|Pez: Tenacity, Personality, and Even a Little Cycling|
|Written by AG|
As you read this, you are most likely at the office or doing work-related duties, looking outside thinking about how you can fit a ride into your day. Like many, you probably fantasize how you might leave your boring day job working for someone else and become part of the cycling industry. HelpABikeShop.com interviews a man who has accomplished this: Richard “Pez” Pestes on the 8th anniversary of his founding PezCyclingNews.com, one of the most successful cycling news sites today.
This is part of the HelpABikeShop.com continuing series about how the internet can draw true fans to your business or cause. HelpABikeShop.com is a free service to which bike shops post their available overstocks and promotions as long as the price is at least 20% below MSRP. Our mission is to help local bike shops overcome small budgets and compete with big retailers.
In a brief conversation prior to the interview, Richard told me he was out riding as training for Milan – San Remo. “Well, who isn’t?” I thought to myself. But while most see an idyllic life surrounded by cycling products, races, superstars, it is easy to miss the fact that Pez has used the internet to build a successful business model that generates enough revenue for him to make a living and fund his reporters’ activities. With little actual experience in sports journalism and absolutely no content whatsoever, he started a website that now draws 300,000 unique readers and serves 4.2 million pages per month. By any measure, that reader volume is enough to generate significant revenue either from advertising or direct sales.
On the Dole
Pez was an unemployed marketing consultant with an idea for a lively and humorous cycling news website and the same dream of generating enough revenue to sustain his family. With a unique site design but no actual content, he simply reposted articles written by others, gaining a very small and stagnant following. A few more futile months passed and in Yahoo chat rooms, he found some fans posting small race reports and eventually convinced them to start writing for pezcyclingnews.com. With the 2002 Tour de France coming, Pez waited for the inevitable readership boost; Lance Armstrong took yellow and…readership declines. After six months of working toward his dream, he was still unemployed and generating close to zero revenue. Then in August 2002, the site gets credits to cover the Vuelta and Pez tells Al Hamilton to, at a minimum, take pictures of the podium girls for an idea he has to display “daily distractions.” The pictures get posted to the site and visitor traffic starts a steady rise into the stratosphere.
The Business of Cycling
Richard started his site with a clear vision of an unfilled niche in the cycling news world and directed all his efforts toward building the infrastructure to support the site. Like most internet ventures, though, he had great expectations that were not immediately fulfilled; at the point of declining readers he seriously considered closing the site and going back to working for the man. It is here, however, that he diverges from most failed bloggers or news sites as he, in his words “almost arrogantly”, believes in the need for his unique brand of reporting. It was more than six months before site traffic increased by any significant measure and the clear lesson is that online success rarely occurs overnight.
HelpABikeShop.com noticed that it was a full two years from website inception before Richard decided that he did not have to get a “real” job. During this time, he relied on savings and income from his supportive wife as he built his readership. "She'd seen the effort and interviews I'd made to find a 'real' job, and she could see I was gaining traction with the site, so she believed in me and stood by me." His tenacity and adherence to vision were critical in his strategy to outlast those who dismissed his site as unimportant. Now those same people are vying for his attention. Whereas a few years ago, Pez couldn’t get an advertiser to talk to him at Interbike, he now has a full schedule and people seeking him out. The site generates enough revenue to pay expenses for its race reporters and allow them to travel to major races.
Courting the Masses