The oldest continuously published motorcycle magazine in the United States is about to issue its final print edition.
Bonnier Corporation quietly issued a statement saying Motorcyclist magazine's July/August issue will be its last in print. The web site, Motorcyclistonline.com, will continue, along with the brand's social media and YouTube channels.
“Like other enthusiast-content segments, motorcycle readership has evolved to a truly digital audience,” said Andy Leisner, SVP Managing Director of the Bonnier Motorcycle Group. It's the kind of quote from Leisner that comes out every year or so from Bonnier as the company announces that it is shutting down more print titles. Bonnier closed titles such as Sport Rider in 2017, reduced Cycle World (which had been the largest circulation motorcycle magazine) to four issues a year in 2018, and closed Hot Bike this year. That's a list of examples, not anywhere near a complete list.
Motorcyclist itself underwent a major change of format two years ago, shifting from monthly to six issues per year and, more importantly, moving away from the traditional format of focusing on the hardware, with bike reviews and comparisons, to featuring more storytelling and artwork. That experiment seems to have ended after two years and now Motorcyclist will be a digital-only brand.
The Bonnier statement says "All existing Motorcyclist staff and production resources will be shifted to address the growth on these channels," so at this point, at least, we don't know of any layoffs or job losses.
Motorcyclist's roots go back to a publication called Pacific Motorcycling that first appeared in 1912. The publication's name changed several times, as did the focus, which sometimes included both bicycles and motorcycles in the early years. For many years, it was the official publication of the American Motorcyclist Association. The magazine survived the Great Depression, World War II rationing, and numerous changes of ownership, especially in the last 20 years. In the end, however, it could not survive the digital age, at least not in paper-and-ink form.
Back when I made my living as a professional news reporter and editor and had never published a single word about motorcycles, but spent most of my free time riding them or thinking about them, I sampled all the monthly magazines. Motorcyclist was the one I most identified with, and while partly that's because its editorial focus matched my street-riding, performance-oriented interests, it's also because it was simply a good magazine.
How long before reading about motorcycles in a print publication is akin to buying a motorcycle with a magneto or a drum front brake? We're one step closer.