FBC’s Future: The end of the road or a new beginning?

Way back in 2005, I started Formula1blog.com. I was motivated to do so because I grew weary of trolls and veteran fans lording over new fans. Even though I’ve been watching and supporting the series most of my life, I never found it appealing to troll someone who hadn’t. Surely there could be a safe harbor for new and veteran fans to learn and share with each other?

As time went on, we grew and I would be disingenuous if I did not say there was a part of me, back in those nascent days of blogs, that wasn’t keen to see if perhaps we might find a way to get monetized and I could work on F1B full time. A fool’s notion but at that time it seemed anything might be possible. That never happened because I am horrible at shameless self-promotion and I have a day job that keeps me busy.

I’ve spent thousands and thousands of hours on F1B promoting the sport, covering it during the off-season and interviewing some of the sport’s biggest names. As an American, that sometimes felt like the sound of one hand clapping but we are out here, we are F1 fans and we are as invested as any around the world even though we have limited access to it. I wanted to help bring more access and more Americans to F1.

We learned long ago that you can’t bring F1 to America, you have to bring America to F1. We’ve worked tirelessly to do that through our website and podcasts over 13 years.

Over 600 episodes, 3.5 million downloads and millions of pageviews, we feel honored to have the community and following that we do. We’ve reached all corners of the earth and still enjoy a majority of our traffic from North America.

2014

Back in 2014, the inevitable letter arrived from Formula One Management’s attorney in the form of a “cease and desist” letter. They were kind but firm and I understood their claim that the “F1” in our logo was a concern. You have to defend a trademark or lose claim to it. I appreciate that. I’m not a domain squatter.

I have to give all credit where it is due and to those ends, I will tell you that Formula Money’s Christian Sylt was a huge part of our doing a deal to remain Formula1blog.com. His connection to Mr. Ecclestone was critical and unlike many who were in a position to help, Chris actually offered to help and I won’t forget that. Chris has been nothing but a good friend to the site and to me personally. Lots has been said, but we wouldn’t be F1B without Chris’s efforts.

A few emails later and Mr. Ecclestone handled the situation impeccably. Mr. E was going through a German trial at the time and yet he found time to work out a simple solution that cost neither party any money and allowed us to continue with the domain and doing the work he knew was beneficial for his sport. We’ve worked wonderfully these past three years. He honored everything he said he would and he was a pleasure to work with as were his attorneys at the time.

2017

I knew that Liberty Media were going to have a completely different view of our relationship given their comments about the way things were ran before their purchase of F1. Perhaps I was being too optimistic in thinking that because they were an American company and we were Americans doing our best to promote F1 in America, they may wish to discuss ways in which we could help them create more meaningful content and help drive their initiatives.

I thought they may like to tap in to our large community to gain traction with our audience. We had worked with NBC and Fox (SPEED) before and the fans seemed to appreciate our efforts of unpacking how F1 is brought to the US. We have worked with Shell and Ferrari and brought more insight and interesting content to the US fans than what was previously being done.

The letter came from Formula One’s litigation specialist and it was pleasant but cool. It merely said they are terminating our relationship and attached a document outlining the process of termination. It’s sad but it is a reality.

Response

I have responded to their attorney introducing ourselves and offered to work closer together in the best interest of the sport. I’ve explained how we might do that and why it may make sense because “free” is always good.

I have no idea what their rationale for terminating the deal is but I am also realistic in knowing that they may be simply looking to sever any legacy deals attached to F1 and I understand that. I really do. If I bought F1, I wouldn’t want a bunch of orbital deals attached to my series like a parasite. I understand that, seriously I do.

What I am less clear about is why, perhaps, they weren’t keen to terminate this deal and have a discussion about what a new deal might look like. A deal on mutual terms, not Mr. E’s terms, and how we may be able to work with them to promote the sport. As an American company, surely and American website promoting their sport with thousands of listeners and readers would appeal? It seems not but at the time of writing this, I have not had a response to my response.

What Next?

In the end, I can’t set a course for Liberty Media. I have no idea what they want to do long term but we have to move on. It is with a heavy heart that I tell you we won’t be working with Formula One in our current relationship and it would seem Liberty Media wants no relationship at all with an American F1 podcast and website that has done so much for the sport they just purchased. It seems narrow-sighted but admittedly I am very biased on the matter and who knows? Perhaps they will respond positively. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, right? Oh well, onward and upward.

New Site, New Name, and a lot of work to do…Do I have the time and passion?

Imagine moving 13 years of content with unique URL’s for each post, picture and podcast and RSS feeds having to be moved and somehow changed with a new domain URL. Imagine all of our social media accounts, followers, podcast reviews on iTunes, Facebook page “likes”, Google analytics, Podcast analytics, YouTube analytics and comments, Google SEO and site rankings and more that I am not even thinking about yet. Imagine all of that having to be moved to a new domain and somehow try to retain all of our analytics and traffic.

You are starting to get the idea of how much work I have ahead of me over the holiday break. I will spend more time over these next two weeks on F1 than any of the folks at F1 management will, that’s for sure.

We already own a few domains: theparcferme.com, rollingspeed.com, grandprixreview.com, motorsportgrid.com. If we move, it will most likely be one of those that becomes home to F1B.

Introspection

This recent move by F1 has given us reason for pause. We contemplated just stopping. No more podcasts, no more website, no more opinion, no more tweets, no more Patreon support, no more nothing. I took a weekend to think about it. To really consider all the things I have going on in my life, how much of it I have missed doing podcasts alone. It’s well over 2,000+ hours of podcasting. What life might be like with all of that time open and available.

