The following is taken from The Outer Line, December 14, 2022. While the audience is primarily adult enthusiast cyclists, HPS found the author’s observations compelling as related to the overall American bicycle and e-bike business. We edited the original article for easier reading.
A few weeks ago, we commented on the turmoil and downsizing occurring in the cycling and other niche sports media platforms. As economic headwinds and uncertainties continue, this trend continues to intensify – in both the overall media business as well as the broader bicycle industry. With declining ad revenue and more hesitant subscribers, media platforms across the board are tightening their belts.
Substantial cuts have more recently been made at mainstream media firms like CNN, the Washington Post and USA Today. As former CNN host Brian Stelter put it in an essay for The Atlantic, “Media Winter is here once more, and it is getting ugly.”
It seems that a “prerequisite for working in media in the 21st century is a tolerance for turmoil and constant change, continuing consolidation and ownership change; politicians and CEOs like Elon Musk fighting about coverage, AI threatening to replace writers, and not to mention that the pay is often terrible.” And it may be tougher in smaller niche media markets like individual sports verticals.
Another observer summarized it more concisely, saying, “Media is one of the worst businesses known to man.” And it’s not just in the media. Layoffs have spread far beyond the editorial side in the cycling world, just two years after the historic “COVID boom.”
This retrenchment was best illustrated by COVID-darling Wahoo reportedly laying off at least 15 percent of its staff – likely largely due to over-extending itself after incorrectly assuming pandemic consumer habits would remain even after things returned to normal.
In addition, its partner turned competitor, Zwift, released a smart trainer significantly undercutting Wahoo’s indoor riding products. Strava has also reportedly laid off about 15 percent of its staff, as did The Pro’s Closet. And Specialized just discontinued its special ambassador program.
Beyond being a reflection of the current economic and financial headwinds, all of these recent developments also suggest that rather than COVID causing a boom in consumer spending, it may have just brought forward several years of spending. Hence, because of this over-optimistic forecasting, we will likely see the industry enter a prolonged lean time.
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