Print and Paddlesports: Its State and Future (Rapid Consolidates Titles; C&K Cancels Print)

There’s way more cross-over between disciplines now than we had when we started Rapid 20 years ago.

Back in paddlesports and the print industry’s heyday, people couldn’t get enough paddlesports in print…Paddler, Sea Kayaker, Canoe & Kayak, Kayak Session, Paddle World, River, American Whitewater and other magazines flooded the market like this year’s snowpack did to western waterways. Now, just six months after Canoe & Kayak magazine ceased the publication of its iconic, 40-year-old print title, Rapid Media announced the company is rolling three of their long-standing titles into one quarterly titled Paddling…

Eight months after print powerhouse TEN: The Enthusiast Network cancelled the print version of such magazines as Canoe & Kayak and even more iconic Surfing magazine, in a further sign of print’s disappearing times, Rapid Media publisher Scott MacGregor recently announced they’re combining the company’s three previously stand-alone print titles – Adventure Kayak, Rapid and Canoe Roots -- into one quarterly publication called Paddling magazine.

“We made the decision in late May,” he says. “It just felt right.”

Rather than it being strictly a financial decision, MacGregor says the new title will better reach their growing readership. In reader surveys they conducted for all three titles, he says, “most people said they’re also avid participants in at least one other paddling discipline.”

“Their top motivations for getting out paddling were all the same,” he says, “from adventure and getting away from civilization to camaraderie. There’s way more cross-over between disciplines now than we had when we started Rapid 20 years ago.”

From an editorial standpoint, he adds they were always a bit disappointed that their great editorial content that was only being read by one readership group. They addressed this by packaging the content together into a digital entity called Paddling; now they’re taken that concept to print. “It wasn’t really a viability or economies-of-scale issue,” he says. “All three magazines were doing fine on their own. It’s more that our content appeals to a wide readership base.”

With its first issue debuting at this year’s Paddlesports Retailer tradeshow in Madison, Wis., MacGregor says they’ve brought over the columnists from each respective title, giving the new magazine a balanced level of discipline coverage. Unlike the old American Canoe Association-owned Paddler magazine, which reached canoeists, sea kayakers, whitewater paddlers and more through such departments as Skills, Eco and Destinations, each discipline is Paddling is broken out independently.

“People today read magazines more for enjoyment than to get information,” he says. “They go online for information. We’re going to continue running longer features and essays – things people read for enjoyment.”

He adds that he feels consumers’ reading habits on mobile devices has also peaked. “The novelty of reading on iPads is wearing off,” he says. “It’s awkward to pass your iPad around. It’s still a revenue stream for us, but we look at it as a marketing tool to push our print product, whose numbers are still climbing.”

Kayak Angler, Rapid Media’s fourth print title, will continue in print as a quarterly. “That title is doing great as a stand-alone,” he says.
ACA members can choose either a print version or a digital version of one of the titles, Paddling magazine or Kayak Angler, and purchase the additional title, in either format, for a discount.

The move follows the heels of TEN’s move last December to cancel the print version of Canoe & Kayak magazine. The official statement reads, “In an effort to target its fast-growing digital, social and video audiences, TEN: The Enthusiast Network announced that Canoe & Kayak is shifting its resources to focus on growing the brand through delivery of content via mobile/digital, video and events channels while reducing production of print products.”

Executives said that Canoe & Kayak, long the world’s pre-eminent paddlesports media brand, has experienced significant digital growth across its social and web-based platforms and remains the industry’s number one digital destination for news, travel/destination stories, gear reviews, and more. C&K continues to grow its audience and will now focus more resources on expanding its reach through a comprehensive multi-platform content strategy in digital, social, video, events and print.

“We have witnessed substantive growth in our digital, video and social distribution channels which has given us confidence on our emerging media as a growth platform,” said Norb Garrett, EVP of TEN’s Sports & Entertainment Group. “As our consumers alter how they access information and entertainment through mobile and digital channels change and improve, we must shift our focus to meet and exceed those demands while delivering our unique, exclusive content. As these platforms continue to grow and evolve, so too has our focus on them as important distribution channels for our brands. Print remains an important content distribution platform for many of our brands, but we need to shift our primary focus to the mobile/digital and event experience.”

The industry’s overall switch to fewer print titles echoes what is happening in other specialty publication niches. As well as Source Interlink cancelling Surfing and handful of other print titles, in January 2017 Active Interest Media announced it was rolling long-running Skiing magazine into its sister publication Ski magazine. Other more horizontal titles that have shuttered their print doors over the past decade include Self, Life, National Geographic Adventure, Gourmet, Teen, Travel & Leisure Golf, PC and more. In the paddling space, Paddler magazine closed its doors in 2012 after a 20-year run, followed by Sea Kayaker magazine in 2013, after 30 years and 158 issues. Sea Kayaker still exists as a web platform (www.seakayakermag.com). Other online paddling sites include www.paddlinglife.net and www.paddling.com. Atlantic Coastal Paddler, published by Tamsin Venn, is still in print after 25 years, as is Kayak Session out of France.

In his letter to the industry announcing the change, C&K Editor Dave Shively says: "We're making aggressive moves to become a more relevant digital-first title. C&K's audience has changed accordingly....we will no longer produce a quarterly print edition. Per month, for every eight viewers of C&K content across our channels, there is only a single print viewer.

This does not mean we are abandoning print. It means that because our audience now is so large and so vastly skewed toward digital, we are scaling print back accordingly. If there's continued interest from our advertisers in print, we’ll produce it.

"We're the big tent that delivers the best stories, information, and imagery from every impassioned corner of paddling. The news, photo, product, skills and travel coverage that we're known for will only expand online, as will our video offerings.

"It's a shift in focus that allows us to be nimble and flexible, with regard to expansion into apps, customized site sections, story and film series, plus more event presence among the thriving communities of paddlers that drive our sport. Media is changing fast, and we are charging hard, head-on into the changes just as we would into any rapid ahead."

Read Shively's letter about C&K HERE

Read MacGregor's Letter from the Editor HERE








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