|A snip of a Facebook advertisement for "Beta" magazine.|
The rest of the room at this presentation was filled with print magazine editors and writers. People you've probably read, and people whose names you'd recognize yet today as being 'big time' journos.
When the presentation was over, and one of those big-timers turned to Tim, my partner, and asked us when we'd be getting the story out to our audience. Tim smugly replied, "We already have it up.", as he turned his laptop around to show this man and a few others our website story which he wrote in real time during the presentation.
This occurrence, to my mind, was the turning point. It was when web based news started to overtake traditional print media, eventually disrupting that industry to the point that many print magazines, newspapers, and periodicals went by the wayside. No longer would audiences be satisfied to have to wait on news. Not when it could be had instantaneously, or nearly so. Furthermore, 'news' was democratized to the point that when social media took a hold, everyone with a smart phone became a news gatherer/story teller. No longer would the world have a defined set of professionals whose dissemination of information was somewhat reliable. 'The News' basically became The Wild, Wild West. You probably get that by now......
I say all this because recently a new publication, online only, as far as I know, dubbed "Beta", rose from the ashes of "Bike" magazine, and hit the ground with a very controversial introductory post which drew the ire of many in the cycling journo ranks. Basically, it was very tone-deaf to current social issues and was steeped in misogynistic bike culture from yore. (Some would say it persists yet today, and I ain't arguing that point.) An apology was posted, and so I am not going to tread that ground here. Besides, that's not the real point.
The thing about "Beta", besides a weird name that does not evoke mountain biking at all to me, is that most of their content is behind a paywall. (Means ya gotta pay ta see it, dig?) I get that in these times you might want a paywall, because so much information is free, that writers have a difficult time getting paid for anything they create as content these days. And by 'writers' I mean anyone pounding a keyboard with regularity that has access to a working internet connection. Including me, by the way.
Now for context, I do subscribe to a site with a paywall called "The Athletic", which is where I followed one of my favorite NASCAR writers when that site hired him. My experience has been that one; I paid far too much since "The Athletic" regularly runs super-discounted subscriptions and I paid full boat. Secondly, that site often puts articles outside the paywall for general views and you never know which articles are what- pay or free- so it seems a bit cheap to do that to your subscribers. Thirdly, due to the previous point, I don't feel I am getting much value for my subscription, and I can get nearly identical coverage for free from outside that site.
So, this begs a question: Why pay for information I can get for free? Sure, there may be some exclusives given to "Beta" by different companies introducing new things, but typically, those are spread around to several outlets, so at some point you are going to be able to skirt that paywall easily. And of course, there is nothing to stop a paying reader to be the one to squawk on social media to gain some 'cred-likes' from their so-called 'friends' roster. And at that point, the cat is outta the bag anyway.
Maybe you get some creativity and awesome imagery, or maybe you get access to things, or gifts, like what some folks get on Patreon for being supporters to a company, person, or whatever. Maybe the writers at "Beta" are so compelling and talented that I would just have to see what they are writing for fear of missing out. Maybe.... "Beta's" Editor in Chief, Nicole Formosa, was quoted in a recent article online posted by "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" where she addresses this point, "My team is tasked with a mandate to create dynamic content and introduce a variety of services and experiences — both virtual and in-person — that create value for POM's (Pocket Outdoor Media, the parent company of "Beta") Active Pass membership. To that end, our site is launching with a mix of high-impact video, beautiful photography, in-depth gear reviews (including the first video from our annual buyers' guide, The Beta Tests) and the kind of storytelling that will separate us from the competition."
Again- this doesn't seem compelling enough to my mind to pay for non-print info that isn't really anything different than I can get anywhere else, many times from "Beta's" own peers. In my opinion, this is going to be a big climb. Can they make it?
Hmm.... Maybe someone can convince me otherwise, but I'd say that at this point, I'm not very convinced this will work.