An earthquake in the motorsport media

Some people give me a hard time about banging on about the way in which journalism in F1 (and in general) is disappearing beneath the throngs of amateurs, who pretend that they are in the F1 paddock, undermining the professionals in the business. The latest development in this disastrous trend is the news that Haymarket Media Group has agreed to sell its motorsport brands to the Motorsport Network. This includes my alma mater Autosport, in addition to Autosport.com, F1 Racing (the UK edition plus 14 international licensed editions), Motorsport News, the motorsport photographic agency LAT and the Autosport International Show and the Autosport Awards. It is not clear how much was paid for the acquisition, but the Motorsport Network has tried to buy lots of things in recent years, but never seems keen to spend much money.

The Miami-based company, which owns Motorsport.com, is trying to consolidate as many motorsport readers as possible and then sell advertising on the basis that it has x million people wanting to look at online ads. The margins in this game are tight and funding all these operations means that the number of journalists involved will inevitably reduce, in order to save money and be more cost-effective.

Motor racing has been part of the Haymarket empire since slightly before the dawn of time, when Michael Heseltine bought Autosport, back in 1967 when it was owned by the British Printing Corporation. This had acquired the title in lieu of unpaid print bills. The magazine was housed in “a seedy room over a dirty bookshop in Paddington” until one day a man with a mane of blond hair walked in and started noting down the number of chairs and typewriters. It was Michael Heseltine and he had just acquired the title. In its heyday, Autosport was a solid earner, producing £1 million a year in profits. It was the place where many of the best-known motorsport writers began their careers, learning the trade from old hands and working hard but getting experience thanks to Haymarket paying the travel bills. In later years, Haymarket increased its motor racing portfolio, but a drift towards sensationalism in Autosport, in a misguided effort to attract new readers, led to the erosion of the old hardcore fans. The switch to online activities have clearly not arrested that decline because if they had, Haymarket would not now be offloading the magazines. Probably, a lot of the staff will be “rationalised”. It remains to be seen how many of the titles will survive, but if motorsport.com can sell advertising across all the brands then the major names will survive.

The competition authorities need not be involved because GrandPrix+ still exists and intends to continue to record the history of motorsport without resorting to sensationalism…

124 thoughts on “An earthquake in the motorsport media

  1. I think it is also symptomatic of the plethora of other F1 sites eating into the “traditional” – whatever that means – motorsport media landscape. I work in journalism and as an ordinary F1 punter fan enjoy the variety and scope of all online and print stuff on offer. It would be a mistake to suggest new websites and their approach to motorsport is to the detriment of so-called “quality journalism” – the latter of which is purely subjective. Look at the demographics for F1 – hardly a shining example of attracting new audiences. We need much more diversity and range of journalism to get more onboard. The days of a cost little writers club are over I think.

    1. As someone who believes in trying to do the job properly – with proper journalistic ethics – and who has spent more than 20 years paying my own way, doing the job how it should be done and not pretending to be present, I think that I am entitled to my opinion that what you think is diversity is, in reality, fraud and misrepresentation. There is journalism and there is copying and re-interpreting stories. If you want that, from people who have no understanding of how the business works, then in the end quality journalism is doomed because it will all be amateurs rewriting and reinterpreting things that they saw on TV, or read in team press releases. You can read what you like, but surely you would like to be properly informed, wouldn’t you?

      1. I totally agree with you Joe. Like many I’m sure, I scan various sites for news of what’s going on & it’s amazing seeing the number of “different” stories covering the same subjects that are suspiciously similar. I subscribe to GP+ & while I admit to not always having time to read it from ‘cover to cover’ I’m glad I have it to hand if & when I want to read something unbiased. It’s always comforting to see you in the background in many of the paddock links on Sky, or getting collared by Ted Kravitz during his notebook. I am surprised that they haven’t managed to collar you to appear on their mid week race review/preview shows. I suspect that would be an interesting show.

        Sad news about Haymarket, but if they’re not making money I guess it’s not too much of a shock. I stopped buying it yonks ago for the reasons you mention.

      2. I agree with Joe. I see lots of F1 “news” around these days, but not much of it is much good – and lot of it is copy and paste or bought from the same agency – one which promises it’s clients 6 to 8 exclusive stories a week. Or is it each day? Either they stretch both credibility and the definition of “exclusive”.

        There is not a lot of good reporting on F1, and some sites I used to read regularly have declined in the last couple of years.

        Haymarket shedding these publications is not going to make us any better informed – quite the reverse.

      3. it is difficult to know which journalist actually attend races and of those that do not whether they have good sources or not. We all know of one that appears to have the ear of BE and MM.

        F1 needs reporting on, but if the sport and the news about it, is to be trusted, we need professional journalists who attend, who have the contacts, the knowledge etc to report on the sport other wise the news will merely be a rehashing of press releases by the drivers, teams, owners.

        The problem of course is how those journalists get paid, because attending GPs is an expensive business. As followers of F1 the fans have to accept that we need to pay for content at some point and have to make the decision as to who we believe we should pay.

        The real issue of course is who is going to follow the current team of journalists

          1. You wont have read it, but his latest sycophantic mewing was quite frankly disgusting. It was nothing short of a begging letter to Liberty Media to keep Bernie at the helm and not change a single thing about the sport as it was already perfect. He didn’t even attempt to to disguise it. Nauseating.

      4. I don’t think you have anything to worry about yet Joe, most real fans are in total agreement with you. If some people want sensationalism then let them read the Sun Newspaper.

    2. I don’t understand why attracting new people should be the be all and end all of publications. What enviably happens is if you try to sensationalize your stories, or turn them into click bait is, you loose your core readership and if they leave, you are buggered.

    3. “We need much more diversity and range of journalism to get more onboard. The days of a cost little writers club are over I think.”

      I have to disagree .

      People tend to believe journalism is a subjective art form, accessible by anyone who can use a pen or keyboard .
      In fact it is a craft, like carpentry and such, that requires training, experience and a profound understanding of its subjects and inner workings.
      Competence isn’t subjective, and not easily obtained .

