Opinion: The Message and the Medium

Apr 10, 2015 at 12:16
by Mike Levy  
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I'm not the kind of guy that feels awkward very often, which can really work to my advantage a lot of times. Having to go to the drugstore by myself to buy a girlfriend a box of tampons? Sure, honey, and I'll pick you up that nail polish and pantyhose that you want as well. But for me, as someone who makes his living in the online world of media and HTML code, writing about paper and ink feels just a touch, ahem, uncomfortable. For those that don't know, Dirt's owners, Factory Media, have decided that none of their titles will continue on in print form, and that they'll instead put their efforts towards online content. Factory Media's reasoning boils down to where advertisers are wanting their ads to pop up these days, which seems to be on computer screens rather than pages of paper, and the economics of it all means that, at least in some markets, print is having a harder go of it.

So hopefully you can see why I'm more than just a little hesitant to share my feelings on Dirt's wholesale change in content delivery, but I'm also hoping that you can look past the irony of an online editor writing about the demise of a print magazine that was, for all intents and purposes, his competition. Like I said, this could be awkward, but let's embrace it like I embraced that box of feminine hygiene products.





I know that I'm not alone when I say that I've been reading Dirt nearly since it first came out, although that usually meant that I was flipping the pages of a two month old magazine by the time it got to my neck of the woods in B.C.. I remember driving the forty five minutes West as a seventeen-year-old kid solely to get to the only bookstore large enough to carry this oddball 'bicycles and dirt action' magazine from the UK, and then spending much longer trying to decipher the then-strange British-isms that filled the pages. It turned out that those "ramblings" (other peoples' words, not mine) were most often Steve Jones' words, and the sometimes odd style was put down in a casual manner that was more like friendly banter than the 'look at me, I'm a writer!' copy of the competition, including what you sometimes read here on Pinkbike. There is zero pretense or posturing, which is why I believe so many riders take his thoughts on bikes as gospel. After all, there's a lot to be said for being able to relate. But it doesn't follow the rules, which makes Jones' style a bit like the sushi of the cycling media clique - you either love it or hate it.
bigquotesThe print world will be a bit less Sex Pistols and a bit more Ikea now that Dirt has left, and those who will always want to hold paper in their hands, which includes myself, will be poorer for it.


That writing style fit Dirt's pages so well because of the shirking-of-the-rules approach that applied to a lot of what the magazine did in print. In contrast, many (but not all) North American magazines look about as exciting as an episode of the Golden Girls, are usually filled with perfect English that so often reads more like a university paper rather than anything that would take a reader out onto that same hill with the tester, and the images are usually of people who look like they would feel a real sense of shame if they were to accidentally skid around a corner. Open up an issue of Dirt and you'd be just as likely to see a photo of a helmet-less kid launching his rigid 24'er over a sketchy looking double in the forest as you would a pajama-clad racer with his foot out and a spray of roost and plant life in the air behind him. They'd see nothing wrong with devoting multiple pages to reviewing a near one-off bike welded up in some mad scientist's garage and that maybe only a handful of people would ever get to ride, simply because both it and the man who created it are interesting. They'd interview pros, but the banter was actually good because they're proper friends and not just in touch with each other through a marketing person. Their layouts were more punk rock than set in stone.

The print world will be a bit less Sex Pistols and a bit more Ikea now that Dirt has left, and those who will always want to hold paper in their hands, which includes myself, will be poorer for it. All is not lost, though, because we've yet to see what's in store for Dirt's online presence. This may sound odd coming from someone who calls the internet his office, but there's something about print that no amount of fancy coding and near instantaneous delivery will ever be able to touch, although that's not to say that Dirt won't be able to deliver some classic Dirt-esque style content in their new form. I realize they're now even more aligned as rivals in this too-small and underfed fish tank that we call the cycling media, but a large part of me is looking forward to some of that original 'f*ck it' Dirt attitude that made the magazine what it was. I think we all need a bit of that in our lives, don't we?

