Motorsport Network to sell F1 Racing magazine; Autosport magazine heading towards oblivion

Updated on October 8th.

Motorsport Network is to sell the monthly F1 Racing magazine, whilst the weekly Autosport print magazine looks perilously on the brink.

Like Formula 1, 2019 marks Autosport’s 69th anniversary in the print industry, with the magazine hitting the shelves on a weekly basis.

Now, it looks like that this year could also be their last. Rumours about the demise of the trio have been circulating for months within the industry, but picked up a gear on Sunday (6th October).

Two Autosport staffers, one of which is their special events manager Laura Coppin, confirmed in now deleted tweets that the magazine will disappear, but that the brand will remain online via Autosport.com.

The two also confirmed that the brand will remain as part of the yearly Autosport International Show and Autosport Awards.

Motorsport Network attempted to diffuse speculation around the magazine by stating that they are “exploring options” around the print edition of Autosport and that “any news will be communicated at the appropriate time.”

Little less than 24 hours later the corporation announced on 8th October that, instead of closing the print magazine, they would be hiking the weekly price of Autosport from £3.99 to £10.99 with immediate effect.

In addition, Motorsport Network has sold F1 Racing magazine to Lifestyle Media, in a transaction expected to complete by the end of October.

As initially reported by Dieter Rencken, I understand that Russian billionaire Dmitry Mazepin (also father of F3 driver Nikita) placed an offer to buy the print magazine arm of Autosport, but that talks between the two parties have collapsed in recent weeks.

In addition, Autosport’s Editor in Chief Andrew van de Burgt is leaving the organisation this week.

The dominance of the Network
We can trace the control of Motorsport Network in relation to Autosport back to 2016 when they acquired Autosport, along with F1 Racing and Motorsport News from Haymarket.

Around the same period, Motorsport Network also acquired Motors TV. Since then, Motorsport.com and Autosport.com have become increasingly similar in content, with the same articles appearing on both domains.

Motors TV was rebranded to Motorsport.tv, with the UK television channel closed in September 2018.

Motorsport Broadcasting has heard at various times over the past twelve months about rounds of redundancies at Motorsport Network, most recently in July with their video production unit trimmed.

There is a clear strategy from Motorsport Network to eliminate their rivals, and by eliminate, I mean “take over, and then remove” their competition.

Most of what made Autosport’s output unique in recent years has disappeared, and that expands far beyond the core of the magazine into the online sphere.

Some writers remain unique to Autosport’s platform, but Motorsport Network now publishes most content on both Autosport.com and Motorsport.com.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABCs), Autosport magazine had a weekly circulation of 15,480 in 2018, whilst the monthly F1 Racing magazine had a circulation of 27,553 in 2018.

To put both of those figures into context, Motor Sport Magazine (outside of the Motorsport Network circles), released monthly had a 2018 circulation figure of 29,666, and Autocar (still owned by Haymarket) had a weekly circulation of 32,253.

Given that no other motor sport-based magazines exist, it is difficult to know what is ‘good’ in this context, but nevertheless both Autosport and F1 Racing losing out to Motor Sport Magazine is not great for the Network.

However, are both the F1 Racing and Autosport magazine brands operating at a loss, or is this simply the next step in Motorsport Network’s long-term strategy to streamline its content?

You may think the answer to part one of that question is ‘yes’, but depending on who you believe the answer may be ‘no’…

If it was not already clear by this point, Motorsport Network’s position in the industry is dominant, and increasingly so.

The Network has James Allen and McLaren boss Zak Brown in prominent roles, and has links to the World Endurance Championship and Formula E, which raises all kinds of neutrality questions that this site has discussed in detail previously.

Times change, but the love and affection motor sport fans hold for brands does not. To say that it is extremely sad that potentially three brands could end to fuel the Motorsport Network strategic direction further is an understatement.

In my view, a view held by many across the industry, Motorsport Network will use the steep price rise to justify getting rid of the magazine in print format. Instead of letting the magazine die peacefully, Motorsport Network are letting the ending drag out, in a deliberate, calculated move.

If Autosport magazine in print format is no more in the medium-term, do not underestimate the ripple effect that the move will have across the industry, especially for those that use the magazine as a form of promotion.

Outpouring on social media
Since Motorsport Broadcasting posted the original Autosport article on Sunday, there has been an outpouring of emotion and thoughts from across the motor sport landscape.

The initial suggestion that the ex-Haymarket brands could be in imminent danger came from Jim Holder, Haymarket Automotive’s editorial director and Autosport’s former deputy editor on Sunday (7th October) afternoon.

“Written only as fan (of the sport, journalism and above all the people) but as everyone reflects on a brilliant Rally GB I also hope they pause on the rumoured demise of the bulk of the UK media covering motorsport – Autosport, F1 Racing and Motorsport (Motoring) News,” Holder said on his Twitter feed.

“Of course, I spent a decade working for two of the three, but the same two were also what fuelled my passion for the sport and made Wednesdays and Thursdays the best days of the week.”

