Why original motor sport journalism is under pressure


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The single most recurring theme in Formula 1 is that of the need to cut costs. So much so that for the last decade the sport has been obsessed with budget caps; with the musts, wherefores, hows and whys of reducing costs of F1, whether costs to fans, costs of testing and simulations, overall costs to teams, sponsors and engine or tyre suppliers, and costs to race promoters of staging grands prix.

More column inches have been devoted to this topic than any other. We are no exception to this.

But at no stage have the costs of reporting on a full grand prix season been properly debated. Yet these costs too constantly increase in line with calendar expansion and F1’s gradual move away from its European heartland.

True, the amounts involved are clearly more modest than team budgets. But on a proportionate basis, these are as relevant to publications and media outlets as they are to F1’s major players.

Indeed, it could be argued that the teams are better off, for they benefit directly from increases in race hosting fees, whereas media outlets do not. Reader numbers – and thus income – are affected by shifting times zones and an increasingly obvious sense of over-saturation and ‘F1 fatigue’ as seasons wear on.

Covering a grand prix season is not cheap. Here’s a realistic breakdown of the current costs involved:

BB Accommodation
2 x 4-day pre-season test sessions8 nights
3 x 2-day in-season test sessions6 nights
1 x contingency night for each due to logistics5 nights
21 races at an average of 4 nights each84 nights
3 x midweek nights x 3 back-to-backs9 nights
8 x contingency nights due to logistics8 nights
Hotels at an average of £80/night (peak periods)120 nights / £9,600
5 x tests, Europe, average £200£1,000
9 x European GPs, average £200£1,800
2 x Middle East/1 x Canada GPs, £800£2,400
3 x Asia, £1000£3,000
2 x N/S American £1200£2,400
1 x Australia £1100£1,100
2 Russia/Azerbaijan £500£1,000
Flights, incl back-to-back events£12,700
Car hires, including tolls, fuel, excess
15 events, average £160/rental£2,400
Int calls/data, meals/drinks, visas, misc, forex, insurance £4,000 (£33/day away)

That totals almost £29,000. And that does not take into account unforeseen costs such as cancelled flights, and also reckons without unproductive periods spent in airports, in the air and in traffic – all of which have values attached. True, ‘bucket shops’ advertise cheaper travel, but their ‘from’ fares are just that, particularly during peak periods, which grands prix obviously fall into.

Of course these are all economy fares. Through judicious use of frequent-flyer benefits one may qualify for upgrades on long-hauls, but airlines consistently cut back on air miles on basic economy fares. A season of economy flights once provided sufficient miles for a full Australia return business-class flight, today one would be fortunate to accrue sufficient miles for upgrades (only) on half those sectors.

Similarly, cheap fares invariably involve stop-overs, adding to both travel time and fatigue, while media folk generally need two baggages due to the amount of kit carried, unless we wish to wear the same clothing for days on end – as some (unfortunately) do, even in equatorial climes.

Equally, cheaper hotels are available if one is prepared to slum it. AirBnB is also an option, but such accommodation is fraught with pitfalls if travelling professionally, and ‘iffy’ hotels are known to cancel shortly before events – when they sniff a surge in rates – leaving few cost-effective, last-minute options. Not what one needs when travelling to foreign lands, with deadlines to meet.

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Visa costs obviously vary by nationality but, for example, Australia rips off its professional visitors by insisting on working visas that come in at £200 – for an effective 4/5-day period. An increase in the use of visa ‘services’ – who do little but add three days to the process – by embassies has increased visa costs by up to £50 each. And, forget not, journalists now require media visas for many foreign lands.

Esteban Ocon, Force India, Spa, 2018
Force India faced huge media attention at Spa this year
Why am I telling you this? To evoke sympathy? Not at all – I love my job! But the reality of the costs journalists face in covering international motor sport is clearly not well understood.

We often get questions about the need for advertising on RaceFans and why we have a Supporters programme. These are the costs we have to meet in order to our readers the latest in breaking F1 news directly from source, unbiased and objectively. To do so we need to be on-site Thursday to Sunday, to mix and meet (and, at times, mingle) with drivers and team bosses, and other players.

To gain paddock access, publication need to convince the FIA media department that applicants are bona fide media professionals able to deliver top-quality reportage. Once a journalist has attended 14 grand prix (two-thirds of a season) they may apply for a year-long pass. Publications represented by members of the ‘red’ media pass brigade have put in the time and effort and incurred the sort of costs outlined.

Green passes are issued on single-event basis, usually to national media members or publications that dip in and out of F1, usually for cost reasons. Then there are those who do not, for whatever reason – draw your own conclusions – physically attend grands prix, yet have no qualms about ‘aggregating’ material, often passing it off as their own work.

To seasoned observers such aggregators are the laughing stock of our craft, referred to in disparaging terms, for inevitable errors slip through in their cack-handed attempts at disguising original sources. Worse, they regularly nick off each other in the hope that if similar material is published by at least one other source, it must be true!

