Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Surprising Changes Signal NASCAR's New Media Direction


There was a time when official NASCAR publications were a lifeline for young fans like me. Before live races were regularly televised. Before cable TV existed. Before cell phones, the Internet and satellite radio.

NASCAR came alive through pictures we never would have seen and words we never would have heard without the photographers and reporters whose names became household words. One of those publications was called NASCAR Scene.

Originally called Grand National Scene when it was started back in 1977, it grew to become the nation’s largest weekly publication devoted exclusively to NASCAR’s top three touring series. It was a wonderful weekly update on what was going on at the top of the heap.

Three decades later, things have changed. Motorsports newspapers and magazines are defenseless against the relentless technology onslaught based around the Internet. Instead of pictures from last week's race, the iPhones of team PR reps send fans pictures of their favorite drivers while the race is still in progress.

Tweets from NASCAR itself, most of the teams and endless racing websites now scroll by in real time giving us sometimes too much information about the sport. Last season, drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and others added to the technology mix with their candid comments made directly to fans on Twitter.

Like many, I no longer have any subscriptions to print publications about the sport. Technology has changed my expectations where NASCAR is concerned. When I look for information, I want it now.

Just as we have seen with other motorsports writers across the country, change came to Charlotte and the NASCAR Scene family on Tuesday.

Veteran editor Steve Waid was released along with reporters Jeff Gluck and Mike Hembree. Also, Lee Montgomery, Rea White, Jared Turner and David Exum were out. Finally, Ben White, Mark Sluder, and Shea Alexander were among those let go.

All in all, slightly less than 30 employees of NASCAR Scene and NASCAR Illustrated were released by the Street and Smith Sports Group. Jim Utter from the Charlotte Observer advised that one main website will emerge from the rubble, blending the content of scenedaily.com and NASCAR Illustrated. The actual publications are rumored to be ceasing operation.

Update: Told scenedaily.com will continue, along with the monthly magazine, NASCAR Illustrated. The NASCAR Scene weekly newspaper looks to be the casualty.

Still employed are familiar names like Bob Pockrass, Jeff Owens and Kenny Bruce. Expect their content to be shared across the various websites owned and operated by Street and Smith, including the Sporting News. A major revamp of the company, including the various sports properties, is sure to follow. A move like this was not preceded by a successful operating year. Things are tough and this is the result.

It seems ironic that many NASCAR fans had just discovered some of the now unemployed journalists through Twitter. Jeff Gluck hosted pre-race "tweet-ups," a meeting of race fans at almost every track. You may remember NASCAR Chairman Brian France attending one. Steve Waid chimed in with his veteran perspective and Mike Hembree put his sense of humor on display. What seemed to many as a golden opportunity to watch journalists talk about the sport is now gone.

Ultimately, paying the bills drives the bus. The challenge for Street and Smith is to determine the best Internet and social media strategy for 2010 NASCAR coverage and set about putting it into motion. Competing with the likes of ESPN, Fox and Turner is not going to make that an easy task.

While there are lots of bloggers out there like us, this situation did not occur as a result of interested fans or amateur reporters flooding the Internet with NASCAR opinions. This exact dynamic has affected print publications from the New York Times to Reader's Digest. The technology struggles of print publications have been well documented.

We have been fortunate enough to become friends with many of those who now join other motorsports journalism veterans in redefining their media careers. We will keep TDP readers up to date with the information on those involved in the Tuesday changes.

Please feel free to express your opinions on this topic. Just click the comments button below to add your thoughts. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by TDP.

28 comments:

Sally said...

I'm very sorry to hear about Scene cutting loose so many good reporters. I can remember when I would anxiously run for the mail on Thursday, waiting to read my issue of Scene. The opinions and perspective they brought were always interesting, and the letters to the editor were always entertaining. I watched the content shrink over the years, so I'm not as surprised by this as many might be. I didn't renew my subscription after many years, but it was because of a waning interest in Nascar itself. I did keep up with Scene online, and hope I can contonue to do so. I hope all these fine people can find a way to keep contributing with a website.

Fred said...

Wow. I'm stunned. I was a faithful subscriber for 19 years. Some friends gave me my first subscription as a high school graduation present back in the day. I dropped it this summer; a casualty of my waning interest in the sport and frustration about how much it shrunk this year. It was an amazing publication and one I waited to devour every week, from cover to cover. The publication business is a tough one right now. Are there any print journalists still covering the sport full-time?

Tom said...

This is disturbing news, and the best we can hope for is that these guys keep doing what they have been doing and find a new outlet. Perhaps it is time to get that independent supersite going, using some of this talent, as well as some of those that have been doing it on their own already. I would love to find a place where I can go daily for unvarnished opinions by a host of writers. Heck, even throw a kool-aide drinker in the mix for equal time. If writers are now going to make their livings in an independent manner, let them create a loose confederation that will allow them an outlet for their stuff...in one place so everyone will know where to go.

Tom
Inverness, FL

JohnP said...