“The world is online now we’re told, but to toss their heritage away is heart breaking. To toss it away by grinding the titles into the ground even more so (if rumours of imminent, off-the-scale price rises are true) and more so because of the talented, dedicated people being put in impossible positions by these jaw-dropping decisions.”

Names from across the industry have commented on the news that broke on Sunday evening, including former F1 Racing editor Matt Bishop, current Sky F1 analyst Karun Chandhok and four-time IndyCar Champion Dario Franchitti.

Officially, Autosport magazine is on a life support machine. In reality, as the earlier tweets showed, its destination has already been decided…


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21 thoughts on “Motorsport Network to sell F1 Racing magazine; Autosport magazine heading towards oblivion

    • Gutted, been buying the magazine since the mid seventies cannot fathom this online obsession this will kill a lot of Motorsport interest I feel I will not be subscribing online rest assured of that

      • Just out of interest has anyone else cancelled their autosport subscription and been told their final edition will be this week’s even though a quarterly subscription has been paid last month? Seems like they are trying to take the cash and not fulfil the product unless subs know something about the future beyond todays edition.

  1. Autosport was, for many years for me, the thing that stirred my passion about F1 in particular, and subsequently other areas of motor racing because of its coverage. I wouldn’t have the insight I have now without the hours I spent reading it. Having said that, I stopped reading it maybe five or so years ago. The price went up, the number of pages and, in my view, the quality down. However, it was it’s very existence in the 1990s that lead my mum into buying it because I’d started wanting to know more about this sport (1993 onwards was when I got into F1, from the age of 10) and I wanted to know more. It may all be going online, but it was seeing it in the flesh in my local paper shop which hit me to buy it originally. Never liked the F1 magazine or Motorsport News, although I’ve tried them both.

  2. The magazine Autosport and the weekly newspaper Motorsport News had a few good articles, but too much coverage for pathetic Formula One “racing” and similar processional
    wiggly-track series. Autosport totally refused to cover drag racing, that specialised form with the FASTEST and CLOSEST car racing in the World.

  3. Having spent 18 years on the rally desk of the magazine at a time when I saw the arrival of fax machines (yes…THAT long ago!), email, the internet and the move towards desktop publishing, I’m more than aware that times are changing. But what saddens me most is the naïve belief that EVERYONE has access to the digital format which I find disingenuous to the loyal readers for who Autosport is more than just a magazine.

    The arrival of the internet (where just about anyone can be journalist) has reduced the magazine’s influence when it was ‘The Bible’ of motorsport, but to rip it’s heart out for nothing more than commercial consideration seems to be a kick in the teeth for fans already abandoned by F1 and other areas of the sport.

  4. I was and am still bemused by the acquisition strategy and now closure strategy? Did they buy to close or buy to turn round then fail. Anyhow as a autosport subscriber (and under 40 no less) I got an email telling me today that I had free access to autosport plus…… To autosport plus…… Which I already had? So my only conclusion is James Allen isn’t great with data or that they can’t run a website.

    • The Autosport website, while a great improvement in recent years, has always been a thing of chunkiness. I’ve never really understood why ther email digests have random ! in them when the online versions don’t (I assume it’s some copyright reason, but it’s always frustrated me.)

  5. Truly the end of a golden era of motor sport journalism. Being able to have the fans enthusiasm fed and stoked on a weekly basis contributed so much to creating and sustaining the fan base. Of course, the instant, continuous online fire hose of info has brought an hourly and minute-by-minute feed but there’s something about the anticipation of waiting and then the excitement of getting your hands on a print publication that can’t be matched by the online experience.

  6. I should add while I appreciate the value of having so many options available for information online, I thing that there is a unifying experience when everyone or a large number of fans are reading the same publications. That’s been lost now in the flood of so many different online sources.

  7. You clearly haven’t noticed my byline on multiple stories across autosport.com and motorsport.com from the Fuji WEC weekend. Have written several thousands words for the web and mag in the past few days. I am very much still contributing to Autosport magazine, autosport.com and motorsport.com on unchanged terms and remain contracted to Autosport Media UK Ltd.

    Would be grateful if you could amend your story accordingly.

    Gary Watkins

  8. I am deeply saddened by the thought of Autosport ceasing publication so I sincerely hope this is not true. I fell in love with the magazine when I first discovered it in December 1972 in a Formula Ford race shop in Orange, California. It inspired me to choose motorsports publishing as my life’s direction and over the years, several key players on our RACER magazine and RACER.com team have joined us from Autosport. For many of us, Autosport magazine has represented the soul of the sport and it is hard to imagine our world without it.

  9. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the AutoSport forums disappear too. James Allen shut his forum over night as soon as he was promoted to General (or whatever) in the company. They had run with paid staff for some time, so I assume it had something to do with cost cutting. If AutoSport is disappering, why bother with forums tied to a dead title, especially if it’s costing them money.

