OllieF1
(Anti) Social Formula One Media: Part II

(Anti) Social Formula One Media: Part II

Yesterday I spoke about how I feel Bernie Ecclestone isn’t doing enough to promote Formula One online, highlighting what I feel are missed opportunities relating to the official Formula One website. The post generated a fair amount of interested and today, as promised, I follow-up my initial thoughts with an explanation to these two articles and a further look at a more traditional form of media – the printed publication, or magazine, if you prefer.

A few days ago, I was catching myself up on the comments left at the hugely interactive blog, Sidepodcast. As I was going through one on the many hundreds of contributions I noticed one particular response stood out from the page. The words spoken were wise and witty, and the associated name left with the comment rang a bell in the back of my mind. This particular discussion at Sidepodcast revolved around online media, and the name that rang my bell impressed me greatly. The comment had been left by F1 Racing’s Stuart Codling, an active member of the community over yonder as well as the Deputy Editor at one of the world’s top selling Formula One magazines.

Seeing Stuart in the comments made me realise a few things that I will discuss in just a moment, but for now, here is what he had to say on a discussion at Sidepodcast revolving around team websites, F1 news websites and the humble F1 blogger:

F1 fans seem to fall into two broad camps: those who make full and frequent use of the internet to get their F1 ‘fix’, and those who don’t. I hesitate to guess at the exact proportions but you would be amazed at how many people enjoy F1 but aren’t quite fanatical enough to spend a goodly proportion of their waking hours scouring the web for facts and opinions. Stuart Codling.

The comment was more thorough than what is quoted, so I recommend a quick review of the discussion. But for now, I wish to concern ourselves with the very fact that Stuart has involved himself in a discussion at Sidepodcast, and how F1 Racing’s web presence compares to Motor Sport Magazine’s. To end with, I’ll take a peek into my crystal ball and offer a possible reason as to why Stuart being a regular on a non-associated blog (to his work) is important.

Motor Sport Magazine

Motor Sport MagazineBeing one of the oldest printed publications on the topic of motor racing, Motor Sport Magazine has very loyal readership. Not only has it survived where so many others have failed, but I’d hazard a guess and say it’s readership is even growing. I would also hazard a guess and say the magazine has a relatively broad type of reader; old, young, multi-interests, multi-anything. Covering a variety of sub-topics under the umbrella of motor sport undoubtedly appeals themselves to a wide group of racing fans. This month’s cover photo is of Ronnie Peterson in a Formula One car, but last month it was Stirling Moss and a Jaguar XK.

So what would you expect upon a visit to the magazine’s website? Perhaps a description of what the publication covers, some nice pictures and a large subscribe here link which directs to nothing RSS related, but to an online form for subscribing to the actual magazine. Well, I don’t think anyone could blame you for thinking that, but in reality, Motor Sport Magazine have embraced the online world a little more than that.

Arriving at their homepage, one is presented with a photo of their most recent issue and some large links directing people to some areas that cover the printed version of their magazine. But just below that, and on proud display, is a blog. What’s that, you don’t believe me? Head on over and click the “Salutes To ‘SuperSwede'” link. If you scroll down to the bottom of the article, you’ll see those four magical boxes; Name, Email, URL and Comment.

So why is this important? Why are Motor Sport Magazine bothering to write even more than they already do? To be honest, I don’t know the exact reason, but once again, I’d hazard a guess and say that MSM have latched onto the idea of involving people in their writing, and while it may not necessarily be for print in the monthly, it is certainly an added bonus. And a very cheap added bonus at that. The blog is powered by exactly the same software as BlogF1, so I know it is 100% free.

Ed Foster, the website editor and the man for whom I’m going to lavish praise on for the idea of the MSM blog, is indeed quite a clever chap – and if it wasn’t Ed, then I’m sure he’s still just as clever. But for every person the writers managed to catch with their online writing will eventually translate into a conversion figure – the number of people who found MSM via the web, and then subscribed to the printed version. And business is, after all, business. To take it one step further, and again I do not know of MSM‘s plans for the future, but they could even develop a decent revenue from the website through other means. In the sidebar of the blog you will note an advert for Club24, as well as a link entitled Order your Motor Sport pin badge. I’m not sure if Club24 is anything to do with MSM, but it certainly is interesting to see how the site could be expanded in the future to provide additional funds, as well as a potentially popular meeting place.

