Bicycling Taps Editor in Chief as Mag Looks to Appeal to Hipsters

The Magazine's Revenue is Up 25%

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Bill Strickland was named editor in chief of Bicycling magazine.
Bill Strickland was named editor in chief of Bicycling magazine.

Bicycling magazine, which is seeing one of its strongest years to date in terms of revenue, has named Bill Strickland editor in chief, according to Rodale, the magazine's owner.

Mr. Strickland is a 23-year veteran of the magazine, which Rodale bought in 1978. He has served as interim editor in chief since April, when then top editor Peter Flax left the magazine. This is Mr. Strickland's second tour of duty as Bicycling's editor in chief, a role he held from 1999 to 2003.

"We're through the dark era where doping dominated the headlines," Mr. Strickland said. "Cycling is having this moment right now where it's not solely about racing. Especially in urban areas, people are doing 40 mile weekend rides, but they're not in spandex or racing, they're just out there enjoying their bikes. We want to bring more of that enthusiasm to the forefront."

Broadening a magazine from a niche, such as bicycling enthusiasts, to more mass appeal is a challenging task because publishers don't want to alienate their core readers. To that end, Mr. Strickland said Bicycling will continue to deliver information for biking enthusiasts.

"You're going to see a mix of fitness and the idea of riding for recreation," he said.

A report this year from Gluskin Townley Group, a research firm that focuses on the bicycling industry, detailed the rise of what it calls the "Metro Urban Cyclist" -- in other words, hipsters. "The riding habits of this group are significantly different in terms of riding frequency and are driven by reasons other than the typical fun and fitness -- the two primary reasons for riding a bicycle among adults," the report said.

The shift is due in large part to young people moving into cities, according to the Gluskin Townley Group's research. The "urban movement," the company said, is still in its nascent stage and will have a significant impact on the bicycling industry.

Amid this shift, Bicycling magazine is looking to not only reach a broader audience but also appeal to a larger set of advertisers, according to Zack Grice, Bicycling's publisher. The magazine's ad-sales team has sought to boost advertising among so-called non-endemic brands, which are advertisers outside the bicycling industry. That has included food and beverage, automotive, travel and fashion, Mr. Grice said. Bicycling's October issue, for instance, includes an ad for Movado watches, which collaborated with custom bike maker Parlee on a special-edition watch.

Still, the majority of the ads in Bicycling come from core bike brands. "We won't let our success be dictated on the swings of the bicycling industry, which could turn on a late spring or early winter," Mr. Grice said. "That's why we are motivated to have a more diversified portfolio of advertisers in non-endemic categories."

Bicycling is experiencing one of its strongest years to date, with print ad pages up 19% through its September issue, according to Steve Cohn, editor in chief of Media Industry Newsletter, which tracks magazine ad pages. Ad revenue from print has increased 25% compared with the previous year, Mr. Grice said. Digital ad revenue is also up.

Mr. Grice attributed the boost in ad revenue partly to "the moment" the sport is seeing. The other factor, he said, is a restructuring effort that Bicycle's owner Rodale undertook last August. The company had one team dedicated to selling ads across Bicycling and its sibling publication Runner's World. A year ago, Rodale separated the teams, giving Bicycling a dedicated group of ad sellers.

"There's a vitality in the sport that's driving overall interest," Mr. Grice said. "But a lot of the success is as much about structure and business strategy."

Rodale publishes several other health and fitness titles beyond Bicycling and Runner's World, including Men's Health and Women's Health. This week, Women's Health lost its editor in chief, Michele Promaulayko, to Yahoo, where she's going to lead its digital magazine about health. Under Ms. Promaulayko's leadership, Women's Health has managed to buck an industry-wide trend and gain newsstand readers through the first six months of 2014.

Bicycling magazine also saw a bump in newsstand sales between January and June, though the roughly 34,000 copies it sells per issue represents just 8% of its total paid and verified circulation of 413,406, according to its report with the Alliance for Audited Media, which tracks magazine circulation. Despite the newsstand gains, Bicycling's total circulation is off nearly 3%.

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