It is, of course, impossible to cover all news all the time – even for accredited media – but original sources should always be cited correctly. To distinguish accredited media from stay-at-homers, simply seek quotation marks or clauses such as ‘XYZ told [media] in [venue]’.

You can bet ‘F1 journalists’ who don’t hold full accreditation nary mention the privileged access such passes facilitate. On the contrary, they imply that gaining FIA accreditation means kowtowing the official line, but anyone who has read some of my more critical writings realises that is not at all the case. Obfuscation springs to mind…

Should it make a difference to you, our readers, whether writers hold accreditation? Absolutely, for various reasons, not least that without journalist access there would be no questions during press conferences, no hard news from the paddock. Of course teams issue press releases; of course Liberty (now) has scribes pushing its messages – but you can guess how objective that stuff is.

For example, does Liberty’s official site Formula1.com utter a single word about former F1 tsar Bernie Ecclestone’s take on the current state of F1? Nope. Is it relevant? Some, yes, but it requires skill to differentiate and editorial courage to publish. Imagine what a free media, granted full access to broadcast interviews on social media platforms such as Twitter, could do for fans. Hence the vanilla stuff currently pumped out by Liberty.

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Equally, do teams reveal what gets said behind closed doors? Obviously not. Do team personnel share stuff with accredited media members they trust? Certainly, and far more often than with unaccredited folk they’ve never met…

Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, 2018
Dieter quizzes Gasly during pre-season testing
Is it coincidental that most ‘scoops’ are revealed by accredited publications, then regurgitated by the rest? It comes down to relationships built up over many years, the creation of a bond that makes our travelling circus a fraternity bound by a genuine, deep love for the sport.

Let those who gleefully copy our work yet profess to be F1 journalists put their money where their (massive) mouths are by committing to 30 grands worth of travel in 12 months, then spend 120 days per annum (and counting) away from family and friends…

A senior Liberty Media figure recently suggested to me I was the most ‘negative man in F1’ on account of some critical (of F1) features we had published. After challenging him to list errors, I pointed out I had covered my travel costs to over 300 grands prix over a period of 20 years. How many of their grands prix visits had they paid for, I wondered? I didn’t get a reply…

Of course, no system is perfect, but there are checks and balances in the FIA accreditation system: We face team personnel every fortnight – or more regularly since the calendar exploded – whereas stay-at-home dudes don’t, so have no qualms about writing hogwash. Thus accredited folk build relationships with sources – our bread and butter – and maintain mutual respect, which cuts both ways.

Does that, though, mean we pussyfoot about issues? I talk only for RaceFans, but the answer is a resounding ‘No’: we realise our readers are discerning; hence we strive to tell it the way it is. From experience, the same applies to most established publications. Indeed, I hazard that we are harder hitting, simply as we have direct access to the people, to solid off-record sources, and to developments as they unfold before our eyes (and ears).

In short, through relationships and access, we are able to cut through the chaff and home into the three sides of every F1 story: one side, the other, and the truth. Beware journalists who are everybody’s friend; equally, avoid those who are friends with none, for there are often good reasons…

Start, Paul Ricard, 2018
It’s not just teams facing the costs of a growing calendar
All this said, imagine the effect calendar expansion has on media budgets, particularly as future races are increasingly likely to be held in foreign “destination cities” as replacement for “unattractive events”, as Liberty F1 CEO Chase Carey recently referred to grands prix that refuse to pay eye-watering amounts for Liberty’s ‘show’ (yes, Silverstone, I think he means you).

Such cities base decisions on economic impact projections and thus visitor numbers at inflated hotel prices – adding further cost pressures for media. Then, consider that Liberty/F1 has as corporate sponsor Emirates, which services most grand prix destinations, and thus able to predict surges in passenger numbers, then adjust prices accordingly. The teams, though, are given 20 air tickets by the commercial rights holder…

More races entail more costs and commitment (and yet more nights from home), yet advertiser budgets are finite. Thus the number of journalists covering events on-site is steadily decreasing: a conservative estimate puts the drop at over 30% in the course of the last 10 years. That means a reduction in the number of stories published at source. F1 deserves a free and fair press, and that cannot be achieved through bland media material fed down the line by Liberty’s PR-journalists, or team media officers.

Where once 16 races per annum was the maximum, the norm is 21 and counting: Liberty constantly refers to 25-round championships, incurring cost increase of over 25% given that additional races are likely to be double- or even triple-headers, with commensurate increases in the number of bed-nights.

Consider three ‘foreign’ grands prix over as many weeks, then factor in the before-and-after travel time. That equals a month on the trot. Then calculate the costs (even discounting the potential consequences of Brexit). The teams’ response has been to counter 15-race calendars, or corresponding increases in projected budget cap levels. The media does not, though, have such levers, and thus quality reportage is likely to decrease further as costs rise.