Top marks to Motor Sport Magazine. Not only does the magazine and website have great, varied and interesting content, but for one of the oldest publications going, they also show forward thinking.

F1 Racing

F1 RacingOn to another hugely popular monthly magazine, F1 Racing. I should point out here that up until very recently, I owned every single edition of this publication, right back to #1, with Michael Schumacher on the cover (would it be sad to also say that I own issues #1, #2 and #3 in German as well?). I will also point out I used to subscribe, thanks to a birthday present from my ex-girlfriend. However, without wanting to state the obvious, I no longer subscribe. With the advent of the Internet and many excellent news sites, I no longer need to wait for the postman to deliver my monthly fix when I can get it several times a day. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a key phrase you may want to remember for the later in this article.

So F1 Racing… Again, it’s been around for years, 1996 in fact, is published in just about every language imaginable (okay, just 21 languages) and has enjoyed success after success. As with MSM, the Internet didn’t really exist when F1 Racing was launched – well okay, it did in F1 Racing’s case, but it wasn’t the beast that it is today – and so F1R relied on superb writing, excellent photography and no doubt advertising to drum up business. Skip forward twelve years though, and let’s take a look at how the publication fairs on the world-wide-web.

As soon as f1racing.co.uk (which, by the way, was my second attempt at finding the magazine – .com doesn’t work) loaded in my browser, there was an instant cringe. The screwing up of my face was because I noticed that my browser did not detect any RSS or Atom feed, heavily suggesting that there is no regularly updated content on the site. This further suggests that F1R do not have a blog or forum. Unlike MSM, F1 Racing do not interact with their readers or potential readers via their website. Well, aside from the odd survey or reader letter, I must add.

So what is at F1R? Admittedly, a site using modern techniques for coding – the CSS validated and the HTML only had 3 errors – and lots of links to subscription pages, a way to browse excerpts from the printed version of the magazine, some wallpapers for your computer and some general information on the magazine itself and the 2008 Formula One season guide. To be honest, it’s all a bit of a lack-lustre affair.

Being one of the most widely read magazines on the subject of F1, and having such a wide audience around the world, although perhaps limited to just Formula One, F1R have the ability to expand on their readership with some decent online content. Whilst it is undoubtedly imperative to the future success of the publication to drive subscription sales, online content could push this further by giving people a reason to visit their site, see their logo and interact with the very people who are passionate enough about Formula One to write about it. To engage someone in conversation, although time consuming, is a bit like gaining a subscription to yourself. And if the conversation was good enough, you may find others want to have a chat as well. Soon enough, these casual talkers can be converted into friends. Just like how I started talking at MSM, and eventually subscribed.

It is my belief that F1 Racing are missing a trick here, and while writing additional content for a website may add to the already demanding schedule of a journalist, I believe MSM have shown that it can work and add to the overall appeal of the publication.

Will Printed Media Survive The Internet?

Of course it will. There’s nothing quite like having a physical copy of a magazine to peruse while lounging around on the sofa on a Sunday morning. But I don’t think that’s the most important question. In my humble opinion, for I do not work in publishing, the question should be, “How does the printed media maximise the Internet to their advantage?”. After all, ITV-F1.com, Pitpass et al are in loose competition with Motor Sport Magazine, F1 Racing, Autosport etc… Although sites such as Pitpass are purely devoted to online readers, they will make people think twice about renewing their subscription to printed media.

As I said earlier in the article, I was impressed when I saw Stuart Codling’s comments on a website that as far as I know, has no association with Stuart’s employers. It shows that Stuart has taken time out of his busy schedule to read what us ‘net users have to say, and furthermore, Stuart felt it to be worth his time to reply to some people and involve himself. Not only does this allow Stuart to slide in a link to the very publication that puts food on his plate, but it allows himself to understand exactly what we, the very people who may buy F1 Racing, want when it comes to news, articles and general Formula One information. I’m sure as well, it allows Stuart to have some fun; the real reason, I believe, behind his participation at Sidepodcast.

