How we beat overwhelming odds

The Harley-Davidson Motor Co. is mere weeks away from its 105th anniversary. So it might seem a little absurd for us, celebrating our 10th anniversary, to be tooting our own horn.
But you might rethink that once you consider this sobering piece of data: Sixty percent of new magazines fail in their first year, 80 percent by their fourth year and 90 percent by their 10th anniversary, according to published reports.
Yet, the astounding piece of news is Powersports Business not only beat incredibly long odds to be able to blow its own horn, but has become a much bigger industry presence than ever before. The magazine has more full-time staff devoted to it than at any other time in its 10-year existence. It also has transcended the magazine page, extending not only into the digital world but as a host to two of the bigger executive events of the year.
All of which is quite an evolution from the product that debuted Jan. 5, 1998, as a single collection of three different publications. At the time, Ehlert Publishing Group was producing Snowmobile Business and Watercraft Business and working on the launch of ATV Business. But when Affinity Group purchased Ehlert Publishing in 1997, it provided the company with industry connections and expertise in the motorcycle arena from Affinity’s Rider and American Rider magazines. A decision was made to shelf the ATV Business launch and combine that and the PWC and snow titles into one book, Powersports Business.
The new magazine was geared away from the traditional trade publications that put product on a pedestal. Instead, Powersports Business was designed to be first and foremost a business and news publication. And to underline that, the magazine was given a more frequent publishing date than existing publications. The idea of publishing every three weeks, something that exists to this day, was conceived to beat the competition.
The creators of Powersports Business also did something else rather unique in that they decided to cover every single segment of the industry, a daunting prospect for its editorial staff and a rather engaging one for its readers. Even today, Powersports Business has a presence at industry events of all types, from the V-twin world of the Cincinnati Expo to the aftermarket shows across the nation to a snowmobile celebration in Minnesota.
Today, Powersports Business’ circulation numbers about 14,000, but much, much more in terms of actual readership. An independent reader survey conducted for Powersports Business last year shows it’s rather common for two, three or even more readers to sit down with one issue of the publication. All of which means it’s probably not uncommon for 40,000 or more industry insiders to view the publication at any one time.
Of course, that doesn’t count the number of industry folk who receive our twice-a-week online news postings that go right to their e-mail inbox. At last count, that number topped 7,000. Those E-news offerings are short and to-the-point, providing instant updates but little in the way of analysis or perspective. That’s left up to the magazine, which has become known as a magnate for industry data, much of which is obtained through national surveys that take the pulse of hundreds of dealerships up to six times a year.
An offshoot of the magazine’s success has been a noteworthy gathering called Powersports Business Congress, an executive-only, two-day event held each winter in Arizona. The event pares dealer executives and dealer service providers together in a business atmosphere, one that provides the means to conduct meaningful discussions in a conducive atmosphere, unlike what a traditional trade show allows.
As much as the magazine and its offshoots have flourished in this past decade, it’s difficult for us to claim the spotlight for any length of time. We have been, and always will be, news writers rather than newsmakers. So we’ve spent most of this Focus section on our 10th anniversary looking back at the industry rather than at the publication itself. However, we have taken the opportunity in this section to provide a few glimpses of what our lives as industry reporters and watchdogs are like. Be sure to read “Behind the Notebook” for some behind-the-scenes moments of Powersports Business.
We hope it provides a few laughs and more importantly, a bridge to the next 10 years of what we hope to be an even more prosperous and enlightening decade of news gathering and reporting.

Neil Pascale is editor-in-chief of Powersports Business. He can be reached at npascale@affinitygroup.com.

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