The rising value of the bike blog to the cycling industry

I’m obviously very biased, so please bear this in mind when you read this but I think blogs are already and will continue to grow into an important part of the bike industry and of the cycling media, marketing and communications landscape. Not just any blog mind you and certainly not necessarily this one – but the best ones.

My key premise for this post is that the media landscape is changing across all industries and in cycling we’re going to ride (sic) this wave of change too.

There are already hundreds, if not thousands of cycling blogs across the globe – and to be frank most of them don’t stand out. Some have stood out but I question if they will continue to – time will tell and new ones are emerging.

After the recent general election in the UK, I noticed a couple of interesting things that I thought also had relevance to cycling.

For those of you reading this from other places, one of the surprising things of the recent British elections was the very calculated wooing of the female vote using key social media – in particular a very popular site called mumsnet that amongst other things is a forum (something most cyclists are well versed in). All of the political party leaders spent time being intereviewed by mumsnet and it showed how important these non-traditional media have become.

Following the election I saw coverage in the mainstream media highlighting how some of the big FMCG brands (Proctor and Gamble were mentioned) were reaching out and sponsoring some of the best blogs by housewives (apologies if there is a better term) or stay at home mums as part of their marketing strategy.

I predict this kind of sponsorship/linkup will become more prevalent in cycling as I feel the traditional media sources are struggling to keep their relevance to the cognoscenti and blogs can easily become part of the marketing mix. There’s been more of a backlash recently in the forums I read about certain publications being seen to lose their way or simply not deliver appropriately to their target market.

For me this is where good blogs can take their place and where it’s good to see brands actively participating in the forums for example (or Twitter for that matter). Forums and Twitter have their danger for brands as it can make complaints very public and quite disastrous if they’re not handled properly – but they’re also an opportunity to directly engage with customers.  This type of engagement only works well when it’s a genuine two way conversation – not just marketing or sales spiel but genuine engagement for good and for bad (as there will be both).

I think good blogs can more honestly test products over the longer term and can maintain an interesting perspective/report news in a more timely manner more easily than many publications can. I think that over 50-100 posts you can start to get a “feel”  for a blog much like you can following someone’s posts on a forum. I believe this helps you make more of a connection with a blog if you like the style and the content (and hence where it can make sense for brands – if a personality/style approach sits comfortably with a brand).

As an example of how blogs add to the media landscape (please do send me other good/better examples), much of the recent traffic I’ve had to this site is from people looking for news on the new 2011 Cervelo R3 as the information hasn’t been easy to find elsewhere so I’ve been adding more information to my post to make it as full a resource as possible.  This seems to have been appreciated by Cervelo potential customers as they’ve visiting in volume for the last few weeks.

Many bloggers are aware of the impact their writing can have and I think most take the responsibility of this seriously. I certainly try too. I think many people are a little jaded with many of the current publications (or perhaps it’s just me) so are looking to new sources like blogs/twitter to get the information they really want to read (without any spin).

I think the smart manufacturers/distributors will jump in and get more directly involved with blogs (not simply asking someone in marketing to write one for them). The challenge will be to develop a balance where the blogger can be truly honest about what they think of the product and why. It may not be what the manufacturer wants to hear – but if it’s written and argued well – it’s important to have this view out there. We all have products we like and don’t like – it’s normal and part of the way of the world – it doesn’t mean a particularly product is bad if you don’t like it – more that it’s just not for you – but others will like it. 

Honest and well meaning blogs will help buyers build up a full picture of a product they are interested in. I personally don’t think mainstream media is doing this bit well any more thanks to the pressure of advertising budgets and subscriber numbers etc.

If you have favourite cycling blogs that you feel are at the top of their game – please let me know and I’ll link to them on this site. I’d also like to see who the people at the cutting edge are so I can keep learning and developing this blog too.

I hope you’ve found this interesting as I said at the beginning I’m biased as I am a blogger so I’m clearly a big supporter of the blog as a media tool – magazine publishers obviously won’t share my enthusiasm. I’m certainly not saying magazines are bad – I continue to buy them personally but I’ve been finding them less helpful than I did a few years ago and I think the media landscape is now clearly larger than just traditional media.

Thanks for reading.