I mentioned earlier about subscribing to magazines, and how I’ve recently added Motor Sport Magazine to my list, but not bothered to renew my F1 Racing fix. Part of this reason is because MSM has broader coverage of motor sport which I cannot always find online. And while F1 Racing still produces quality articles and interviews centred around Formula One in general, I cannot justify the expense when half of the information covered can be found on the Internet. However, like with MSM, if F1R had an active community of devoted fans, talking about F1, the topics of the moment and the actual publication itself, I could find myself becoming a follower once again. As proven with myself and Motor Sport Magazine (and I only have my own experience to back this statement up with), it worked for one publication that expanded onto the ‘net, I’m surprised others aren’t following suit.

The End Is Nigh

I’ll wrap up these two posts with a quick apology – it reads a little hap-hazardly because it was originally written as one long post. Unfortunately, my editing skills do lack at the best of times, but I hope my words make vague sense when you can filter out the order from the chaos. F1.com is okay, but could be much, much better. F1 Racing is doing a grand job, but could also be much, much better. But as I hinted at in the comments yesterday; their loss is our gain. And in case you’re wondering, my subscription link (and guide) can be found at the very top of the page.

Further Reading:

Oliver White

25 comments

  • haven’t yet responded properly to the last post, but a daft question for you on this one. you’ve included a pic of the red bulletin at the top, but then not mentioned it?

    the only reason i bring this up is because the paddock magazine is the perfect example of how printed media can flourish in this dual offline / online world (see their pdf uploads), plus it’s bernie sanctioned.

  • Indeed, I probably edited a bit too much, but you’re quite right. The Red Bulletin is a great example of a printed publication that does so well not just because of its fame within the paddock, but also online via free downloads – the digital copy. To a degree, its almost like a viral thing; we hear about it during a race weekend, or when certain team bosses ban it from their VIP areas, and the word gets spread around everywhere.

    I would have linked to it, but the Red Bulletin F1 site isn’t working. Hmmm…

  • Motor Sport has benefitted greatly from the recent changes to the editorship of the magazine and to their coup in caprturing Nigel Roebuck from Autosport. Until that happened there website was a complete embarrassment. It contained nothing beyond the front page of the magazine and the opportunity to subscribe. The new people have done wonders for the mag and I am about to spend an hour on the new issue which contains a JYS supplement, a piece on the Singapore GP, a piece on Prost/Senna 1988, a Ronnie Peterson article (& cover) and quite a few pages of Nigel Roebuck. Not bad for starters and well worth the cover price.

    F1 Racing are owned by Haymarket who also own Autosport. The Autosport site used to be my home page and a site I visited several times a day. Then they decided to start charging for access to a lot of their content and now I rarely visit it at all. The internet is full of interesting motor racing info. More than I could ever have time to read so why would I pay for the admittedly excellent content. I also grudge paying because I have bought the magazine every week for more years than I care to remember. If I had a subscription I would get free access but because it suits me to buy it in the shops they want me to pay. I don’t think so. Like the FIA Haymarket need to change their approach to their online presence.

  • Then they decided to start charging for access to a lot of their content and now I rarely visit it at all.

    Autosport is a whole other ball-game, in my mind. Honestly, they make me livid. A post about Autosport.com would just be a string of expletives, but maybe one day I’ll be able to compose myself for long enough to put something half-decent out. 🙂

    Agreed with Roebuck (I quietly thought that it was his influence on the publication that helped their online presence, but I couldn’t find anything the substantiate that), and I agree with Haymarket needing to change their attitude to online content.

    I find it easier to talk about websites than printed media, hence why I didn’t suggest as much in this post as I did yesterday with F1.com. But I do believe that F1 Racing need a proper online presence if they are to capitalise their potential market. And I do believe that Autosport needs a complete and thorough overhaul.

  • Hello Ollie,

    Many thanks for a thorough and passionately argued piece. I’ll send a link to ‘The Powers That Be’ (thanks to the magic of Google Alerts they may have found you already!).