Unlike other series, which ‘sponsor’ media folk to cover their events, then demand editorial pay-offs, F1 – in common with prestigious championships such as the World Rally Championship, World Endurance Championship and Moto GP – does not contribute a brass bean towards travel. Nor should it, for it enables us to be truly independent.

The bottom line is that accredited F1 outlets need your support more than ever. We believe the pinnacle of motor sport deserves original, independent coverage. We are always receptive to your suggestions for improvements and deeply grateful to those who contribute directly to the costs involved, which this article has hopefully illuminated.

A year ago I joined Keith at RaceFans.net (then F1 Fanatic) to provide fully accredited news reportage from the world’s F1 paddocks in order to better serve you, our reader. You be the judge whether such access has made a difference.

Read Dieter’s first-hand accounts of this season’s races in his Formula 1 Paddock Diaries. You can become a RaceFans Supporter and get an ad-free account from just £1 per month (other currencies supported)

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87 comments on “Why original motor sport journalism is under pressure”

  1. I’ve loved the more in-depth coverage, well worth a contribution.

    1. I subscribed several years ago now. I don’t pay much but every little bit counts, and I feel a lot better about myself when considering that on average I probably spend between 30 minutes and an hour a day on the site, reading the articles and the reader’s comments. And the quality and pace of the site’s output is brilliant.

  2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    5th December 2018, 12:32

    Oh wow Dieter and I thought I had it tough doing a 9-5 office job every weekday for the last 35 years!

    I guess this is about perspective.

    How many independent motor sport journalists are there covering F1?

    How many would be too many?

    How many would be too few?

    Does this mean there might be too few in the future?

    There is only so many ways you can say George Russell has signed for Williams for example.

    I think the F1 powers that be are happy to self publicise and care not a joy about independent journalists. I think its survival of the fittest. The best will survive, others may not.

    Keep up the good work :)

    1. Yeh the beeb used to stick Hunt & Walker in a tiny office off regent street for any expensive fly aways and dial the commentary in. Everyone wants to be there these days. Nothing wrong with that but theres a price to pay. kerching. And a life experience to enjoy. kerching.

      1. Even this season the BBC have kept their radio commentary team in London for a lot of races. Both Jack Nichols and Jolyon Palmer have called most of the ‘flyaway’ races from a studio, with their pitlane reporter Jennie Gow being the solo on air talent at the track.

  3. This got me convinced. Just subscribed as a RaceFans Supporter. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you very much @piotrzukowski and everyone else who’s done the same.

      The great thing about having Supporters is not just the income but the fact that we have a better idea how much income is going to come in, so we can plan accordingly. That’s incredibly useful when making decisions about what areas of our coverage to invest in.

      That includes the many other significant costs RaceFans has to cover which are not mentioned in Dieter’s article, for example web hosting and photography services.

  4. unless we wish to wear the same clothing for days on end – as some (unfortunately) do, even in equatorial climes.

    I always like reading about behind-the-scenes stuff, but this is something I’d be happy not reading about!

    A senior Liberty Media figure recently suggested to me I was the most ‘negative man in F1’ on account of some critical (of F1) features we had published.

    That’s quite a badge of honour. None of the negativity is personal gripes or cheap potshots (we commenters take care of that!), and I hope Liberty are open-minded enough to take it as informed feedback.

    A year ago I joined Keith at RaceFans.net (then F1 Fanatic) to provide fully accredited news reportage from the world’s F1 paddocks in order to better serve you, our reader. You be the judge whether such access has made a difference.

    I think the responses to your articles across this year has been answer enough, I know I’m not the only happy reader here of your content.

    That said, I do hope Keith solicits end-of-year feedback on the wider site, there are some bits of feedback that I (and I know there are a few others) would like to offer on article tone and presentation (especially the soundbites given by drivers/team personnel).

    1. @phylyp

      say no more: https://www.racefans.net/groups/not-f1/forum/topic/racefans-in-2018-your-feedback-and-suggestions-for-improvement/

      See Keith, the forum has to have a bigger presence at the front page, it goes unnoticed.

      1. @johnmilk – thank you, and yes, I had no idea that Keith had already kicked this off in the forums.

      2. There is a forum?!

          1. We don’t need no stinking forum…!! ;-)))

      3. @johnmilk It did before but the links weren’t getting much use and they were adding to the page load time, which needs to be kept as low as possible for performance reasons. There is still a ‘forums’ link in the menu, but I appreciate that’s not too clear when viewed on mobile.

        1. @keithcollantine that’s probably before my time. But even in desktop it should be more visible, maybe put only the title of the most recent threads?

          1. @johnmilk Still has a performance impact, unfortunately, and likely a pretty big one.

