Special Edition Cycling News, July 4, 2007
It's been quite a climb, and now it's really time to ride
It's not often we indulge ourselves with a story about Cyclingnews, but today is different.
It's been almost eight years since I met with the founder of cyclingnews.com, Professor Bill Mitchell, and discussed the possible acquisition of his already well-respected cycling website. Bill agreed to sell it and so Knapp Communications Pty Limited became the new owner.
At the time, I stressed to the readers that little would change, in the short-term at least, as I worked to match Bill's passion and output. Within a day or two, I started hiring people; this was not going to be an easy spin around the park.
A lot has and did change since September 1999, but what we did do was stay true to the original ideals and attitude that Bill laid down. So now, I am also about to roll-off and let a much bigger engine take over, a publicly-listed British company, Future plc.
This is, if you like, the CN way of imparting the news that Cyclingnews has been sold to a much larger, publicly-listed publishing company, but one that has a demonstrated commitment to cycling. (Future publishes four cycling magazines in the UK alone, and has recently acquired www.bikely.com, and most significantly, is about to launch a new site called www.bikeradar.com.)
I will remain closely involved in the day-to-day running of CN, as will the dedicated team who produce the content for this site every day. However, I knew for some time that the challenges of operating this behemoth had become formidable. It had grown to the point where we needed the support of a larger organisation. CN was a low-hanging fruit in the dot com area: independent, no baggage, undisputed category-leader in our niche with serious visitor and traffic numbers. As one suitor said to me, "you've put the genie in the bottle". There was some interest in this time of 'internet 2.0', you could say.
So I took the formal approach; hired the consultancy at the big end of town, looked and listened and decided to go with a company that shared our passion for cycling, and cared about the people who produce the content. It is for those reasons I believe we have found an ideal partner in Future, as it is clearly committed to our sport.
One would think that to invest in cycling in this time of doping and more doping is 'courageous', in the 'Yes, Minister' context. But it's strategic, it's forward thinking and it recognises that cycling, while enduring some of the worst headlines that could afflict any sport, is still a great sport.
In global sports marketing, it is a bargain. A corporate sponsor can have a team in the ProTour for the same outlay as an F1 driver's lunch-money. Indeed, as Unibet has shown, a team's sponsor doesn't even have to get a ride in the Tour de France and its share price increases its market value so much it could fund probably the whole peloton.
In the internet space, I have gone behind the firewall and seen real, undisputed no-BS website metrics: almost one million of you visit this site every month, and we count page views in the million - per day. Further, cycling itself is more popular than most marketing executives realise, so while many of us have worried about its future, I think the doping controversies are only a blimp that is artificially holding down the real value of this exciting and beautiful sport.
Bravo to the team
From its first days, CN was and is a daily team effort. There are online editors working in three continents *every day* to produce this content. There are experienced, multi-lingual reporters and photographers covering events for CN around the world every week of the year, if not day of the week. Then there are our designers and without doubt, the all-important technical services provided by Adrian Butterworth and his team at Economic Outlook.
We - and I mean myself and you, the reader - are totally indebted to the incredible output and workload of these people. Their teamwork gels on a daily basis and it's amazing how several of those folks - some who were mates with Bill Mitchell - are still with us.
CN has been almost like this social network-style collective of passionate cycling enthusiasts helping to disseminate information on our favourite sport around the world. I've been in publishing for … er, OK, 26 years, and I have never experienced such a dynamic animal. If we post a story it can generate comments in less than two minutes - it's extraordinary. There are so many people to mention that my only reluctance to do so is to miss out on naming someone! (I'm sorry for taking a pass on that - you know who you all are, and most of you know where I live! The Milky Bars are on me.)
Thank you to all our readers who have written in over the years - we always try to reply and always respect your point-of-view. It's been an honour to manage CN's growth and development in that time and it would not have been possible without the work of many, many people. I am indebted to the commitment that's been shown by the amazing crew who've worked on Cyclingnews; from our staff editors and reporters to the ad hoc freelancers, we've done our best to be inclusive and objective.
I also must thank those wonderful cycling companies out there who backed us in the early days, and continue to support CN in the future. We worked hard to deliver and never took your support for granted, and thank you also to our readers out there who've supported those companies who've supported CN - it wasn't hard for you to join the dots and realise that without the support of many of cycling's leading manufacturers, retailers, distributors and race organisers, the site wouldn't be able to bring you so much information from the world of cycling.
And in case you're wondering, we're still here! It'll be the same crew producing CN in the future as it is today, and as it was yesterday. I can't stress that enough.
So let's talk about cycling. We're only days away from the start of what is probably the most wide open Tour de France in years (my money's on Evans) and we look forward to bringing you all the news, views, photos and results from the world's biggest bike race. Oh, and I forgot to mention videos. Yes, we'll have daily video highlights, too.
Our crew will be assembling in London today, ready to bring you the best online coverage of cycling's marquee event. I wish them well and to everyone on the Tour, the very best wishes for a safe and sound arrival in Paris.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)