This might get a little long, and it isn’t, strictly speaking, about bikes, but if you’re interested in what we do and how we’re trying to do it. Read on.
We have been looking for a good way to say this, and we’ll lay out the case momentarily, but the truth is this: Just because we have sold sponsorship on the podcasts and site doesn’t mean we don’t need folks to subscribe.
First some background: After attempting to fund TCI solely on subscriber income for the first year, we realized we would not have enough money to pay the array of contributors we needed to fulfill our editorial mission, i.e., to represent a wide range of viewpoints and provide visibility for anyone who wants to ride a bike. We resolved to bring in podcast and site sponsors to generate more revenue. Shimano North America generously agreed to join us, and we will have one additional site sponsor soon, and that will be all the outside funding we seek, not because we don’t need more money, but because we don’t want a site dominated by ads visually and because we have zero interest in spending time trying to sell sponsorships.
We’re content people. We make content. That’s what we want to do with our time.
The brutal truth is that the sponsorship money we have secured will not be enough to fulfill our editorial goals and pay ourselves. This is by design. We didn’t want to take so much money from a sponsor that we were beholden to them OR that we couldn’t make our way without them. The “Independent” in our name is an attitude as much as a business plan.
We are already spending sponsorship dollars to bring in great contributors like Julie Snyder and Maureen Gaffney. There will be more. We promise. Diversification of our editorial point-of-view is critical to building the site we want.
We still need readers to subscribe to TCI. It is critical. We have three subscription levels, each of which we think is a reasonable and manageable expense for a site striving to do good work in the right ways. If you have already subscribed, you can help us by sharing TCI with more of your riding family and friends.
None of this is happening in a vacuum. There is massive consolidation going on in cycling media, most recently under the Outside Inc. umbrella. If you’re unaware of all the outlets Outside now owns, click here. This mirrors the approach Hearst Communications has taken with Bicycling Magazine and their own stable of titles, which you can see here. These are massive companies who make decisions about content and format based on profitability. There is nothing particularly controversial in that. They are businesses. And it doesn’t for a second mean you won’t find good writing and honest writers there, but it does mean that you will get exactly as much content as you pay for and every revenue possibility will be maximized, regardless of whether it enhances the content and user experience or not.
We don’t want to fall into that vortex.
Another downside of media consolidation is the outcomes for content people like us. It felt like only a matter of time before titles and people we cared about would be sacrificed in the name of corporate streamlining. Call it what you will, but when a magazine or website that people have worked hard to build gets acquired and then shuttered it hurts.
Peloton magazine is one obvious case in point. We all enjoyed Peloton. That magazine’s writers and photographers did a great job, and now they’re out of work. Who that helps, we’re not sure. It’s sad to see people we know and like, and who produce great content, have the rug pulled out from underneath them.
This is a long way of saying TCI is steering a course toward financial independence. We have sponsors. We have subscribers, and between the two we will make our way. One doesn’t remove the need for the other.
To those of you have subscribed, again, we express our deepest thanks. It lets us do work we love to do. To those of you haven’t subscribed yet, please consider it. It’s the only way to keep the media that matters to you.