      The internet allows for publishing without competence and quality control, via private blogs, youtube, social media, or corporate websites using cheap, untrained ‘content producers’ .
      This may appear like diverstity, but is mostly an endless stream of noise and chatter without quality and value .

  2. The entire publishing sector faces extreme challenges in maintaining revenue in the face of so much ‘free’ online content. I continue to believe that if we want quality journalism the ‘advertising only’ business model is not going to sustain that.

    Formula 1 is not alone in now having “journalists” who do everything remotely and have no real connection to the sport. I am friends with a US baseball journalist with over twenty years of experience, he sits in the stands, he listens to the fans, he spends hours waiting outside locker rooms after games to talk to players and despite that he sees reports on the games produced by online amateurs that often reflect the views and wishes of sponsors not fans but because that content is free and often produced within moments of the games ending they are getting readers while his newspaper is struggling to stay afloat.

  3. Despite Autosport ‘s page 3 style – I will never forgive the editor of the time publishing a photo of a bloodied Hakkenen in his car in Australia – I fear the end of print media is nigh….

  4. I find autosport.com has become the opposite of sensational. With headlines like “Driver X hopes to do well at this race” and “Driver Y is very happy with new parts on his car”

    1. I agree, “Driver X hopes to do well at this race” is a bloody stupid statement of the bleedin obvious… as if the opposite would ever be relevant

  5. Thank you for letting us know Joe, I stopped buying Autosport when I found your blog and thus Grand Prix +, in my opinion a far superior read and arriving 4 days earlier!

    I would think that this deal may increase the value of your Grand Prix+ business? I have nothing to back that up but my feeling is people tend to look for alternatives when everything is owned by the same person/company. Also other potential buyers would have less choices to purchase.

    1. I hope that you are right. GP+ (and the JSBM newsletter) are quality products but people have been slow to sign up. Hopefully, this will tip them over the edge.

        1. I realised that I let my subscription lapse. I guess everything I renew online has some quite strident reminders to renew; glossy and eye-catching.

          All the stuff you guys do is of a super high editorial and photographic standard – I guess perhaps the design is not as high level, and the on boarding/Comms too. Perhaps that might be a place in where you could look to gather a bunch more readers?

          Now – I’m off to renew 🙂

      1. “People have been slow to sign-up”. Really? You need to refresh how you present your product… “Six hours after the race…” “GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine.” …. GP+ is indeed quality material but your marketing tack is repetitive and stale. Ultimately, it does not matter how great a product is if, eventually, the marketing around it is lame.

      2. @Joe Saward,

        OK. So it’s a perfect time for people to sign up. But there are only a few races to the end of the season. Maybe it’s me, but I can’t find any pricing for anything other than the full year. Surely a tarriff of Full season, 3/4, 1/2, & 1/4 would bring in more subscribers? Not everybody wants or needs the back issues. The season round up provides a better perspective.

      3. For my 2 pence worth, your real problem is people knowing. When the internet arrived and I binned Autosport I used to get all my motorsport news off the Beeb, one day I saw a gossip column on there, saw your name and remembered it from Autosport so I read the piece on your blog, I have tea every post since, subscribe to Grand Prix + and bought the back catalogue. Like anything Grand Prix Plus has room for improvement, but tweaks only in my opinion. Now your blog and e-zine are my sole source of Formula 1 news.

  6. Almost as seismic as Pearson selling the FT.

    You’re right about sensationalism turning off long term readers at Autosport, I went from every GP issue and plenty in between to zero as the front covers became more and more tabloid.

    Zak Brown positioning himself well for a senior executive role in F1?

    1. Zak was interviewed on Ch4 at KL. He came over very well.

      However if in future my following F1 is confined to GP+ while the American giant has eaten the tv and all the printed matter then I am not at all sure I could continue. I do need to see it as well, but cannot afford to subscribe to Sky (vis NowTv) on a regular basis.
      I was brought up before credit cards and was taught to save up to buy something, and if you cant afford it you do without. eof.!

  7. No sensationalism in sight…. rib rib

    “Good grief. It’s Thursday evening and I have been writing virtually non-stop since the chequered flag fell on the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon”

    1. I am simply telling the truth.It might be hard to comprehend, but that is what happened 25,000 probably…

  8. It is a shame to see this happen but as a paying Autosport subscriber I have to admit I was starting to find their sensationalism and ability to contradict themselves across articles very annoying. Theres very few of the journalists left there wiring articles who’s opinion I actually respect.

    Motorsport.com seems to be able to get better news out & quicker. I can’t help but think the change in fortunes is in no small part due to the guidance of Jon Noble.

    I just wish there was a way of switching off the comments at the bottom of articles because they are as peurile as the Have Your Say section of the BBC F1 site.

    You still remain my goto location for genuine news backed up facts and without sensationalism and commenters who have a bit more about them than crazy conspiracy theories.

    1. I learnt quickly not to go ‘below the line’ on Motorsport.com. Dear god! Some of them are so immature they must still be in nappies. 😦

  9. A new communication paradigm is emerging –
    GrandPrix+ will prosper as long the AI in search engines quickly matures, allowing users to easily filter out the dross and go directly to informed content.

    However, if those search engines are themselves reliant on advertising revenue to survive I wonder how long it will take them to ‘mature’.

  10. Joe a couple of questions.
    The Press release says “The addition of the Haymarket brands, titles and businesses augments Motorsport Network’s progression towards announcing a significantly enhanced capability in the broadcast sector to be confirmed in due course.” Is there any rules on cross-media ownerships?

    Also, since Autosport.com was their major competitor, a case for monopoly can be made with competition authorities?

