(Advertising) Campaign Reform

John P Burns
by John P Burns
It is as predictable as the tide, as sure a thing as peering down the cellar door each September will reveal the K.C. Royals, despondent and confused. Every time you go on record really liking a motorcycle, some creature will invariably poke his fuzzy little head from the burrow and bleat: "It's because Company X advertises with them!" Thank you, KPaulCook, for keeping things regular.

This time we got it because I like the Buell XB9R very much. I've been in the motorcycle magazine biz, sad to admit, for 14 years now, and I can't recall a season in which the magazine I worked for did not get this. Let me just say, that never in all those years of working at Cycle, Cycle World, or Motorcyclist, did anybody ever, even once, pressure me to favor a particular bike because of advertising dollars. It doesn't happen. Think about it before you fire off your next insulting accusation. In the current instance, Buell; how big do you supposeBuell's advertising budget is? Compared to Ducati's (whose 900 Supersport I jilted for it) and to Yamaha's (whose R1 giant we also said it is capable ofslaying on the street). How long do you think a magazine, online or otherwise, would last were it loyal only to Buell? Or to any one manufacturer? The correct answer is, not long at all.

The fact is that manufacturers advertise with MObecause we draw in lots of readers, generate lots of "hits" in internetspeak. MO does that, and the big print magazines do that, by having built a reputationfor doing fair, impartial road tests--and I for one do not appreciate it when people casually throw outill-informed accusations to the contrary. Another fact to chew on is that, often as not, a manufacturer's advertising people--generally an outside agency--don't much read the magazines or web sites they advertise with. They look at the numbers. They want to reach the maximum number of people in the right demographic group. The question is never, where did the GX12R finish in your comparo? The question is always, how many readers will see this?

That works in the other direction too; as Editor-in-Chief and Drum Major of MO, I enjoy the Deluxe package (just one of the many perks including unlimited batons) in which the ads don't even appear on my screeen. Wouldyou believe me if I said I'm not usually even aware of who's advertising on MO, as long as I get payed occasionally? It's true. It's also true that the nearest thing we have to an ad salesman is Minime (who the accuserwent on to say would doubtless be banned for airing his non-love for the Buell). Mini throws proposals in the mail and keeps track of who owes us what. That's admittedly a conflict of interest, but not at all a big one,relatively speaking, in the modern publishing world. (A bigger one to me would be the fact that I wrote many of the big road tests at Motorcyclist for what? Eight years? And nobody there ever asked me for my "Motorcycleof the Year" pick. Wonder who did decide?) MO's hands are not perfectly clean, but less grimy than some of our competitors.

You can work around the whole prickly favoritism problem, naturally, by just never really declaring any particular motorcycle superior to any particular other, butthat grows tiresome rather quickly. One of the reasons I'm here at MO is because I'm too stupid to not say what's on my mind, under the wrongheaded impression that the truth will eventually get out anyway. Sometimes it does; sadly, where more media outlets are owned by fewer media giants, it's beginning to seem as if it increasingly doesn't--and when the truth does get out, the reader is too often bloated with info overload to notice.

One of my favorite things about MO and the internet in general is the immediate feedback, and the fact that it truly is a pure democracy in that eveybody gets to say exactly what they think. Pure democracy only works,though, if the people expressing themselves bother to inform themselves before popping off with whatever drains into the brainpan first. It really isn't moral to accuse people of wrongdoing unless you're quite certain it's true. It's also illegal. The real damage only occurs later, when all the stupid people form a herd, trample the truth, and lose sight of what matters. While Congress was investigating whether Bill Clinton touched Monica Lewinsky's nipple a few years ago, for instance, it may have not focussed quite as intently as it could've on, ohhh, I dunno... NATIONAL SECURITY!?

Did I get onto Congress? It all got me in a mood to contemplate, you guessed it! Campaign Finance Reform. You need to raise a lot of money to win political office in the U.S. lately. Defenders of the present systeminvoke the First Amendment: Not allowing contributors to throw large sums of cash to their favorite candidates violates the contributors' Freedom of Speech, they say--and never mind about the freedom of speech of the rest of us. Did you say something? I can't hear you with these wads of bills in my ears....

If you can get behind that argument (and something tells me my reactionary accuser KPaul can), why would it be a problem to you if MO really did receive infusions of cash from Buell or Honda or whoever? Wouldn't that bea case of those manufacturers simply exercising their Freedom of Speech? And couldn't you trust us, as your duly subscribed-to MO officials, to not be influenced by it any more than George W. was by all that Enron cash? All I'm saying is, pluck the plank out of your own dangcamel's eyeball before you come digging up small russets like us.

KPaul, not content to parade his genius at every lull in the conversation, then goes on to remove all doubt as to his capacity for clear thinking in yet another post re: the Buell XB9R, by quoting Motorcyclist magazine Editor-in-Chief Mitch Boehm, who, he says "has a excellent analysis of the situation in his Lean Angle column in the July issue: Given that Buell/Harley must (be) prepared to stand up to the scrutiny from thesquids otherwise don't call yourself a sportbike and don't take it personal when folks point out a poor price/performance ratio," KPaul loosely paraphrases.

Dang, I have to admit to not having read Boehm this month, as the parakeets were blocking my view, but if that's close to what he said (in prose a bit more polished than KPaul's I'm sure), then I wonder if the Ducati 900SS remains one of Boehm's favorite all-time bikes as he has often written in the past? Because I think we just discovered that the new Buell makes a bit more power, weighs 15 pounds less and leaves the SS for dead in sporting use? Well, you have to ride the XB9 awhile to appreciate how good it is. (By the way, as another poster mentioned, the Brit mags Superbike and Performance Bikes--also Cycle World--have very little but praise for the XB in their current editions.)

I think my Point is, ladies and gentlemen, if you're going to express strong opinions concerning things about which you know little, particularly in a public forum, it behooves you to align your sh*t into some sort of a logical pattern beforehand. Nay, it's your duty. KPaul, your amusement vs.annoyance balance factor is beginning to tilt the wrong way. Keep it up, and don't think we won't cancel your subscription. (You wouldn't be the first.) -- JB

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