OK, that's a dramatic title, but I just used a question mark in the previous headline post... anyway, my thought is that there may be more to the sale of CyclingNews.com than a simple exchange of stock. As Clydesdale reported, CN has been sold, and today they ran a long story on their history and what's coming next, insisting that Cycling's consensus best internet resource won't be changing much.
Fat chance, says I. The purchasers are Future, PLC, a media conglomerate based in Bath, England, which owns 100 or so specialty mags of all type, with a heavy emphasis on computers, gaming, and (improbably) Cycling. Future PLC itself is owned by Pearson PLC, which from a glance sounds like the Time Warner of England: second largest publisher in the US, largest in the UK, holdings including Penguin, Viking, the Financial Times, the Economist, etc. Anyway, read all about Future at its Wikipedia writeup.
Future isn't saying anything about its plans for CyclingNews yet, but just recently they launched Bikeradar.com, a site which purports to cover all things Bicycle. From their initial post welcoming themselves to the internet, Bikeradar promises to be all things to all people: a news resource, gear reviewed, race reporter, riding route database, and chat forum. In fact, upon launching it pronounced itself "the liveliest bike chat on the web," a concept usually reserved for sites that have been in business for at least a few weeks, but whatever. Future also hosts Bikely, the riding route database, though that will probably be folded neatly into Bikeradar, I'd guess.
Bottom line, the acquisition of CN by Future comes off as a mega-media takeover of a specialty site. I plan to give Future a chance: their whole thing is running specialty mags, and if they keep the CN staff largely intact, CN might not become a flashier, more generic mess. But the news raises a few questions in my mind:
- Does Future understand that there are a zillion ways to get news about Cycling on the net? Bikeradar's pledge to cover everything seems to assume we need such a site... as if Daily Peloton didn't already have a kick-ass forum, or VN wasn't doing race coverage, and so forth. CN is the sheit because a) they were there first, and b) they just do racing news: more of it than anyone else and faster too. Making CN a chapter in some Bicycling-like animal will devalue it.
- Does the presence of Pearson mean CN will become a conservative, corporate wasteland? I'm trying to skirt the politics here, but let's face it, big media in the US (and presumably elsewhere) has meant sanitization, fewer risks, and a tendency to stir everything into a giant pot of watery broth. Since CN is pretty straightforward in its approach to news, maybe this won't affect them much. But does Bikeradar really plan to be interesting? Can they do this when the mothership's idea of what people want is guided by its experience with the Financial Times?
- Oh, and is this the beginning of the consolidation of Cycling media? Is VeloNews next? Cycling.tv? The Podium Cafe? My asking price is a cool mil and an audience with Bernard Hinault.
If Future and Pearson leave CN where it is, this could be cool. No doubt they have the kind of capital to revamp the current site into something more exciting, without losing all the myriad resources. But there's little precedent in the media takeover world for business as usual, so we'll see where this goes.