    Motorsport Network recently sent a large bill to PitPass for using *their* photographs. Who knows if they are desperate for money or attempting to close another competitor. Read the response from PitPass.

    https://www.pitpass.com/65878/Could-media-giants-copyright-move-damage-teams-image

  10. Grew up with Autosport delivered weekly and read cover to cover for many years especially when commuting by train into the smoke. Now flick through it on Readly and find little of real interest (strongly related to amount of F1 – which leaves me, as a whole, cold these days). However, having the time to explore more grassroots motorsport now means that Motoring News (to give it it’s real name) is much more interesting.

    The tactics currently being seen are dubious at best and, as we are reminded above, there are real people affected here with families, financial commitments and so on.

    Perhaps, though, there is still room for a MN style publication owned and managed by enthusiasts and written for enthusiasts ?

  11. Sadly, almost everything they publish in print and online is old or regurgitated news, which you can find online, and it’s basically the same story, with very little insight or original content.

    There is really no justification for a print magazine like this to exist, as the paper quality went down, and the images average at best- using the most uninteresting photography in Formula 1.

    There are a few high end motorsport and enthusiast magazines out there and worth buying, but the price jumps considerably, for example, Lollipop, at $40 US, but well worth it, and more like a book.

  12. £11.00 per edition? This weeks Autosport is certainly my last, which, after around 60 years as a reader, is very sad.

  13. Thank you for reporting on this, though it appears to be sad news. Back when Autosport and F1 Racing moved to the Motorsport Network stable, I thought that the pooling of resources (same journalists, using same photos, publishing content on both Autosport.com and Motorsport.com) would reduce costs and potentially benefit the bottom line.

    However, in my head Autosport was always, in a way, more vulnerable than F1 Racing. The latter is monthly and is features-based and therefore, in theory at least, it offers a distinctive product. Autosport, being weekly, was always going to be more of a news offering, in which case why not just use the website, which updates news in real time?

    The question of what to do with a loss-making product (if indeed it is loss-making) with a proud heritage is a tricky one. NME tried to broaden out from music to general entertainment and turned their weekly mag into a freesheet. They gave it a really good go (or so it seemed to this reader) but ultimately it still couldn’t sustain itself. And I couldn’t imagine a motorsport magazine being sold as a freesheet! Loss-making newspapers tend to be subsidised by wealthy benefactors (or supported by readers themselves with strong brand loyalty) but then again newspapers can arguably still wield political influence.

    There’s no perfect solution, but I wonder if occasional commemoration issues or special editions might have been the way forward for Autosport, which I think is what some other mags have done; after all, there would normally have been a 70th birthday commemoration in 2020, and their Season Reviews/Christmas Specials etc. continue to have strong value. Personally, I always used to buy F1 Racing more and I do have a soft spot for a physical printed publication, so I’m happy if it is able to continue. But even then the latest F1 Racing is something I probably read more through force of habit these days, rather than the more genuine excitement I had as a teenager.

  14. Speaking as an older ‘specialist market’ magazine editor that (like a previous poster) also saw the introduction of email and DTP into publishing, I wonder if the price hike is something else rather than a killer blow. Perhaps a last roll of the dice.

    IME publishers are not in the slightest squeamish at closing mags, really, not squeamish at all – it’s money! So I wonder if the price rise is an attempt to shake out its readers – ie. to find out who is committed or not. Something like, those that can afford Sky *might* – only might mind – be prepared to punt that extra money. Flawed thinking if the figures for the anaemic C4 F1 show are anything to go by.

    My suspicion is that AS’s ABC is as up and down as any preverbal up and down thing – the F1 season alone must mess with it’s print run and returns (do they add issues when a big race is covered?). And while they have been able to ride that out till now I guess times are getting harder.

    So I’m wondering if the very large price rise is an experiment to shake out its readers, so the people that buy on the ‘off’ weeks are subsidised by those on the ‘on’ weeks. God know what they are going to do with subscriptions.

    I lean to that reasoning simply because to cheapen or sully the name of AS does no one any favours. Like any popular mag its title is an asset – this is business remember. Thus an irritating and unpopular price rise (and a big one at that) without a plan does no one any good at all.

    I have no idea which way this will go, I personally think the mag is a bit hit and miss – (and obviously as an ex-editor, like all other ex-editors around the world, I’m a total expert in everything to do with magazines*) so I don’t know how or if it will work.

    Depressingly there were a lot of AS left at Waterloo WH Smug yesterday (Sunday).

    After a couple of pints I might reflect we are seeing the passing of a golden age of reporting of specialist areas – in my area, technology, certainly the standards are, well, ‘variable’. But in the cold light of day I think this is just another change, not much different from the move from hot lead, or the invention of the telephone (or “if you absolutely have to contract telephone- ‘phone” as my old style guide put it).

    Another shake out, another enjoyable pastime curtailed. Apparently it’s called progress.

    The more things change the more they stay the same.

    *not sarcasm at all, nope, golly, how could you think that? How dare you!

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