How hobbyist media serves innovation and the economy

By: Rob Corbidge, 20 April 2023

A mountain bike riding through a sea of ideas, photorealistic, pixar

There's something for everyone in the hobbyist content market, and that is worth celebrating.

Publishing is the dissemination of information. From the most esoteric scientific research, to hairstyle ideas on TikTok, and near everything in between. So it's worth taking a moment to reflect how previously unimaginable wealth of information sits just a fingertip away and possibly giving ourselves a humanity-sized pat on the back.

Why such happy indulgence to this age of information? As an antidote to the shadows cast by fears of the more manipulative uses selective information can be put to, I offer you hobbies and pastimes.

Those of us who grew up in a golden age of print magazines will likely have developed something of a consumer habit towards them in our early years.

Mine would have started with BMX Bi-Weekly, which then found itself in attention competition with White Dwarf, the gaming magazine. These, among many others, were also in competition with my brother's car magazine obsession. I can still visualise the clarity of AutoCar's beautifully simple and detailed vehicle data comparison tables.

There are few things as focused as a middle-aged person in possession of a new hobby, and so it has been over the past two years that I found myself becoming increasingly immersed in ebikes - off-road ebikes, known as eMTBs, to be precise. 

Being somewhat of a veteran on spending money I don't really have to spare on things I just really want, it has been with self-awareness that I've watched my media habits reflect this new found interest and how these media habits have influenced my spending within the boundaries of such a hobby.

And yes, I've come out of the other side with a magazine subscription and a number of purchases made through affiliate links. I'm someone's case study for sure.

Apart from such a simple economic success story of the immense joy within the global publishing industry in having a acquired a new, single, subscriber to a mountain bike magazine there's another benefit I have observed - how the consumer hobbyist market also drives innovation.

On the constant hunt for new and interesting content, as we all should be, the hobbyist sector surfaces a lot of technically innovative stuff from big players trying to get you to part with cash, yet it also surfaces a great deal of content from much smaller players and individuals, who can be just as innovative. 

One reflection on this is the part 3D printers have started to play in such innovation, bringing repeatable manufacturing abilities to small scale operations. My partner has a modification to her aquarium purification system that she arrived at by magazine, and was made on such a printer. Likewise a dry-bag saddle mount that was furnished to me from New Zealand by a guy who spent three years cycling around the world as research.

Big or small, innovation is being driven, and innovation drives economic development.

There's also a human aspect to the hobbyist market. You learn which content producers are authoritative in a particular subset of your hobby, or biased a certain way towards or against a particular brand or way of doing things. You find some who are puppy dogs for anything new or hold their wallet tighter than an old terrier on a sausage. You'll find people like you.  Whatever the parameters of a pastime, the internal territory is about enjoying yourself and finding out things because you want to, not because you have to.

There's deliberately no distinction drawn here between print and digital, or written and video, and very little distinction in my personal consumption. The content is what is interesting. I suspect the truly committed would read tablets of stone, provided they were interesting to them.

After all, as Oscar Wilde put it: "One must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life."