From The Editor — November 2004: The 500lb gorilla on T&FN’s back: how can we remain relevant in today’s Internet world?

TRACK & FIELD NEWS IS AT A CROSSROADS. And we’re not alone in standing at this fork in the freeway: just about everybody who is in the ink-and-paper business is fighting the same battle. How do you provide content that is meaningful enough that people are willing to actually buy it in an age where so much of everyone’s needs is fulfilled for free on the Internet? How does one remain relevant? Particularly when you have the word “news” in your title.

My favorite computer magazine recently wrote, “The Internet has changed everyone’s view of what timeliness really means. In the old days, Macworld could be on top of things if new Apple products appeared in these pages within a few weeks of their release. In 2004, even a week’s delay means we’re an entire week behind the information that readers can find online.”

Their solution was an obvious one: make sure that breaking news is covered on one of their websites. And then the print version provides in-depth detail that is somewhat timeless in nature. T&FN has been attempting to do the same thing. Indeed, we have even gone a step farther. Not only do we provide news on current events on our website, we actively e-mail—free—to all subscribers major meet results on a weekly basis. And pre-Athens we e-mailed the most complete Olympic Preview ever. To those who signed up.

There’s the key phrase: those who signed up. Even though we know that almost all you subscribers have Internet access in some form, a surprising number of you have chosen not to sign up, for various reasons. So you don’t get the results every week. You don’t see the weekly updates on the yearly lists. You didn’t see the full-blown Olympic Preview, one that knew exactly who was in and out of the Games.

But as indicated by the lead letter to the editor this month (see p. 53), you’re mad as hell. We feel your pain, and we sincerely apologize for not doing more to explain to you how we must do business in a modern world. But the bottom line is this: people who have been brought up in an Internet world are not going to spend money subscribing to a magazine that to them seems full of ancient results and lists that they already saw a month earlier. And without new subscribers, T&FN cannot stay in business.

So we will—we must—continue to tweak the magazine’s content so it has true staying power. We want new people to enjoy the T&FN experience as much as all you true-blue longtimers have. And we want you to be able to continue to enjoy us.

In the beginning, it was easy for T&FN readers to exist in a parallel universe where track was something that was enjoyed on a delayed basis. If you’ve done it for years, you find it easy to continue so-doing. Fewer and fewer people are willing to embrace the sport in that fashion, so it behooves us to provide a product they will embrace.

To some longtime readers, that apparently means an inferior product. But, while taking care to heed your complaints, we will vociferously argue that our offerings taken as a whole have never been better, particularly if you embrace the print & electron combination. With fewer lists and small-type results in the magazine, the space is going to deeper investigations of subjects you haven’t seen in the past. The lists? They’re better than ever. Instead of seeing a 10-deep list once a month with no marks newer than a couple of weeks old, you now get a 40-deep list on a weekly basis, with the preceding weekend included.

We’ve added all the e-world material at no rise in the subscription rate. T&FN still costs the same as it did four long years ago: how many products of any kind can you say that about? Please stick with us as we perform the magic feat of travelling two roads at once.