  11. Sad – but Autosport started on the slippery slope with the death of Catchpole and Nick Brittains column, and they have been steadily dumbing down ever since. It would be more of a tragedy if it had happened 25 years ago. I haven’t considered them an authoritative source since then.
    Even the Brands clubbie reports that were written in the bar were superior to their recent offerings…

    1. Couldn’t agree more and I was thinking the same thing when I read Joe’s article. I finally bailed a little over a year before Nigel Roebuck left. Too politically correct – Autosport, not Nigel.

  12. Just when Autosport had appointed a good editor too…

    I have noticed that the French edition of Autosport seems to have disappeared from the bookshelves in recent months.

  13. At least you are aware you do tend to bang on about it rather often, although it is hard to disagree with your position.

    Personally I don’t find this too surprising. The free content on autosport.com in recent years has been little more than reworded press releases – why would anyone visit that site in preference to one of the many others doing the same thing?

    The Autosport+ content had the occasional quality article, but all too often it was a columnist producing an article to the agreed word length/schedule when there really wasn’t the subject matter to justify its existence. That may have been how print journalism has always worked, but it just does not work online.

    Hopefully under new ownership the awkward mismatch between the requirements for print/online media can finally be sorted out.

  14. This is very bad news indeed. In my experience, all the old hands on decent salaries will be whacked and graduate trainees brought in on £18k a year to churn out garbage that gets clicked on sketchy websites.
    After a few years, when these tyros have run out of friends to impress telling them what a cool job they have, they’ll leave to find proper work that gives them a chance to leave the parental home and start paying rent on their own place.
    They’ll be replaced by even fewer trainees who know even less, struggling to maintain even sketchier websites that earn paltry ad fees, before the big cheese decides to press delete without fanfare.
    The moral of the story is you get what you pay for. If you appreciate high-quality, accurate journalism you can trust, then put your hand in your pocket and pay for it.

  15. My jaw dropped and I was breathless for a minute! I considered Autosport to be very good and well informed. Although I admit race reports were really going down in quality, I think scince Mark Hughes left. As I have been approached by F1Today.nl for writing some articles I heard motorsport.com tried to buy them too. Luckily they did not give in.

    For real news and insight I like your site best Joe. It is sometimes too good to be free, so I had to become A GP+ subscriber. All regular readers should!!

    1. Probably not the kind of reply Joe likes to see, but F1today.nl seems to be just another GMM customer. If not, their writers try to emulate GMM much too much for my taste. Dragging the same story over 5 different articles and much speculation, opinionating and sensationalism.

  16. Autosport became the motor racing equivalent the “The Soar Away Sunsational Sun” red top long ago. Its “passing” should still be mourned however.
    As a fellow professional in motor racing for all of my career and alongside my father as a child, I sympathise with your concern regarding the paucity of true motor racing journalists. I fear however this principle, people attracted to motor racing and more specifically to F1, having little knowledge or interest in its heritage, is not restricted to journalistic spheres. Working for Such and Such F1 Ltd sounds awfully good at dinner parties….. Funny thing is, such individuals seems to find the sport a tad too reminding and exit stage left with alarming frequency. Maybe there is hope after all……

  17. Simon Taylor: “Who are you and what the hell are you doing?”

    Mysterious blond-haired visitor: “I’m Michael Heseltine and I’ve just bought you.”

  18. I cancelled my Autosport subscription when they put bikes in the magazine. I had been buying it since before you started working for them. I now get Motorsport News but only because it reports on the club meetings I go to.
    I hope it survives.

  19. I have always wondered about the workload of the major individuals writing F1 content. For example, the BBC main correspondent will put out perhaps three or four articles per race, including a race report. None of them involve particularly in depth analysis or any new information that isn’t available to those watching the action live on TV.

    I understand that a large proportion of a journalists time is finding information and talking to people, however, i do struggle to see how the content produced on things like the BBC website is worth sending someone around the world to produce, when presumably this could be offered by another news agency for a fee.

    Id be interested to know if in this particular case, there is another role conducted in the background, or whether that really is the max content that an individual can produce. I know some BBC reporters are dual on a sport plus football for example. If this is the max that can be produced, this seems quite low value for money.

    Ps. Signed up for GP+, well worth it, wish i had done it before.

    Thanks

    1. The BBC main correspondent is not at all the races. But he is a very good man. Ex-Autosport from the golden age

      1. Joe, just a point. When someone states in a commment that they have signed up to gp+, it might be nice just to say thanks for signing up. It’ll take a second and as per your comments that sign ups have been slower than should be given it’s obviously well received it might help.

    2. The Radio 5 Live Extra no longer seems to have James Allen, or Alan McNish.

      Agreed, their website content is worthless. Educate and inform no longer seems to be important to the BBC.

      1. I disagree. The gossip section is one I turn to everyday and there are two podcasts for every race. Bearing in mind the BBC runs everything from the licence fee, what do you expect? Do you think SKY’s mission is to ‘Educate and inform’?

    3. Olly, you’re talking about Andrew Benson. He’ll be working freelance, contributing as and when. He very ably fulfills the Beeb remit at, one supposes, a reasonable cost. As Joe says below he’s a good, experienced reporter so no point for ‘another news agency’, whatever that means.

      I’m always amused by people’s preoccupation with the BBC. Why not SKY? The SKY F1 site carries freelance contributions in the same way, financed by exorbitant annual subscription fees obviously, whilst the BBC supports its site out of the license fee (lucky you if you live elsewhere, we Brits pay for it).

  20. The current financial state of print auto related journalism is illustrated by my subscription to Motor Trend magazine; $6.00 per year, 12 monthly issues.

    And they are constantly berating me to take advantage of their on-line issues in lieu of hard copy. Being an old git I still enjoy the holding, flipping, reading of a quality color print magazine in my hands as opposed to a screen, and it’s peculiar to me bringing my tablet with me into the loo!

    Now, in as much as Motor Trend doesn’t “report” on racing, one may tend to discount it’s “journalistic” cred. I only cite this publication as a financial example of how incomes from traditional print publications are being driven into the dirt.

