Kicked off in a facebook post by Josh Lane… Figured now is as good a time as any to ask KP followers…
“There’s no journalism in karting anymore”, “Karting journalism is dead” and so on are statements I’ve read and heard countless times from folks, some very prominent. Especially during the last six months I’ve been hearing it over and over.
I’d love to know what you think… More importantly, what “journalism” means to you?
The only thing I’ll say, is I really miss KartSport magazine. That was the only publication that made karting look really badass. The photography was killer, the articles were entertaining and honest, and it made me feel hype for the sport like nothing else. Everything since then is just basic race recaps and stuff.
I think I finally threw out my Kart Sport t-shirt last year after it looked like Swiss cheese.
Do you know who was behind KartSport? It was before my time in the US, but I remember it coming up a good few times when I did the first KartPulse survey in 2013. I see Chris Ortenburger was involved in the aesthetic.
Aside from making karting look badass, what value did you think it offered?
Well I think by making karting look badass, it legitimized it and made it appealing to people who were on the fringes of the sport. I know that I often brought the magazines to school when I was younger with me and showed them to friends and they were like “whoa that looks awesome!” It made me really proud of the sport I was involved in. I think karting’s main issue at the moment is that 90% of the industry isn’t “cool”. It sounds superficial, but I think in a modern entertainment driven society like we have, selling the sport as something that is really cool helps legitimize it, even if it just is to us karters. When I think of the sport as a whole, it really comes across as pretty nerdy and niche, which is fine, but I felt like KartSport made it feel the opposite. The public says “so you race little race cars? That’s for kids though?” and stuff like that. There was a real motocross vibe to KartSport that made it feel like karting was for badass guys and girls who were really skilled at what they do. It gave a little “star power” to the guys who were killing it back then like Glover, Jurca, Vorrath, Speed, White, Boswell etc. It felt like we had idols in the sport and it personally drove me to improve myself through driving to try and get a little piece of that.
If I brought a modern karting magazine to friends and showed them, they wouldn’t care at all. They don’t want to see pages of results. The only people who care about karting mags these days are the racers who want to read the race reports of their races. And even then, all that is available online now.
Other than offering a cool perspective on the sport, I’m not sure what ANY publication or online article offers in terms of value to the community as a whole. Things like product reviews can be helpful, tech articles, kart shop profiles… Things like that to be used as resources are valuable to the karter, so maybe those types of articles would be worthwhile.
Do you think there is a difference in the kind of appeal that comes from a print magazine over web media? I think it is harder to spread the “cool factor” of karting in the modern world. I feel like web media helps the sport and hurts it at the same time.
Well personally, as a graphic designer, I will always have an affinity for print media and the feeling of thumbing the pages of an actual printed piece.
I think the nostalgia of magazines and the increasing rarity of quality print publications could help make it a viable alternative to web media as a “high-end” publication. Web content is so, so, so, so available and easy to get ahold of. I feel like having an actual physical and tangible piece could give an elevated impression.
I used to love KartSport and NKN as well. I think with how people use social media now, they feel like there isn’t a need to have actual publications now. Anymore a parent or team PR person can just post to Facebook or Twitter about results and things going on.
I agree with you here. Although I feel like most karting sites/FB don’t tell stories anymore. They either brag about their accomplishments, or they just post race reports.
Honestly, outside of Kartpulse and some old websites that I have archived, I barely learn anything new about karting from being online. I’d love to have more people showcased in the sport, so we learned more about who is who, and who some of the off-track badasses are too.
Before I started karting, I came from the work of tuning cars, and loved to read magazines where I learned about tuning shops, or cool drivers who had unique machines. (They never talked about race results, because they know that no one cares, especially about a race that is already over on the other side of the country.)
Even sites like Narita Dogfight make you feel like you’re being provide an insight into the tuning culture, and makes you want to meet these people. https://thenaritadogfight.com/. I wish we had something like that for karting. That would be interesting reading.
I think it’s just hard to make ‘karting as a lifestyle’ cool, unless you know people who have the artistic flair for the written work and photography to make it look sexy.
I think by definition, karting journalism is very much alive. I’d say EKN does a pretty good job when it comes to reporting what’s going on in the world of karting, at least here in the US. Kart360 does as well, and keeps us a little informed on what’s going on in Europe as well.
The concept of karting loosing its “cool” is a different discussion I think. The way media is presented nowadays definitely has a lot to do with it. While online and social media both make it easier for everybody to get the news and information they want, it does just that. It makes it easier for people to get the news and information THEY WANT. Very sophisticated algorithms are designed to do just that. You see the posts on FB and Instagram because of posts you’ve liked in the past. It gets everybody zeroed in on a very narrow range of subjects, and doesn’t allow us to be exposed to new ideas and new things. This is part of the reason karting has become “nerdy and niche,” because social media makes it so that people who “like” karting posts see more karting posts, and people who stop “liking” them, stop seeing them.
Thankfully, I think KARTPULSE has the power to improve both of these things. Davin and James, you’ve identified a problem within the sport and have a great opportunity to improve it. Kartpulse can make a huge impact. And you’re working closely with guys like TJ and Christian who I think can help bring the “cool factor” back into it. You’re doing great things with this site. It would be great to see karting increase in popularity and be considered “cool” again.
