Thursday, March 24, 2011

Which One Works?

Yesterday a subject came up that I found intriguing. It seems that Carlton Reid of BikeBiz, (he of 15,000 Tweets), Tweeted that he recently got both of the magazines pictured here in the post yesterday. His question was, "Which sells cycling better?"

I quipped back via Twitter that I didn't know, but I knew which one would tick off the females most.

Carlton answered back to the effect that it was okay since Momentum Magazine catered heavily to female cyclists. (The mag cover on the left is Momentum Magazine) In fact, Momentum is run by females, oddly enough. (But most folks would have no idea by looking at the cover) My point was that most would have no idea about the mag's content, just by looking at the covers. (My thinking was as though you were perusing a news stand, and saw these mag covers.)

If you want to know, I said "Momentum" would "sell" cycling more because of the sexy image, which would garner more interest. And in the process, the ire of women who are tired of having their sexuality used to "sell" anything.

So, we were both right, but I disagree that it is a "no big deal" issue, which is what Carlton seemed to imply. (Granted, I could have been reading into his Tweets. They are only 140 characters long, you know.) And later I added that the other magazine cover, (the one on the right), was really a motorcycle magazine, so the whole comparo was a moot point.

In the end, Momentum Magazine needs to sell units. They know a provocative cover image will get the eyeballs of the mostly male population of cyclists to take a closer look. That's smart, but it is also pandering to the "sex sells" way of doing things. Being run by females and having "great content that is focused on females" doesn't exonerate you from the painfully obvious.

Just for fun, take the lady on the right, (the one on the motorcycle), and with that same outfit, put her on the bike in Momentum's image. If you are a marketing person, which would you use for the cover to sell more units? The one Momentum used, or the one I just proposed?

Yeah....."Which One Works" indeed!

Seems like some folks have higher ideals and still use images that seek to titillate. I don't have a horse in this race, but I'm thinking this is pretty obvious, and silly. You can't have it both ways. The Momentum cover is sexist plain and simple, no matter who is running the mag, and no matter how helpful the content is. It's no different than saying Playboy was okay because they had great articles.

In the end, you decide, but I don't see this sort of thing as anything but what it always has been.


carltonreid said...

I now have more than 140 characters to play with so...

Take a look at women's magazines (Elle, Cosmo etc etc). They all feature good looking women, sometimes with face close-ups, sometimes with beautiful bodies.

A cover with a pic of a woman with a nice body is not provocative, it's normal for magazines.

Now, one of those mag covers was frumpy, the other was sassy. I know which I'd buy (if either were for sale).

I also showed the two covers to my wife. She also chose the Momentum cover.

I like both mags, they each have their readership niche. But I was asking which would sell cycling (to a mainstream audience) and I think the Momentum one does a better job.

It just so happens Electric Bike has some great images of female riders inside the mag yet Peter Eland, the publisher, chose the one you see for the cover. It's his mag, he knows best, but still...

Guitar Ted said...

@Carlton: Thanks for your comments. My point was that this mag cover, (and all the ones you mentioned), use the same old ruse to sell whatever they are selling. I agree with you, it is what most people are attracted to, and what "works".

However; there are those who would complain bitterly about such tactics, (mostly from the female side), and wish for a world where sex wasn't used to sell anything.

My answer is "Good luck with that!"

Unknown said...

I think you have some misunderstandings, though it probably does not matter in the long run. I'm not sure what you find sexist about the Momentum cover. Many would find it chic. It smacks of urban hipster syndrome more than sexism. Momentum is not using overt T&A to sell their magazine. Instead they are playing at ad house artsy. You also describe it as provocative. I disagree here as well. As for the motorcycle magazine cover, it is frumpy. My girlfriend--who is educated, sophisticated, and fashionable-- would cringe at it. Your assumption that females would not like the "sexy" cover is off the mark. Many females would feel that the motorcycle magazine portrays women as dumpy and only suited for silly, non-performance oriented bicycles. Not all women want their style and sexuality minimized.

Guitar Ted said...

@jonasmalever: A see through skirt revealing underwear is not sexy and provocative?

Better check yerself man.

