• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Monday, March 23, 2009

QUALITY vs. QUANTITY

Memo to publicists, track and sanctioning officials everywhere:

All media coverage is not created equal.

There are stories that simply fill a few seconds of airtime, or a few inches of print space.

And, then, there are stories that actually help SELL tickets. Not because they are re-written press releases masquerading as real journalism -- trying to fool the audience into believing everything is wonderful -- but because they are compelling and create interest in the subject.

It's amazing to me how few understand -- and appreciate -- the difference.

Tonnage is a favorite sales tool among those trying to convince others media are falling all over themselves to report on their particular team, event or series. I get "pitched" these numbers all the time. Take your pick: Total number of stories up in the last 12 months, total hours a network is televising a series has increased, higher number of media credentials issued, more website hits, better measurements in key (carefully selected) demos, etc. The list is limited only by someone's imagination to create a new category.

Nice, but such numerology ignores a central fact: One line buried in a general sports notes column ("Paula Creamer shot 2-under in yesterday's Pro-Am . . . Chipper Jones is continuing contract talks with the Braves . . . Robby Gordon will switch from Dodge to Toyota in NASCAR . . .) gets credited. But certainly doesn't have the impact of 750 well reported and written words on Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Especially in this media environment, it's really quite something how few acknowledge the journos who are actually still out there trying to be as comprehensive as space and time will reasonably allow.

Mark Armijo worked hard last week to interview as many of the players in the Manzanita Speedway sale as he could, especially given the limitations of time and space, and get their information included in his Arizona Republic story. I haven't seen elements of Mark's reporting anywhere else. And, yes, I know some will take this as self-serving, but I actually PLANNED my coverage when NHRA's Full Throttle series was at Firebird Raceway. I knew there were many more good stories than available space, so I intentionally got as many "voices" into print as possible. In seven Republic stories, covering testing and race week, I interviewed and quoted: Tony Schumacher, new crew chief Mike Green, Kenny and Brandon Bernstein, Alan Johnson, Larry Dixon, Del Worsham, John Force, Ashley Force Hood, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Jack Beckman and Ron Capps.

I'll always be interested in the tonnage stats. But I'll always place more value on Quality over Quantity. Because -- bottom line -- that is the work and those are the stories that add to the Bottom Line.

Think about it.
********************************************************************
I've said for a long time that people who spout the old "any publicity is good publicity" don't know anything about the business. Finally, someone in the Mainstream Media agrees.

Recently, USA Today writer Robert Bianco, commenting on CNBC's Jim Cramer's fiasco-of-an-appearance on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, wrote: "Well, despite what you may have heard from the lazily cynical, all publicity is not good publicity -- particularly not when respect is your stock in trade."
********************************************************************
FAST LINES: Phoenix International Raceway President Bryan Sperber wrote in an E-mail to me last week that he is "not interested in a February race date for our Sprint Cup event, nor has anyone proposed that." This to counter reports of a possible date swap with California Speedway . . . Tyler Alexander soon will be retiring from McLaren. If you don't know that name, that's a shame. Tyler is a legendary team manager with great success at the Indy 500, and in Formula One, Can-Am and CART. I had the great experience of seeing his organization, intensity and professionalism up-close when he managed Newman/Haas Racing in 1987 and I did the PR. That, in many ways, was a true Dream Team: Tyler as manager, Adrian Newey as engineer, in a Nigel Bennett-designed Lola, with the then-new Chevrolet engine. And, of course, Mario Andretti driving for Paul Newman and Carl Haas . . . Formula One got this much right: Fans want more emphasis on winning, not "a good points day" driving . . . Maybe someone can explain this news judgment to me: Speed's Thursday ALMS preview show from Sebring didn't report on qualifying until 50 minutes into the one-hour program. And there was no full-field qualifying results graphic. There was competition to like at Sebring, especially in the P1 class, but the quality of pit reporting still doesn't match the series' aspirations. Speed's crew uttered far-too-many "How does it feel?" "What does this mean to you?" "Tell us about your race" lines. Justin Bell handled the microphone about as well as stumbling White House press secretary Robert Gibbs . . . I'll have a story in this Friday's Arizona Republic previewing the World of Outlaws' last run at Manzanita . . . Mark Armijo and Jamie Reynolds will join me in presenting AARWBA's All-America Team Horsepower Trophy to Donny Schatz Saturday night at Manzy. Schatz was racing in Australia at the time of the AARWBA ceremony.
********************************************************************
I'll make a return appearance on Racing Roundup Arizona Monday, March 30. We'll be talking various Business of Racing issues, including, I'm sure, NASCAR's upcoming Phoenix weekend. And co-host Chris Hines says he wants to talk about the IRL season. The show airs 7-9 p.m. (local time) and can be heard on 1310 KXAM or
http://racingroundup.com/ .


I'm happy to be able to help faciliate an April 13 RRA visit by National Speed Sport News president/publisher Corinne Economaki.

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]