Posted 30 January 2005 - 16:15
I thought I'd leave it a few months before I offered another opinion on the redesign, as first impressions can often be misleading. My overriding thought, however, is that this represents a backwards step. I have now re-read several times Paul Fearnly's defence of the change of masthead colour from BRG to red, and he seems to be saying that a new colour was forced upon the magazine by commercial realities.
Perhaps Haymarket simply has an overabundance of red ink to rid itself of, but the major commercial reality I find is that it now takes me much longer to actually find the mag on a crowded newstand than it ever did before. Why? Simply, the green colour marked it out from all the other magazines (Autosport, F1 Racing, Auto Express, Motor Racing News, etc) with their red covers. Far from making it more eye-catching, the new cover dooms Motor Sport to obscurity.
That said, a cover is just a cover, and 'content is king'. Yes, it may take some time to find, but if the product is worth it, you will go to the effort of doing so. For my money, the 'historic' relaunch of Motor Sport back in '96 (or was it '97?) was long-overdue. There was a gap in the market for a high quality magazine about motor racing history, and Motor Sport at the time was trying to hard to be all things to all men - and doing it a lot less successfully than either Autosport or Motor Racing News. For a few years after the re-launch, content was indeed king and I would spend hours reading Motor Sport from cover to cover. Now, sadly, I seem to spend less and less time on it each month, preferring instead to browse briefly through. In short, while there are still fabulous articles on its pages, they are propped up with what I would term vapid dross (top 20 lists etc) which are simply a turn-off, and lazy journalism to boot.
Getting back to Fearnley's October editorial, the most startling element of this new 'commercial reality' seems to be the admission that it was "time to move forward" and that a fairly fundamental change in the editorial direction was in the offing; something confirmed by the January editorial, where Haymarket seems to be desperately casting the net wide for a new editor to "steer the magazine deep into the new century". Nice to see that standards are set high, with a requirement to spell 'of' correctly apparently high on the list (but what about Offenhauser or von Brauchitsch?).
It greatly worries me that the future will bring about a further dumbing down which will finally result in my deciding that there really is no reason to buy Motor Sport any longer. At the moment things are finely balanced, with just about enough in each issue to hold my interest (but less so than in previous years). Tipping the scales will not take much however: looking back through my magazine pile I realise I inadvertantly failed to buy the December issue, but until now hadn't even noticed. That would have been totally unthinkable in the past.