And this sort of thing is definitely frowned upon by a segment of the female population that finds using women to attract attention to "whatever" by use of the very nature of their sexuality. That is a real response to this out there. Just ask anybody in media relations. Not that it will ever change, but my point is some find it distasteful.

I didn't say I did. I also didn't say "all women find it distasteful" either.

I did say it is provocative, (as evidenced by your response, for one thing), and that it is sexual, that it is selling with sex, and that some won't like that.

The Breathing Room said...

Momentum has to have covers like that. There is no substance to the content within the magazine. It's been at least a couple of years since it been worth reading. It's a fashion magazine, simple really, not much to do with cycling. Oh, and the women running the mag look nothing like the woman on the cover.

Unknown said...

Ditto to jonasmalever and his girlfriend. What I do find offensive is being referred to as "the females." That kind of vernacular is sexist.

If someone is offended by a magazine cover, then don't buy it. Nothing is going free of offending someone. We all come with our own personal biases, which is evident by your commentary.

I think Momentum magazine will not offend their demographic, but will appeal, which is their job.

Seems as though you want women (not "the females") to be offended by that cover.

Honestly, my first impression of the photo is that the woman has on a one piece swimsuit because of the scoopback back. That is a something you would most often see with a swimsuit not a shirt and underwear.

grannygear said...

I would also say that...

Most women secretly or not so secretly would like to look like the Mo cover (and inspire that kind of potential response) but look more like the E-Bike cover.

I bet, truth be told, they despise the 'hot chick' for that more than any moral or ethical reason.

Just sayin'.

Guitar Ted said...

@Susan: Personally, I don't care one way or the other. Since the opposite of "male" is "female", I used that term. Simple as that. As you stated, "we all come with our personal biases". You also have yours.

My point is that which I stated most plainly in my response to "jonasmalever"

Again- I have no horse in this race. Personally,I find it is what it is, and yes, I choose to ignore such pandering to " those males" out there. (I include myself in that category and do not find that offensive at all, for what that is worth, since I am a male, and all.)

The Breathing Room said...

P.S. I knew it was all going wrong when they did a feature article on these things...

BB said...


You need to hop on your commute bike and ride in Europe for a few years. Everybody wears whatever they want - work clothes, swimming clothes, casual, elegant, etc... .

The gal looks like she has her swimsuit on and may be headed for a swim. Or a simple leotard. Not provocative. Heck, watching gymnastics or ballet is more provocative than what she is wearing.

And marketing 101 states: "We are by nature, a sexual species."

Guitar Ted said...

@Bruce Brown: You are correct, but this isn't Europe either.

Dan O said...

I'd agree the Momentum cover looks more like something directed at women - similar to Cosmo, Glamour and other woman's magazine. It's sexy, but not sexist.

I find it interesting Momentum and the "ride for transportation" movement, pushes riding in street clothes, no racer look required - which is great. But like any other subculture, it's developing it's own look and uniform.

We humans are a little wacky...

Emily said...

I can't imagine being offended by that cover, and I would think the numbers of women cyclists who are offended would be miniscule. I think its a lovely photo for a city-riding oriented magazine.
The bike industry has a sad habit of trying to figure out "what women want" based on random conjecture and assumptions. Please, don't fall into that trap, Mark. If you would like to know what motivates a serious woman cyclist, ask us. It's depressing to see you making statements like this, and I think you can do better.

rideonpurpose said...

I know a lot of women who would be more offended by the frumpy cover.

They may resent the "sex sells" thing going on with the other one, but certainly prefer that over the less sexy image too often associated with women athletes/cyclists.

It seems that you've gone so far to be pro-woman that you've actually become worse than the norm. It's like the politicians who create laws against racism, you have to be racist to think of it...

Guitar Ted said...

@Emily: again, read the post. I am not saying one way or the other is bad, I'm just saying one way works better than the other, and if that offends some people, (which it does, and doesn't, obviously), then we shouldn't be surprised. What women want from cycling sellers is whatever it is, but Momenmtum Magazine chose this image which is sexy, provocative, (look at all the comments here), and will "work" better than the other image, according to comments here. I agree with that much.

