Pedley: NASCAR Has An iProblem
By Jim Pedley | Senior Writer
There are certain drivers to whom you absolutely must listen when they speak about racing. Jeff Burton is the all-timer in that area. But Greg Biffle never fails to educate when he talks.
Last week, Biffle was asked about sinking TV ratings for NASCAR and he tossed a new – and I think extremely reasonable – explanation into the pool of reasons.
Technology in communication.
“I haven’t been able to get all those stats,” Biffle said, “but one thing I do know and feel is that there are so many other ways today (to get information),” he said. “And I think we’re going to continue to fight with this TV rating (decline) until we have a way to measure another way of finding out how people keep up with the race.
“You can get it on your computer, you can get it on your phone, and everybody is tweeting lap-by-lap, so today you don’t have to sit in front of the TV, you don’t have to watch it to still be an avid NASCAR fan and be involved with the sport and who is doing what and who is running where. There are a lot of different avenues and I think that has a lot to do with it because I still see as many people as ever that are excited about or sport, that are paying attention and watching it, and there are still a lot of people in the grandstands, but I don’t know why the TV ratings are where they need to be.”
Great points. And points which ring true.
Back in the mid-1980s I was sports editor at a daily newspaper. The times they were a changin’ in the sports reporting business. Virtually all games important to readers were then beginning to be shown live on television.
Afterward, there were post-race shows on television and radio. Long, detailed ones.
ESPN had its feet under it and had people and cameras everywhere. It was cable casting virtually 24 hours a day.
For afternoon games, like in the NFL, local news showed highlights and gave stats for the local teams at 6 p.m. Then again at 10 p.m.
By the time newspapers were flopped down onto porches at 6 a.m., traditional information transmitted by ink was old news. Stale news: Electricity travels at 186,000 miles per second.
Newspapers took a long time to grasp all of that. They continued to publish cliche-ridden “gamers” which were little more than regurgitated box scores with a couple quotes. The gamers were virtually formulaic, putting scores and attendance in the second (“in front of a crowd of 66,000, the Hamsters beat…). That is, they published things readers had known by the time they went to bed.
And the decline of daily newspaper sports sections began.
Now, it is television under assault by new media. That is, the so-called social media and hand-held devices which allow users access to information any time and, virtually, any where.
Smartphone users can sit in the grandstands at a football stadium and keep up with racing action at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
They can sit on a beach and get enough information on Cup races to make them happy and tan all at the same time.
Good skiers can hit the double blacks and find out what driver is winning at Homestead at the same time.
It’s not only that they can, they are.
Moving and collecting bits of information is more preferable to some – many millions, actually – these days than is planting the butt in a grandstand seat or comfy living room chair and absorbing massive information from live action or television.
It’s certainly cheaper.
Yes, sure, of course it’s shame. Of course it’s dangerous as it is not just information about fun and games which is being gathered and parsed in teeny, tiny bits. People are forming opinions – and taking action – by doing little more than blindly feeling the the elephant’s tail.
And to some – mostly old-schoolers – of course it leads to a stripping away of the beauty that only the real thing can possess.
But it sure is easy. And, kind of fun.
So now it is television’s turn to either adapt or go the route of books, telegraph keys and daily newspapers – the route of irrelevancy.
And the future of NASCAR will depend on how it and television responds.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments