Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bloggers Persona Non Grata At Indianapolis 500

Joh Padgett learned today what has become too apparent to casual observers of the racing industry like myself: The Indy Racing League is eating NASCAR's dust. Padgett, who publishes Monticello blog, contacted the Indianapolis Motor Speedway office and spoke to Tim Sullivan about the process for obtaining press credentials for the 500. Sullivan told Padgett the 500 didn't credential any blogs or online journalists. Padgett co-produces Dan Niswander's video blog show Fun to the Nth Degree, which is a YouTube-based show where Dan Niswander attends various events around Indianapolis "to show whan kind of fun can be had here." Reacting to the IMS' "no blogger" policy, Padgett writes:

It continues to amaze me how large organizations like IMS continue to be reticent to working with online journalists. In the Internet Age you only have one chance to get it right when a situation like this arises. Those entities that work with online journalists tend to reap the rewards of increased exposure to a younger more tech savvy audience attractive to advertisers. In an industry so sponsor sensitive as motorsports, you would think the folks at IMS would be averse to picking a fight with a blogger over such a minor request. I didn't ask for much, just simple courtesy normally extended to other journalists - some of them even locals!

As someone who has been attending the Indianapolis 500 for about three decades, I'm not in the least bit surprised by the IMS' attitude towards blogs. The IRL has demonstrated time and time again that it is inferior in every aspect to NASCAR. You wouldn't have thought it would have been possible 15 years ago to take the "greatest spectacle" in sports and turn into just another ho-hum sporting event, but the IMS and IRL, both under the control of the Hulman-George family, have managed to do just this. No longer can it claim to have the greatest drivers in racing. They've long since headed to NASCAR or Formula racing. Most of the drivers in the 500 have virtually no name recognition and a nearly invisible fan base. The sentiment of one blogger sums up the state of the IRL:

The 2007 season looks to be a complete model of last season. The same four drivers are going for the victories and making a run at the championship while the rest of field watches and wonders from behind as a cloud of smoke blows by them.

You can't say the same about NASCAR. With more than double the number of drivers in the field, even the least known NASCAR drivers have a bigger following than most of the IRL drivers. NASCAR's online following is particularly strong. There's no shortage of blogs following NASCAR. Blogs like NASCAR Ranting and Raving Blog keep NASCAR fans up-to-date on the comings-and-goings.

The Indianapolis 500 has an annual tradition. The IMS hands out free tickets to every state legislator and dozens of other state and local officials to attend the race. Someone might want to consider whether that strategy is helping in any way draw new fans to the event, let alone the thousands of fans who've been abandoning the event in recent years. When you can walk up to the ticket window on the day of the race and purchase a ticket, it really hits you how bad a turn the 500 has taken. Once upon a time the race was automatically sold out the next year by virtue of ticket renewals turned in by the previous years' attendees. The IMS would be wise to study NASCAR and learn why the racing fans of the future belong to NASCAR--before it's too late, if it's not already too late.


braingirl said...

I would wonder, though, how many of those NASCAR bloggers are issued press credentials and attend events for free. I understand the sentiment, but not all online journalists are bloggers, just as not all bloggers are online journalists. The IMS' failure is in understanding the two and at least credentially online journalists. (Although, I do find it hard to believe that if ESPN had a reporter who covere IRL but ony in an online venue (blog or not), that he wouldn't be able to get credentials.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Braingirl, the IMS liberally gives out press credentials. I know of journalists who receive the press credentials annually who write for publications which don't write about sports, let alone cover the race. I gather from reading other blogs, some bloggers have been able to get press credentials at NASCAR events.

Anonymous said...

A lot of NASCAR news comes from a blogger - Jay Adamczyk - commonly known as "Jayski".