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Ah, nostalgia! Remember the Great American Newspaper?

  Pensive Rea White, on a NASCAR deadline (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   FORT WORTH, Texas
   It still lands on your front porch or lawn every morning, and it's still black-and-white, with the classic masthead.
   But the good ol' daily paper just ain't what it used to be.

   We on the NASCAR train see it all vividly, painfully, every week, in every town this sport plays.
   There is so much useless fluff in most newspapers these days that they ought to be tied around a rock to keep from floating away.
   And that, it appears, has been having a dour effect on the sport of NASCAR racing, as well as of course so many other aspects of American life too.
   It is sad and disturbing to watch, and the effects are clearly visible in every race track media center:
   This slow suicide-by-strangulation of the once Great American Newspaper.
   It's affecting every part of society, of course, and maybe it's just natural evolution at work, poor business practices coming home to roost, in city after city, like a great plague.
   But one question here to raise is how is it affecting the sport of NASCAR racing…and how can this sport deal with it?
   Every week, it seems, at every stop on the NASCAR circus train, there's yet another sad media story to relate.
   The four-year-long purge of veteran NASCAR journalists from the media landscape has been brutal and ugly.   
   And it looks like it's getting worse.

  Jeff Gordon, meets the press in downtown Los Angeles. NASCAR has never been easier for journalists to cover, drivers have never been more accessible. However American newspapers have become increasingly missing in action (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Brian France once made an impassioned plea to the nation's sports editors to keep alive the NASCAR beat, the hometown-personal touch, to no avail.
   Here at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, NASCAR's own PR corps, which has been strengthened dramatically over the past year or so, is out in force, maybe a dozen strong….almost outnumbering the 'legitimate' media covering the sport. Throw in the 45 or more team PR reps, and the media troops seem  all but overwhelmed.

   The latest media victims on the stock car tour: those few remaining soldiers at this sport's venerable SceneDaily. That publication was created back in the 1980s as Grand National Scene as a thick weekly compendium of stories by a huge staff, flamboyant, wide-open NASCAR news operation. The chopping began two years ago, and in the past few days it has been completed. Gone.
   More veteran NASCAR journalists heading out to mow grass.
   The next victims?
   Well, that pending shakeup at USAToday has everyone on pins and needles. If form follows, veterans will be iced….



Jimmie Johnson in New York City. Maybe it's just all about television these days
(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Monte Dutton hangs in tough at the Gaston Gazette, and Jim Utter at the Charlotte Observer. Aside from those two, however, the media scene is bleak.
   Of course the sport of NASCAR isn't the only part of American culture being hit by this epidemic. But for us down here in the stock car trenches it has become quite personal. And listening weekly to so many inane questions to drivers, by well-meaning but sometimes simply clueless reporters, the depth of the issue is all too clear.
   The hallowed pursuit of truth, always an adventure and challenge in this sport, is tougher than ever, because there are so few veteran troops in these trenches anymore.

   Is all this just business, or rather 'bad' business? Or a national disgrace, on a vast scale?
   Or maybe it's just quaintly old-fashioned to even be concerned any more, as quickly as Apple and Samsung and Google and all those techs are moving us on a tidal wave of change. And with the Millennial Generation more concerned about internet bandwidth than a loud and fast new Mustang, Camaro or Charger….
   Does anyone even worry anymore that the daily newspaper, in virtually every city in the U.S., has become superfluous to our daily lives?
   Maybe 'mainstream' newspapers are just reaping what they corporately deserve, after too many years of arrogant, monopolistic business practices.
   Do any of the people running these daily newspapers even care about what's going on, or are they simply looking for the next person to fire, the next news beat to kill?
   The efficacy of cutting jobs and critically diminishing the quality of the product doesn't quite seem logical.
   After all, if you're selling hamburgers, you can't expect to keep customers if you tell them 'Gee, we just can't afford the beef anymore,' and simply try to sell them empty buns.

   Now nothing new here, really, in this long-running story. Nothing you haven't already noticed.
   But that's only part of the issue here in NASCAR-Country.
   The other half of the equation is how to solve the problem.
   The sport's fans deserve good product, solid independent journalism, hard-hitting questions, and good debate about the hot issues. And the sport itself certainly needs an informed, energized fan-base.
   A race weekend walk through the NASCAR-Twitter-verse and Facebook-world, any given NASCAR weekend, shows a hotbed of interest in this sport.
   But how best to tap into it, how better to serve it?
   The world of news has migrated to the web, and there are dozens of NASCAR-oriented websites, a jungle really.
   The TV-sponsored web packages are glitzy, and extremely well-financed, but sometimes it seems with agendas – sometimes agendas of topics to avoid or gloss over.
   However the many independent NASCAR websites are grossly underfinanced, most principally staffed by writers forced to cover from in front of the TV, rather than pit road or the garage.
   All that hurts the sport.
   It is really quite ironic – perplexing and baffling even -- that just as this entire news world has become so energized and personalized and highly interactive (with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and what-all), that the classic newspaper business world, particularly as far as the sport of NASCAR is concerned, has virtually collapsed.
   The next step in all this, for NASCAR?
   And who will take it?


