Back to the future

Check the date: March 10, 1989. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

That’s the cover of the first VeloNews in which a cartoon by Your Humble Narrator appeared.

It practically goes without saying that it featured the Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter.

The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter, v1.0.

How long ago was this? Well, President Ronald Reagan had just delivered his farewell address, Ted Bundy had taken his ride in Mr. Edison’s rocking chair, the last Soviet troops were leaving Afghanistan, and Eurosport was debuting in France.

The previous year, Felix Magowan, John Wilcockson and David Walls had acquired what was then called Velo-news from founders Barbara and Robert George.

After moving the operation to Boulder they declined to hire me as managing editor (a wise move). Time passed, as it will, and then in 2008 Inside Communications Inc. sold out to Competitor Group Inc. (not so wise in my opinion, but you know what they say about opinions).

Wilcockson — who would later get a ruthless, senseless and unceremonious heave-ho, along with Charles “Live Update Guy” Pelkey — wrote about the history and acquisition of Inside Communications here.

Il Fattini as he came to appear further on down the road.

As for me, I quit, was coaxed into returning, and then quit again, that last time for good.

But I always kept an eye on the joint, the way you sometimes bicycle past a ramshackle house you used to live in, shaking your head at the carelessness of the new owners.

And so did one member of that Original Trio — Magowan — who has repo’d the joint, with Pocket Outdoor Media partners Greg Thomas and Steve Maxwell.

Included in the sale are VeloPress, which just published Nick Legan’s “Gravel Cycling,” and the magazines Triathlete and Women’s Running, along with their digital counterparts.

“Despite the well-known challenges in print today, our team is thrilled to have the chance to rebuild these iconic titles as well as their sister digital operations,” Magowan told Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. “We have ambitious growth plans, and want to restore these brands to their historical industry leadership positions as quickly as possible.”

Here’s hoping Friday the 13th turns out to be a lucky day for Felix, The Trio v2.0, and for VeloNews (turn that number upside down just for luck, guys). Meanwhile, for anyone with the flashback blues, here’s John Prine.

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27 Responses to “Back to the future”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Interesting that they want to give it a go. Even the local library carries about 20% of the magazines they once stocked. I like to read and many people I know like to read. Sunday morning is still my favorite with the big paper and a leisurely brunch. But I don’t think there are huge numbers left that enjoy the long reads (why when you can get your news with140 characters). And with the paper copies, people (and bots) can’t try to shred each to pieces in the comment sections. You just need to take a look around to see there is not a huge amount of intellect, reason, logic or thoughtful insight going into the decision-making process.

    But good luck to them. I used to read Velonews religiously in the day. Loved it. Every bike shop should have a few copies laying around too!

  2. gary burnette Says:

    In our tiny, clapped-out, flea-bitten bike shop, I always looked forward to the arrival of the VeloNews rag, mainly to see your “take” on the scene, two-wheeled or socio-political. In fact, I really MISS your Mad Dog strip now that I’ve retired to my mountain fortress… What’ya gotta do to get copies of your strip?
    Keep up the attitude, my friend!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Gary, the onliest ‘toons I draw now are for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, plus an occasional one-off for shits and giggles.

      I wish BRAIN would archive the damn things online, along with the column. But it’s just one more chore for the grunts, who are already plenty busy.

      I’ve thought about doing a compilation of the “Shop Talk” strips, but can’t seem to pull the trigger. Maybe I’m not as committed to print as I think.

  3. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    Great news! How much of the old band will they get together now? Can they coax Maddog, JW and maybe even Maynard Hershon to return? Let Ted Costantino revive Velopress? Rouleur is the only printed cycling thing I happily pay for these days, so maybe this can work too?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It’ll be interesting to see how they approach this revival, Larry.

      Ted is still cranking on VeloPress. I haven’t talked to him in a while, but the man is nothing if not dogged. He just keeps on keeping on.

      First thing they need to do, probably, is hire an in-house ad crew. The previous management let some killer wheeler-dealers go. Imagine a bike race with no feed zone.

      • larryatcycleitalia Says:

        I know Ted’s still there but it seems like he’s powerless (moneyless is probably more like it) there to do much of anything or he just uses that excuse to dispose of the ideas I send him now and then? I look forward to further developments with the revived VN. We certainly can use some GOOD news these days!

  4. Libby Says:

    Great news! I’m intrigued and I wish them the best.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Me too, Libby. I read the mag back when it was still Velo-news, and invested a lot of my own hopes and dreams in the outfit before it went to the Dark Side. So did a lot of other people. So fingers crossed, yeah?

  5. Pat O;'Brien Says:

    We get two magazines, Adventure Cycling Magazine and Arizona Highways, a gift from the local Toyota dealer. Maybe we wiil get a third, especially if there is a “Foaming Rant” included. I know, your goal is to be like me, retired.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      You are correct, sir. My goal is to be retired. I will not lack for amusements. Rumormongery can be exhausting. You honest folk have no idea how difficult it can be to make the fake news day in and day out.

  6. Dale Says:

    You sent me down a rabbit hole with the John Prine link which led me to Prine’s “Jesus, the Missing Years”, Monty Python debating a cleric and a true believer about the “Life of Brian”, and finally to George Carlin’s take on religion.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Man, them Innertubes can take a fella anywhere except where he wants to go.