    When you produce a product – any product – it pays to listen to the views of the people who buy it, or who might buy it. Obviously, though, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

    Without wishing to bore with all the details, there are compelling reasons why F1 Racing’s website is the way it is, and those reasons relate to the terms of our licence with FOM to use the F1 name.

    As to Autosport – well, unlike the majority of F1 news sites, they send correspondents to all the races, and that has to be paid for somehow, either through ads or subscriptions. Steven makes a valid point about the internet being full of useful motor racing info. However, there’s also plenty of disinformation, often propagated by well-meaning types who just like to have something to talk about. A case in point here is the recent nonsense about Spa being shortened. This caused many people to get their knickers in a twist last week – anyone who’d actually been to Spa could tell you that the prospective shortcut went across a valley!

    SC

  • Hi Stuart, thanks for stopping by.

    Obviously, though, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

    Of course, nobody should be expected to. I think I’m a part of the majority when it comes to F1.com, but for publications such as F1 Racing, I’m not so sure. Thanks for passing this on though, muchly appreciated.

    there are compelling reasons why F1 Racing’s website is the way it is, and those reasons relate to the terms of our licence with FOM to use the F1 name.

    Ah, that’s interesting. So FOM place restrictions on what can and can’t be done when the F1 name is involved?

    anyone who’d actually been to Spa could tell you that the prospective shortcut went across a valley!

    Hehe, maybe the Spa organisers visited Valencia and decided the future was in bridges! 🙂

  • there are compelling reasons why F1 Racing’s website is the way it is, and those reasons relate to the terms of our licence with FOM to use the F1 name.

    I know by now nothing Bernie does should surprise me but I am genuinely shocked that you can’t publish a magazine about F1 and use F1 in the name without a license. The fact that the license is then restrictive doesn’t surprise me.

  • I’ve always believed that the internet offers an opportunity to quality printed media, rather than sounding its death bell.

    A good quality book/magazine etc not only gives you a physical copy to read and keep, but can often invest more in rigorous editing and paying talented writers to entertain, inform and provoke thought.

    The blogosphere is full of talented writers willing to do similar for free, but no one person (or small group of people) can give us quite as much good quality content in one place, making the value of printed media in the collection, quality control and professionalism of their content.

    I’ve always thought that the difference between a net-savvy publication and a publication with a website is whether they view the website as part of the product, or merely an advertising tool for the product. I think this 2nd part of the article highlights this difference very well indeed.

  • I am genuinely shocked that you can’t publish a magazine about F1 and use F1 in the name without a license.

    I know, crazy isn’t it! I was a little surprised by that statement from Stuart. I’m wondering if I should be worried, but I’m guessing if there was anything to be worried about, F1Fanatic.co.uk would have already realised it. I hope.

    I’ve always thought that the difference between a net-savvy publication and a publication with a website is whether they view the website as part of the product, or merely an advertising tool for the product.

    @Kris: You sir have an excellent way with words. This sentence highlights the primary differences exactly. In this day and age of the Internet, which is only going to expand further in the next few years (after that the crystal ball becomes a bit hazy), I’m surprised more publications aren’t trying to add a website to their product, rather than view it as an exclusively promotional tool.

    A good example may be the BBC Top Gear blogs, the number of which I don’t know, but there’s more than two, I’m certain. They advertise as well add ‘net-only content to the already existing magazine and show. The content on one of their blogs may not be great, but it’s reasonably popular, therefore appealing to someone.

  • I’m wondering if I should be worried, but I’m guessing if there was anything to be worried about, F1Fanatic.co.uk would have already realised it.

    i heard a while back that f1weekly.com were asked to change their domain to grandprixweekly.com. no idea if that’s true or if they just fancied a change?

  • something that ties the two parts of these stories together, which hasn’t been touched upon is bpl aka the old rf1pp.

    you said in part one:

    And you know what means, don’t you? Renault are interacting with their customers.

    Now I admit that Renault fell over themselves this year, but they crashed to the ground trying to further their already admirable attempts at interaction.

    it may be a coincidence that the renault site collapsed under it’s own weight at the very point bpl exited the team, or it may not, but i think it’s worth remembering that said person left said blog in order to work for f1racing 🙂

    now… what were you saying on your personal site the other day about missing blogging? i wonder if you’re the only one?

