Shifting Media

The economic crisis impacted me on a couple different levels this week. First my brother-in-law returned to work after the New Year's weekend break only to find his job was being eliminated. Nothing like turning in your keys, collecting a final check and being ushered home in a cab to start your new year.

As the family reeled from that dose of bad news, the economy reached out and bit the NASCAR community with the word that the venerable NASCAR Scene weekly magazine was shutting down and nearly 30 employees - reporters, photographers, designers and advertising reps - lost their jobs.

My heart goes out to everyone of those unfortunate people - some who I consider friends and all among the most talented individuals known to the sport.

But the decision to shut down yet another print publication was just the latest dagger in the heart of the entire world of the media business, which has been shrinking and changing drastically over the last few years.

Newspapers in particular have been hit the hardest with several major metropolitan publications either shells of their former selves or out of business completely.

As more and more consumers find alternate ways to consume their news and entertainment, the days of walking down the driveway Tony Soprano-style to pick up the daily newspaper delivered to your curb are going the way of a five dollar movie.

The NASCAR media corps has suffered tremendously during this downsizing and where we saw as many as 25 or 30 major dailies on the Sprint Cup "beat" only a handful of years ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find one paper that will staff the entire 36 race schedule in 2010.

While wire service reports and the solid work of people like Jenna Fryer or the recently-retired Mike Harris at the AP is certainly a suitable way to cover the sport for any paper, what's lost is the variety of voices that brought their unique view and perspective to the proceedings.

One was silenced tragically with the untimely death of David Poole last spring but others like Jim Pedley, Rick Minter, Skip Myslenski, Larry Woody and John Sturbin were simply cast aside due to the dire financial straights of their former publications.

Now we are forced to add even more talented names to that list after this week's Scene meltdown and the sport is much poorer because of it.

Obviously this might sound somewhat hypocritical coming from someone who makes his living primarily working in the online and digital world, but the rise of the Internet can certainly be pointed to for this gigantic shift in NASCAR's media landscape.

Fans are now so used to getting instant news, results, statistics and analysis online that waiting for the next day's paper - or in the case of a publication like NASCAR Scene the following week's issue is simply not acceptable.

And not only is anything you want online, the rise of mobile devices and cellphones as a portal for information and entertainment has raised the bar for immediacy even higher.

Throw in social networking like Facebook and Twitter, which adds a significant interactive component to the equation, and it's not hard to understand why holding a piece of paper in your hand to read something sounds almost prehistoric.

What this week's unfortunate turn of events at NASCAR Scene does to those of us lucky enough to still be in position to cover this sport is up the ante. We need to continue to find those interesting stories in the garage area and around the sport and bring them to life. We need to look at the sport with a critical eye when necessary and act in many ways as a watchdog that represents the fans. And we need to continue to find ways to generate the content and coverage fans want - with words, pictures, sounds and video. Oh and by the way, all of that has to be available on an on-demand and instantaneous basis.

RacingOne has been around for a decade now and gone through several evolutions as the media world - and online world - changed. We're planning on another one soon and in that process will be better yet served to give fans an even deeper experience as we'll have additional resources and technology at our disposal to accomplish that goal and a wider platform for exposure that will make the site even more of a must-stop destination.

But the bottom line will be as it always has been - in depth coverage of the sport and an appreciation for what race fans want in their fervent following of auto racing.

The media centers are going to be a lot less full this year and our thoughts are with those colleagues who won't be out on the trail this year.

Your dedication and talent inspires us all.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2010

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