Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Motorcycle journalism gets 'Closer to the Edge' with TT3D release

Maybe the '3D' stands for Desperate, Destitute, and Depressed...

Over the last couple of years, I've chronicled what amounts to the beginning of the end of professional motorcycle journalism. All I can tell you is, I'm lucky to have a job at a grocery store, [NAME OF EMPLOYER REDACTED], these days; better to be a member of the working poor than unemployed.

I was reminded of that last week when I got an email out of the blue from some guy packaging the Universal/Sony DVD release of TT3D. The DVD, it seems, will be released with a 16-page magazine-format insert.

The offer I got, as a professional motorcycle journalist who has both raced in and written extensively about the TT was this: I'd be responsible for 13 pages. (Everything but the covers and the inside front cover.) Universal/Sony wanted me to provide editorial direction and write the 13 pages, covering 4-5 'features' and including a couple of sidebars on each spread.

It sounded like a great gig, and I immediately started thumbnailing it. My anchor feature would have paired "What it will take to win" an in-depth interview with Guy Martin, the most popular TT rider who's not yet won one, with "What it takes to win" from John McGuinness.

They wanted in-depth, insightful content that would add a deeper layer of understanding for viewers coming to the video with little understanding of the TT. (I have not yet seen the film myself, but the online trailer looks brilliant.) I was pumped.

Then, came the shocker: The budget was 500 quid. Yes, Universal/Sony wanted to pay about $75 per page. REALLY?!? How many will they print? Surely it would be in the tens of thousands; the margin on sales of DVDs is vastly better than the margin in the magazine business, but even in their death throes, magazines are paying several times that rate. And that's for writing only; they also pay full time staffers to provide editorial direction. And the TT3D magazine will be on the market for years.

It occurred to me that maybe they'd left a zero off, or at least neglected to put the '1' in front of the '500.' I countered with 1,500 quid, or a page from the magazine in which I could run an ad for Riding Man, Kindle edition. I was told that 500 was the budget.

That wouldn't pay anywhere near as much on a per-hour basis as [NAME OF EMPLOYER REDACTED]. It's an amount that guarantees one of two things: either someone will just regurgitate a bunch of crap as content -- no new interviews, no actual thinking or insight, and no time spent crafting the writing either. Or, someone will actually do that work, but get paid far less than a living wage. The offer, coming from Universal/Sony, was a real insult to professional journalism. They're obviously not willing to invest even one percent of their profits back into the TT3D package, in order to make it a product that a wider audience will appreciate more, and one which will add a deeper level of insight into the TT for even devoted fans.

I highly doubt that I'll be sent a review copy of TT3D but if anyone reading this ever buys it, shoot me an email and tell me who wrote the insert, eh? And write that bastard a note castigating him for hastening the demise of professional motorcycle journalism.


  1. Standard stuff these days - the desire to get something for nothing. Many businesses are earning ridiculous profits with much smaller workforces and so it seems that every business should be able to do the same. Sad, but it seems nobody is willing to pay for quality.

  2. Yes, happens all the time. The surprising thing here is that even a company like Universal/Sony is indulging in this kind of bullshit.