Does it sell cycling? You be the judge of that. Apparently, the answer is "yes".

You don't call out a specific statement I make that is "depressing". Go ahead and do that, and I'll answer up.

@rideonpurpose: I am not trying to be overly "pro-women", but I find it rather curious that you think so.

Slow Factory said...

As I understand it, Momentum is now focused mainly on urban people with a good bit of money, rather than existing "cyclists".

Lisa said...

I would suggest there's another layer to this that isn't being discussed - the fact that the Momentum magazine photo is beautifully shot while the other one looks like a photo snapped by a 10 year old in front of the house. I'm drawn to the momentum magazine cover more for that reason than the see through skirt.

maryka said...

Well I guess it works both ways. I would specifically reject buying MM based on that cover, just because I don't think it at all reflects my interests or experiences as a female cyclist (either in North America, Holland, or the UK -- the three places I've lived and cycled).

And even more so, if I encountered a woman dressed in such a manner on the roads riding up the middle of double yellow lines... well I wouldn't expect her to know what she's doing and give her a wide berth expecting her to do something befitting the flakiness of the clothes she's wearing. If it were a female roadie in full lycra I'd probably judge it differently. So yes we all have our pre-conceptions.

MM (and every other magazine) can use whatever imagery they want to sell more copies, but I won't be the one buying them!

Unknown said...

Guitar Ted,

I think you are unable to see what some of us are saying because the "same old ruse" works on you and you see the Momentum photo as only something sexy. It's a cool photo because of the way the light is caught in her sheer skirt and yes, you can partially see the woman's butt in her swimsuit.

I don't follow @Carlton but I don't think he was purely pointing to sexy vs non-sexy. Its the full image and presentation. The Momentum photo is bright, colorful and hip. The Electric Bike one uses muted colors and looks as though it could have been from 10+ years ago. I don't even know how to comment on the get-up that woman is wearing. I think @Carlton was just struck by the stark difference in the covers magazines since they came at the same time.

By you focusing only on the "sexy" aspect of these covers you are offending women, as can be seen in the comments about your post.

I took offense to "the females" comment because to me that is the same thing as someone saying "the gays" or "the blacks." That kind of objectification is offensive.

Guitar Ted said...

@Susan: Thanks for chiming back in.

I think I plainly see what folks are saying here. But again, most of these folks already buy into cycling. I, (and I think Carlton would agree), are discussing something else entirely.
That being- How will this "sell cycling?", which by the very nature of the question means those that don't already buy into cycling culture. I know a lot of guys would see something other than the bike in that Momentum cover. Is that selling cycling? It will get them to look, I've no doubt about that, and in that, Momentum is successful.

My point is that yes- it is the same ol' ruse used for centuries to sell almost anything. You can deny that if you want to, but again- it is what it is.

Picking at my "the females" comment is a bit unfair, since you have chosen to focus on those two words, which never appear together in the post. Again, where I am from that term is used to describe those "not male". That is the context of the word "female" as used in the post.

If you chose to be offended, well then, have at it. It's your choice, after-all.

Unknown said...

For a clearer, sharper view of the two covers, I've done a proper scan:

Unknown said...

Ted, hi
Your last comment to Susan ("If you chose to be offended, well then, have at it. It's your choice, after-all.") might have been directed at yourself. It seems to me that you have chosen to be offended by the Momentum cover on behalf of "the females" and are getting zero traction from any commentators, male or female. That may tell you something...
Why are others not biting? Because unlike you, it seems, we've come through the War of the Sexes and Political Correctness and are no longer scared by the shape of a woman's curves on a bike (one way or another); the debate has moved onto topics where improvement is still lacking. An attractive woman on a bike should be allowed to cycle as much as a handsome man; who gives? Her appearance does not define her.
Prurient is as prurient does; lighten up, man. We're all dust anyway.

Guitar Ted said...

@Emerson: Did I say I was offended? No, I didn't.

In fact, I said, ( in several places), that I don't really care.

Your comments are mis-directed.

And as far as "traction" is concerned, I am not at all worried. Well, unless it has to do with my bicycle tires.