There's a lot of great things about the internet beyond the easy access to questionable pornography: race results only seconds after the last competitor crosses the finish line, being able to keep tabs on your favourite pros (otherwise known as stalking), a level of interaction that you just won't ever get with print, and truckloads of content dumped onto your computer screen at a whim. That last point could be looked at as either a plus or a minus, though, as I'd argue that there's just too much B and C-grade stuff filling browser windows every single day, and, given who I'm employed by, I'm fully aware of the irony of that statement. Believe me when I say that I make my feelings on this subject known in the office, and all my peers know where I stand on this topic, but I'm also not an idiot - people want to see more videos, more photos, more everything, and they want to see all of it faster.

It is what it is, and although I do hope that a different, more measured and filtered approach will be equally successful one day, I also know that tactic won't be employed here. Print, on the other hand, has a definite amount of space to fill, meaning that Dirt was never able to stuff their pages with words and photos that, while being very interesting and entertaining to many people, aren't worthy of being included when you consider that there's only so much room. I'm not going to say that Pinkbike and other online media sources aren't putting out at least some print-worthy content - I know we are, and I know others are as well - but I'm also fully aware that what Dirt did in their magazine isn't something that can be easily matched on a computer screen. And that will be the challenge: Dirt keeping their voice despite the change in medium.

Longtime Dirt contributor Seb Kemp probably summed it up best: ''So what's the result of losing the Dirt voice? Well, who is going to fill that void? Who is going to be the voice of the rider? Who is going to balance out the vapid catalogue-copy copying, the yes boys? Let's hope that Dirt continues to be what it is, but just with a different delivery device. The message is what's key, not the medium. This is something that some of these upstart online "magazines" have not learnt. They are so focused on which way things swipe or scroll or expand or play multimedia content that they haven't spent enough time on figuring out their voice and what it is they should be saying and how they should say it.''

I think that the very large majority of Dirt's readers would agree with that sentiment, and many of them made their thoughts clear on Dirt's Facebook page. ''Damn. That means that now 100% of the things arriving through my letterbox are crap,'' wrote Rik Legge about the news. Rik is probably correct, as the only thing in my mailbox right now are overdue bills and flyers for crap no one really needs. Jonathan Thorburn made a good point regarding the massive volume on online content that we all now expect, saying: ''Yes, I'm sure it'll be available digitally, but let's be honest, who looks at old digital photos? The flow of the web will drown Dirt in sheer volume, where the print copy will still be there for me to read. So long, Dirt. It was good while it lasted, but the newsagent shelves will be poorer for you passing.''

It will be interesting to see how the new digital Dirt adapts to the ''flow of the web,'' and an optimist might see Dirt washing their hands of print as just one part of their evolution. And maybe I'm that optimist, but I'd really like to believe that's true. Here's hoping that they lose none of their attitude and zeal for all things related to 'bicycles and dirt action’ in the switch over.


