There’s been a lot of discussion behind the scenes lately, and we’ve been asking ourselves the hard questions. Is what we’re doing in the tech space working? Is it as good as it can be? How much weight should we put into the scores you leave for us at the bottom of our articles? Do we need to do what others are doing? And as lifelong obsessed cyclists, would we buy a membership ourselves?!
The reality is that there’s always room for improvement. An endless list of unique content awaits our three full-time tech editors, and yet, we’ve all found ourselves caught up on the mouse wheel of covering tech news. This type of quicker-to-produce content comes at an opportunity cost to the stuff that truly sets us apart. We need more of the stories that add unquestionable value to our readers. Most importantly, these pieces are what we promised our members. It’s time to fix it, and we can do just that with our member-funded business model.
So here’s the shift: Less product news, and more reviews, analysis, in-depth guides, and features.
Our business model allows us to rethink all aspects of our editorial. Ultimately, the goal is to turn the tables a bit. Niche media can often feel like a promotional tool to use at the industry’s convenience. While it certainly was not our original intention, we’ve fallen back into playing the news game because it allows us to be a relevant part of the forever-shifting conversation. It has sometimes worked, as we’ve been seeing great traffic and reader engagement in covering such product release news, but page views aren’t what keep the lights on in our business – our subscribers and members do.
To be clear, we’re not walking away from covering new products. A huge number of our members have told us they want our perspective on the new stuff. Do you still want to hear about what’s new and what’s worth knowing about? Great, that’s exactly what our weekly (and free!) Geek Warning podcast has provided and it will continue to do so. We’re going to shift a lot of news discussion to this podcast because it’s an efficient way to get the information across and it frees up our writing time for larger projects.
Regarding the written news, our goal is to be more selective and smarter with how we use the time of our tech editors. Rather than spending a day writing about a vaguely new bike we don’t actually have our hands on, we will spend that time creating content that offers unique value to you. Less ‘first look’ style content and more final assessment-type stuff. Less of the content everyone else also offers, and more of the content that doesn’t exist elsewhere.
We want to bring all of you more in-depth reviews, more how-to content, more deep-dive tech features, and more of the incredibly niche stuff that sparks joy in our authors and segments of our members. Unfortunately, doing all of that means something has to give (specifically with the current headcount of three tech editors).
Sometimes, we’ll break this plan when the product or news is major enough. The release of Shimano 12-speed 105 mechanical is worth us writing about even if we haven’t used it. A big brand getting bought – for example, Pinarello – is just interesting to anyone who works in the industry or is interested in the industry happenings. We’ll let you know if there’s a major product recall that likely impacts many of you. We’ll still provide coverage from the major tradeshows such as Sea Otter Classic and Eurobike. And then there will be the times we have strong opinions or feelings, such as Moots launching a carbon e-bike (wait, what?). We promise that when we do speak about things we haven’t used, we’ll do it because we think there’s something truly worth sharing, and of course, it’ll be from our perspective.
With all of that in mind, we have a request to our friends on the other side of the fence:
Dear Bike Industry,
We may never throw off the shackles of Big Disc, but we do have a wish list for the rest of you.
Testing and providing our perspective on your new products is a high priority for us. We want to tell the world when you knock it out of the park, but we need advanced notice and time to do things to our standards. If you want us to hit your go-live embargo date, then you’ll need to give us ample time to do so.
Bigger picture: our reviews are paid for by our members. They’re our customers. We don’t charge marketing departments for reviews or ask for advertising in return (although we do ask that you cover return postage costs). We don’t use affiliate links or have any other ulterior motives for what we cover. Everything is selected for our readers.
We firmly believe that balanced, trustworthy reviews are crucial not just for consumers, but for the industry itself. Our business model allows us to achieve this. We strive to provide accurate, insightful, and fair reviews based on multiple decades of combined experience. Sometimes, that’ll mean high positivity when a product deserves as much; other times, it may result in asking brands difficult questions while we complete our testing. If we do our jobs right, then you may not like what we say, but you won’t be able to say we’re wrong or unfair.
Contact us in advance so we can discuss adding your product to our editorial calendar. Even if we don’t end up reviewing something, please keep us in the loop of what’s coming so we can discuss it on the podcast if it’s of interest.
And while we have you, the world is quickly returning to how it was pre-pandemic. Many brands have gone from sending out embargoed products and have snapped back to revealing new products in desirable locations with controlled conditions. We love the occasional home office escape, but, frankly, we do our jobs much better and more efficiently when reviewing bikes on local roads and trails. Our preference is to have bikes sent to us for proper testing rather than us being sent to a bike for lesser testing. Sending a bike to us ensures we can put a conclusion on a review, our consciences feel better about the reduced travel, and it’s cheaper for you.
What do you think?
Expect better, more unique, and even more insightful tech content from us moving forward. And if you’re keen to stay on top of what’s new, then we encourage you to tune into the weekly Geek Warning podcast for our perspective (and occasional nonsense).
Okay, so that’s the plan, at least until our tech team can grow. What do you think? Tell us in the comments.
Thank you from the tech team of Escape Collective – James Huang, Dave Rome, and Ronan McLaughlin.
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