Five Decades of Dealernews Now History
In a stunning announcement that dropped December 16, Jim Savas, VP/GM of automotive at media conglomerate UBM Advanstar, announced the immediate end of Dealernews as of December 23, 2015.
After initially making the case for a robust online presence, well supported by more than respectable metrics, Mr. Savas then set January 1, 2016, as the cessation of Dealernews in print, on the web, and across all digital channels.
As of December 18, there was no mention on either Twitter or Facebook of the decision to shut down what many in the powersports industry considered the Gray Lady of motorcycle aftermarket B2B publishing.
UBM’s 2014 purchase of Advanstar for $941M included the Santa Monica based trade show and conference promoter’s powersports assets: the International Motorcycle Shows multi-city consumer circuit, Dealernews industry monthly, and a troubled – and now apparently pickled for good – Dealer Expo industry only trade show.
UBM (United Business Media), a British event marketing and media company whose 1982 pre-digital era purchase of PR Newswire extended its reach into the North American market, has refined its focus over the years to concentrate on trade shows and live events. The sale of PR Newswire for $841M on the same day as the Dealernews announcement is seen as further evidence the company is charting a fast course for the experiential world of live events.
Powersports Equals IMS
For many, the conventional guessing game was when, not if, the print component would be shut down in favor of an all digital format. Instead, Dealernews now joins Motorcycle Industry Magazine as a zombie brand, leaving Motorcycle & Powersports News (formerly Motorcycle Product News) and Powersports Business as the only print publications serving the OEM and aftermarket industry, while Paisano Publications continues to maintain a digital only version of their V-Twin News.
For now, UBM Advanstar’s remaining powersports asset is IMS, with its 10-city Progressive Insurance sponsored schedule of motorcycle and aftermarket themed consumer events, which some think could be challenged by a MIC-owned American International Motorcycle Expo spinoff.
Not known is whether or not UBM will maintain an online archive of their Dealernews print and social assets as an alternative to a 404 page not found dead end.
Fifty Years of Publishing
Dealernews came to life in June, 1965, as a conduit to North America’s 4,000-plus motorcycle and scooter dealers. The industry peaked in the mid-2000s, and recovery has lagged since then.
Best known for years of presenting the mostly successful Dealer Expo B2B trade show and for promoting the Top 100 powersports dealer awards, Dealernews celebrated its 50th anniversary this past June, following a truly dismal December, 2014 last call for what turned out to be the final Expo.
In addition to a struggling market, digital communications, the world wide web, and social media have relegated print publishing to a supporting role that continues searching for relevance in a culture of instant communications. Like many others, Dealernews lagged far behind in recognizing and developing an alternative digital product, and delayed planting a social flag to support their reporting.
Why the decision to cease publishing and shutter the brand rather than seek a sale? It could be that the legal fees to shop the veteran magazine may well have exceeded its value on the open market. One industry insider wondered whether the Motorcycle Industry Council might have made a willing buyer, but that’s a question that will apparently never be answered.