(EDITOR’S NOTE: 51’s X-Factor is a feature on Speed51.com that features opinions from columnists on racing’s hottest topics. Kevin Ramsell, the author of this editorial, is a Midwest correspondent for Speed51.com. The views which are expressed in the following column are his own and not necessarily the views of Speed51.com and/or its partners.)
Is there a war between some short track promoters and social media or is it more about finding the best way for each side to work with each other?
This discussion is also open to any kind of use of anything that could be labeled as a live broadcast or updates, the “as it happens” moments.
Recently, some members of the media shared their frustrations on social media about how short tracks are putting up a wall regarding the use of social media as an event is going on.
They have fair arguments from that it help provides exposure and creates more interest when a local event is shared through their followers, which can be looked at as a national audience.
They will also make a good argument that how they provide live coverage of an event doesn’t provide the same feeling and excitement if you were there to see it live in person.
Many times, these discussions come up when it is a big, well known short track event, and most of the time it involves a NASCAR driver competing in the event. Those who cover Sprint Cup races on a weekly basis will make a trek to a short track because it is always a fascinating story when a top driver goes back to their roots and competes. Let’s be honest, not many other sports see this kind of participation. A minor league baseball team may get a top player if they need a game or two to complete their injury rehabilitation.
Sadly, for many tracks, this is about the only time local and national media visit their track during the year. Once in a while, some will come of a weekly show for a feature story on a local talent.
These big events, believe it or not, can make or break a season for the track promoter. With that in mind, they want to sell every seat, every can of beer, every hamburger, etc. they can that night.
God forbid if the local weatherman even says the “R” word remotely in their broadcast the night before the event.
For many promoters, they are taking a huge risk with a big event.
With this huge risk, they get very protective about their event and most of the time, tighten the leash on who gets in for free, and this includes the media.
In the past, media was not a big concern when it came to covering an event. Articles wouldn’t appear until the next edition of a newspaper or magazine, news stories wouldn’t appear until later that night or the next day.
But now, social media is here.
Social media is changing the landscape just like how CNN changed how news is reported when it came out in the early 1980’s with the 24/7 news cycle.
Social media is bringing that up to the minute, 24/7 cycle to all of our lives whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You get news within seconds of something happening.
In 2014, I visited 35 different tracks in 16 states and one Canadian province. I met a great variety of promoters who each have their thoughts of how to run their tracks/series.
Believe it or not, promoters don’t all share the same opinion of when it comes to social media.
Some feel that it is a great form of advertising at a really low to next to nothing cost. Some like the interaction opportunity, they can get a good pulse on what their audience wants and enjoys about their events.
Some see it as a way to provide lineups, lap times, etc. to the race teams.
There are some promoters who do not see social media eating into their profits. They see it more as a benefit then a headache. They look at live updates and coverages as a promotional tool for the future of their track/series.
On the flip side, there are some who see it as a headache and each of us needs to respect their feelings on it.
Like I just said, some do see it as a promotional tool for the future. Yet, some see a different vision.
Gregg McKarns, who owns Madison International Speedway in Wisconsin and the ARCA Midwest Tour, recently gave a perspective about social media and live updates that is worth thinking about.
In a recent Facebook post, McKarns shared this thought…
“Look at NASCAR, they have created a situation where you no longer have to attend or even tune-in to know what is happening. We are on the verge of creating this in short track racing. I do not fault those doing it, as they are all passionate about our sport and I don’t believe are being malicious.
They do need to understand that they are helping create a culture where you no longer have to go to an event to be part of it, that’s dangerous for our industry and other industries like ours.
I do feel we can use this technology to broadcast snippets of the excitement as there is still something very cool about short track auto racing.”
We need to understand both sides of this situation and respect it. We don’t need to blast someone on social media for having an opposite view of what we have when it comes to the use of social media.
Like I said, there are some promoters who like the idea of live updates and there are some who feel that it allows the opportunity for someone to stay home.
Those who rely on those live updates are not the ones that feel it is less expensive to stay home then give their hard earned money to the tracks to see it for themselves. Promoters understand that people do work or live too far away and they do appreciate their continued interest in their tracks/series.
But they feel that those who paid to see it in person should know the outcome a lot sooner than those who didn’t pay.
As far as the argument that it is too expensive, there are two things to consider.
First, realize that the cost to operate, pay the purse, employee salaries, etc. are mostly based on what comes through their gates, most of the time what comes through the gate that night. They don’t have a major corporation funding them. This is truly, in essence, a mom and pop business.
Second, have you been to a movie theatre lately? Check out the admission and concession prices and compare, you won’t see much of a difference. If a movie can rake in $80 million in a weekend, then short tracks would be in real good shape.
This is all about respect and helping the tracks. I recently made this suggestion on my Facebook page.
“Alright auto racing friends…going to give you a new challenge. When does your favorite track/series race again? OK…for example if you say Friday…then I want you to start doing this. On Wednesday, post that your track/series is racing Friday night. Promote it, provide details of what time it starts, how much, what divisions are racing, etc. Key thing…make sure the track/series is tagged in your post. That way fans can click on the tag and visit their social media page and the track/series will see you posted that. Post at various times of the day because your friends may not look at their feed in the morning but in afternoon or vice versa.
Spread the word through social media about a race event 48 hours before not 48 minutes before or 48 minutes into the race event. Let’s use social media as the most inexpensive form of advertising of what we love being a part of. #ShortTrack48Hours”
Finally, one thing that I have found a consensus with all around is the use of Facebook Live and Periscope to broadcast live events from your smartphone. Remember this; you paid your way in, not your viewers. Enjoy the show you paid for and not focus on producing a product for them.
Social Media is here to stay and it’s something all promoters need to find a way to embrace it to their advantage and profit from it.
-By Kevin Ramsell, Speed51.com Midwest Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com