        2. @keithcollantine I’m a professional digital consultant, I’m already a paid supporter, but would be happy to donate time to help improve the performance. Running a quick Lighthouse Audit, it’s not too bad – but as always there’s room for improvement.

    2. unless we wish to wear the same clothing for days on end – as some (unfortunately) do, even in equatorial climes.

      Next you’re going to tell me these same journalists have never heard of washing clothes in sinks… (which is how I was planning on spending 8 days in Hungary with three changes of clothes. Plan was disrupted by an unplanned trip to hospital, where none of the staff worried about 8 kg baggage limits…)

  5. I appreciate the excellent coverage provided by this and other affiliated F1 reporting media. I think you’re entitled as anyone is to request donations to make your business sustainable, but it is a business, if the cost of providing the service means profit margins are too slim then you need to make a change.
    I don’t feel any compulsion to donate to this site. I appreciate the excellent coverage and indeed the members who post on it. However, I assume that those running this and any site do so as they have found a means of profiting from it and if they don’t that they will stop and find employment elsewhere. I’d actually worry about an individual who thinks it’s a good use of their money to fund people to travel around the world reporting on sport.
    In summary, excellent site but I’m not willing to donate.

    1. @twentyseven It’s a very modern problem in news reporting that because so much content is available and free to access, people (particularly older generations) feel this way and aren’t moved to donating to support that content.

      I’m of the same feeling generally about news and online content, it’s free to access and there are ad revenues to support it etc, but I’m coming to think that good content/entertainment is worth paying something for. I don’t think I’ll ever go as far as throwing $100s whilst watching people play games or watch TV via Twitch etc but if I compared the amount of time I spend reading RaceFans content (and chatting with the community) to the time I spend watching a movie at the cinema and how much that costs it’s really great value. I can’t go to the cinema for less than £13 which if I spend on a supporter subscription helps to secure quality F1 access and coverage for a whole year, which if you’ve got that level of disposable income (I know I haven’t always) is a pretty good deal imo.

    2. I’d actually worry about an individual who thinks it’s a good use of their money to fund people to travel around the world reporting on sport

      Do you worry about people who pay to see the sport, or worry about pay to see a film at the cinema? Or any of the million other situations in which people pay to consume media and entertainment products?

    3. The thing is if a site can be read without paying then nobody should feel guilty about not paying while using it. It is the same thing with free2play games where you can download and play the game without paying single dime. If you make your stuff available for free then you are expecting a lot of people to use it for free. As in the users either watch ads or you collect their data and sell it or use it for other purposes.

      And having free users is not a bad thing in itself. You want your site to be popular because to have 50 paying customers you need 1000 non paying ones first who you then try convert into paying customers. Over the years I have stopped reading many sites because they have put up paywalls and tried to force even the occasional users to make accounts and whatnot. I wonder how those sites survive in the long run when they make their content inaccessible to new nonpaying users who then will never convert to paying users because they are getting a small sliver of the content and they have no idea what for or why they should pay for it.

      There is a balance but as crazy as it sounds I’ve never heard of site or game that went bankrupt because it was too cheap and never made any money. On the contrary I’ve heard of multiple games and sites that put their fees too high and killed their product because of that. I’m also glad that dieter’s articles are free and not behind paywall but at the same time I would not object if racefans had a weekly special article behind paywall about some special topic. This could be long articles analyzing historic f1 events, rule changes and seasons, detailed technical analysis, in-depth articles about how the f1 jets are handled during the season and what goes into it and other articles of that nature. But again it takes careful balance to get it right. If you put most of your highest valued articles behind paywalls new users will never get a taste why they should pay. Put too much out for free and your bills don’t get paid.

  6. I took a subscription to RaceFans for two reasons:
    1. I hate adverts.
    2. The quality of the coverage.
    3. The detail in the coverage.
    4. The immediacy of the reporting.
    OK, that’s four reasons. But still two categories. It’s well worth the money, and on an individual basis frankly it’s a trivial amount. So I’m getting an absolute bargain. And so could you.
    Oh and 5. The coverage doesn’t stop in the off season.

        1. U hungry, bro?

    1. For me it was the simple realization that I check the site pretty much daily and there are always new articles to read. I want this site to keep going. I have not watched a single ad volantarily in the last 15 years so ads were never an issue for me. I won’t ever turn off adblock for any site. I just wish I had realized it sooner that this site is good value for me and started supporting it earlier.

    2. @davethedrummer

      Oh and 5. The coverage doesn’t stop in the off season.

      It will slow down a bit though. Especially if I get a Lego kit for Christmas…

      1. Well if it’s anything like the Saturn V I got last year I completely understand :-)

      2. @keithcollantine That’s absolutely fine. Everyone deserves a change of pace now and then, not just for the fun but also because it’s important to prepare for the relentlessness of the upcoming season, and some of that involves work that won’t be visible from the distant vantage point of our computer screens.

