Driver ColumnsSam Tickell (Editor)

Opinion: Australia’s brave new motorsport media landscape

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By Sam Tickell

It is a brave new world in Australian motorsport media.

One that has been thrust upon it in many ways.

To start with, the Australian Rally Championship has ditched its TV deal on network TV in favour of producing high end short social videos and posts to distribute to fans and stakeholders of the Championship.

The videos will be produced quickly – like the WRC videos and are far more dynamic and visually appealing than what we saw on TV.

The guys that did the Australian Rally Championship coverage in the past did a great job – they did it on almost no money and over time, as sports broadcasting developed, its lack of budget and therefore lack of resource to truly innovate showed.

To be honest, I didn’t go out of my way to tune into the two, 1 hour broadcasts they had.

Can I spare a few minutes a day to see some really high end rally stuff?

Yes. And it is worth it.

In a way it is a shame that the old guys didn’t have a chance to show their skills in a new environment but such is the business and alas, they fell under the bus.

Will this strategy work for the Championship?  I hope so, and early signs look good. No doubt it needs to develop and mature, but the start looks good.

The death of an Australian motorsport icon
The death of an Australian motorsport media icon

I guess there is no use in comparing it to the V8 Supercar Championship and their big money pay-tv deal. The two are now on a very different tact. Both are in a fight for their future and it will be interesting to see which one wins.

One though that doesn’t have a future is Auto Action. The last Australian generalist motorsport magazine and that had existed for 41 years.  In a couple of weeks, it will disappear from the shelves.

Another confession, it wasn’t my cup of tea. Not the way I like to consume information (despite having a few pictures now and then).  The closure of the magazine by Bauer Media must have been a bit of a shock as I was to provide Queensland Rally Championship photos for the year and they had announced Australian GT diver, Liam Talbot as a season long columnist.

To be honest though, the weekly format with stories mostly found of the Speedcafe website with a bit of breaking news thrown in, the weekend’s results and what not is perhaps not the format that people want information in any more.

It was always going to be difficult for those gathering news at Auto Action. Gather breaking stories they did, but by the very nature of a printed magazine it has the potential to be ‘old’ by the time the reader gets it. While web news gathering has undoubted challenges, timeliness is not one of them.

I firmly believe that print is alive and well and has a long future (and I have a Masters degree and earn my living from working in social media).

But the format has changed.  Look to Motorsport. Look to Monocle.  Look to Hello Mr. Three different magazines in three very different industries. Three magazines that are increasing their circulation. The first actively launched mobile and web based editions to really concentrate on very well written features. Its readership is more than 34,000 an issue with rapidly growing digital editions and websites.

Monocle launched in 2007 with US$10million, and in 2014 was valued at US$115million.

Not a bad return. The secret to their success was turning their very well produced magazine with a wide range of short-and-long form articles into an omni-channel media company with 24hour radio station, website, magazine, books and now shops.  A company largely built on tradition media but for a new age.

Finally, Hello Mr. In a lifestyle (read gay) market that really lacked anything worthwhile to read, they launched a magazine that treated the reader like they had an IQ above 20, long form articles, stories and more. The information and audience is different but there are many parallels to be drawn to the state of Australian motorsport print media. The magazine, produced each 6 months has sold out of most issues.

Even look at Autosport and how much they now rely on their website compared to their print options.

In a way, Auto Action was a relic of the past, perhaps, like last year’s rally coverage, did not have the resources or the opportunity by their parent company to be anything different – to fight for their survival. To be what a 2015 audience needs a print publication to be.

How the motorsport scene, particularity the PRs react will be interesting.

For Auto Action Whether they will relaunch is a mystery. There is a gaping hole in the media landscape now – if anyone has the wherewithal to have a go. I have ideas – if anyone has a lot of money to throw behind me.

But it is a brave new world. And for many you have to embrace it.

Like it or not.

Sam Tickell, April 2016

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