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NASCAR Scene layoffs indicative of a sport that has lost its way

By admin | January 6, 2010

By Richard Allen

NASCAR fans suffered a terrible loss on Tuesday. The vast majority of staff members from the publication NASCAR Scene and the website lost their jobs in a surprise cutback by the magazine’s parent company.

Fans suffered because the people working for that publication focused their lives on the coverage of racing. Unlike this site which is maintained by a person with no journalistic training, NASCAR Scene’s reporters, commentators and photographers were trained professionals. Although some of these writers and photographers will no doubt remain in the sport in some fashion, others will not. That means there will be fewer qualified people covering NASCAR racing, its personalities and its inner workings.

The cutbacks were likely brought on by several factors.

First, print journalism of all types is facing a time in which it must reinvent itself or fade away. There is not much reason to wait three or four days to read about a race or any other story when it is available on the internet just minutes or hours after the fact.

Years ago there was little coverage of NASCAR and publications such as this filled a void. Now, there will be as many as 25-30 new articles and columns linked daily on sites such as during the off season and many more during the season itself.

Without some unique quality it would be difficult for any weekly print publication to endure these new and modern times.

A second factor to hurt NASCAR Scene has to have been the economy. Families looking to cut back on expenses may view such things as magazine subscriptions as unnecessary expenses. Also, and perhaps most importantly, companies who might have bought advertising space in a publication like NASCAR Scene may now find it more difficult to justify the expense in tough times.

But to me, a third and most important reason for this sweeping move by NASCAR Scene to layoff so many writers and photographers at once has to be the current direction of the sport they were dedicated to cover.

NASCAR is in a downward spiral. Apathy among a once intense and passionate fan base has set in.

In the last decade NASCAR has taken a direction not pleasing to many fans and they are showing that displeasure with their lack of attendance and by not tuning their televisions to NASCAR coverage.

Boring drivers who seem to be clones of one another, phony debris cautions used to contrive close finishes for highlight shows, the Car of Tomorrow and the Chase for the Championship have turned many away.

The apparent failing, or at least restructuring, of NASCAR Scene is indicative of this. As has been said on this site many times, if it were just the economy keeping fans out of the grandstands then television ratings, web hits and even magazine subscriptions would be on the rise or would at the worst remain the same.

If fans still had a passion for NASCAR racing they would stay in contact with the sport even if they were unable to go in person.

NASCAR’s leadership continues to appear oblivious to the fact that the sport has real problems that need to be addressed. It is one thing for their mismanagement and arrogance to cost them but now they are costing others as well. NASCAR Scene and Motorsports Authentics have already felt the sting of NASCAR’s poor judgment. Who’s next?

On a personal note, I have been reading that publication since it was called Grand National Scene many years ago. In recent years I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with several of the folks who lost their jobs. This was a sad turn of events for this sport, for the writers and photographers and for race fans.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

14 Responses to “NASCAR Scene layoffs indicative of a sport that has lost its way”

  1. Josie Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 8:23 am

    I think there are three aspects to the downfall of Scene..the Internet, Economy, and NASCAR itself. BUT, I feel they are so closely intertwined it is hard to blame one over the other. With the Internet we are seeing the demise of so many publications…newspapers all over the country and many periodicals. I for one am guilty of going to the Internet for my daily local and world well as my daily NASCAR “fix”. This started well before the Economy raised it’s ugly head. As far as following NASCAR it all came to a head for me this past year…with the loss of my job I had to forgo buying those expensive tickets (yes I know they “lowered” the prices..but it still takes gas, lodging, food, and maybe a day or so off work for those who are lucky enough to have a job). I no longer pick up the magazines at my local news stand with my favorite driver on the cover..and I’ve had to decide do I want to pay the extra for cable TV or eat meat more then twice a week! But the real kicker in all this is I find myself wondering..”if I am making an effort to continue following NASCAR..what is NASCAR doing to make sure they are keeping me intrigued?” At this point I am at a standstill..I can’t wait for the season to start..but I cringe at the thought of another OVERLY long season of the COT, debris cautions, poor TV coverage, blah drivers, Hendrick dominance, start and parkers, boring tracks, and overly hyped races. I realize it’s all entertainment…but at this point I have to decide is it entertainment I can afford…and NASCAR has to decide is the entertainment they are providing worth the cost they are asking the fans to pay…???

  2. Gina Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 9:08 am

    I’ve been a subscriber to NASCAR Scene as well and although I, too, check the various websites to see what is going on, I continued to enjoy the magazine. I feel badly for the people who have lost their jobs and I enjoyed their writing and point of view. I had noticed though over the past year that I hadn’t been as excited to read the magazine as I had in the past. I think this is partly because, as you pointed out, I’ve lost a lot of the interest in NASCAR in general. The economy has made a lot of us re-think how we are spending our discretionary (assuming we have any) income and magazine subscriptions are often the first place to cut back.

    I used to watch the races on TV from the pre-race right up until the end of the post-race coverage and I’d still want more. The past 2 years, since the inception of the COT and the boring chase format, well, now I skip the pre-race garbage — geez, people, 4 hours of covering the same stuff and usually it’s worthless info, tune in for the race (when I can figure out what time the race will actually start) (maybe consistent start times will help that problem, watch the first 10-20 laps, go off and do other stuff for the middle part of the race and come back for the last 20-30 laps. I NEVER thought I’d see the day when I thought racing was boring to watch, but I do. It’s marginally better when you are actually at the track since at least you can see what you choose to watch, rather than what the director chooses to show on camera.