In 05 when Alan and I started karting1.co.uk, karting fed us with stories. The top of karting was just about attainable for good drivers and it was really alive, and really cool. We got really fired up and started working hard to shout about karting as something spectacular and frankly beautiful. It was all there…the elite inspirational side, and the regular karting just below where everyone could enjoy driving, and/or try to climb the ranks.
Then KF happened, and slowly but surely the elite level died, and with it the stories started to dry up.
So, at karting1 we started to have to go look for stories, and even generate stories ourselves trying to keep things interesting. But that couldn’t be sustained, and so Alan lost interest in the journalistic side of karting.
So my point is, when karting is really super cool, which is actually possible, then it generates its own stories. Then guys like Alan come in and amplify what is already there… but when that cool factor isnt there, then a journalist can’t generate that cool themselves - its too much to ask.
There are little pockets of cool… the supernats manages it every year - You just need events with that amount of interest happening every weekend, in 6 or 7 countries!
SuperNats is a great example of a cool karting event. I’ve never been, and that pisses me off! The coolest karting event I have been to though was the Indy Karting Classic, held inside the Indiana Pacers stadium during the IMIS show in Indy. Not only was it a very cool event, but there were over 2,000 people there to watch. Indoor oval kart races are usually packed as well. It’s a formula that works magnificently for SuperCross. Put the product in front of as many people as possible in as concentrated of an area as possible. In a perfect world, there would be a Monster, or RedBull, or Lucas Oil, or somebody willing to put up the cheddar to put kart racing in football stadiums. Now that would be sweet! It’s something Mark Dismore has talked about as well. It’s a bit of a pipe dream, but trying to make something extreme like that happen could lead to other, more feasible ideas that could boost karting’s cool factor.
While I agree with that you’re saying Terence, I also think it’s down to the mindset of the karting culture too. On the whole, I don’t feel like we encourage people to be creative (at least in consistently in our media outlets.) Personally, I think if it was up to some people, everyone would just drive one type of chassis and one type of engine, and we’d talk about race results all day.
I feel like we miss highlighting the personalities in our sport to a large degree, and I mean more than the Rob Howdens and Tom Kutchers of the wold too. (For example, I somewhat liked the GOAT thread that EKN did a few months back, but the way that it was set up, it devolved into a pissing contest for people thinking who was the greatest. I would have loved to have just seen some showcare articles about each person, so I could learn more about some talented people in the store, rather than comparing them.)
I lean back to tuning car culture again. If someone puts a Saab Turbo engine into a Miata, someone is interested to do a story on it, even though it’s not a race car or a Spec Miata etc. It’s just a cool passion project that people want to share.
I think Ekartingnews does a great job of saying what has happened, but I think the OP was alluding more to journalism in a creative writing sense, not just reporting on events.
Yeah, I heard a lot about the echo chamber because of Social media. That must have an effect, especially because everyone can be a journalist today!!.. but I’m sure journalism can adapt to the new norm - if something has enough wow factor and impact surely it will breach the boundaries…
Yes, I think that is what’s happening - maybe it is inevitable. We like to buy karts and engines that we know will be competitive straight out of the box, rather than buying into an engine and chassis that we need to develop and make work ourselves. For a very long time in the UK, the vast majority raced rotax, and it was close to 100% tonykart chassis across the whole grid… You would need to be one hell of a journalist to keep banging out great pieces about tonykarts winning in rotax for 10 years!!! And a journo capable of such feats would be stolen from karting in no time!
X30 has changed that a little, it is not seen as insane to buy a non-tony chassis right now which is refreshing!!
And to address your point about culture - I think you hit on a very important point… What makes a healthy culture? I think you need a lot of variation and in the background a commonality between members of that culture. I think we had that for a few years before KF culled a lot of that variation… When that died we were left with single make everything.
Yes, I like that kind of thing too… but to sustain a journalist you need things like that two or three times a week to replace what used to come from the racing between factories and tuners.
We did get a few, Luke Ellery with his JICA powered cadet kart, the aixro xr50 mad machine, the BRC150 was mental.
It died when memes became a thing. It died when social media obliterated the model of banner ads. It died when ad blockers became a thing. It died when the attention shifted from the screen to your phone. And on and on. The BUSINESS died, and thus — so did the content.
Truly ask yourself. Where do you spend most of your time online. My bet is that it’s Facebook or Instagram. The reality is the attention span of yesteryear has eroded to likes, retweets, and hashtags. Most of which do nothing to patronize or give financial upside to the content creator
What does the karting industry do to support the people making the content? Not much, to be fair.
If anything, @chrisortenburger that might just be a sign that more people in karting should learn how to leverage the modern social media outlets, rather than using it as an excuse why things aren’t working.
Other industries know how to monetize mobile and leverage image based content to drive engagement. So frankly I’d wave a little BS flag about that., and say that more people should just learn more how that landscape works.
I don’t think the platform is the problem. I think it’s people’s incentive/interest to develop content like this nowadays, combined with a culture that’s not overtly asking for it anymore.