we have dedicated editorial and commercial teams. We currently have nine licenses, 11 syndication deals and a variety of Bookazines licensed to our international partners.
How important is having print brands?
Having strong, market leading print titles is an important part of having a truly cross-media business, one that is durable and highly profitable. Our cycling print titles have been much more resilient than other market sectors and will be around for many years to come, but they are no more important than other parts of the business and satisfying the needs of our readers and users is what we focus on.
Cycling Plus celebrates its 300th issue this month with a fresh look and feel and its annual Bike of the Year announcement. The new issue goes on sale on 31 March.
More about Immediate Media’s cycling portfolio.
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