    1. You’re getting ripped off! I can’t remember the last time I paid to renew my Road & Track or Car & Driver paper subs, I too don’t want to read my iPad on the loo 😉 IMO advertisers pay for my subs, not that I pay the ads much attention.

  21. Joe: “In its heyday, Autosport was a solid earner, producing £1 million a year in profits. It was the place where many of the best-known motorsport writers began their careers…”

    And when Published Every Thursday meant that Autosport might arrive next monday thanks to vagaries of the distribution network. But the content was brilliant. There were cracking photos of international rallying and Formula Ford 1600 reports that hinted about great futures. There was enough information about Formula 3 and Formula 2 to keep you filled in between the couple of races you could see each year in person or on TV. Autosport could concentrate on four wheel motor sport because there there was enough to report that was interesting.

    There’s still an awful lot of four wheel motorsport. F1 is the pinnacle and you should be able to make a career writing about drivers on their way up.

  22. Surely the consequence of Liberty Media buying F1. When will the UK learn. As “we take back control” with one hand, others are absolutely hell bent on turning the UK into the 51st state and there are usually enough people who don’t care, are too lazy or indifferent to this process. Media is the latest victim of this process. Looking at the comments on Motorsport mags feed, then this will likely be the next victim as it continues to deny that F1 even exists and write with rose tinted glasses about the past. Frustrating to say the least. Bernie appears not to pick his financial partners well. First CVC, now Liberty.

  23. I used to buy Autocar, but it has fallen off a cliff for quality, particularly online where it is now chasing “click-bait” with tabloid stories.

    Motor Sport Magazine (the green fronted one) is much better than Autosport.

  24. I’ve been a subscribed reader of Autosport since about 1980, initially getting my copy from a newsagents on the way to work, and latterly subscribing directly. My subscription also gives me access to the website which I generally visit at least once a day (not as often as I visit this site!).
    I am now on my second year of GP+ subscription, and will continue with that ad nauseum and the same probably goes with Autosport as Formula One isn’t the only motorsport that floats my boat.
    I have noticed a decline in the magazine, plus, having access to the website means quite often that whet I read on paper, I’ve already seen on screen, so opening the magazine is no longer a priority. (In fact, it is now Thursday lunchtime, and my copy of the magazine is still un-opened on my desk whilst I type this!)

    1. Having been an AS reader since the 70’s and following their website over the last decade I’ve been wondering what was going on with them having noticed a serious decline across the board .. from the quality of writing .. to the coverage .. to the shortening of articles and features … right on down to serious editing and factual errors .

  25. Having been stiffed by Haymarket more times than I care to remember, I can only hope that the Motorsport Network are better at paying their overseas correspondents.

    1. I can certainly agree with you there, as a UK correspondent. Although the irony is that today, of all days, I just received a PO for my Autosport work I did a month and a half ago!

  26. Autosport sold… It’s sign of the times I guess. Good journalism is scarce today, with not many young people willing to write. And for the publishing industry, sigh again… Print is going down fast. Reducing costs to an absurd extent is all the fashion today. I manage two magazines and websites on my own nowadays. My Publisher ‘doesn’t even care what I write, as long as the money’s comin’ in… Sometimes I think it’s time to give up on journalism and find me another job.

  27. If there is a chance that this leads to a concentration of decent, well-informed journalists writing across publications, then there may be a grain of good nes here.

    Otherwise, it remains Motorsport Magazine and GP+ for me.

  28. I only a handful if at all. The magazine has gone down in quality since the departure of journalism excellence. Hell I am not even sure if the writers actually go to the races!

  29. Joe, Isn’t the somewhat less employed but very wealthy Zac Brown funding this so as and when the F1 ownership circus stops, he is perfectly positioned to control marketing / circuit sponsorship, and a vast sway of the media, digital and print?

  30. Long live journo bloggers with ethics: trusted sources who tell it like it is. We may never be rich, but it’s a good life if one can make the numbers add up.

  31. My brother text me the news earlier. My response? “Aaah, crap. Auto sport is dumbing down then.” Not seen Motorsportmagazine mentioned in all of this. Fingers crossed…

  32. No disrespect Joe, but I read Motorsport and Autosport to get the news and your site to get the opinion and (potential) back story. There is room for both no doubt but the sites are very different in my eyes. It works (for me).

  33. Joe, very sad to hear this news. An earthquake indeed. I was an intern there in late ’89 and ’90, helped out doing odd jobs and light editing work. I fondly remember all the great folks I met – Peter Foubister, Andy Halberry, Marcus Pye, Elford and gentleman who was the fastest two finger typist in the land… I would spend hours going the vast archives there, trying to find some obscure photo or reference. Even got to travel to a few of the races and saw what it took to be a journo among the best. It is amazing how many of the leading journalists and photographers cut their teeth at Haymarket. If you recall a tall Yank who was around at the time looking to go racing… it was a pleasure working with you.

  34. I have subscribed to Autosport since 1986. Every Thursday I say that enough is enough, although I never seam to make the leap and cancel as It has been part of my life for so long.

    Age has also led me down the Motorsport route, or maybe i just followed Nigel.

    This may just be the catalyst I need.

    Still, I have one and a half tons of magazine in the attic which I can re read……Globetrotter included.

  35. One heck of a coincidence that today’s drivers press conference has made the headlines because Lewis Hamilton was bored. Perhaps he was making a statement about the kind of reporting he receives from some of the tabloid journalists. Those newspapers who publish negative ‘hero to zero’ articles every time Lewis fails to win. Which goes to show that not all attending F1 journalists are particularly good at their job.

  36. Thank’s for that Joe. I was a long time subscriber of F-1 Racing magazine, but over the years, I found that they kind of rehashed old stories (I mean how many times can you do a story of Michael Schumacher?), and the magazine itself was becoming thinner, albeit with more pages of adverts. Another beef I had with F-1 Racing was their timeliness of delivery. I live on the left coast of the U.S. and sometimes they would be a month late, carrying no news that I hadn’t already read about, contemplated, and moved on from. GP+ has been my go to mag for F-1 since.