Got to admit, this is not surprising at all. All print media outlets are in serious trouble.

I think magazines will go the way the newspapers are. Smaller, less relevant, less content every day beuase all the info they provide is free on the internet. Like JD said, we want the information "now". My brother subscribes to magazine after magazine. About 30 in all. From Motorweek to Readers Digest. I subscribe to one speciality one "Hot VW's". And I'm letting it go after it runs out. I'll repeat here what I tell him.

The newspapers and magazines tell us what they want us to hear. That's not what I want anymore. If I want information on a particular subject, I don't want to wait around for a daily, weekly, or monthy subscription to cover it. If they ever cover it. I want it now, and I'll go find out on the internet.

Good luck to all the folks released, there is a lot of Nascar knowledge there that hopefully can be pointed in a direction that still is a benefit to themselves and the fans.

Oh Nascar, read Sally and Fred's comments and note that they dropped the subscription because of a waning interest in YOUR SPORT and not the magazine itself. Interesting...

Anonymous said...

@scenedaily on Twitter = 1735 followers

@jeff_gluck on Twitter = 3534 followers

Next time @scenedaily comes up in your timeline - unfollow or block them in PROTEST and lets gets their followers down to ZERO!

Why not encourage your followers to do the same?

glenc1 said...

The old print model just can't be supported anymore, but that doesn't mean these writers & their opinions won't be missed. I just hope, as others have suggested, someone figures out how to keep legitimate, *professional* media employed. Too many bloggers and so-called 'writers' have no journalistic ethics (and some wouldn't even know what that means) not to mention those who can barely manage proper English. That is not where we need to get our information from, but I don't know how we support it all monetarily. Somehow we have to stop getting it all for free, as Kenny said yesterday.

Anyway...I seem to remember Steve Waid reporting on the old Inside NASCAR(?) A few months ago I was going through some old VCR tapes and happened upon an episode; that was a trip down memory lane. 10 years seems like a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about this.
I have read Steve Waid since the 70's when he was at The Roanoke Times and was a subscriber of the Grand National/Winston Cup Scene for most of the 80's and 90's.Jayski has been my main Nascar News since 1997 and the Daly Planet.I always enjoyed Waid's Humor especially in his funny captions under pictures.Hope they all find jobs soon.

Terry

Anonymous said...

Every single print reporter's job is in jeopardy. Newspapers and magazines are DEAD, especially in sports, where fans want results and analysis sooner than a week after the fact. Hopefully all the laid off writers and employees were smart enough to know this was coming and prepared for it.

Anonymous said...
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Dot said...

Will the next step be that we will have to pay to read articles on the web?

JD, you're fortunate to have a "day" job so you do TDP out of the goodness of your heart (thank you). I don't know how the Scene writers will get another paying job with the economy the way it is. I wish them luck.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Dot, NASCAR itself is the issue. Reporters do not have the same information role they did in the past.

We have every NASCAR series, every major racetrack, every major team, every major sponsor and tons of drivers, spotters and owners relaying information directly to the fans non-stop.

That leaves third party reporting of these same stories out in the cold. It's the function that has changed, not the talent of the writers or the ability to pay them.

NASCAR has a closed media website that provides information directly to any approved media member 24 hours a day.

This season, more than ever before, it will be NASCAR interacting directly with the fans where online information is concerned.

TV and radio still have a place, but as you can see from the TNT approach, even that is blended.

Convergence is a word that describes the same information being available to consumers from all different types of technology.

That is where we are right now. Twitter, Sirius, online websites, MRN, PRN and the NASCAR TV shows all talk about the same things and race to get the information first.

It should be a very interesting season in many ways.

JD

Kenn Fong said...

J.D.

When I checked this morning (Wed. 1/6 10AM Pacific), subscriptions to Scene are no longer offered on SceneDaily.com.

WCK

Daly Planet Editor said...

Kenn,

Scene Daily is shutting down for economic reasons. The website, scenedialy.com, will remain.

From what I have heard, the monthly NASCAR Illustrated magazine will continue.

JD

Ken-Michigan said...

Personally, I really hope Mr Steve Waid lands somewhere within the sport to continue to share with us, his vast knowledge and professionalism.

I was also one of the Grand National Scene subscribers back in the early 80's, and back then it was without a doubt the best way to get the best coverage of NASCAR.

In 1985 I had the pleasure of playing a round of golf with Steve and longtime NASCAR reporter Tom Higgins. Both of those guys in the same foursome on the golf course... if I would have only known what great journalistic minds I was playing along side that day.... today I realize how fortunate I was.

Good Luck Steve Waid !!

Richard in N.C. said...

I still find it odd and in poor taste that there is still nothing about the purge on SceneDaily website. At a minimum seems to me to be poor, shortsighted PR.

Jeanette said...

It's a shame Scene is going away. My mom is in a nursing home after several strokes and likes to read the Scene. She does not have access to the computer nor does she really know how to use it. I also liked reading the Scene each week. I will miss it. Sometimes reading stuff only on the computer is a drag....especially with slow connections. Oh well. Guess I'll get my $$ back since I just renewed last year.