93 Comments

  • 167 2
 they ran the letter i wrote to them as a goodbye to my brother when he passed away. he traveled to a bunch of mtb races with me back in the day. . can't say thank you enough for that, dirt. i can hold that issue in my hands.
  • 32 2
 ^ class act.
  • 29 0
 @fullbug, forgive me for prying, but was that the letter about imaginary lines and the greatest ride you ever had? Because I held onto that issue because of that letter.
  • 36 2
 yeah. that's it. i talked about being at the trail having every intention to ride hard to just feel anything but the immediate loss but i just sat there exhausted. i wrote it after the night he passed away to just to vent. i was so surprised to see it in there when i picked it up at the bookstore. i contacted dirt if they had any back issues so i could possibly give one to our youngest brother.
  • 22 1
 they also sent me an ogio dirt backpack that i wasn't expecting. i still use that pack to this day 3-4 times a week and for trail work.
  • 5 42
flag chyu (Apr 23, 2015 at 22:34) (Below Threshold)
 what's wrong with men getting ladies tampon? is that a western first world problem?
  • 15 1
 Way to ruin the sentiment of that thread Chyu.
  • 13 0
 It's all good, chyu. My bro & I definitely used to joke a lot to help us get thru his cancer. Like a lot of people, he fought that shite as hard as he could by staying upbeat. Sentiment intact.
  • 86 3
 At least we still have Mountain Bike Action..... Said NOBODY ever.
  • 25 1
 Don't you mean Mountain Bike Fiction?
  • 7 1
 I use it like Playboy, for the pictures. They have the fanciest parts and possibly the most expensive bikes reviewed on a regular basis. Like Playboy, I can't score any of that... Unless it's the college, er uh, I mean the Budget issue...
  • 1 0
 I remember when it essentially was Playboy. Back in the 90's MBA had an awful lot of skin, with not an awful lot of justification. I was OK with it, adolescent me was interested in exactly 2 things, & they were both in one magazine! Razz
  • 9 0
 DECLINE Just sayin.
  • 4 0
 Decline will actually give you an honest review on bikes. If they hated it, they'll say so.
  • 41 3
 All I want to know is if they will have a comment board
  • 16 2
 Lets hope not. It's quite nice to read something without getting 50-100 other peoples opinion on it.
  • 21 7
 No website can exist without a comment board... and the worse the comments the better, wheel size debate skyrocketed web traffic and I assure you that Boost 148, boosted the sht out of PB bandwidth.
  • 4 1
 Kan inte du börja skriva för dom waki!!!!
  • 5 0
 he said as he gave his opinion
  • 10 0
 Dirt website used to have loads of good comment until they changed to that Facebook login bollox. When Billy left the web was neglected.
  • 6 1
 Yep they need to ditch the FB comment thing
  • 4 0
 Funny thing for me was that they say that people are a-holes over the internet thanks to anonymity,but those FB linked comments were may more rude and dumb. That is in times when you are asked to share your FB profile on job interviews and applications,
  • 3 0
 From the way people deal with each other on the internet, you'd think everybody was a black belt in karate.
  • 4 0
 Not to sound like a wanker, but the great thing about dirt was the design. The journalism wasn't exactly first rate, let's be honest. I've still got the first few issues in my parents' attic though, there's just something hip and cool about the mag. I hate to say it, but I can't see it surviving online without something extra because all the articles on the website at the moment are about the exact same content as Pinkbike, Vital and others... Pinkbike is clearly winning the game at the moment though. It's a shame. The same thing happened to Two Wheels Only mag a few years back. They turned a banging mag into a shite website. Hopefully the same doesn't happen to Dirt.
  • 3 0
 If they brought dirt TV : Finally back they would be onto a winner , best coverage of the WC by any publication/media/click counter
  • 2 0
 I think the problem is the image rights. I believe the Parkin Brothers are still filming the world cups but it has to go through redbull
  • 2 0
 I agree Jaame, Dirt has set the standards. That pic of Mike Montgomery from Life Cycles on the first page, fk me... graphics and photos in Dirt were minimalistic about biggest sickest gnar Big Grin
  • 1 1
 Comment board? Are you serious? They have Steve Jones who is always and definitely 100% right. So no need for comments.
  • 2 0
 If Steve Jones is always right then RC is God himself Big Grin Mnah Steve is cool, very down to earth guy, interested in other peoples opinions.
  • 2 0
 You get the best and the worst on boards and sometimes the needle is worth going through the haysack. I don't particularly enjoy reading through a lot of the comments but surprisingly, I quite often find useful stuff that wasn't covered by the article and adds to the topic at hand. I tried using other bike related news sources that don't include boards and I it just doesn't feel the same... It feels more like a press release than a community.
  • 1 0
 Agreed. The comments add a lot to the articles. Usually a lot of shit, but sometimes gold.
  • 29 0
 Future generations will never have the pleasure of carefully cutting out a page of a magazine with their hero's image or dream bike and gently taping it to their wall to be praised...... sigh
  • 9 0
 Or buying two copies so you can rip the cover off one and add it to mosaic of covers all over the dorm room door.
  • 9 0
 my kids have gotten all too good at hitting the PRINT button when they see a picture of their hero(s). but they still get hung on the doors and walls... still something though about getting out the scissors and carefully cutting the magazine so you don't ruin the rest of the pages.
  • 11 3
 I have a page with picture of Gee Atherton cut out of Dirt which I hanged over the toolbox in my man cave in the basement, as well as several pictures of Greg Minnaar with his eyes cut out
  • 3 1
 Gold Waki, pure gold!
  • 5 0
 Where are all those racers from yesteryear who have now just disappeared? In Waki's basement I reckon....
  • 2 0
 I remember having an Iron Horse up on my pin board, silver with purple bits, it looked the bomb. Your right no pin boards and no more porn found in bush's. But I get to sit on the Oil Rig and not have to look through Zoo magazine from July 2006 because there's nothing else to read so thanks Pinkbike and the new dirt website
  • 16 1
 While I did enjoy reading magazines, it got to the point where I only read them for the columns submitted by pro's to get a in-site into the industry, the reviews were great to but most magazines would try to fit to many into one go and leave out a lot of content. This is were pink bike excels, we are able to read good long detailed reviews on bikes every Monday, plus the race coverage I find is far better as well as they are starting to get regular columns submitted by pros. Thanks Pinkbike keep up the good content.
  • 9 0
 I don't think Factory are at fault for any of this.... they were acquired by a company owned by 'Forward Private Equity' who were set up solely with the goal of making money from directing internet traffic to websites for advertising revenue.... when you put niche market brands (several other small publications are going online only alongside Dirt) in the hands of people whose only interest is the bottom line of the finance spreadsheet this sort of thing is inevitable i guess. GO CAPITALISM! Smile