  37. With very odd timing, I was literally contemplating the renewal of my Autosport subscription just this morning on the way to work (well, there’s time think about such things on the tube!). On the basis that a) there’s already far too many adverts on the website, b) the quality of the articles is no more than I could get from the bottom feeders on any free website and c) the same articles seem to appear in the magazine as I’ve already read online, or at least it feels that way – all off which doesn’t equal good value in my book.

    Anyhow, this news decides it – save myself £155 a year which covers the annual GP+ subs I pay and then some. Time for the Business of Motorsport instead methinks!

  38. I cancelled my Autosport+ online subscription when they started giving their premium articles titles answering questions no one in their sane mind would actually ask, titles like “Why Mclaren likes winning” (I made that one up), “Why outclassed Hamilton should be scared” (current example) etc.

  39. One surmises that the price was 20% cheaper now then back before June… Wait for the same discounted savings on the Silverstone price.

  40. Sad but not a surprise. I remember during the 80s & 90s (F1’s golden era) running to the newsagents each Thursday morning for my copy of Autosport. I really looked forward to the writings of Roebuck (Fifth column), Dodgins, Hallberry, Gary Watkins etc and some gent who used to do ‘Globetrotter’ (wonder what happened to him?!). In the 70s it’d been Motorsport and the legendary DSJ and then subsequently David Tremayne. I might not have agreed with them all the time but I was certain of one thing; they were all great, engaging writers with a passion and knowledge of the sport. I haven’t take Autosport (or Motorsport) for many years now. On the rare occasions I have, I’ve considered it a shadow of its former self. Although I take one of the Haymarket publications now, I read it selectively. There’s a lot of free stuff on line but much of it is of dubious quality and that’s ultimately what matters. It continues to amaze me that this blog remains free. It’s not just the information on offer (I can get that from other places) but it’s the depth of insight; uninterrupted attendance of every F1 GP; access to the people at the heart of the sport. In the internet age I can pretend to be a journalist but that doesn’t make me Joe Saward, no more than using my camera makes me Daren Heath or Paul-Henri Cahier. I value this blog greatly.

  41. It may be time to start protecting your copy Joe, JoJ would be the ideal man but he may be indisposed.
    Watermarking and deleting the “copy” function from the menus. Then including some invisible characters. I am an amateur but here are ways, so that any stolen and pasted copy is marked and can be tracked.

    1. rpaco> It may be time to start protecting your copy Joe…deleting the “copy” function from the menus…

      I’m afraid that there’s really no point in doing that, as it’s utterly futile and only annoys people who might want to copy a well-turned phrase to send to a friend. Anybody who wants to steal text from a website (especially on a regular / semi-professional basis) who has even half-decent knowledge knows how to get round that with a couple of mouse-clicks or indeed a single Ctrl-key combination.

      Disabling the right-click button is something that a certain muddy website used to do (probably still does, but not been there in years) and it used to make me laugh at the sheer idiocy of the pukey-sounding editor thinking that he could somehow stop people stealing his precious copy that way. Well that, and annoy the hell out of me as I used to browse sites using ” Open in New Window” (this was before tabs, and before I discovered you could click the scroll-wheel) and his site prevented me from doing that.

      Even if some esoteric greater lengths were gone to, there’s always screengrabs and OCR… it’s pointless.

      Watermarking, invisible stuff etc. is all very well but in any case Joe has already written in the past about slipping the odd “barium meal” into his copy to catch the likes of GMM (can’t remember if it was actually them, or someone similar) ripping off his stories. They fell for it, and he had words with them. They stopped.

  42. Sad to say, but everything comes to an end. I have subscribe to Autosport for many years, and recently the “on line” edition. Again, sad to say, I have not opened one issue this year, so that’s a subscriber lost next year.
    What I find interesting is that if not for the Internet Blog’s such as this would not exist. So as with everything, everything changes.
    Joe, I cant believe you were unaware of this going to happen and suspect that you will be looking at how you survive in the future, if that’s not already happening.
    Unfortunately, from my vantage point, the change that F1 is seeing with Liberty media is the start of “churn” within the industry that will continue for some time.
    The really sad thing is that quality journalism is a subjective thing, if you like what someone writes, then its good, if not, its not, so as far as the major player in F1, Liberty, is concerned, I suspect all they care about is “column inches” or however they measure it these days. The relatively small core of people that remember back to the “golden age” of F1 where we gobbled up each and every thing about F1 are a quickly diminishing breed.
    F1 is an animal that eats its own and if you don’t get out of the nest quickly enough you will be eaten.
    So I will continue to enjoy F1 while its available on TV, and in various Internet sites. I will choose the ones that are in line with what I think F1 should be, but as I started by saying, everything comes to an end.

  43. Gave up with Autosport years ago but frankly gave up on F1 a few years on from that. As for traditional journalism in all sectors, sadly again I think it’s finished because the world now spins on advertising revenue and young people now have the attention span of a flee.

  44. My father, Gregor Grant, founded Autosport in 1950, he invented the name and, against all odds, started a weekly motor racing magazine for enthusiasts. He worked and played hard, he was an honourable man and was trusted. He never broke an embargo, he told tall stories and liked a drink ~ gosh.
    He was loyal to his staff and gave many an opportunity to follow their dreams to be involved with motor sport.
The whole Haymarket Press involvement was ghastly, my dad wasn’t a business man, he was caught on the back foot. I am proud of my father ~ a good person, a very good writer who followed his heart, he lived a relatively short, action packed life and we had a lot of fun along the way.
    Someone suggested that he would be “spinning in his grave”, I don’t think so ~ he loved fresh ideas, technology, new jazz, artists, writers and poets. I learnt a lot from him.
    Love your blog
    best wishes Simone Grant

    1. Your Dad was a gentleman and a hero of mine for starting Autosport….when i was just a teenager it inspired me and informed me….and John Bolster was an absolute hoot! Your should rightly be proud of your late Dad! Sad at what is happening now and how far AS has fallen in the last few years.