Shootout Style said...

The underperforming NASCAR programming on Sirius and SPEED could improve dramatically if they would pickup some of the talent that's just been put on the open market.

GinaV24 said...

at one point I had subscriptions to both Nascar Illustrated and Nascar Scene. I let the subscription lapse for Illustrated because IMO it had become just a racing version of People magazine and not a hard news source. I kept Nascar Scene instead since I liked the writing and style better. Maybe because last season wasn't a great one for my driver, but I had lost interest in reading the magazine as much - I passed most of the copies along, unread, to my brother - who being a 48 fan HAD lots of fun reading them.

I called the customer service number today after having read the news of the layoffs yesterday on here. I was told that my subscription will be switched over to Nascar Illustrated for the remaining issues. I'm not sure I'm going to go for that -- after all, if I had wanted to subscribe to Nascar Illustrated, I'd have done that. Apparently they are sending letters out that subscribers should get next week, so I guess I'll have to think about whether I want a refund or keep a magazine I don't really want.

Again, I'm very sorry for those folks who lost their jobs. They were people who's writing and reporting I enjoyed. I'm pretty selective about what I read via the internet -- some people's stuff isn't worth even giving them "clicks" on their website, so I don't.

Darren said...

LONG time subscriber to NASCAR Scene. Writers like Deb Williams and Rick Houston (both gone from Scene for quite some time) were some of the best at their craft I've ever read.

I knew trouble was on the way. Back in the 'glory days', a typical issue would be almost as thick as a small book, with ads and classifieds galore! This past year, sometimes an issue would be 20-30 pages.

Sad, sad day for me personally.

And here I am, just renewed for THREE YEARS this past summer!

John, any news on what will become of current subscribers and the monies they have paid out/issues due to them? Will it roll over to a diffrent publication, or are we collectivly outta luck?

Anonymous said...

Fox's Dick Bergeron and Sirius Speedway Tradin' Paint's Rick Benjamin said today site's such as SceneDaily.com should become subscription based or pay sites.

Good luck with that one guys....

All we need is another NASCAR.com that is run by Turner Sports - NOT NASCAR. It is already more of an attempt to sell race fans something, rather than disseminate news.

John Daly - editor of this website - is already upset Inside NASCAR is on PAY TV network Showtime.

Vicky D said...

Heck you don't have to be a professional writer to post information on Nascar nowadays that's what has happened to the print media. Ross Kenseth does a super job during races for instance by his tweeting. There are longer articles on other sites so if people need more info, they can have it. Am sorry for the people who lost their jobs I was laid off back in 1989 and I thought it was the worse day of my life. Turned out it wasn't and things get better. Plus we had to go through Enron here in Houston and most of those folks seem to have moved now.

Anonymous said...

JMHO- All I keep reading is "I used to subscribe" and "back when I subscribed". Don't complain that a paper is shutting down and act like it's terrible of Scene to let people go if you stopped supporting the paper in the 80s or 90s. How did you think they would stay in business? If you liked the writers that much you should have kept subscribing and supported the advertisers.

drpep said...

No suprise to me. I let my 15 year Scene subscription run out at the end of 2008 and had predicted it would not make it through 2009.

Richard in N.C. said...

If nothing else, it is clear that printed publications have not been able to generate internet-based ad revenue as quickly as they were losing it on the print side. The world is changing right before our eyes - and I am convinced that media-wise part of the demise of printed publications goes back to a general decline in reading ability over the past couple of decades. Good readers tend to read, while those who have problems reading do not.

Tracy said...

I loved Scene - and when I was finished with several issue,I would take them to the VA hospital and put them in the waiting rooms. They were instantly grabbed! I'll especially miss the articles about the long-gone tracks and the sport's history. The writing was always top-notch. I'll miss the whole deal.

Hated Illustrated. When they declared Ricky Bobby man of the year, I cancelled that subscription.

NorCalFan said...

This is sad news for all those who lost their jobs and like others have said maybe their talent can be utilized in radio or television. As a subscriber to both publications, I will miss Nascar Scene for the articles on the sport that are not "time sensitive". I hope with the merger, Nascar Illustrated will become more reader friendly since it is mostly just a publication of glossy advertisements that I wasn't going to renew.

Anonymous said...

Sure miss not having some good racing programs on Speed in the off season, especially in the evenings. They did a good job in daytime programming with some good Nascar reruns.Evenings were a wasteland with reruns of crap that was very poor entertainment the first time around, at least in our household.
We used to enjoy the Aussie V8 Supercars in the off season but that seems to have disappeared. Sure anxious to get the new season underway.

Marylee from Richmond, VA said...

The amazing thing to me has always been how hard it was to find this publication. Even when Richmond was trying to be the home of the HASCAR Hall of Fame, none of the major bookstores (Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million) carried NASCAR Scene among their hundred or so weekly publications.