Advertising Collapse, Garmin TV Ads & Layoffs at Velonews, CyclingTips (Outside Inc)

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Collapse In Advertising Revenues for Cycling Industry Media

Via: @Tex and others

One piece of headline news from last week is that Outside Inc has laid off 12% of its workforce which follows a 15% cut in May 2021. The driver behind the headline is simply that we are likely already in a global recession and advertisers in the cycling industry are cutting back their ad spend. By its own admission, advertising revenues are significant for Outside Inc which is the umbrella organisation that owns VeloNews, Pinkbike, Peloton Magazine, Cyclingtips, BRAIN and other cycling-related titles and events.

CEO Robin Thurston also confirmed that Outside Inc is still unprofitable and aiming to turn that around in 2023.

Anyway, I’m not here just to tell you that but to also share a few related home truths and insights.

Tale #1

I was very recently talking to a well-known cycling tech brand with a view to getting hold of something interesting to review. It was a smallish company and I was talking to the CEO.

The CEO was very reluctant to deal with me at first and, believe it or not, I charmed him into explaining why. Yes I know, right. Who would have thought I could 😉

He had previously sent samples to some well-known publications who then refused to publish a review until the CEO stumped up some money for the publication to show some ads. Naturally, that review would still have been labelled as independent and not paid for which, of course, would have been technically true.

I haven’t got the product yet.

Tale #2

This Tale was intended to be a moan about how my ad performance on this site has suffered in line with the industry trend that affects Outside Inc, but my stats didn’t show that.

The following chart shows the trend in ad revenues for me this year with Monumetric. As you can see there is no downward trend as such and I was a bit surprised as I thought there would be.

Yellow Line – Ad impressions/displays

Blue Line – Average Revenue to me per your visit

 

No Y-Axis

The ad impressions in May are probably linked to non-review content about Garmin whereas the upward trend in the blue line over the year is probably more of a reflection of the time that desirable readers spend on the site. And by desirable, I mean desirable to advertisers who, via recent browsing history, have determined your importance to them. I don’t know the details about how that is determined but it’s probably linked to cookies and browsing history, so, those of you who are concerned about such things will have disabled cookies.

Tale #3

Pretty much the only place to make money is with content linked to Garmin. Everything else pales into insignificance. So if you think I’m being unnecessarily nice to Polar, Apple or Suunto then, I might be, but it isn’t for the money.

As regular readers here will know I have been critical of Garmin over the years and I have no relationship with them whatsoever, so my more positive comments on some of their products of late have simply been because the products are better now (IMO) eg Garmin Epix 2 has addressed several of my longstanding concerns of Forerunner/Fenix products.

Tale #4

I currently have only two sources of ad revenues on this site one being Google AdSense and the other being Monumetric. Both are ad brokers who offer a platform for advertisers, I think with the former I’m paid based on clicks and the latter based on the number of impressions. I use their ability to exclude specific advertisers, mainly because I don’t want them to hijack sales and hence my commission revenues.

If you are a (free) follower on this site then the Monumetric ads should be hidden and supporters should be shown no ads at all. I’m not too bothered about ad revenues as most of my income comes from commissions, however, ad revenues and subscription incomes from supporters are still important enough for me to keep both those aspects of this site even if I’d rather not have to.

It’s complicated to manage though. I have to deal with conflicts such as ads making readers less willing to read reviews and less willing to buy products from the links. Thus everyone should also benefit from seeing all my reviews as ad-free, although it’s possible that a vignette ad is displayed before you are shown the review. But once you’re in the review there should be nothing to distract your attention (hopefully!). These things are surprisingly hard to achieve even in 2022 and I have many other roles to cover at this site too. #ItsComplicated

Tale #5

I often wonder how effective one-page print ads might be or how effective a TV ad might be.

I noticed last week that Garmin has new tv ads in the UK. That sort of large cost marketing spend is fine for a company like Garmin where it’s important to balance big promotional budgets across multiple media types but it always seemed crazy to me that smaller companies would consider the likes of an ad in magazines such as those by Outside Inc. It’s probably a 4-figure sum for one ad that very many people will just skim over even if they see it at all. You can get an awful lot of targeted ads on Facebook or Google AdWords for that sort of money, although even a decent click from Facebook for a tech company can cost well over $2 a pop.

 

Garmin Tri | A Triathlete Is Born

Tale #6 Be careful what you wish for

If you want ‘free’ sources of information and entertainment linked to the endurance industry then someone at some point has to pay for it. As Outside Inc demonstrates, it’s a hard business.

I strongly suspect that over the coming 2 years there will be some endurance tech firms leaving the market and some news channels following suit.

In many ways, blogs like this are different. We don’t have the cost structures that large organisations have to fund. Some blogs will disappear (FWIW: a couple that I follow already have) but others will fill the gap as, ultimately, there are few barriers to entry for anyone with a bit of spare time and a keyboard.