i will sorely miss Dirt and the Dirt 100.
  • 4 0
 For sure, I wouldn't even fault Factory if it was their choice. It's a business, after all. It's just a bummer how it worked out.
  • 9 1
 Great take on changing times by Mike Levy. Most of my bike friends loved or at least admired Dirt mag. However, change is the only constant in this world. Let's hope Dirt can migrate to the digital world and offer something a little left of the current online bike forums and mags (We still love you Pinkbike and Vital).
  • 8 0
 its really sad that probably the best real mtb magazine is going out., i recently check out one of their articles detailing the history of downhill, from the early days of sunn and Nico V to present. And for anyone who hasn't read it I highly recommend trying to get a hold of it. Probably the best article ive ever read. it was really cool hearing about the history and progression of downhill, from all the big names. And of course steve's clever insight. Anyway RIP DIRT
  • 8 0
 @philhoward96, there is no link because it was an article in a physical magazine...
  • 1 0
 Ah right sorry, I thought it might have been in their archives online... Thanks
  • 2 0
 Yeah that was a great article. Can't wait for part 2.
  • 7 0
 Such a shame that DIRT is no more, the worst thing they did was sell to Factory media, their website layout with the adverts (no doubt a factory media thing) is enough to drive you crazy.
  • 4 0
 I see what you did there with the format of this write up. Nice ode to dirt with this longish article. That was one of the first things I noticed when i picked up my first dirt, how long each article was. I already think that they have a couple good ideas up their sleeve with the geek stats on the DH WC and last years video coverage of EWS.
  • 4 0
 A few months ago I was cleaning out the garage. Getting a little pressure from the soon to be wife to " clear out some of those old MTB magazines". I started flicking through past issues of Dirt, Bike, Mtb Action and various other mags. A couple of hours later the Dirt and Bike magazines went back in the cupboard, the others have probably been reincarnated as cardboard.
  • 4 0
 Man, I don't know what to say about the loss of Dirt Mag. I still freak out every time one arrives in the mail. Dirt Magazine, especially the work by Steve Jones and James McKnight put an aura and a mystique around downhill racing and mountain bike travel that I will never forget. Reading those magazines as a kid during the Honda days and Sam Hill's reign of terror on the Iron Horse made downhill feel like the coolest thing in the world. It was a big reason why I race downhill, they made the experience of a WC downhill race feel like something out of a fantasy novel, and Steve Jones' "British-isms" were a big part of that. The "weird" writing that I couldn't understand at times only made the "club" of downhill racing seem more exclusive and cool, which of course made a 13 year old kid like me want to be a part of it even more.