Those of you out there that do podcasts, websites and social media with the frequency, amount and long-form format that we do, will know very well what I am speaking about—how much of your life it takes. How much a hobby can demand from you. Is any of it worth the sacrifice to my family and friends as well as to my own sanity?

Re-load

After considering it, I am happy to tell you that we are re-loading our quiver and we are going to forge ahead. I am willing to take on all of the tasks to get this goliath moved over to a new domain. It will put us back at square one on analytics, search engine ranking, SEO, podcast metrics, reviews, comments and much, much more. After building this brand and gaining our footprint over 13 years, we will be back to square one and completely adrift.

It is a steep price to pay as every other F1 website, podcast and social media platform will be much easier to find, search for and more present than we are and perhaps that’s what I deserve for not making our site more successful. It is all my fault, not Paul, Grace, Dave, Tom or anyone who contributes to F1B. It is my fault for not promoting us better, dedicating the time it takes to be successful and all I can say is, I am sorry about that but I have a wife, two daughters and a day job and I did the best I could with the time I had.

I am, however, willing to do it all over again and in some part because I love the sport but the single biggest reason I am willing to do this is—YOU! We have built such a terrific community that to stop would be to seriously let down thousands and thousands of people. I feel bad enough about letting Paul, Grace, Dave, Tom, Tony, JP, Professor Doug and Andy down as well as Atticus and Huxley but I would be mortified if I let our F1B community down. I would feel terrible if I let YOU down.

I’m not interested in the people who dislike us or the people who feel we don’t measure up to other podcasts or we don’t tick their boxes. That’s perfectly fine, to each their own. I’m talking to you…yes, you! Not a group or herd or large biomass. I really mean you individually. I get your emails, your tweets, your comments. I get them all and I know that in some small way, what we do adds, even in the slightest of ways, to your enjoyment of the sport.

I know I speak for all of us here at F1B when I say thank you for making us what we’ve become and we would be grateful and honored if you would stick with us during the transition and even help us spread the word. We need your help in a very big way, my friends.

New focus

Barring a positive response from F1, we are marching forward and we will have a new domain, look and name. Let’s hope ESPN doesn’t mind me also borrowing their logo look for the new site…I’m kidding!

Which domain from the one’s listed above do you like the most. We think we know which one we are going with but here is where we turn the corner.

IMPORTANT: The only reason I am willing to do this all over again is you. And that, my friends, will become the complete focus of F1B Redux. You! We are going to slow down a bit on our packaging and attempt to monetize the site. With support from you via our Patreon account, we’re not really fretting about getting sponsors anymore. You are supporting us so as long as that continues, we will too. We are going to be completely symbiotic with our community. You support us, we create content. We create content, you support us.

We are going to engage our community in a much more aggressive and meaningful way. We are only here because of you so you are the focus of our content. We want to know your thoughts, opinions and ideas. We want your voice heard within our community. This will require all of us to hold each other to the Single Rule: Decorum & Civility.

We are taking a step back to the beginning. Back in 2005. I had a choice, make a website and try to sell it or build a community and then see if there may be interested folks. I chose the latter strategy, build it and they will come. Who knew that “They” would end up being a cease and desist letter from lawyers? However, we are still working the latter model and it doesn’t matter if “they” come because YOU are here!

I believe we have built such a terrific community together that nothing else matters—seems like that’s a Metallica song for some reason.

Having a Beer

In the end, we said way back in 2006 that what our podcast embodies is the concept of two friends having a beer and talking about the sport they love. We think that’s one of our most appealing qualities.

As such, a true friend would ask you what name you like? What logo do you like? What content do you like? What do you think about this feature or that? We have several ideas on how to make 2018 even better. Paul and I were banging around several concepts. However, if some of you have platforms, ideas and concepts or ways to host chats or video platforms or other ideas you feel the community would like, let us know.

The End Game

Ultimately, we’re going to use the situation to build a new name, look and focus exclusively on our community. If others come and join us, that’s terrific! If they don’t, that’s fine too.

As we are all in this together, we would be incredibly grateful for your help in letting us know any niggles or RSS feeds that aren’t working or other granular details you notice. We also would be honored if you would spread the word when we make our official re-branding launch. We would also really appreciate your patience with us as we transition.

We will have a mailbag for your emails on things you’d like to tell us—questions you’d like to ask and we’ll have new features meant to be more interactive. It sounds ridiculous to say but in the end, it is a community for you, by you. We couldn’t do it without you and in fact, we’re banking on that very thing.

Liberty Media

I’ve no idea what Liberty Media’s thinking is on this but to be honest, maybe it is all for the best. We’ve lived in the penumbra of that naming issue for 13 years and in 2014 we lost that domain. I sort of knew this was coming but felt they would engage, not move apart. Regardless, they have their reasons and while I think they are wrong, that’s just my opinion. It is extremely disappointing for sure but it’s their right and that’s perfectly fine. I’ve no intention in getting into a name-calling war of words with them. They have much more important things to worry about than this.

It is, as they say, what it is and we move on. In some way, we’ve had this albatross around our neck for too long and with your help, I think we can actually make F1B even bigger and better. I took a weekend to find the energy, passion and will to do it all over again knowing what it will cost me personally and I am all in…how about you? Are you ready to help your community rebuild and be part of creating something even better? Something specifically for you? We hope so…in fact, we’re counting on it.

Ok, that’s all for now, I have to run…I have a lot of work to do, folks. Speak soon.