      George Carlin’s bit on religion, the version he delivered as part of “40 Years of Comedy,” was inspired. That bit of standup in Aspen may have been his finest moment. It was almost statesmanlike.

  7. khal spencer Says:

  8. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Posted on their site two hours ago.

  9. Pat O'Brien Says:

    The “Bad Hambre” ‘toon is a real hoot!

  10. canamsteve Says:

    I probably know more about publishing than bicycling (editorial-side son of an ad manager) so I do understand the challenges of print (and all paid) publishing today. But some titles just seem to have a death wish – sucking up to their declining advertisers to the point they become irrelevant and disappear

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Yeah, there’s a lot of flailing going on out there. Pay to play, “pivoting to video,” etc.

      The biggest problem is that the audience has come to expect that they can get everything for free. Nobody walks into a restaurant and orders up a platter of enchiladas without bringing his wallet along, but that’s how news consumers behave.

      And then they complain about the menu, the atmosphere and the service.

      • canamsteve Says:

        Print and Kodak followed the same path of doom – they were Fat, Dumb and Happy in their little protected worlds, like dinosaurs in a swamp. When the furry bunnies of the internet came along (I know that’s an inaccurate metaphor) they stared dumbly at them and dismissed it as no threat. They had the upper hand – the relationships, the infrastructure, the skilled employees. But because they were Rich White Guy business, they had forgotten how to compete, and only knew how to dominate.

        A bit like Hitler avoiding the Maginot Line in France, the internet made an end run around the protected markets and killed them. When I worked at a large newspaper in the 1980s, I used to sit at a terminal and search the various newswires for news from my hometown. I was amazed just how much information was available but never published as the Gatekeepers (more well-off White Guys) had decided it wasn’t interesting enough to be published. 50% of the news events we covered never saw print – very much a curated experience. My point is that with access and aggregation of all that news, newspapers (and also TV) could have *owned* the new news market. Instead, they gave it away.

        And I still get a bit miffed by the NYTimes and others saying “people have to pay for their journalism – it isn’t free”. Well, that used to be the case and despite the efforts to rewrite history, consumers *did* get their journalism “free” – they just had to agree to put up with all those ads in between the interesting stuff.

        Any quality newspaper BITD charged a subscription fee that covered the costs of paper, production and distribution *only*. The editorial content was paid for entirely by paid advertising. (The concept being that better stories created more readers and allowed for ads to be priced higher – not very different from today’s world). That was after the owners had sucked out some *very* fat profits though.

        There’s an old saying that there are two ways to make a million bucks – get a million from one guy or get one buck from a million people. The content business changed from the former to the latter, but it’s still there – witness the YouTube millionaires. So people shouldn’t get all emotionally overwrought about the fact the world changes. Grasp that nettle

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Good points, and yep, the sub fee never came close to covering the actual costs of the daily disaster. But at least people paid something back then. Now they think “content” comes free with the computer and cable modem.

        I pay cash money for The New York Times and The Washington Post because I think they do sound work for the most part. Can’t bring myself to pay for the Los Angeles Times, not least because they declined to hire me BITD.

        Other culprits in the decline and fall of journalism include the bottom-line-driven mechanization that concentrated too many important tasks in too few hands (multitasking does not work) and the industrywide inability to recognize the Innertubes as the Angel of Death (newspapers never really came to grips with the threat posed by TV, either).

        There was another saying in the news biz, too: “Want to make a million dollars in the newspaper business? Start with $2 million.”

        • larryatcycleitalia Says:

          More good points. Dunno how the VN thing’s gonna go, but I pay for Rouleur to be shipped on paper from the UK to my PO box in Iowa. I pay for the NYT to show up on my e-reader so I can enjoy it anywhere in the world. In Italy I hop on the bike and go down to the newsstand each month and buy BICISPORT Magazine. But none of those has ads that pop up, flash or otherwise annoy me while all have excellent quality writing.
          Meanwhile, too much of the inner-webs are filled with not only annoying ads but a lot of crap pretending to be journalism. Why nobody wants to pay for that (or like me, uses an ad-blocker) shouldn’t be a surprise or secret.

          • canamsteve Says:

            I pay for NYT digital *and* buy the paper version most days when in-country. I find the pricing a bit aggressive (and backward) from others – one local daily actually charges you more if you don’t take the printed paper (affects their bottom line, so screw the customer). You’d think they would realize that – “Hey – we can have paying readers in Thailand if we price this right”, but instead they go “We can’t afford to have one more local subscriber die! But if they do, jack up the rates on the survivors, ’cause we got no Plan B”

          • Patrick O'Grady Says:

            Lots of screwy shit going on at the NYT lately. I don’t know what they’re thinking, or if.

  11. canamsteve Says:

    In a few more years, you’re going to hear someone say

    “Hey – that guy must be really, really rich.”

    “How can you tell?”

    “He’s carrying a *printed* copy of the New York Times” 🙂

  12. 12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 3 | Mad Blog Media Says:

    […] then, shazam! Felix reappeared as part of Pocket Outdoor Media, and not only reacquired VeloNews, but snapped up BRAIN and a couple other properties as […]

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