  7. An independent news source, such as you guys, is vital to people like me as I am extremely cynical and untrusting of “Official” news sites.
    If you only follow what the PR bum-lickers tell you then you might as well believe that smoking makes you a real man and Burgers are healthy food while you are at it.

    I have only been participating on here since about the middle of this last season but I love the articles, the other fans like myself who lurk here and just the sane, polite and intelligent posts from 99% of the community.

    So why haven’t I subscribed I hear you cry! – Well it’s because I’m unemployed and broke if you must know (I am literally sat here with a coat on to keep the heating bills down as I type this) but rest assured, once the cash starts rolling in again the laughably small subscription fee will be sorted.

    I look forwards to being able to tell Dieter to stop wasting my subscription on Tiramisu and Ice Creams ;P

    1. Beautiful reply @nullapax – stay warm man.

      There are many of us that would support if we could – but are very grateful for the news and analysis that Racefans team provides.

      1. @nullapax @ahxshades If you choose not to subscribe, that’s fine – your visits do still earn us revenue from advertising. And if you help spread our coverage on social media that’s very much appreciated too!

  8. I believe the main problem in F1 is the lack of viewer’s interest, not the cost of journalists coverage. If Liberty Media wants to sell dull and processional races stuff, why they should expect huge revenues? See the Dijon battle between Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve – two gentlemens are battling each other with wheel banging and four wheels slides and this is damn epic, see how Gilles is burning his rubber – it’s not the situation when you lose your tyres and aero following ther car in frobt.

    1. There is a reason people always use this and only this portion of that Dijon race as example of exciting racing because it is basically the only example out there of this. It happened once between two hot heads and won’t happen again no matter how many gimmicks Liberty comes up with. Having said that I think the racing is the closest and most exciting I have seen in the more than 30 years I have been watching. I guess the question is what do you expect? Rene and Gilles at Dijon every lap of every race? Even that would be dull after awhile.

      1. Certainly not the only example, but for sure the most quoted. Stewart/Rindt at Silverstone 1969 is just as legendary, Monza 1971 was insanely exciting…but RV coverage back then was virtually non-existent. About 10 years ago there was pretty good scrap between Massa and Kubica…not sure about the race, though…maybe Japan?

      2. Well this was a pretty insane battle as well…. even if it wouldn’t be allowed nowdays at all.

        1. I believe both could be black-flagged instant nowadays.
          Of course there couldn’t be such face-offs from the first to the final lap, but even a brief battle like this can make your day.

  9. Another great article Dieter.
    What is the written equivalent of a mic drop?

    I travel a lot for work, so can relate a lot, but with the key difference that my travel and expenses are covered for me. I can’t imagine then trying to earn a wage on top of recouping that initial outlay!

    I’m impressed that your hotel costs aren’t higher still. Even outside event peak demand, i often struggle to find acceptable accommodation for under £100 per night average.

    Keep up the good work!
    I think you’ve convinced me to finally subscribe.

  10. As much as I think this article touches some valid points, I have my doubt about the stance regarding ‘news collector-websites’. The writer goes on about how much of a ‘laughing stock’ they are, but points out he himself doesn’t have the time to write about everything. Shouldn’t you then be thankful for those collector-sites that give you the correct credit but actually manage to give a full picture of news-coverage?

    You go on and on about how much money it costs to actually be present, so you can’t possibly think a website in a small country can simply cough up 30 grand to do all this: it takes time to get an audience that is big enough for ad-revenue to be enough to visit races. But how can you get to such a point without being at the events? Exactly, by collecting news and adding whatever you can out of your own pen (or in this case, keyboard). I find the stance towards news-collectors rather hostile and denouncing, wheres I’m pretty confident every independent news-website has done the exact same in their time, or even still fills up the site with other people’s articles.

    1. Shouldn’t you then be thankful for those collector-sites that give you the correct credit

      The vast majority of them do not give any kind of credit, so this is essentially a hypothetical question.

      1. @keithcollantine, I disagree with the unregistered commentator above as (s)he mixes up pure news aggregators who typically link you through to the original source, and cowboys who pretend to present original stuff whilst simply picking it up from the internet (at best).

        Having said that, I think there is some room there for Racefans.net.
        The daily round-up was the best F1 aggregator there was a few years ago. But IMO it has morphed into something which tries to be both original (What they say) and an aggregator. I think when you try to do that, you’ll probably fail on both.

        I’ll repeat this on the suggestion page mentioned by @johnmilk above.

        1. @coldfly Regarding the round-up, there are fewer links in there than there used to be, but that’s an inevitable consequence of us being able to do more first-hand coverage. However it also serves as a barometer of the declining number of sites doing their own coverage which is something this article touches upon.

    2. When I started as an F1 virgin from South Africa 20 yrs at a time when the free-to-air TV audience was under 2m and every country required a visa, I committed to whatever it cost at a time. I know of others from small countries with soft currencies that currently make it work.