The same goes for the travel articles. The writing was able to romanticize the idea of riding with your buddies and traveling to new destinations in such a way that it became as good or better than any riding video I would watch. There was something about the way the trails and trips were described that made them seem so much better than anything I had ever ridden or experienced. That romanticized portrayal of bike riding was exactly what I needed to keep the love of riding alive when I was are growing up in Calgary and it was -20 C and blizzarding for 5 or 6 months.

Thanks to all of the great writers that made riding bikes seem like the coolest thing in the world and help foster one of my lifelong passions. Dirt Mag will be missed.
  • 4 1
 As much it pains me to say this, but for me Dirt dies with it's last issue (out today!). The website is irrelevant, it's so irrelevant that I found out Dirt was going out of print from the article on Vital mtb.
.
I'm really going to miss the magazine, I've bought most of them, the oldest one I've still got is May 2007 (Brendan Fairclough on Honda) and I regret throwing away the Peaty wins 2006 issue (Winning isn't everything.. but losing sucks, issue 60?). There's a bunch of other special ones on my bookshelf too, like the Atherton's Andorra 2008 win, most of 2009 and issue 100 (which was a much better than the '100 pieces of shit to buy' format of the Dirt 100 annual).
.
Ultimately they're going to live on my shelf for a long time, getting picked up every so often for a re-read when the mood takes me. The internet doesn't have that, try trawling archives versus walking to a book on a shelf. I suppose it save me a few quid now that Singletrack is the only cycling magazine of any worth in the UK.
.
Goodbye Dirt Magazine and good luck to all of you involved in it.
  • 3 0
 Bummer. While I love the internet and what it has done to make all gravity sports explode, I feel its also crippled the quality content of what we used to see in old mtb magazines, skateboard magazines, bmx magazines etc. I feel like content on the internet is so much more rushed and about quantity instead of quality from the old school magazines, but even now magazines are trying to keep up with the internet and they are losing their edge. I hope this move keeps Dirt in the mix and still fun.
  • 5 0
 got every one they ever printed,pissed with this decision to halt printed paper magazines their website is a load of old wank!
  • 6 0
 DIRT IS DEAD, LONG LIVE DIRT!!!
  • 2 0
 What I'll miss the most from the demise of mags is the antagonist, the shit stirrer. The one writer that'll stick two fingers up to the industry an advertisers. Cos HELL mtb NEEDS them!! Coming from bmx, there's a massive difference in media, writing styles. I'll miss the Albion a HELL of a lot more than dirt....
  • 5 0
 they need to do some work on their website as its been toss for some years. (friday randoms?) oh and yes ill miss the mag.
  • 5 0
 i miss friday randoms.
  • 3 0
 It went to pot when Billy left
  • 1 0
 It sure did. I hope they do get the website to be something like the mag was. No bullshit and good ol' British humour.
  • 2 0
 Interesting that there’s no mention of Privateer on this page. That was a truly stunning publication: content and production were both genuinely unrivalled. A real loss which, sadly, was an indicator of things to come.
  • 2 0
 It was a £9 magazine which was owned by rapha. A good publication, but not in the same league as Dirt IMHO.
  • 1 0
 I miss the dirt magazine I remember from a year ago. But I started to notice around then that I was buying a monthly advert. Content seemed to have dropped, the "snap" section seemed to fill the first 20 pages then every other page was an advert.
  • 3 0
 Ok then I'm sure a lot of people will also like to know the answers to the following:
when is the last issue and what will happen to my subscription i paid for?
  • 1 0
 Gutted. As a long time Dirt subscriber, getting print copies has been something thats kept me giving them my money for so many years. There's something about reading a paper mag that online magazines dont replace......Esp in a power cut......
  • 1 0
 I like the lazyness of loungeing about with a paper mag in my hand no need to switch on ' no problem if i dropped some of my sandwich or tea on it . I wish the dirt all the best but it just wont a as nice to sit down to read .
  • 1 0
 Meh, is this surprising to anyone? Internets demolishes all. Of course magazines will go extinct, like TV, newspaper, radio, video stores, book stores, libraries, telephone & all the redundant shit that makes no sense anymore.

