Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Meet the new mag, same as the old mag - A first look at GP International magazine

Published by Mr. C

I have no idea under what circumstances Hans Seeberg was replaced as editor of F1 Racing magazine back in May, but there's no question he is a man with unfinished business in Formula 1.

After the briefest of spells on the sidelines, Seeberg returns to the world of motorsport publishing this week as editor-in-chief of the brand new GP International - a magazine that is to all intents and purposes a carbon copy of the product he previously oversaw for publishers Haymarket.

From the opening salvo of twin-page photo spreads, to the upcoming race previews that close the product, every page turn leaves you questioning if you picked up entirely the wrong magazine from the newsstand.

You spin me round

GP International magazine cover

Formula 1 has been slow to adapt to modern means of consuming content, but apathy towards change is most obvious in the area of F1 magazines.

The portable tablet revolution kicked off with the announcement of the iPad in January 2010 and since then audience consumption of written media has rapidly been migrating from print to digital. Traditional print houses - laden with decades of investment in ink technology - have been incredibly slow to adapt to the changing needs of consumers, but a brand new magazine, created from scratch over two years after the iPad hit the shelves has no such excuse.

In this regard GP International does at least offer a digital edition of its first issue, but the reading experience is beyond dreadful, repeating every classic mistake that made-for-print magazines make over and over again.

Download a copy of the £3.99 November edition and the problems are as plain as day, which makes you wonder if anyone producing these digital editions ever takes time to read them in this format.

Hold a tablet in landscape mode and the the massive two page spreads fit nicely across the screen, but the tiny text is entirely illegible. Rotate to portrait and entire paragraphs become perceptible but this layout means you're only ever reading either the left or right half of a twin page story. For example, when holding upright, page 38 features a lovely shot of half of Mark Webber's head with the insightful text:

"Aussie The rejuvenation After a lacklustre 2011, a revitalised Mark Webber is again proving a match for his"

Makes perfect sense, right? Swipe to the next page and you can read:

"Grit of Mark Webber teammate. Tony Dodgins examines the resilience of F1's greatest fighter"

The whole process requires a nausea inducing amount of device rotation, zooming and panning to fit sentences on screen in a readable manner. And that's before the creators present the cardinal digi-mag sin of including half-arsed interactive video elements. Back in the 90's this magazine would have come bundled with an 'interactive CD-ROM' on the cover, you can just tell.

If the sole purpose of any magazine is to impart information, every instance of print-to-digital conversions are an unmitigated failure. GP International isn't alone in this regard, Racecar Engineering and Autosport are two alternate motorsport titles that suffer exactly the same problem, but GP International is the first one to start with a clean sheet, a chance to avoid those pitfalls its predecessors fell into. No-one in their right mind should be launching a brand new magazine today where digital consumption is a secondary priority.

Children of the revolution

At a time when the sport is struggling to attract a younger audience, does F1 really need another "upmarket, glossy magazine for serious F1 fans"? We live in a world of instant gratification, a world where teams, drivers and journalists provide near real-time access to the sport direct from the pitlane and paddock, what use is a product that's released four weeks after events have occurred?

I cannot fathom why this magazine was created. It doesn't appear to bring anything new to the table, the reading experience is below par and it's competing with the established F1 Racing.

Presumably Seeberg knows what he's doing, but right now, if you're looking to read motorsport content on your tablet or mobile device, GP+ and Motor Sport magazine are the only two products worth considering. Both offer a decent experience to the mobile reader, you can take them with you wherever you go and together represent the future of F1 coverage.

If you do insist on buying something from a magazine rack in paper form, buy F1 Racing, it's just better.