  45. Joe, we’ve been following the whole purchase and the recent F1 developments and think that this does not have to be a bad thing, necessarily. Definitely not if we don’t let it be. Please join us in a discussion about this, we’d love to have your commentary. You can reach us at show@flatoutfever.com – we’re a North American F1 podcast and would love your input

  46. Joe,
    I had just qualified, and was looking for a job. Autosport had one, with theToleman Group – Racing team. So I applied. The parents though it wise to look for a “proper” job, and arranged an interview with a City Firm. I went to both interview’s.
    My heart was set on the Toleman job, but they send the letter by second class post, which we had back in those days. On the same day, via first class post I get the offer from the City firm, so went in the next day to sign the contract. Got home, and there was the letter from Toleman offering me the job. Back then once you agreed to a deal you kept your word…….
    The Toleman HR lady was so nice about it, told me if the City job didn’t work out to call her.
    The company I went to work for also did a small bit of sponsorship in F1. They had a 5 year deal with one team and then a 3 year deal with another. As I was the only person really keen on F1, I went, at my own cost to the European races. I had to report back on what happen. I found that the managers didn’t know much or anything about Motor racing, so I cut up my Autosport magazine with all the pictures and made a simple display panel with what happen, so they could all follow it. I do remember some of your articles, and I think I may have plagiarized more than a few of your words on the race in question…..so thanks for the lesson in F1.

  47. Such, I fear, is the way of life, which makes it even more important that you, Hughes and Roebuck continue your excellent work. Quite literally beacons in the dark.
    I gave up reading Autosport long ago because of its silliness and most of the rest of the motoring journals drive in a way that should get them slung into jail and talk/write in a way that tries too hard to be clever/smart.
    As you say most of the rest of the blogs are junk, reporting rumour and opinion as fact and insulting each other and anyone else whose opinion they do not share.
    Hopefully as the quality of the opposition decreases more doors will open for quality work.

  48. This, in a small part, is the sort of problem my company would solve, if the problem is having sales capacity in the “wrong” place: we’d broker the deals to cross sell.

    On websites, cross selling goes to quite a extreme, on certain markets you can acquire a readership, track them, and buy inventory where they next visit, selling those page impressions into your primary trade. Arbing other people’s website inventory, basically.

    The actual way we structured deals for print space involved a lot of math that you’d arrive at needing to do if you started from the point of the online impression arb. I’ve hardly attempted to describe the mechanics, which are a bit fiendish, but you might get a idea from what I’ve indicated. The tech is there, the willpower to apply it to print media seems lacking. A school friend I’d not seen for too long, who meanwhile sold a online ad brokerage for a tidy “undisclosed sum” told me approximately, “What you were talking about ten years ago, is sort of almost being done now. Will be in the next couple years.” I’m not so sure, because in those ten years I’d like to think my work moved our ideas along some. But I do see a lot of ideas for trading online ad inventory that might make a lot of sense, translated to print needs. What I don’t see is the market structure to support orderly trading and publisher interests. It is, nonetheless, quite a sufficiently large market, to invest in nice things. Just the publishing world is a quintessential explanation for why we can’t have nice things, generally. I can call bluff to just about every reason print / media / adland has excused the obscene devaluation of the printed word. I started structuring and trading print space some 21 years ago now. If I go on, it’s because I am downright angry at the hook line and sinker line – swallowing of rote reasoning for print’s decline. The online advertising world is estimated to lose some 8 billion dollars annually to fraud, and I simply forget if that may be the US only sum. Take any industry body estimate and double it, in my book. Seriously non – trivial sums of money are being hemorrhaged by buyers, in ways you plain can’t scam with a title off the press. (and how many magazines would that wastage support?*) There has become ingrained in a entire generation of men, often younger than me, who are now executives in print media concerns, that I can at best describe as witless apathy with a sharp dash of fundamental technical illiteracy. (If these guys could write the code or do the math they’d be at the goldmine like everyone else, says the cynical me). Look at GP+ in PDFs: prime candidate for some non intrusive DRM, just to keep an eye on circulation, and if you can do that you can run refresh adverts, update links for follow up articles and so on: the PDF spec offers a great deal of facilities targeted at (the more lucrative per seat licensing in) architecture and engineering, where documents are also a article in process of being updated.

    // grumbling done for the morning. But the point is that someone sees a worthwhile exercise in providing the attention of readers such as many of us here, the better for advertisers to find in one place. That’s a buying signal. I just disagree with the method, which is a extreme form of self beautification or rather body modding in pure speculation of appearing more attractive to the opposite sex.

    * If advertisers are prepared to not run to the feds / police / whoever, upon the sheer scale of this fraud, I have to beg, just how bent & broken is the market nowadays? Why do they not complain? Just permitting that waste is also a strong buying signal. Hence I am sticking my nose in, again.

  49. I feel very strongly about this. Like many on here, my transformation from youngster who would watch F1 on telly on a Sunday to hopeless motorsport fanatic was fuelled largely by discovering Autosport and subscribing for over a decade from the mid-90s. Pre-internet take-off, it really was the bible.

    I concur that when sensationalism became order of the day (something I dubbed “How can we get ‘Hamilton’ into a headline?”, I lost interest in the print edition and became an online subscriber only. Following the exodus of the remaining known-names to motorsport.com, the quality of the reporting has gone down and I am loathed to renew again. I think I will be back with GP+ next year.

    I bought a print copy recently and was shocked by the short features (mirrored online), tabloid style and general lack of paper (ads or otherwise). A poor copy of what I loved so much in the mid-90s.

    I hate that the answer to modern motorsport journalism is apparently keeping it short and lightweight. I still love to “dig in” to a big feature, which is why I tire of Autosport online, and why my current subscription is to “Motor Sport”, which for now at least, still takes the reader on a journey during a piece – and where the reader actually learns something.

    I hope the concentration of talent among all the titles involved leads to a jump in the quality of the pieces, but I fear the worst.

