Recently, Ally Stoyel sat down with Totally Speedway publisher and editor, Daniel Powell, to chat about the current media landscape within the Australian speedway industry.
ALLY STOYEL: In your opinion, what specifically is currently lacking in Australian speedway media today?
DANIEL POWELL: Quality! There have been a lot of talented people involved in speedway television, journalism, and commentating over the years; however, they’ve gone on to other things and talent has been lost.
When younger talent gets involved in the sport, there’s currently no mentoring for them so they’re unable to hone their skills and most are going elsewhere. This is something that needs to change.
AS: What steps need to be taken in order to improve the media landscape in Australian speedway?
DP: As mentioned previously, we need to be developing new talent – particularly in the younger generation. In this day and age, there are only a handful of magazines and websites dedicated to speedway and it’s getting tougher to gain experience and exposure.
I believe we need to provide more opportunities for people to break into the industry and guide them so they can improve their skills. Then it all comes down to how hard they’re willing to work for it.
Writing and journalism isn’t something you just pick up, it takes time and we as a sport need to encourage younger people to learn across all facets of speedway. Not just in the media, but also in the areas of track administration.
AS: Does Totally Speedway have any plans to improve the media landscape in speedway?
DP: Absolutely! I have to practice what I preach. What we need to be doing is fostering younger talent.
I’ve been there, there’s a lot of hard work involved and there’s trials and tribulations to trying to build your career, so I’m extremely passionate about helping younger people to achieve their dreams.
At Totally Speedway, we’re currently working on implementing a mentoring program for aspiring writers. We have a big media influence, so we want to be supporting determined and talented people, which in turn will help to grow the speedway sport in Australia.
AS: Do you believe speedway isn’t getting the deserved recognition due to the lack of information available on the internet?
DP: I think it gets the recognition and coverage it gets due to the amount of effort we’re putting into it. You only get out what you put in, and while there are some people who love the sport and are dedicated to it, there’s still work to be done.
AS: Is Clay-Per-View is a positive step towards giving Australian speedway more recognition?
DP: Definitely! 10 years ago audio streaming was released and promoters believed it would deter crowds, but what it actually did was allow interstate fans to get involved when they couldn’t attend races.
Clay-Per-View is the way of the future and it comes back to people wanting results straight away. Not everyone can afford to attend every race, particularly with tracks being spread out across the whole country.
Being able to live stream the races online for a modest fee allows international viewers to watch speedway live. It’s also a huge draw for sponsors, which helps drivers gain funding and the industry is really embracing it. Nothing beats being at the track, but Clay-Per-View is the next best thing.
AS: Do you believe the public’s perception of speedway in Australia could change if the media landscape was improved?
DP: Yes, I do! It’s tough because speedway has been known as the poor cousins in motorsport pretty much since the 1980s. A lot of people have already worked very hard to change the image of Australian speedway and we still have a way to go.
There’s more to drivers than just racing a car, so the media needs to promote the person behind the driver as well. Promoting the sport has never been easier, and if we’re smart about how we use our platforms to do this, then the perception will change.
I’ve heard people say “speedway is Australia’s best kept secret”, which isn’t something to be proud of in my opinion. Speedway events draw decent crowds almost every weekend for six months of the season or longer, so there’s no reason it can’t be as big as other motorsport classes in Australia.
AS: Are there things we can we learn from other forms of sport that we could adopt into speedway?
DP: Definitely, that’s a no brainer. If you’re not learning, then you’re not growing and you remain stagnant. The scariest words in the English language are “we’ve always done it this way”.
There’s so much we can learn from what other sports have done in the past, as well as what not to do. Speedway needs to dig deeper and look outside the box in order to find new and different ways to do things.
We can’t rest on our laurels; speedway can still be as good as it was previously if we’re willing to do something about it. The key is to be proactive and co-promote with other sporting organisations. A great example of this is the work the team at Valvoline Raceway has been doing with the Greater Western Sydney Giants AFL side.
AS: How important is social media in addition to a website, in terms of sharing news and results and do they need to be up-to-date at all times?
DP: They can both complement each other if they’re being used effectively. Social media and websites are both separate tools that we need to take advantage of. With fully responsive websites making it easy for viewers to access them on any device, it’s essential that the information is current and relevant.
It’s extremely easy to share information on social media with links, pictures, videos etc.; however, I believe people aren’t driving enough traffic to their websites via social media currently. Tracks, drivers, and organisations all need to draw people to their websites to share information with them, such as entry prices for tracks, exposure to sponsors, and calendars.
On the other hand, a lot of the tracks aren’t using social media enough. There’s a huge opportunity with platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Your audience is active most of the time, so you can get maximum exposure for minimum effort. It’s also great for sponsors, as your amount of followers and page likes can help them to determine if they want to back you.
AS: As a writer, do you find it difficult to source results if you haven’t personally attended a race?
DP: Yes and no. About five years ago, I’d have to be on the phone chasing up every result. I still do a bit of that now, as results only get you so far before you need to find the story, but with some results being readily available on websites like Race Monitor, MyLaps and Natsoft, it’s definitely improving.
People want their information fast, so I believe a step in the right direction would be for Speedway Australia to make transponder technology mandatory for all tracks.
AS: Is there a clear gap between media coverage of the larger speedway classes like Sprintcars and the smaller ones that Totally Speedway also covers?
DP: Yes, there certainly is, it’s always been that way. Sprintcars are like the Formula 1 of speedway, so generally they get all of the coverage. Tracks such as Valvoline Raceway, Archerfield Speedway, Toowoomba’s Hi-Tec Oils Speedway, Speedway City, Perth Motorplex, Murray Bridge Speedway and Premier Speedway promote coverage across all classes really well; however, it’s still not quite at the level that it could be.
Sprintcars only make up about 25% of the sport, so it’s about giving the 75% of other classes a voice, and that’s one of the things that have contributed to the success of Totally Speedway. The grassroots classes are the backbone of the sport and without them we wouldn’t have some of the best Sprintcar drivers etc. that we have today.
AS: Do you believe Speedway Australia’s media accreditation process for photographers, journalists and videographers is suitable, or do you think it could be improved?
DP: To be frank, it’s a joke! Over 15 years ago when I joined, there was a process that had to be followed; now it seems that people who don’t have qualifications or experience are getting accreditation. We need to have a tough process like what they use in other forms of motorsport.
We need to ensure that skilled professionals are handling the media. While I’m extremely supportive of new blood becoming involved in the sport, we need to be producing quality, because if we’re not, we’re reflecting the sport in a bad light.
It all comes back to taking the time to mentor people who are aspiring to take up media within speedway – either as a hobby or a profession. There should be a structure and criteria to the accreditation process, where people applying can show how they’ve progressed.