      Will-way spring to mind.

      Yes I did say that we can’t cover all news all the time – but we swap files amongst accredited journalists, and credit original source where we don’t have the original. Go read Keith’s Daily Round-Up for proof.

  11. I’m finding original reporting on f1 news is nearly extinct, all smaller websites usually quote stuff from bigger reported news agencies. To that extend, I find reading motorsport.com gives me most of the news I need, smaller websites now need ‘oppinion’ pieces, but that isn’t news. there is only so much you can report. My partner is in the creative writing industry, and that is infinite compared to what is going on in motorsport, so I feel much more for creative writers than journists… Journalist should not focus themselves on one theme (ie focusing on f1, when there are infinite number of other themes to write about. don’t blame others for your downfall. I feel nothing for anyone that ‘suffers’ in motorsport journalism, go work on something more socially important.

    1. Hope you enjoy the extremely creative “paid-for” content in the site you mention, then…

      For the record, I’m hardly suffering and made the point that I LOVE my job; all I did is outline the direction the motorsport media – more specifically F1 media – is taking, and your example of a website provides prime proof. Thank you.

    2. “… creative writing industry…”

      Says it all… ;-))

  12. > To seasoned observers such aggregators are the laughing stock of our craft

    but then

    >but original sources should always be cited correctly

    As much as I understand the point this article is trying to make, this is pretty wonky. First, you make fun of collectors of ALL news, whos main purpose it is to be a provider of any and all news that apparently ‘proper F1 sites aren’t able to do’, but then it continues to make claims about ‘original sources to be cited’. If you don’t take collectors seriously (which you obviously don’t, even though there are some pretty alright ones out there), why even bother with the second bit. You clearly want the good bits from a website using your piece but at the same time you laugh at them for not being able to cough up 30 grand and do work that ‘we can’t do because we’re too busy’. Doesn’t really seem fair in my eyes.

    I find it very hard to believe that there are a lot of sites that’ll instantly cough up 30.000 quid a year to sent people out there to cover a subject. You start of slow, going to a few local events, local GP’s and maybe, if money allows it, you build from there. Obviously you’ll need content to push the websites traffic to make said money which comes from collecting news, citing them (correctly) and maintaining that position. Do you rather have 3 bits of content on a day but are able to say ‘look mum, I did all of this’, or bring what the audience wants and still have some of your own?

    1. Ok, so I want a Lamborghini but can’t afford one, so go around nicking parts off other folk’s Lambos, then assemble them into my own bitsa car, then tell Mommy it’s all my own work…

      Hope she can afford the bail money.

      1. WOW… guys like you, Dieter, have to be really thick-skinned at times… I’m sure you get much more satisfaction from attending races that from reading some of these comments…

  13. Saw this article via twitter, certainly seemed to have Mr. Buxton in a bit of a tizz!

    Would love to subscribe, totally worth it IMO, but I absolutely despise PayPal! If you offered an alt method of payment I’d sub in a heartbeat.

    1. He wasn’t mentioned but if the cap fits he may wear it voluntarily as far as I’m concerned.

      Given his self-confessed freedom, I’m looking forward to his incisive interviews about the current state of f1 with Liberty’s chairman emeritus, and his chats with Chase about progress on post-2020 stuff.

      1. I don’t think those were ever Will’s style, so I’ll not hold my breath – I’ll just read with the understanding I’m far more likely to read such things here than at any journalistic location hosted by Will (or Liberty/F1, let alone the “sometimes more corporate F1 than Liberty” Motorsport empire)

    2. @knewman, @keithcollantine,@dieterrencken, 10 or so years ago I too decided to subscribe but could not do it with PayPal due to previously having used it and forgotten my password, I emailed Keith asking for an alternate payment method but received no reply. For the last several years I have become less and less enthusiastic about F1 (surprise!) especially now as I cannot watch it live without buying the most expensive cableTV package, 99% of which programming I have no desire to watch. I do sympathise but I’m growing more disillusioned with every “promise of better racing next year” which is as rewarding as “free beer tomorrow”, and I wonder if I’ll even bother next year.

    3. I understand you despise PayPal, but just see it as the chosen bank of your F1 news provider; you personally do not have to deal with them.

      *The transaction is handled by PayPal, however you do not require a PayPal account to become a RaceFans Supporter.

      PS I’m more concerned that payments can only be made in GBP. I’ll wait with my payment until next week when Brexit will get voted out and the GBP to fall even further :P

      1. @coldfly

        but just see it as the chosen bank of your F1 news provider; you personally do not have to deal with them

        That’s an… interesting way to see it. However I would regard the relationship, at the end of the day my financial information would be stored with a company that I know to be disreputable and reckless with personal data storage. I’ve already had financial data stored with PayPal exploited before. Fool me once….