  50. If LH has his way, the only way you’ll get any ‘news’ is on his snapcrap account. He clearly has a low regard for journalists…and anyone who believes in appropriate behaviour during a planned meeting.

  51. Sad but not unduly surprising. I first bought AS around 1968…..and bought it every week without fail until around 2008/9 when i just felt it was declining in quality. Roebuck leaving didn’t help it as i’m not a Mark Hughes fan….I also bought Motoring News from 1970 until about 1990 by which time i thought it was lagging behind AS. My Motorsport buying went from 1969 until it all went Pete Tong a few years back, then i left it until it was revamped since when it has been a must read every month again! Apart from that i used to buy many other magazines including the late lamented F1 News which had a very good column by someone known as Globetrotter….ring any bells?
    It is really sad that today the emphasis is tv media hidden behind paywalls…..i’ve read really great motorsport stories but journalists that i thought were not only great men but also people living the best life one can, i.e, being paid for doing what they absolutely love! These days there are so few left to admire. I buy MSNews only for the WRC reports by David Evans, a little too bouncy at times, but a motorsports enthusiast at heart. In AS there isn’t any circuit reporting that i really like apart from good old Marcus Pye! When the titles go as i’m pretty sure they will, i’ll shed a tear for the excitement they gave me over the years from child to grown up. But instead of getting overwrought about something that has been creeping up for many years ( Michael Heseltine! ) i’ll just read GP+, because i’ve been a fan of Old School Joe since the 80’s, because DJT was always a favorite read back in the glory days of MN, and because, well because The Dood is a Legend, and he, like me, loved Ronnie Peterson!

  52. I don’t always agree with what you views, but you are at the coalface, and you are pretty much always spot on with the info you provide.

    If i want to know whats happening in F1, this is the first port of call.
    I dont buy car mags anymore, i work in a place where i get to read them all for free
    Most car magazines these days are all the same though, latest BMW v AUDI v Merc v Jaguar test, telling us those are all are brill, and the rest of the cars are rubbish.

    If you dont believe me, pick up the next mag on the shelf and see for yourself

  53. I am reading that Zak Brown is affiliated with the website? Is this an attempt to control the narrative like Pravda in the old Soviet Union?

  54. When I was a kid, Thursday, when Autosport came out, was the most eagerly anticipated day of the week. How exciting it was to read all the week’s news!

    And how different it is now when the news is so easily available. Of course, it is harder for publications like Autosport to monetise it.

    What set them apart, at least for a time, was the quality of the writing. Nigel Roebuck’s column was of course the most glorious example.

    But I gave up on Autosport some time ago, when the quality of the writing became frankly rubbish. What was the point in paying £3, or whatever it was, to read news you already knew about, and to read turgid and un-enlightening prose?

    I usually pick up Motorsport Magazine. But Roebuck aside, even that seems occasionally to be losing its way.

  55. I might be naive but surely the case is strong for the FIA/FOM/the teams to sponsor journalism (I. E marketing of sport and brand) by funding travel? An extra jet for journos from a European hub would be a tiny investment plus group procurement of hotel rooms and ground transport. They’ll only miss it when it’s gone……

  56. Eeesh . Shades of Bauer’s take over of CAR.. the mass media buyout of R&T C&D etc . And now Autosport . How the mighty are falling to the wayside of corporate homogenization in the name of greed . Seriously though Joe as the massive corporate structures move in for the kill across the board .. I only hope for your sake as well as ours that they’ll leave you be .. rather than force you to either become one of them or push you out the back door by say eliminating your press pass , making you for no good reason persona non grata etc et al ad nauseam . But seriously Joe … having had first hand experience on several levels with F1’s potential new owners [ assuming the deal is ratified by the EU ] .. I .. errr .. wouldn’t bet on it … leaving you be that is . Eliminating the little guy being their M/O . Fingers crossed . Eyes towards the heavens .. and I’ll see what can be done from my end [ they being in my backyard ] should such a move start looking likely .

  57. Today’s consumers want today’s news…today. They don’t want to receive ‘this months magazine’ that was DSA distributed last week and sent to print 2 weeks before that. They want to interract with other followers via comments and social media. Print media’s not died because of itself, it’s because its consumers have simply changed their expected product.

    This is where GP+ should win.

    1. Josh’s comment “Print media’s not died because of itself, it’s because its consumers have simply changed their expected product.” really hits the core of the problem. The old mode simply won’t cut it in the modern marketplace, just like old models of banking don’t work any more. We all (I suspect) remember monthly statements, waiting a week for a cheque to clear, go cap in hand to the counter to get money during ‘banking hours’, instead of instant online access to the current state of my account, immediate access to funds, 24×7 cash points and electronic payments. The world has moved on.
      The good journalists have all moved to new avenues that enable them to give us the benefit of their words and experiences in a form that works in the modern world, like GP+. (or they’ve retired)
      Yes, print media is dead, but there really is no point in bemoaning that fact as there’s no way we (the public) will want to go back to the ‘good old days’.

  58. I remember Gregor Grant and John Bolster well from Praed Street, it most definitely was a dingy little office. re Simon Taylor Tarzan is right-very Simon Taylor. What made Heseltine claimed all those stairs I will never know. On a lighter note I will never forget one of those Page and Moy trips to Monaco.
    One year a somewhat intoxicated John Bolster actually jumped on the carousel only to reappear between two large suitcases. Happy days!

  59. I’m glad you wrote about this, Joe. I was shocked to see this the other day and was wondering what your take might be. I have noticed, particularly this year, motorsport.com popping up more and more on trackside sponsorship during F1 races, and recently Massa (along with other drivers) started writing for them. I seem to remember the site becoming filled with GMM garbage a few years ago, but recently it does seem to have rather dramatically.