  • i heard a while back that f1weekly.com were asked to change their domain to grandprixweekly.com.

    f1weekly.com redirects to grandprixweekly.com, and a whois search suggests both domains are still owned by the same person/company. That doesn’t mean they weren’t asked though. Their site logo is still “F1Weekly”, but f1 redirects to gp, rather than the other way round.

    i wonder if you’re the only one?

    Hmmm, that’s got me thinking. I’ll expand later when I get home. Until then guys, feel free to discuss away…

  • I totally agree with the concept that a well thought out and well executed website is a huge addition to a print publication. The cross promotional and additional advertising opportunities are almost limitless…as are the revenue streams they create. It has long been my feeling that any magazine that doesn’t have a robust web presence is unable to be competitive in today’s marketplace and are destined for the dust bin.

  • It has long been my feeling that any magazine that doesn’t have a robust web presence is unable to be competitive in today’s marketplace and are destined for the dust bin.

    @donwatters: Do you think Motor Sport Magazine’s web presence is robust enough to ensure its survival? And of course, the same question regarding F1 Racing’s website.

  • Hello again,

    Yes – Formula 1, F1 and Formula One are trademarks which Haymarket acknowledge and use under licence. If you’re a multinational publishing company then you have to respect the intellectual property of the people you do business with.

    Blogging, to an extent, operates under different rules – but I imagine that if the likes of F1fanatic.co.uk were turning a profit from their F1 coverage, they would be getting a letter…

    SC

  • Blogging, to an extent, operates under different rules – but I imagine that if the likes of F1fanatic.co.uk were turning a profit from their F1 coverage, they would be getting a letter…

    so our business plan to lose money hand over fist, month in, month out, actually has some merit?

    fantastic!

  • so our business plan to lose money hand over fist, month in, month out, actually has some merit?

    We must have the same business advisors! 🙂

    Blogging, to an extent, operates under different rules

    I think part of the problem of bloggers is that some want to get noticed and heard, but then their cover is blown so to speak. Once this happens, they have to play by the rules (especially if the rules are governed by anyone like Ecclestone).

    But flying under the radar allows more flexibilty with what you say and do. And that attitude is almost a problem with blogging. And I say almost because some bloggers out there write really great content (not necessarily F1-related) that makes people think and talk about, but if it were an international publication (such as F1R) or corporate blog, that content would never see the light of day.

    The professional side of me says blogging needs more tighter guidelines and controls (and before anyone mentions it, I know I’m not always saintly). The pragmatic side says that would be almost impossible to enforce and the romantic side says blogging is just about fine the way it is. I guess it comes down to the individual blogger in the end.

    turning a profit from their F1 coverage

    Well, I’m sure some of the blog owners that involve themselves in conversations like these do turn a profit. Although not being ltd companies, and the profit being only enough to keep them in wine for the month, I guess they can relax for now. 🙂

  • The professional side of me says blogging needs more tighter guidelines and controls

    it already has them, i think they’re known as the law. the problem is effectivly policing them (esp. across borders).

  • it already has them, i think they’re known as the law. the problem is effectivly policing them (esp. across borders).

    As you say, law, but which one? And as we both say, it’s almost impossible to police (effectively). How many blogs are started each day…? Unlike printed media which costs an arm and a leg to set up, therefore more likely to follow law/leg, it’s easier to police because it’s more noticeable and easier to trace. It is easy to trace on the ‘net, but there are so many obstacles just to get to one individual… And as the UK government and police often point out, they’re not too hot on anything vaguely electronic.

  • so our business plan to lose money hand over fist, month in, month out, actually has some merit? {me – 4 comments ago}

    Since your site doesn’t include F1 in the title, I think you’d be pretty safe even if you found a way to make a massive income on your site.

  • Great Reading , I enjoy readin your Articles.

    @ Oliver white : Please can i have your email ? I have a project and i’d like to know if you can help me .

    Thank you

  • Since your site doesn’t include F1 in the title, I think you’d be pretty safe even if you found a way to make a massive income on your site.

    tis true alianora, although some of our shows do (f1 digest etc), as do their respective logos.

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