Duke's Den – You Got A Problem With Free?

Kevin Duke
by Kevin Duke

A side benefit to riding motorcycles is that a rider’s age is fairly easily obfuscated by riding gear and a full-face helmet. Thus attired, I could pass myself off as a 20-something even though I’m carrying around a number twice as large.

While you might not be able to tell my age when I’m geared up, you could if you glanced into my home office. My collection of motorcycle magazines numbers in the many hundreds – perhaps thousands if including a decade’s worth in my mom’s basement – stretching back to the 1980s. It’s a sure indicator I can’t qualify for millennial status.

Millennials, apparently, are largely unfamiliar with words printed on paper, instead getting their info almost completely online. To me and the generation I come from, a library of back issues was once an invaluable resource of information that was otherwise inaccessible.

But then the world wide web came into being, and moto information began its dissemination digitally. The publication you’re browsing now began spurting dribs and drabs of moto-centric content way back in 1994. A few years later, in 1997, I had scored my dream job of a staff position at a national motorcycle magazine, and I was shocked when my first new-bike launch included an invite to the web: Motorcycle.com.

1998 Honda CBR900RR Review

At that point in time, the internet was generally regarded as little more than an electronic version of a bathroom wall – a bunch of people with no authority spouting off about things they had only cursory knowledge about. With my longstanding love of printed magazines and the marginal penetration of the web at the time, I remember feeling as if Motorcycle.com was just an imposter in a respected and professional industry. But MO was blazing a trail…

Motorcycle.com’s founder Brent Plummer was one of the fastest journalists at the press introduction of Honda’s 1998 CBR900RR. Kudos to Big Red for being an early adopter of the web.

After bouncing around a few print pubs, I got hired by an online publication in 2002. I imagined my tenure there would be short because I expected to be coaxed away by a better offer from a print pub. Although public engagement with the web was rapidly developing, OEMs were still only modestly interested in online magazines. Support was weak but began to pick up as MO and Moto USA drove each other to higher levels of quality and originality. Meanwhile, most everyone with disposable income – like those who could afford to shop for a motorcycle – were enjoying internet access and were looking for the latest news and pictures. Soon, they’d be expecting video, too.

And it’s video that inspired this editorial. Some readers have voiced criticism about how our videos sometimes begin playing automatically after the page loads. This can be annoying if, say, the volume of your internet device is turned up high. Doubly so if you happen to be viewing a page while at work across from your boss’s cubicle.

While I feel empathetic to this critique, I also have to give my brain a shake and remember how media formerly was delivered: It would be sent to your door or local magazine rack months after the info inside was actually gathered by magazine staff. Photos, which a generation ago needed to be developed, were often in black and white and numbered only a few. Today MO regularly delivers a review of a new bike just a day or two after riding it, and in our review are dozens of photos that can be seen more than a foot wide if you’ve got a big monitor.

Me and the CBR600F2 I bought new in 1991 based on the glowing reviews I read in every print magazine. The money I saved racing on the stock Michelins went to my head: a Jimmy Adamo Arai and a perm! Note the pre-knee-puck Dainese leathers.

And then a few days later, we usually deliver a professionally edited video from the bike’s media introduction – a motorcycle alive in motion and sound, a quantum leap or three ahead of just two decades prior! And how much do we charge for this avalanche of media delivered directly to your living room, subway seat, bathroom or wherever?

The only cost to you is your clicks on MO, whether it’s the click to arrive on our pages or the click to mute or pause a video. Compared to the thousands of dollars I’ve spent through the years on motorcycle magazines with small photos, delayed info and no video, these few clicks on MO are a small price to pay – it’s a genuine bargain.

Same goes for the button pushes we request when you browse our Top 10 lists. The clicks you make add to our page-view count, which is one of the metrics ad buyers look at when deciding which publication to support with their dollars. Without ad revenue, we can’t pay for all the good stuff that costs money like video productions and the best staff in the moto industry.

Duke’s Den – Courtship Of Editors

But, for me, the viewer whose critique went past whiney and approached a-hole status was the commenter on a Youtube video of ours who complained about our end-of-video tease to visit Motorcycle.com for the full results of our shootout. He burned about 300 keystrokes whinging about having to click a button or two to visit our site!

MO’s Youtube Home Page

Anyway, I sincerely hope the information and entertainment you get from Motorcycle.com is worth the few clicks you have to acess it. You’ve got a half-dozen highly experienced moto enthusiasts working their asses off for you, and we believe there is no better value for moto fans on the dubya-dubya-dubya. Now, go click on another story. We’ve got mouths to feed!

Kevin Duke
Kevin Duke

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4 of 32 comments
  • John B John B on Dec 24, 2015

    My kids tell me college is more difficult now than it was when I went to school. When I tell them we did not have Google, did research using the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, and typed papers on a manual typewriter they think I'm joking..... Receiving magazines in the mail was exciting though....

    • See 1 previous
    • Rex Rex on Feb 10, 2016

      Charred bone? When I was a pre-Cro-Magnon man, we couldn't even dream of using a charred bone (plus, we didn't have fire and it would have taken days to trek to the nearest active volcano to burn a piece of bone). We had to stab ourselves in the hand with a sharp stick and make markings on rocks with our blood...and that washed away in the next rain because we didn't even have caves (on account of sabre-tooth cats, bears, pterodactyls, and the guys with charred bones). You effin' one-percenter snob!

  • Therr850 Therr850 on Dec 25, 2015

    Without reading any of the comments already posted, I am one who dreads the day the paper magazines go away. I am old enough that I have trouble reading from an electronic screen for extended periods. Paper is much easier to carry around and I seldom have to find the charger to finish the article. I do get MO sent to my inbox but this is the only digital publication I subscribe to. I have gone to the paper electronic posts and updates only three times. If there is information that completes a paper article,,,,,,,, oh well. I'll not pursue it. I read in Sport Rider several years ago that Andrew Trevitt's research revealed less than half paper subscribers visited the web and less than half the digital subscribers read the paper version. Don't know if this has changed much but was interesting at the time. As a side note, I normally don't read MO till it is at least a week old so "up to date" is not a big priority to me.