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
Being 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.
On 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.