  60. Terribly sad
    What really resonated with me was your comment about Autosport and the drift to sensationalism. I first used to buy Autosport in South Africa when it was about 6 weeks after publication, then got a subscription (which involved a lot of saving because of exchange rates). When I came to the UK I knew a newsagent in Earls Court where you could buy the magazine on a Wednesday evening. It was the motor racing bible, then it slowly started changing, becoming tabloid, a bit like Sky’s coverage of Formula 1 (The Hacks piece in the fabulous Grand Prix + had me nodding in agreement and laughing about both Channel 4 and Sky coverage). I have probably bought 10 copies of Autosport in 10 years. In time it wont be worth the paper its printed on. And that is the saddest thing of all.

  61. All this while Lewis Hamilton is starting a little “war” (to quote JAonF1) with the media over how they reacted to his remarks after his retirement in Malaysia (which weren’t all that incendiary, in my opinion, so I can see where he’s coming from) and his Snapchatting in the driver’s press conference before this race. I hope he doesn’t throw away the opportunity to talk to less histrionic journos such as your good self. That would be a shame. If he does start to differentiate, it might actually provide a chance for the decent ones to get better content and access to drivers and teams.

  62. What are your thoughts on LH walking out of the Merc press conference and the snapchat “disrespect”?

    Is it just the pressure of the WDC getting to him maybe?

  63. RE: the last point. I had go plus for a year. I didn’t like it.

    I get my f1 news online. Why on earth would anyone buy a MAGAZINE??? Print or digital???

    It’s 2016. Wake up.

    The only people with things to fear are old fuddy duddies clinging to the past.

    This is great news. Autosport was on its last legs. This fabulous development with reinvigorate it’s online side.

    1. In which case you will not get anything like the same quality of stuff. If that satisfies you then fine, but there are still a lot of people who want quality information and this magazine exists to feed that demand. If the demand was not there, then there would not be a magazine.

      1. RE: the last point. I had go plus for a year. I didn’t like it.

        Then one day you will wake up and realise you cannot believe anything anymore and all the good journlaists like DT and Joe may have been forced out too and the stories that are out there will be like buying Pravda in the 1960’s.You will only know what those at the top table will want you to know and investigative journalism will be dead and with that goes accountability of those that are in power (be they governments, CEO’s or administrators).

        I do dispair at how thick some people can be.

        GP+ may not be for everyone, I’m not that keen on dressage, but my sister in law cannot get enough of it. One of the things I enjoy about it most is the Qualy and Race reports have things in them that you notice on TV but do not know why and this squares the circle (Like Japan 94 in the current issue, absolutely fascinating when viewed 22 years on) I also find “On the Grid,” “The Hack Looks Back” and “The Last Lap” very informative. Sadly to read the e-zine from cover to cover as I usually do involved using a skill that is fast dying in the human race, the art of concentrating on anything for more than a few minutes. I often read the e-zine and the tube and more than once have missed my stop as its so engrossing.

  64. This sounds like a bit too negative and may be a touch nostalgic look at this deal. If sales are not developing well, the titles are losing money and Haymarket readily parts with them so easily, then most likely they knew they don’t have the funds to invest in the titles in order to get profitable.
    If they don’t have the funds, they had 2 options – sell or close them down the lane.
    Obviously with Zak Brown Motorsport.com will have access to a lot of marketing resources as well as funding. They will naturally try and find ways to innovate and cut down costs. Motorsport.com is not too good, but you can see some of the names there are also very established, some racing drivers have columns and this is something that fans most value a lot!
    For me, Autosport is still too much news reporting and very little in depth content, F1 Racing is good, but it’s no wonder Autosport is struggling…
    Having said that, as someone above mentioned, the danger is if Zak Brown gets some role in F1 while keeping his interest in Motorsport Network! I’m not sure if Liberty Media will be happy with this. Freedom of speech in the Paddock might be potentially in a big, big danger.

  65. You can summarize Autosports ability these days with a single recent article. They repeated refer to the cause of Hamiltons engine failure as “a failure of the big end bearing in the crankshaft” complete claptrap making no technical sense.
    Like many I suppose, I’ll keep on flicking across the web site having long since stop buying the print weekly but ever more it becomes less relevant and inaccurate. Roebuck with his 5th Column, now that was motor racing journalism and quality reporting of all events country wide
    I fear there are more changes afoot across motor racing publishing than Saward has broadcast. Take s look at Motorsport magazine. Note the loss of Damien Smith and Simon Taylor. I have it good authority times are tough at the green, white and black institution. I hope the sources are wrong. Still the best quality motor sport read available.

  66. This Motorsport group is as shady a group as one will find. Their source of money is a mystery, their business plan to make money is non-existent, their reported reader numbers are very, very suspect, if you look at their history ir points to one place only. If one were to dig into it, they might never be found again because of it. Buying legitimacy is never a good thing, but maintaining the legitimacy bought is even harder and I don’t think this group has a clue how to do it. Rumors are Motors.tv is next on their purchase list. Monopolies are bad, monopolies own by unknowns are worse.

  67. Well after some fifty years of buying Autosport, every copy of which is down in my basement for when I want to relive the past, I cancelled my subscription earlier this year in sheer boredom at what was being presented. I’ll watch to see what happens from here but the focus on the core punter will have to return for me to become re-interested. The last straw was my subscription copy (which 20 years ago used to arrive within a week) dropping into my Adelaide letterbox a full six weeks after publication. The current focus on including Moto GP (I’ve been to many Bike GP’s but never felt the need to subscribe to a bike mag), “fluff” interviews and regurgitation of the generic media interviews as “news” does not inspire confidence. Having grown up on some of the doyens (yes I remember Globetrotter), I wonder if poor Marcus Pye will survive. For the person who mentioned DSJ – I’m sorry mate by Jenks was the monthly Motorsport magazine.
    As F1 slowly disappears behind the Pay TV wall into just another piece of content, I’m afraid that the people who have trecked far and wide are no longer the audience of interest. As the people with surplus funds become more discriminating on where they spend their precious time, a niche sport without a global following may just become one amongst many. If we all lose interest, then the business model collapses.

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