    4. Buxton… What a buffoon…!

    5. @knewman @hohum @antoniusrock @ruliemaulana I know some people are very keen for an alternative to PayPal and it is something I want to offer. I am looking at the options for this at the moment but it will take time and money to implement. To that end it would be useful to know how many people are keen to see this so I’ve set up a thread here to gauge interest:

      RaceFans Supporters: Who wants a non-PayPal option?

      1. @keithcollantine, I tried a response on the forum, clicked submit and was back in the forum with no sign of my post, repeated steps 1 & 2 and got the “U’ve posted this already” message. Little wonder I can’t master paypal, basically let me pay with cr.card yearly (Au$ circa 25 to 30).

      2. I just tried this link but could find no ‘Reply’ button, and no ‘Log In’ button…
        “I’m a looooonatic…!” – Maybe… ;-)
        So… I only make online payments with a Debit Card linked to a separate account. When needed, I transfer funds to this account, and make the payment. If anyone is able to hack into it they will find very little there for their trouble… I get a security code by phone so feel relatively safe…

        It might be a bit of a nuisance for some but I only use it half a dozen times in a year – you could make it seven… hahaha.

        Another idea is for you to set up a separate bank account and allow us to make direct bank transfers to it, which I think costs nothing for either of us.

        I appreciate these ideas might be a tad out of date… but there must be a couple of other old fogies out there… ;-)

  14. Great article. But I wonder how much the declining number of viewers affected journalists like you who make a living because of the number of subscribers. How many people buy magazines or subscribe to prime access to special articles like on autosport?

    I mean, people already have to pay for a tv feed if they want to watch live, and that’s a priority to every fan. How much is left for journalism?

    People are also on a limited budget, and F1 isn’t nice and cheap these days, luxuries such as memberships are left behind.

    Not to mention the general lack of interest we often comment about. If tv ratings are falling, surely membership on sites like this must too? Maybe not on Racefans because its awesome and it really took off since Dieter joined, but in general I’d think the trend is similar.

  15. I went down the subscribe route (I assume it is worth more money than all the ads, which I never click anyway, and the browsing experience is sooooooooooooooooo much better) before dieter joined, but his contributions have made it even more worthwhile. it’s mainly for the insight pieces (like this one), but the ease with which dieter’s quotes get worked into many other pieces, like the roundup, is clearly a big advantage.

    anyone who visits this site regularly should seriously consider the sub – it’s pretty damn cheap for what you get and not seeing ads is well worth my money.

  16. The orange shirt, though.

  17. This site has become my first stop whenever I want interesting and in-depth F1 news and features, without a corporate bias. Plus there is a genuinely fun, friendly and very knowledgeable readership here in the comments. Keep up the good work! Thanks

  18. Internet is a fantastic invention, but…it made people entitled to expect constant feed of free content. And general majority are not necessarily concerned about credibility and accuracy. If it is close enough then it’s good enough…and let’s move on to the next story already in the pipeline. Some people tend to spread and support whatever they agree with, even if it is complete bogus…one just has to be aware and try to sort through it all. For better or worse, RaceFans are part of this dog-eat-dog machine.

  19. Fantastic article and great to see it all broken down and explained, much better than another F1 journalist who constantly blogs how bad the internet news is, how tough he has it and how it isn’t the dream job everybody says it is (which I’m quite over reading now, that and his arrogance).

    I’m glad I found this site by accident back in 2007 when I was just looking for some good F1 photos for my computer background, and have happily paid the subscription since it was launched.

    Might I also add that I’d easily be prepared to pay more than the £1 per month, the content this year with the addition of Dieter had been phenomenal. While I used to read a few sites regularly, the new features have meant I haven’t needed to.

    Thanks for the fantastic year Keith and Deiter, looking forward to 2019.

    1. “… another F1 journalist who constantly blogs how bad the internet news is, how tough he has it and how it isn’t the dream job everybody says it is (which I’m quite over reading now, that and his arrogance).”
      I got banned from this site for diplomatically suggesting an air of arrogance might be creeping in… lol.

  20. I used to be one of those ‘stay at home’ types, writing about F1 but not attending the races. Not the news copy/paste sort, more analysis and reviews. I considered myself an ‘F1 writer’ but never a ‘journalist’, and would make a point of correcting people if they called me one. Totally different things.

    1. I remember doing something similar, back when it was possible to get reliable free web site space (it was before I got a reliable income of any sort, so paid web space wasn’t an option, let alone travelling to races…). There was a small cluster of us trying this “F1 social media commentary” thing, which some of us (I include myself in those making this error) thought was akin to journalism back before we discovered there was an actual term for it that fit better. We used to point and laugh at the aggregators (GMM used to get it particularly bad because its proprieter at the time attempted to make up for poor philosophical choices by oft-repeated justifications that got more illogical the more they were rephrased),

      In turn, occasionally a professional journalist would come along and, if we were having a bad day, point and try not to laugh too hard at our blunders. Maybe if there’d been an article like this one back in 2006, I’d have understood what was going on better…

  21. I like this site the most for my F1 information. That’s why I’m supporting it. I tried a Motorsport subscription but I cancelled it after a month. I’m only into F1 and mostly for Max at the moment (I stopped watching a long time ago and came back because of him).