On the NASCAR print beat: Kenny Bruce (L) and Bob Pockrass
(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

From Paul: One of the key

From Paul:
One of the key reasons, maybe even the primary, which has adversely affected all traditional print media, was the failure a decade plus ago to recognize that the value was derived from the content rather than the delivery mechanism. So most hung on to the old model while giving (or nearly giving away) the content on the new fangled Interweb. Then only reacting after the business model was no longer sustainable. By then weekly news magazines and daily newspapers were shells of them former selves. Most are barely surviving, on the print revenue stream, with bare bone staff. All while they still try to find a digital revenue model with an audience, several generations away from the daily newspaper, now conditioned to access the content for free. For digital delivery of content, it’s about the economy of scale. The major (household name sites) deliver content that will be seen by enough eyeballs to pay the bills and perhaps make money on an advertising-only model. But the regional or local content providers serving up a city or county-level meeting story can’t cover costs on page view or PPC due to small audience.
Oddly, it’s a story repeated by the print industry over time. Newspaper barons fought birth of radio – when commercial stations began to broadcast. Then daily newspapers repeated the conflict when television came of age fifty years later.

The upside is there is still value in original, unique content. The Internet has broken down geopolitical borders, while compressed time and distance much like Marshall McLuhan predicted about communication technology in general.
Example twenty years, one had to be within 30 miles of Winston-Salem to read Mike’s work and wait until the next morning’s newspaper. Now anybody, anywhere in the world with a device that works on an IP network can read his prose within moments after it is self-published.

And more from Paul: Closer to

And more from Paul:

Closer to NASCAR coverage specifically, does the revenue stream still exist to support the press (collectively or individually) corps (removing the creative destruction occurring in the traditional newspaper industry from the equation)?

Is there still the paid media (which existed a generation ago in print as the “win ads”, advertisements supporting a car, track, series sponsorships and ads from the ancillary businesses) to now support digital content delivery? Has the money behind those ads disappeared completely from the industry or has it been reallocated to other line items (television advertising and sponsorship)?

On the other hand is there the sufficient market for paid subscriber content delivery? Will enough people be willing to pay to look behind the paywall (assuming the content is delivered by a web site)? While major news sites (economy of scale) can generate enough original, new content to merit a paywall, is there enough NASCAR original, new content (while having a sustainable business model) to go with that model?

One issue I'm hearing (and

One issue I'm hearing (and facing) is that companies willing to advertise are more insistent today on having solid marketing numbers on eyeballs....which is not always easy to come by, or even accurate. for example, how did R. J. Reynolds quantify its NASCAR sponsorship in terms of numbers?

Everything changes yet

Everything changes yet nothing changes. Those of us who have been around for a while remember the goodbad old days when the print media establishment virtually ignored auto racing. The primary sources of information for those interested in racing were regional racing publications and, of course, Economaki's National SpeedSport News. Most of the writers were unpaid or reveived only minimal compenstion.

After a relatively brief period of time in which major print publications jumped on the racing bandwagon, the sands have again shifted - a return to what is essentially the old model with the Internet now providing the platform for what has become an even larger army of unpaid writers.

In the process, the volume and accessibility to the product has increased with the level of quality remaining about the same - a limited amount of good stuff and lots of not-so-good stuff.

Those whose professionalism and journalistic credentials produced paychecks in the past now find themselves increasingly drawn to the Internet as well but more frequently than not without the security blanket of guaranteed monetary compenation.

The other Paul offered valuable insight into the underlying causes and their implications along with making the valid observation that there remains value in unique, original content.

We bemoan the decline of the daily newspaper but at the same time find ourselves at least partially responsible for it in our abandonment of it. We have found other more convenient and less costly sources for the information we want and need.

I would question the validity of the logic of those who would attempt to link the decline in attendance at the track to the decline of the daily newspaper and the coverage it provides. The next step for NASCAR is probably the step already taken - embrace Cable TV, motorsport websites, Twitter, Facebook, texting and whatever else might become the media flavor of the moment.

All I can do is shake my

All I can do is shake my head. Want to know where your newspaper jobs went? Look in the mirror! None of you have written anything but PR/insider/crap/propaganda for 10+ years! It drives me up the wall how many times you write here and say---"WE"---when talking about Nascar (which is crap and killed itself too but thats another story). You are not supposed to be one of them and its obvious you are. Thats why all of you lost your jobs and nascar isn't relevant anymore. The only people who take Nascar seriously anymore is the lowest common denominator. The rest of us are amused by the downfall--cause its well deserved.

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