There are many pressures in a changing landscape that range from macroeconomic challenges down to simple behavioural actions from readers who restrict cookies in ever-larger numbers. The latter lowers revenue by lowering the value of your visit to any site. Other readers use ad blockers which entirely block ad revenue although, as a result, it looks like many browsers are developing mechanisms to stop you from using Ad Blockers. To counter that some readers will use TOR-like browsers and the DuckDuckGo search engine…the battle is never-ending.

Then, YouTube continues to rise in importance as a competitor to the written word, and of course, wider economic factors (like a recession) simply limit many company’s abilities to make money and limit many people’s willingness to spend money.

So. Be careful what you wish for.

Other Sources on the Outside Inc story:

 

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10 thoughts on “Advertising Collapse, Garmin TV Ads & Layoffs at Velonews, CyclingTips (Outside Inc)

  1. Interesting read.

    My 2p. I often find technical/review articles written by the more established magazines to be of poor quality. Little more than a cut/paste of the spec sheet. Little wonder that ad revenue is falling, if others feel the same. I much rather read a higher quality review here, DCR, The Run Testers etc, maybe post a question and even get a reply. A far better experience IMHO

    1. I agree here. It used to be – many years ago – that good articles were common, but nowadays, they’re pretty hartd to find outside of this type of sites.

    2. To be honest, even DCR is mostly the specs list in blog/movie format. He tests what he can, mainly gps and heartrate, because that’s simple to test.

      For opinions whether certain features are useful at all you don’t go to DCR. His default reply is, some people might find it useful.

      1. If I had to have one beef with DCR it’s the quality (lack of) of his GPS quality tests.

        Visually eye-ball lines on a map, which yes, if some are going through buildings and others not, is an easy assessment. But it’s very unscientific and mostly a moot point. Post run graphs are not 1:1 with real time accuracy.

        If you want real time accuracy (pace), then you need to do measuring wheel tests (like the stroller test here last week).

        If you want just a post run pretty picture. Well, to me, that’s not relevant to sport fitness / actionable data. But maybe that’s just me.

        But it’s easy to throw stones, I’m far too lazy to even consider writing a watch review, so kudos to everyone who is!

      2. hmm. i think my tests are eyeballing ones too on the whole.
        easy assessment: kinda. But i wonder how mny sites know that the maps can be wrong (you need to use the satellite pictures and i know ray definitely understands that.). only reason i recently started showing map tracks is that they are easier to visually scan by readers.
        real time accuracy: involves looking at the watch as you run…that’s quite hard to do scientifically.
        pretty picture:…hey! that’s my line 🙂

      3. I’m honestly a bit surprised to see someone say that my default reply is “some might find it useful”, because frankly, I’m almost always the first one to call out stupid features – perhaps excessively so. Most other reviewers are wishy-washy. I stupid-feature-call in virtually every review, from every vendor. And inversely, point out where features are actually useful or could be useful.

        As for rolling wheels and such, it’s a fun rabbit hole – and I’ve done down it as well. The challenge is, it has more limitations than people realize. Namely, scale and size. Take for example the running stroller – that’s great for determining exact distance on mostly paved running paths. But inversely, it breaks things like running cadence/running power/tunnel distance (because it breaks wrist movements), etc… You’re also actually benefitting the watch too – by having your wrists steady and up higher than normal. Further, it’s not functional on trails, or even many city routes where road crossings/sidestreets/etc.

        While there’s an element of eye-ball testing in my GPS accuracy bits – the reality is that’s what matters: Is the GPS track where I actually ran that day? Distance is important too – but distance will almost always work out, if the GPS track is correct. Whereas inversely, distance can be right, even if the track is wrong (due to overshooting and undercutting).

        Point being, I’m always game for improving how things are done – and constantly making little tweaks accordingly. But there are actually specific reasons why I do things the way I do them. Sometimes I go down a rabbit hole for fun on something, because it’s interesting, but making that repeatable, scalable, or even whether that rabbit hole is beneficial/meaningful is always something I’m trying to keep in mind.

        As for the point on magazines/etc being fluff – yup, totally agree. And for the exact same reasons 5KRunner outlined in the article. I’ve heard those precise conversations from various people, and even overheard one between brand and magazine while in a Eurobike booth a couple years back. Similarly, back a few years ago I stopped contributing to some magazines I wrote buyers guides for, after they kept trying to force me to include older/non-competitive products in order to appease one of their advertisers.

        Ultimately, I don’t know what the financially viable solution is for every site – but I think CyclingTips actually was on the right path. They just got Outside-whacked. Everything I’ve heard said that CT as an entity was profitable and doing well. But again, Outside needed to squeeze more profit.

      4. Good point about the kudo’s for anyone who writes a review and DCR’s reviews are quite objective. I do read them. It’s just, for opinions I don’t go to DCR. This is a better place for that.

        And you give a good description about gps accuracy 😉

      5. I mean, I have opinions. We all do!
        It’s definitely good to get different opinions and then make your own mind up.
        Even better to get wholly different opinions.
        Sadly DCR’s opinions and mine are about 90% the same (because we are right 😉 )

  2. Apologies if I came across overly negative. I like pretty maps too. I just don’t allow it to distract from the training my watch gives me (645M)

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