The internets rise, all else meets demise. Wink
  • 6 4
 Sad to hear about Dirt, always loved their stuff. Guess Bontrager wasn't paying them enough to write "real" reviews about their cool new floor pump.......
  • 8 0
 I heard that sram wasn't boosting dirt's sales too :/
  • 2 1
 arnoldtm2.....ha ha have a prop from me you naughty boy.
  • 1 2
 @arnoldtm2 - you sound quite biased...
  • 5 1
 I hope Bike mag doesn't do the same.
  • 13 5
 You mean "Each bike is freaking amazing (+5 random synonyms of this word) and ground breaking in this shoot out but we pick a random winner with highly elaborated yet vague argumentation" magazine? They're cool, their vids are awesome, but they are "overtalking" it.
  • 2 0
 Not all of their reviews are ''This bike is the best'', but most of them are.I do like how they tell their readers everything they broke during testing though.
  • 3 0
 Long long ago, in a Target far far away, I was in a foggy drunken stupor, walking through the store at 2am. I was on an mtb camping/race weekend. Had a great time racing that day. My brother had just come back from the BMX Worlds and stopped over in Canada and brought back real beer. He brought 2 12's to the races and let me tell ya, 6 Canadians are a whole hell of a lot more fun than 6 Americans. Anyway, we needed some zip ties so we rode down to the Target.. at 2am.. slightly tipsy.. but we wore our full face helmets the whole time, sooo... Anyway, I stumbled upon Issue No 1 of BIKE Magazine. Never heard of it, so I bought it. Monday am at lunch I open it. It had writing I never knew bike magazines could have. The Grimy Handshake! I was working at a shop and it said EXACTLY what I always wanted to say. I still love it. The reviews are.. good. But I still take any review with a grain of salt.
  • 3 1
 Absolutely. Long-time subscriber here. I need something to read when I'm having a dump.
  • 3 2
 In Western Europe taking a dump, is when most posts and FB shares about environmental issues, human and animal rights are made. Via smart phone or tablet off course. We care!
  • 3 2
 In North America receiving a dump in the lap is equivalent to reading stuff about "how we are all going to die". And "how the world is going to end so don't worry about it" via smart phone or tablet. But it's still here. Not happy is Nostradamus.
  • 2 0
 i am gutted about this magazines are a real good way forme to learn German as it wassomething that interested me.I really will miss Dirt.
  • 2 0
 Dirt was the only UK MTB mag which bothered to cover any sort of racing at all. And it always had the best photos. It'll be missed
  • 2 1
 Can't say I'm Steve Jones' #1 fan

Can't say the photo's were crap

Can't say I'm surprised at its demise...

Can't say I won't miss Seb Kemps columns

Can't say I'll look at the website.

Can't say I'm not sad...
  • 1 0
 I would see the print edition in B&N in the states and go a little crazy. I didn't have a problem spending $17 on it either...
  • 3 0
 Well put together Mr Levy - kudos to you
  • 1 0
 I sadly have come to the mountain bike world late, but if Dirt was anything like the Sex Pistols, they would have been processing my subscription today. Anarcy to the net.
  • 2 0
 Great article. Could do with coming in a larger size for taller riders though.
  • 1 0
 I still have issues of Dirt in my bathroom reading basket. All the visitors to my house who pinch a loaf always comment on them when they are done with their business.
  • 2 1
 Basically, they want to follow the Pinkbike model because it makes more money and reaches more people !
  • 2 0
 The annual Dirt 100 is (was) the ONLY printed magazine I ever buy.
  • 1 0
 those boys from DIRT are tough lads, they'll sort it out and deliver once again
  • 2 0
 Dam what am I going to read in the shit house now
  • 2 0
 Not an MTB mag. Dirt was the only one worth reading.
  • 1 0
 Since that info came around the end of March I thought up to this point this was a bad April fools joke... I'm gutted!
  • 1 0
 we've lost top gear (thank you clarkson) and dirt mag in the same year, who is going to openly say what we're all thinking??

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