    I had renewed my subscription for Scene for this year and I called yesterday to find out what was going to happen — the customer service people told me that they are going to roll it over to Nascar Illustrated. Well, I had chosen to NOT renew that magazine because it is ALL fluff — NASCAR meets Entertainment tonight with no substance. I’m probably going to ask them to just refund the remainder of my subscription. I can use it to buy a hotdog if I get to a race.

  3. Bruce Spencer Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 9:10 am

    In a time when print publications covering any and all forms of entertainment and news are failing, the Nascar Scene layoffs are not indicative of Nascar as a whole. It is indicative of print media as a whole. Nascar is still a billion dollar industry. It employs thousands on teams, tracks, feeder businesses, and more. Ask the cities that host a race if they would like to lose a race date. Yes, Nascar is feeling the pinch like the nation is as a whole right now. But, they are still a great sport and business model.

  4. TitanTerry Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 9:19 am

    I agree with everything said. And would like to add one other that totally turned me off to NA$CAR. The top 35 rule! It took racing out of Qualifying. I use to love watching Qualifying, it was a Friday night ritual after work. But once the put money over racing and qualifying it negated what racing is all about; it became a total joke. They lost me! Combined with everything else already accurately summarized.
    One other aspect that has bothered me over the years with the NEW NA$CAR is that they have completley removed the human element out of racing. There is no longer individual uniqueness due to NA$CAR controlling everything, it is no longer a human sport; they have removed the very soul of the sport from the teams, cars, drivers, fans. Let individual ingenuity and creativity return and stop fining everyone because they got up on the wrong side of the bed. Plain and simple: Parity Sucks!

  5. sunfighter Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I too have pretty much given up on nascar for most of the reasons above. these days I’d rather watch a local dirt race.
    I for one am not looking forward to the Danica mania that is sure to come.

  6. zhills fan Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I totally agree with about everything that is said EXCEPT #3, I’m not sure what races he is talking about but it sure isn’t the same ones I been watching.

  7. Joe in Pittsburgh Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    I also agree with everyone except Bruce Spencer about everything said as I too had a subscription but gave it up when I felt the writers were towing too much of a party line (coincidentally this occurred not long after the name “NASCAR” became part of the name-go figure). Also,just the fact that most here posting regarding the publication downfall seem to bring up their misgivings with the sport,just points as to the obvious reason for its failure itself. The sport of NASCAR and it’s decline and subsequent apathetic fan base and clueless caretakers are clearly the reason for many underlying problems such as this longtime publication failure.

  8. Richard in N.C. Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I am convinced that NASCAR racing is in far better shape than much of the print media. The media world is changing right before our eyes. I don’t think you can blame NASCAR for the bankruptcy of major newspapers in Chicago and Philadelphia or the cut in publication of many publications, like Sporting News, from weekly to biweekly. If NASCAR is on such an alleged downward spiral, why are HBO and Showtime both airing new NASCAR based shows?

  9. DL Says:
    January 8th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I agree. It’s the media that’s in bad shape, not NASCAR. NASCAR is in fair shape, and they are able to fix things. Certain print publication owners would rather fold them, than evolve to digital.

  10. Bill B Says:
    January 8th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    NASCAR is losing one fan per hour. The printed media is losing one fan per minute.

  11. Joe in Pittsburgh Says:
    January 9th, 2010 at 9:52 am

    To posters 8 and 9. Have you paid attention to the ratings and attendance figures? Sure NASCAR is better off than the print media. But that’s like saying that ill cancer patient is better off than the guy in a coma on life support.

  12. Richard in N.C. Says:
    January 9th, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Almost no one in the media will ever mention that maybe NASCAR ratings are down because EESPN did such a mediocre job with its race broadcasts. NASCAR is in far better shape than the print media, and at least is making some effective efforts to address its problems. I don’t want to see either one dry up, but I fear that my daily newspaper will go the way of the dodo long before NASCAR does.

  13. Pathbeast Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I agree with many of the above posters… print media is in trouble, and both magazines and newspapers in most arenas are having to evolve digitally, move upscale, or fold. However, attendance figures are down and ratings are dropping for NASCAR. It certainly isn’t the death knell of the organization, but it is indicative that they have lost a significant portion of either their long time fan base. Can the new fans in the new markets make up for that long term? NASCAR is betting yes. I was one of those die hard fans… but now I only follow the sport peripherally, as most of the elements that made NASCAR more appealing to me than other forms of racing have disappeared. I spend my money on trips and tickets to see sports car racing now, usually amateur racers, with an occassional ALMS race thrown in. And my favorite Daytona race is no longer the Daytona 500, it’s the 24 Hours of Daytona. If you’d told me that 10 years ago I would have laughed in your face…

  14. Marshall Miller Says:
    April 24th, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    There are so many fault’s with Nascar these day’s,..I wouldn’t really know where to start. Here’s just a few of my complaint’s.
    1. When Nascar dictate’s what transmission, driveline, rear end ratio, shock absorber’s, spring’s, etc. have to be utilized,…it turn’s me and most other’s off.
    2. Pre-Race commentator’s “up in the Hollywood Hotel” and the trackside reporter’s who “bug” just about every driver and crew chief in sight turn all of us off.
    3. Nascar rule change’s are almost a constant thing now,..they drive you nut’s.
    4. And, of course,…the incessant commercial’s drive all of us insane.
    The above, and much more is one reason I have switched mostly to drag racing.