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The End of Paper

Migrating to Digital Moto Magazines

2017 was the year I converted my entire house to LED lighting. I guess my motorcycles and car should be next.

But instead, for 2018, I'm thinking it will be the year I transfer as many print magazine subscriptions as I can to digital.

At the end of 2017 I had a stack of motorcycle magazines from throughout the year that easily was two and a half feet high. Mind you, I'm in the business and I subscribe to about a half dozen.

I'm also a tech nut. That said, in April of 2013 the tech magazine, PC World published their final issue in paper. I keep it around under my coffee table as a reminder of the cold turkey change they made going from 100% print, to 100% digital, in just one issue. The May 2013 issue was sold as a Zinio only version. All subscribers had had their subscriptions automatically converted to the e-zine company and I was able to create an account, log on and use a code to continue my subscription.

Since that time, other publications have gone to e-zine versions. Most were terrified of doing a complete swap like PC World, and instead chose to keep publishing in both print and digital. And guess what happened? Many of the publications that refused to give up the print aspect ended up reducing the number of issues they produce annually.

One such publication, a major one, was Playboy. They have reduced themselves from 11 issues a year to just 6. Granted the editorial has doubled in the e-zine format, so it's not such a big deal.

But on the motorcycle side of things, the biggest upset to many is Cycle World, which continues to produce in both print and digital. The cost of all that printing, near free print subscriptions over the last few years has snowballed into a whack of debt for a marquee that has been bought and sold so many times in the last two decades I lost count. So their answer is to move to a quarterly format. That's an automatic 66% reduction in ad revenue and a 66% reduction in editorial content for their subscribers. How do you think that will play out?

Here's some free advice to all the crusty print pubs. Okay, fine, you want to be sure you're on the newsstand, do it by producing a quarterly publication. Entice subscribership by continuing publishing a new issue monthly in digital format only for the same price of the 4x a year print version. Show the OEMs and gear manufacturers your new media kit that shows print rates and the new, lower digital rates. This is not rocket science, but I'll accept the consulting fee just the same.

As for us enthusiasts, look around your house. How many paper magazines are stacking up that you  have either read, didn't get to yet, or won't get to at all. GO DIGITAL. If your favorite publication has yet to produce in digital, contact them via email and ask them when they plan to.

The best Sunday morning I ever had…was today. I woke up, got breakfast and sat in my easy chair with a large format tablet. I read the daily paper, then got into my Zinio account and read my subscription pubs. When I was done, I spent $15 and subscribed to Motorcycle Consumer News and read that ( I let my subscription lapse last year when the stack was getting out of control).

Next, I made of note of the magazines I currently get in print and started checking them against digital availability. Some still don't do digital at all.

We've all seen how page counts have diminished in print publications. The one that gets me the most is Rider. There's a publication that used to be filled with a lot of useful info, but today it is diminished from its once 68-80 page count, to an average of just 48. Somehow BMW Owners News is hanging in there with an average 100 page count. But these and countless other magazines are going to be faced with a total move to digital in order to survive. And if we look at the success of PC World, it's obvious the sooner the better.

It would be a little easier to keep your house clean if you didn't have a bunch of paper magazines cluttering it - right? Here's a list of the moto magazines in America our readers enjoy and where they stand in terms of paper and print. Subscription rates shown are for 12 months.


Print Subscription $

Digital Subscription $

ADV Moto

$29.00 (6x)

$12.00 (6x)

Adventure Rider

$15.00 (6x)

$10.00 (6x)

American Motorcyclist

AMA Members only

AMA Members only

BMW Motorcycle Magazine

$19.95 (4x)

$15.99 (4x)

BMW Owners News

MOA Members only

MOA Members only

Cycle World

$9.75 (4x)

$12.00 (4x)

Motorcycle Consumer News

$34.99 (12x includes digital add-on)

$14.99 (12x)


$10.00 (10x)

$12.00 (10x)


$15.00 (12x)

$10.00 (12x)

Road Runner

$29.95 (6x)

$29.95 (6x - requires print subscription)

Thunder Press (24x only)

$21.50 (12x)

$10.00 (12x)

Some of the articles these magazines publish are available in bits and pieces for free on their respective websites.

Locally, several publications are online only and are free to read, Sound RIDER! being one of them, but the local BMW group,, publishes their newsletter monthly for all to read as well.

How about this? Convert your existing print subscriptions to digital, make a list of all the websites that have content you find interesting and create your Sunday morning read list. After all, with less cleaning up to do around the house, you'll have more time to read.

Patrick Thomas/February 2018

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