Human beings love content. Content. Content. Content. The more, the better, and right now, we live in an age where there has never been more accessible content than in any point in human history. It’s a large part of why Cycle News has been so successful for so long, primarily that we consistently create more motorcycle content than almost any other source out there (cue blowing your own horn music).
But a conversation a couple of weeks ago got me thinking. I was in a Walmart parking lot, of all places, with the 2019 Honda CBR1000RR SP I’ve been riding for the past few months, and a guy came up to me to ask me a few questions about the red missile.
After a couple of minutes of back and forth, and upon noticing the little Cycle News sticker on the front wheel guard, he realized that I, indeed, worked here and so the conversation quickly swept towards motorcycle content.
I didn’t ask his age, my guess was he was around 30, but he was clearly knowledgeable on riding and racing so I couldn’t help but ask where he got his motorcycle content from?
“YouTube, man. Only YouTube.”
He knew of Cycle News’ YouTube channel, but admitted he had not gone onto our website for years. Reading in-depth bike tests and race reports were not on his radar, and I suspect they never really were.
I’ll admit to being rather disappointed with his response. YouTube has become the defacto publishing platform for, well, everything and everyone. Anyone with a phone can get on and deliver motorcycle content, rather than require at least some form of technical training in the art of delivering honest and researched information. His response made me ask myself the dreaded question. Is the written word for motorcycle content dying?
I know it sounds like I’m having a go at YouTube, but I assure you, I’m not. I rely on the platform for at least 50 percent of most reviews I compile for Cycle News (text and video). I also watch most of my content on the platform, too, mainly because cable TV can absolutely jump off a cliff.
However, I am a student of writing, and a good writer can relay feelings and information most people with an iPhone simply cannot. If you have not yet read motorcycle aficionados like Mat Oxley or even our own Michael Scott in his In The Paddock column, I implore you to do so.
The big problem with YouTube is that it is incredibly difficult to create top-level content that doesn’t require you to lose your ass when the bill comes. A writer needs his or her brain and a keyboard, whereas a top-level YouTuber needs a cameraman at least, and then a sound guy, an editor, god knows what else. And all those people (usually) still need to get paid.
That’s why so many YouTube channels are essentially just sponsored content pages, because to make the content to an acceptable level requires a vast financial input that is almost un-recoupable, at least in the short to medium term.
Content and the way it is delivered is changing so fast that it is very, very difficult to stay on top of it all. There are so many streaming services, so many apps who target very specific age groups and demographics, and the that fact so many people consume content on their phones means, at least in my mind, that long-format tests, race reports and news features must surely be heading for the boneyard.
Or maybe not. This past month, we had a very encouraging meeting at Cycle News HQ, where the big cheese Mr. Finley relayed information to the team that we are growing, not declining, in the number of people visiting this site. In the current climate of a declining (let’s be honest here) industry, this is the best news we could hear.
Still, the new decade should bring with it a new perspective, and I would like to throw this over to you, the reader, to ask your opinion. Going forward, how would you like your motorcycle content delivered? Are you trending more towards just watching reviews on YouTube? Are you gravitating back towards longer, more in-depth written features, or a little bit of both, or do you just stare at Instagram at every possible moment?
We are here for the long run, we’ve been doing this for over 60 years, so it’s always been a long run for us. But, to keep growing, we must adapt to what people out there want from us. So, over to you, guys. Leave your comments below.CN