Sunday, July 18, 2010


Ever notice there's no advertising on the Superbike Blog? The Motorcyclist Magazine debacle exemplifies exactly why

Since its inception in mid-2004, I have consistently refused and resisted opportunities to monetize the Superbike Blog. Why? Because this blog is simply a place where I, like a zillion other knuckleheads on the Internet, spew my various opinions and revelations about my own personal interests. Sometimes I spread my loves and adorations, sometimes I rant and rail against things I disagree with. Some months I post like mad. Other months I completely neglect this blog and do other things. The point is, I'm free to do mostly whatever I want here, and I don't have to answer to advertisers about my various and sundry blogging practices. Such is very much by design. The Superbike Blog continues to be popular among its niche readers, and I see no reason to bring in any outside influences in the form of advertisers.

A perfect example of why I have maintained this policy is the current shame being brought down upon Motorcyclist Magazine and its editor Brian Catterson. According to Jalopnik, Catterson, on behalf of Motorcyclist, fired freelance writer Dexter Ford because of a 100-percent true article he wrote for the New York Times. What's the problem, you ask? Several of Motorcyclist's big-money advertisers didn't like how the article in question made them look, and allegedly threatened to pull their ads from the already struggling moto rag.

After his firing, Ford leaked a series of emails in which Catterson admits that the advertisers were calling the shots:
The emails, which Ford confirmed for us are the real thing, include an apparent assertion by Motorcyclist editor-in-chief Brian Catterson that major helmet makers threatened to withdraw advertising in his magazine due to Ford's New York Times piece. That same email then quotes Catterson as saying, "Iʼm getting serious heat over this, to the tune of threatening my job unless I do something about you." (September 30, 2009 at 4:21 PM)

If true, the emails raise troubling questions about a potentially unethical relationship between advertising dollars and editorial content at the popular magazine, one that stretches beyond mere motorcycle reviews and appears to include reporting on the safety of children's helmets.

You can find the complete leaked email exchange on
The fact that sister magazines Motorcyclist and Sport Rider have long capitulated to the pressures thrust upon them by their advertisers is common knowledge among those of us who follow the industry. For this reason, I stopped subscribing years ago. Oddly, Motorcyclist's publishing house, Source Interlink, is now sending me free subscriptions to Sport Rider, Motorcyclist, and even Hot Bike as they apparently attempt to drum up interest in the struggling titles. I'll be glad to take them for free, but I refuse to pay actual money for any magazine that's already payed for with 50-plus percent advertising content by the time it gets to my mailbox. With that many ads, Motorcyclist's web of alliances is plainly entangled, and it can no longer be viewed as objective in its reviews and editorial. Quotes like the following one from the leaked emails bolster my point loudly:
"None of that matters to the brass when two of our biggest advertisers are threatening to yank their ads over a story a freelancer wrote for another publication when we're down $2 mil from last year!"
For the complete story, click here. For the complete thread of leaked emails between Catterson and Ford, click here to download them as a single PDF.

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