    I don’t mind paying for something that I like. I would keep supporting if the fee doubled. I just say I can watch the races without paying extra so this is my only subscription for my F1 hobby.

  22. I’ve contemplated paying a few time but the following stop me:

    – The always in your face “please subscribe” is major turn-off
    – Forums are empty
    – I’m not sure what the live race thing is built on but it’s absolutely horrid. It was one of my favorite things but I gave up on it two years ago
    – It just doesn’t seem like a lot of thought was given to the design and UX of the site
    – As a general rule, I not to reward sites that display trash obnoxious ads from revcontent, taboola, outbrain etc

    The content is great but all the above takes away from it. If you’re confident in your content, the best route may be to cap the number of articles on-members can read.

    1. @trublu Thanks for the suggestions (some of which are already things I’m working on!)

      1. @keithcollantine, further to @trublu, I had a particularly poor broadband service and those video ads kept crashing my computer which is why I blocked ads.

  23. @anunaki and @Travis, I agree that this site is worth more than is paid. While I also pay for other F1 coverage, this site brings its readers closer to the pitlane than any other. I liken it to public tv and radio, I also support them, in that there is a genuine quality to the coverage/programming/music that is absent on other forums or channels. Perhaps the site managers could follow the public station model and put a “donate” button so that those of us who are lucky enough to be able to afford it can commit to a higher monthly or one time payment. Dieter and Keith, keep up the great, genuine coverage!

  24. Two points jump out at me after reading your article.
    1. I am amazed you are able to cover the full calendar on circa 30k, if you had told us 100k I would have believed you.
    2. On your point of support, if you arrange any method of payment OTHER than paypal, I will happily contribute.

    1. I took average costs – some hotels are a lot more and some a bit less; ditto flights and rentals. It all depends on when one books – I tend to have 80% sorted before the seasons starts, which requires upfront commitment but pays off over the year. I have colleagues who do last-minute, and in many instances their costs are double, plus choice of reasonable nearby hotels shrinks accordingly. Others use F1 booking agencies, and pay for the service.

      I’ve found that freelancers are generally the most organised as savings flow into back pocket…

      These costs are based on my actual 2018 expenditure, and I estimate a 10% increase for 2019 due to calendar scheduling and inflation due to weakening Euro/Brit currencies

  25. I would love to contribute to this site, but the PayPal payment method is only support charging to credit card link to PayPal not offering direct PayPal balance payment.

    Yes, adding PayPal balance through 3rd party provider would cost me more, but I have been enjoying life without credit card for the last 12 years…

    1. You have no debit card either? Get a virtual one if you don’t.

  26. I too was stunned at how low your costs were – evidence of meticulous planning right there.

    I seem to recall reading that Bernie was prone to withdrawing accredited passes from those he felt had disagreed with him or insulted him in some way. Has Liberty shown any signs of wanting to exclude journalists that don’t want to follow their “script” @dieterrencken ?

  27. Missed the real reason why motor-sports journalism is under pressure – all the lame ducks are gathered in one place over at that motorsportdotcom joint.
    Well overdue for a shakeout, hoipe it happens real soon.

  28. Over the years I had 3 run-ins with Bernie & Co – once with him (telephonically) after I wrote that he was ‘greedy’, and twice with his minions after I revealed the payment/bonus structured and some Concorde clauses.

    At no stage was my accreditation at risk. I think those tales were put about to frighten journos into submission.

    1. @dieterrencken, Bernie! greedy? how could you ever think such a thing?

  29. I should support more of my favorite sites I check on a regular basis. But so far this is the only site that has been able to convince me to do so.

    For a long time I’ve read the site with ads as they were bearable. But once they became annoying I log in to avoid them.

  30. For more details about how Dieter got started and what it takes see this interview: http://www.gpfactsandnumbers.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/2018-Fritz-Dieter-Rencken-1.pdf

    1. Thanks, Ales; I really enjoyed that interview with you. A bit different to be on the receiving end of questions … :)

  31. I recall a journalist five years ago (I forget which one) saying it cost £25,000 for a single journalist to cover a single season. The figure was eye-opening then, as that was over £1,000 more than the median UK household (note, not personal) income, thus excluding all but fairly wealthy people from attempting to participate.

    If the cost has really only gone up £4,000 or so in the five years since, that’s impressive given the average calendar has gone up 2 races in that time and F1 inflation rates seem to hover between 5% and 10% per year. More likely, Dieter is better at budgeting than whoever that journalist was (as Dieter has alluded to in earlier comments).

    £28,300 is a lot of supporter fees… …but so worth it.

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