Since taking over from Pete Kelly esq at the helm of the good ship OBM, I’ve been fascinated by the directness of the connection that the publication has with its readers, and how so many of you wonderful folk keep in regular contact. Whether it be by letter, email, telephone, semaphore or carrier pigeon, it’s wonderful, and please keep it up!
Shortly after the last issue was sent out to subscribers, I got a phone call in the office, regarding a comment that I made in that issue – a tongue-in-cheek referral to how there’s no way that any kind of modern business could possibly work without any kind of internet presence.
It’s a point that is, of course, totally incorrect, and was made in full knowledge that a great many companies who specialise in providing parts and services for those of us who love classic motorcycles so much have no need, nor desire, to have an internet presence.
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If you are of the opinion that it is vital for businesses to have a website, webshop, Facebook page, Twitter account and all the other palaver that is associated with running a business on the internet, then just cast your mind back a couple of decades and ask yourself how business was possible back then?
There actually seems to be something of a kickback against those companies that rely solely on the internet for their sales and promotion, partly thanks to people being bitten by online shysters who have sold products of a below-par standard, and partly because some of those businesses have realised that by having an online presence, and nothing else (i.e., no shop, and no stand at shows), doesn’t necessarily guarantee sales and awareness.
I admit to being something of a Luddite with regards to modern technology (as an example, I dislike ‘rider aids’ on motorcycles and the abundance of techno-gadgetry that is prevalent in modern cars), although I will happily admit to having bought bike parts through internet shops and auction sites, albeit primarily service items.
Okay, so I am going to be a little biased towards advertising in print – what newspaper or magazine editor worth his salt wouldn’t be? – but this little piece of soap box bravado isn’t about persuading people to advertise in the pages of OBM (irrespective of how brilliant an idea that is, ahem). It’s more a recognisation of the fact that people want to deal face-to-face with vendors rather than with some faceless internet entity – whether it be at a motorcycle show, at an autojumble or via a good old-fashioned shop.
Whether it’s thanks to some ne’er-do-well selling inferior products on auction sites, or some other less plausible reason, folk really do seem to be turning to more traditional forms of purchasing bike parts for the simple reason that, when buying at a show or autojumble, you can actually see what it is that you are buying!
It also has the rather convenient side effect of the potential of gained knowledge, as the chances are that the vendor is the sort of person who knows his stuff, so can direct you towards the appropriate product that you require – even if it’s something that he doesn’t actually sell himelf, he may know of another reputable person in the trade who does. Youngsters may not understand the concept, but it’s called ‘talking’, and it involves interacting with another human being via the medium of conversation… So, essentially what I’m saying here is something that we all knew all along.
That autojumbles, shops and shows are good, and the internet is bad. Okay, maybe not bad like a rotten apple, or bad like the Ariel-3, but just a necessary evil that isn’t quite as good as so many people make out. Like the Radio 1 playlist.
Having said that, and doing my due diligence, I feel that I must also point out that there are the times when you will need to do some research, or to order a part or compare some prices, and you’re nowhere near a show, autojumble or shop.
This is the time at which the cold, endless expanse of the internet becomes a much friendlier place – when owners’ club forums are the shining beacon of light on a dark and misty night, eBay is the welcome glow of a motorway service station, and specialists’ websites have the comfort of a warm blanket and a flask of hot tea.
None of them are where you want to spend your entire weekend, but they’re all welcome when you really need them – when it’s past 11pm on a weekday night. They’re the metaphorical stop-off points on your way home from the autojumble or bike show.
So, now that I’ve wasted a third of a page rabbiting on about nothing in particular, I’ll draw your attention to a new little segment of OBM – a part of the Readers’ Tales section that we’re calling Insider Stories – tales from those of you who have worked (or, indeed, still do work) in the British motorcycle industry, epic fables of the fantastic things that never reached fruition, the heroes behind the scene, and the political and financial machinations of industry that led to a crumbling of British motorcycling manufacturing.
If you have such a story, then please write it and tell us all about some of the goings-on behind the walls of Meriden, Small Heath, Plumstead, Selly Oak, and all the others.
Enjoy the issue