The July/August issue of the German bicycle magazine aktiv Radfahren, with the ExtraEnergy Spring 2009 Test results, has been on newsstand shelves in Germany since 26 June. Different interests of the erstwhile partners ExtraEnergy and aktiv Radfahren caused misleading information in this issue and readers as well as industry players are confused. ExtraEnergy states its position and announces steps to prevent the problem from re-occurring.
In the past 10 years the German bicycle magazine aktiv Radfahren mutated ever more into a specialist magazine for electric bikes. This happened thanks to the cooperation between chief editor Daniel Fikuart, the ExtraEnergy chairman Hannes Neupert and the ExtraEnergy editorial team. Without a doubt, the issue which made the biggest waves to date, has been the Pedelec Special Edition which appeared in 1999. In this issue the term "pedelec" was first introduced to the German-speaking region.
Last year ExtraEnergy convinced FGH Mediawerke, producer of the magazine aktiv Radfahren for the BVA Bielefelder Verlag, to publish another special edition on the same theme and paid FGH Mediawerke €47,000 to do it. This was a significant amount of money for ExtraEnergy, which finances itself entirely from conducting tests, participating in trade fairs and staging exhibitions for cities and other third parties.
In 2008 the Special Pedelec Edition "E-Motion" appeared with very little advertising and a lot of content, including the results of the 2008 Test. It appeared as an insert in the July/August 2008 edition of aktiv Radfahren magazine and also as a separate booklet, which is still available at ExtraEnergy. No doubt, this book has contributed a lot to the very strong growth we've seen in the market in the past year.
Conflict of interests
Unfortunately, this was also where the first inconsistency raised its head: In issue 4/2008 aktiv Radfahren published information about a test it had conducted with the Pegasus E-Bike2, which the magazine rated "Good" and recommended for its good price/performance ratio. In the Special Edition which appeared about two months later, ExtraEnergy advised against buying the bike in their test report, for a reason which later forced manufacturer ZEG to recall the model and rectify the deficiency.
At the time, the episode highlighted the different interests FGH Mediawerke and ExtraEnergy pursued. ...(Note from editor: Paragraph removed in line with the court settlement of 06.08.2009, Az:20269/09 District Court Bielefeld, in the case of Bielefelder Verlag GmbH+Co. KG vs. ExtraEnerg e.V.; compare Statement Part 3)...On the other hand, ExtraEnergy follows a purely objective, factual agenda, with a strong commitment to what is known as "the public interest". The organization aims to create dependable and absolutely reliable information and to make it available to all market participants - consumers, traders and manufacturers. This has been ExtraEnergy's guiding principle ever since it started conducting tests and publishing results in 1992. Anyone who looked at this activity strictly from a monetary point of view, may well come to the conclusion that it is absurd. However, the way the market is developing today, must have a lot to do with the persistent spadework ExtraEnergy did back then.
Electric bikes - a money machine
In 2008 the Pedelec Special Edition was aktiv Radfahren's best-selling issue. The success and growing number of advertisements from electric bike manufacturers even got Hans Fink, managing director of FGH Mediawerke, interested in the theme. Suddenly, the publisher of aktiv Radfahren was very interested in electric bike content. The arrangement was the following: ExtraEnergy would conduct tests and aktiv Radfahren would publish the results. In other words, everyone would do what he was best at.
In the spring of 2009 FGH Mediawerke republished the 2008 Special Edition almost in its entirety, with the now somewhat outdated ExtraEnergy test results and a catalogue filled with factual mistakes. ExtraEnergy only agreed to the republication very reluctantly, so as not to endanger the Special Edition with new results, which was in the pipeline.
A number of tests were later conducted by the aktiv Radfahren editors off their own bat, and published.
About the July/August issue
The different interests being pursued, led to a final clash in the July/August 2009 issue - the issue in which the results of the ExtraEnergy Spring 2009 Test were published.
Up to this point all went as agreed. ExtraEnergy agreed to pay €714 (incl. VAT) for the publication of every test report, to remove the need for advertising, and at the same time, the influence manufacturers may have over the content. In turn, aktiv Radfahren agreed to the condition that ExtraEnergy would be the only test authority for aktiv Radfahren publications.
But, in the July/August issue more test reports were published of bikes pseudo-tested by the magazine and not by ExtraEnergy, following an offer made to manufacturers by the magazine's advertising team. For the special price of €1,142.40 (incl. VAT) the magazine would conduct tests and publish the results (see the letter of the advertising team - German). The latest delivery deadline of bikes to be tested was set at 5 days before copy deadline, which left the editorial team with 5 days to conduct the tests, evaluate the results, take the pictures and write the test reports for 11 bikes.
...(Note from editor: Paragraph removed in line with the court settlement of 06.08.2009, Az:20269/09 District Court Bielefeld in the case of Bielefelder Verlag GmbH+Co. KG vs. ExtraEnergy e.V.; compare Statement Part 3)...In a number of cases, the ratings differed substantially from ExtraEnergy's ratings, published on earlier pages. This is, however, not so easy for the reader to pick up.
ExtraEnergy learned about the "quick tests" only a few days before the magazine went to print from a number of manufacturers who enquired at ExtraEnergy what the aktiv Radfahren offer was all about. It proved impossible to stop the magazine from going to the printing presses - even after a personal appeal to Mr. Hans-Jörg Kaiser, head of the BVA Bielefelder Verlag. At that stage it was clear that the relationship would end if the printing proceeded as planned. Now the issue is on newsstand shelves with tests conducted by both sources...
Mistakes in the July/August issue
ExtraEnergy comes to the obvious conclusion
Herewith ExtraEnergy distances itself categorically from the misleading content in the latest issue of aktiv Radfahren and appologizes to the readers that it is impossible to continue the cooperation under these circumstances. As a non-profit organization, ExtraEnergy cannot allow money to be made from the pedelec trend at the expense of readers and the quality and objectivity of information. Therefore, ExtraEnergy will in future use other media to distribute information in print.
In recent months visitor numbers on the ExtraEnergy portal have already been materially higher than the print run of aktiv Radfahren of 55,000 copies. In June the ExtraEnergy.org portal registered 75,130 visitors, with the trend pointing upwards.
ExtraEnergy plans to conduct the next test in October 2009. Looking forward, ExtraEnergy intends to test between 60 and 120 products every year. The results will be made available to all interested parties at no cost.
To Part 2 of the Statement
By Hannes Neupert
Translation: Christoffel Volschenk
Published: 3 July 2009
Last amendment: 16 July 2009