Motorsport Network has reversed its decision to increase the price of Autosport magazine with immediate effect, whilst also reassuring readers about the future of the print edition.
The corporation announced in October that it was increasing the price of the weekly magazine from £3.99 to £10.99, in a move seen by many within the industry as an attempt to kill off the magazine.
Now, following negative feedback from fans and stakeholders alike, the corporation has confirmed that Autosport will again be £3.99, starting this Thursday.
In a statement posted on Autosport’s Twitter feed, Motorsport Network explained the rationale for the reversal.
“Since we announced we will be prioritising a digital-first approach we have closely listened and spoken to many of our highly engaged audience; some of whom have read the magazine throughout their lives,” the statement read.
“It is evident that, for some readers, the print edition of the magazine is not only the preferred format but the only format. The strong connection is clear.”
“We will be continuing to focus on growing Autosport Plus, as that is where the largest proportion of our audience now engages with our features, but this approach is not suitable for all readers.”
“Therefore, from this week, and for the foreseeable future, the print edition will be returning to the previous price of £3.99.”
“We have listened carefully and are committed to continuing our weekly print magazine as long as we can, whilst it is financially viable.”
“We welcome any further feedback from readers suggesting how we can grow Autosport magazine as we move into our 70th year of being the authority on motorsport.”
A surprising shift
To say that Motorsport Network’s statement comes as a surprise is an understatement. What is clear is that the reaction from fans has caused an embarrassing climbdown from the organisation.
It also shows a shocking lack of user research from the Network, by failing to talk to and engage with their consumers in the first place, meaning that they reached a badly thought out conclusion, resulting in a PR disaster.
McLaren boss Zak Brown resigned from his role as non-executive chairman less than 24 hours after the original announcement in October (although arguably Brown’s resignation was 18 months too late given the conflict of interest between his two roles).
One of the concerns about the price rise was that, in the event of the magazine’s demise, national championships in the UK would lose out the most.
Analysis conducted Motorsport Broadcasting showed that most of the magazine features at a national level did not translate over to the website.
However, Motorsport Broadcasting understands that initiatives have begun to increase the amount of coverage that national championships receive on the Autosport website, safeguarding it for the future.
The shift started during the final British Touring Car Championship weekend at Brands Hatch, which is expected to continue into 2020. I understand that this piece of activity was already underway before Motorsport Network made the price announcement.
Anecdotal reports suggest that the sales of the print magazine plunged because of the price rise.
Bringing those lost consumers back on board will be difficult, but maybe that is desired if they want to dissolve the magazine in the short to medium-term.
We must ask the question though: has Motorsport Network’s long-term strategy changed in the past month because of the Autosport backlash, or do they consider this merely a roadblock to their long-term aspiration?
If Motorsport Network wanted to kill the brand, would they have not pursued with the price rise?
Only those on the inside high-up in the chain will truly know what the endgame really is here.
F1 Racing magazine staying, but Autoweek’s print magazine closes stateside
Whilst Autosport’s print future is clear (for now), one brand hoping to engage more with their audience moving forward is F1 Racing magazine, who Lifestyle Media Group are in the process of purchasing off Motorsport Network.
Writing in last month’s edition of F1 Racing, Lifestyle’s chairman Clive Nørgaard Norton reassured fans about F1 Racing’s future.
Norton said “These are challenging times for printed media, but Lifestyle Media House is committed to supporting the magazine and trying to grow its readership.”
“We look forward to closing the transaction. Following completion, there is no imminent price rise planned, and we will be keen to engage with the F1 Racing readers and supporters to better understand what kind of magazine you want to read.”
Elsewhere, in an almost parallel development stateside, Crain Communications, who publish Autoweek, are to cease publication of the print magazine, which had been printing on a bi-weekly basis.
Hearst Magazine are to take over the digital and experimental side of the Autoweek business with immediate effect in a multi-year licencing deal with Crain.
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