Motorcycle Manufacturers and the Web
File under Editorial
Author: Mike Werner
Location: Normandy, France
There is no doubt that all motorcycle manufacturers have taken to the web. Any technical and often sales information can be found on the internet, as long as you're armed with patience, and a reasonable knowledge on web searching. Not all motorcycle manufacturer's web sites are good; some are bad, some are OK. Only a few are great ! Eventually, you'll be able to find the information you need at a manufacturer's web site.
Motorcycle manufacturers and the web media, that's an entirely different story. Traditionally, motorcycle manufacturers have courted the TV media first, followed by the printed press (you do remember those quaint motorcycle magazines don't you ? They used to come through the post into your mail box. You could read them on the toilet, and when finished, rip out the pages and use them for you know what...).
Sites like ours, or our colleagues, play an important role in disseminating information to readers all over the world. Some manufacturers have started to see the light ! Ducati is a prime example of a good step in the right direction. They have people who look after the web media, informing us on what's happening. But it's not enough ! The traditional media still is favorite. They'll get precious information days before we get it. On big events, such as the upcoming EICMA motorcycle exhibition, events are organized beforehand, and very few, if none, of the web media are invited. The printed and TV media play an important role for them, while the web media is not that important (in their eyes).
On the other side of the manufacturers-and-web-media-relations-scale are the Triumphs of this world. They totally ignore anything coming from the web media. In fact, it's insulting. They may have special areas where you can register as press, download photos of their products (never the new stuff). But no relationship with the web media. They have an ostrich policy; Ignore, ignore, ignore !!
So you got to ask yourself why ? In an email correspondence with the BMW PR people (they would be mid scale in the web-media-relations scale) on this topic, they told me that the printed press has several days advance notice since they need to layout, print and distribute their stories ! I.e., you, the reader can wait until the printed press is ready to print, not when the information is available.
Secondly, dear motorcycle manufacturers, haven't you heard of date embargoes ??? You can send information to all media, and put a date and time that the information can be published. That way, we can prepare ourselves as well, instead of scrambling to catch up.
Difference between old media and new media
The web media is fast and mostly free to readers. But we're limited in space for articles, ie, it's more difficult to put together a comprehensive report on a new motorcycle, with many photos, diagrams and text. It would take far too long to load. The printer press is slow (typically a week), and you must pay for it. But they can make in depth reports about products, and often have more resources at their disposal.
There is room for both media in this world. Fast and timely information on the web, detailed information in magazines.
Another thing, don't for a minute think that a printed press is more important in todays communications world !! They don't have more readers! Even the smaller motorcycle news/blog sites have more readers than the bigger motorcycle magazines ! And why .... it's simple; we're not bound by geographical boundaries. An article written in China, can be read in Chile, as long as they can read the language. Magazines are geographically restricted, and therefore have a smaller audience (which also creates another problem; the manufacturers see the world in country distributor terms. If I ask a question to the head office of a manufacturer in Japan, I'll get forwarded to their representative in France, since that where we are registered. Then I get local information IN FRENCH ! That's no use... it's local info, and I don't read French !).
A site like ours gets between 70 and 150,000 readers PER DAY !!!! There's not a magazine in the world that has this kind of readership. The exposure a manufacturer can get with an article on the web, is far more important than a magazine (TV has got higher exposure, but is far more difficult to obtain). Introducing a new motorcycle to the web media has a higher exposure (think forums linking in the story, syndication, etc) than printed press. People would then buy the magazines to read more in depth articles about the bikes they saw on the web.
A Few Examples
I've been working on a series of articles on the motorcycle manufacturer's web efforts, i.e., what do the manufacturers have today in web presence. How many people work in their web departments, how many servers, how many visitors/hits, etc. I thought it would be an interesting series of articles. Benelli replied almost immediately. Ducati came with an answer reasonable fast. BMW played lip service, but never sent any information. Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha gave us the run-around, but no information. Harley-Davidson at least had the decency to tell me that they would not make these figures public (which I can respect). The remainder (Triumph, Honda, KTM, Aprilia) totally ignored the request, despite several reminders. If a magazine would ask, they'd be falling all over themselves....
Another example is when a new model is being launched. The BMW R1200GS-Adventure was slated to be launched in the UK at an exhibition. I contacted BMW for advance information, but was told all information would be released on the press web on Friday. However, a leading motorcycle magazine in the UK published official photos on Tuesday. This means they had the information the week before already.
Old Fashion Thinking
Historically, I guess this is the way things always went, when in the past something new and revolutionary came up, it got put down by the "older generation". When TV came, newspapers said that the idea was stupid since you couldn't take your TV with you to read on the train. When cars first started, people laughed at horseless transportation. Airplanes were scoffed at by steamboat companies, Bill Gates laughed at PCs with more than 10 Mb of hard disc capacity (OK, maybe not the right example, but had to get my dig in). The list goes on and on and on.
The powers at the motorcycle manufacturers are still thinking in the old ways. Indeed, they have embraced the web, but only as a one way information flow. Web media are not important to them, it's a fad, and it'll go away. Let's not upset the traditional, and old, media....
WAKE UP MANUFACTURERS ! We're here to stay ! Treat us as equals. You don't ignore a request or question from the printed media, so why ignore us ???