Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Inside Triathlon Merger with Triathlete Magazine: Good or Bad for Triathlon?

With most of the world's mainstream media owned by a few corporations, it's not surprising that the same thing should happen to the relatively marginal world of endurance sports.


Private equity firm, Falconhead Capital, LLC. announced in January this year that Inside Communications, Inc., owner of Inside Triathlon and Velo News, would be merged with Falconhead-owned Competitor Group, Inc., owner of Triathlete Magazine, the regionally distributed Competitor magazines, and a host of other endurance-sports related ventures.

Will a monopoly on multisport news ruin the sport’s journalistic integrity?

Inside Triathlon Triathlete Magazine

With the same company publishing the only two triathlon magazines in existence, what would make an athlete want to subscribe to both? Competitor Group, Inc. (CGI) must present unique editorial viewpoints for each publication so that they will be seen as complementary, not competitive.

T.J. Murphy, formerly Editor in Chief of Triathlete Magazine now holds the same position at Inside Triathlon. He outlined the key differences between the two magazines as follows:

Triathlete will continue to be an all-encompassing book, with a focus on how to train for and race triathlons… As far as IT, we are transforming it into a hybrid between a book and a magazine, a coffee-table publication, using higher quality paper, long-form journalism and heavy with large-format photography. Starting in 2009, Inside Triathlon will be published bi-monthly. Instead of focusing on the "how-to," IT will focus on the culture of the sport, using in-depth profiles and stories. The first issue using the new format will be the Jan/Feb issue, themed “Inside the Hawaii Ironman.”

The content in Inside Triathlon will assume the reader has a solid knowledge of the sport, and using this assumption as leverage, we will be able to steer features into more advanced and specific territories."


While it appears that the new editorial direction of Inside Triathlon will help produce a product that will be welcomed by seasoned triathletes (including myself), the death of competition in multisport magazine publishing leaves a lot of unchecked reporting responsibility in the hands of a few people.


Mark Crispin Miller, professor of Media Studies at NYU, described the convergence of the mainstream media in The Nation in 2001 as having a "corrosive effect on journalism." Will this endurance sports media merger enervate diversity of thought in the sport of triathlon?

The presence of a healthy amount of triathlon blogs, like this one, as well as may allow this merger to be seen as a good thing---for now. In a niche sport like triathlon, perhaps CGI's publications along with blogs, and are, in fact, enough to holistically, and responsibly, serve the multisport crowd.

CGI's acquisition of Inside Triathlon will provide more in-depth coverage of the sport where there was none before. As Triathlete Magazine editor, Brad Culp, points out, because triathlon is a niche sport, he’s “not sure that there's room for two magazines following the same formula…

“It's no secret that [Inside Triathlon] was suffering. If we continued to compete with one another, I doubt that IT would've been able to survive much longer. Now triathletes have two solid magazines to read. I think the reader response and circulation numbers will confirm that this was a good move.”

Also, as T.J. Murphy explains, "There is competition [between Triathlete Mag and IT]. Although the two staffs now exist under the same company banner, the intensity of competition between them will only increase. It's like being on a cross-country squad: sure, you race against other teams but there's also a fierce competition among team members...With a print publication, the costs are so high you either succeed or die a slow, painful death. So we have to bust ass or we die."


While the editors of both magazines make a good argument that the merger will actually increase the quality of their content, there is a bigger picture to consider: further vertical integration.

In a January interview with Dan Empfield, owner of, David Moross, chairman and CEO of Falconhead Capital, LLC., said "the formation of Competitor Group, Inc. represents a significant opportunity for Falconhead to leverage CGI’s current assets into the number-one online destination/community for endurance athletes, incorporating authoritative 'insider' content, race results, merchandise and streaming video...We intend to build the world's premier endurance sports website."


The glossy Triathlete and Inside Triathlon magazines are only a small part of the picture. While the editors of these magazines might strive for the best content, continuing to compete against one another, an online aggregate of all of CGI's content might kill the little guys, who keep CGI's content in check, or swallow them up, creating a monopoly on endurance sports media. A one-stop shop is clearly attractive to advertisers, but it would kill consumer options for varied content.


Only time will tell if Mr. Moross's vision, as Dan Empfield phrased it, of "an integrated, vertical campaign that attacks the endurance sports participant demographic with opportunities in print, web, on-site and television," will come to life.


How does creator, Dan Empfield, feel about this change in the multisport media landscape? We shall see...


  1. hey there,

    i bet you don't get comments as late as this one all too often.. half a year after you blogged something..
    still, do you by any chance remember where you got that TJ Murphy quote from?

    if you do, it would be great if you could send me a short message to
    thanks a million

  2. Hi Iris,

    I got it from an email interview I conducted with Mr. Murphy. :)