I began Historic Racer in 2013. At the time, I was in full on motorsport instructor mode, contributing to various automotive editorial titles and designing digital marketing ideas for other people. I knew that the genre of classic and historic car racing was increasingly buoyant, with investment pouring in from both individuals and trust funds.
Historic Racer was an itch I wanted to scratch. What made me start it?
Quite simply, I don’t often read other writer’s automotive output. I felt, and still do, that far too many have slipped into a semi-automatic mode of simply taking facts or press releases and adding enough superlatives to turn it into a story. Nobody seemed to be passionate enough to take the Mel Nichols’ route of wanting to put the reader into the passenger seat alongside the driver and give a true, authentic feel for what it felt like, what it sounded like, what it smelled like.
It was the way I loved to write automotive features and Mel Nicholls will forever be my inspiration for that genre. However, many of the stories I was inspired to write didn’t find an outlet. For a variety of reasons which included editorial policy, the wrong story at the wrong time, they simply didn’t make it to publication and payment.
So, I figured that if I liked the story, then out there someone else probably did too. In fact that became the main pitch of Historic Racer.
‘Writing passionately about the cars we care about. We know you feel the same way too’.
And I was correct, there were indeed many favourable comments.
However I was doing it for the wrong reasons. Here are the main driving reasons behind Historic racer and why they were the wrong ones.
I owned the domain name – for a while I was a domain name magpie. I would think of possible domain names, then if they were available, I would be compelled to buy them. Only a few dollars, right? And I just know that someday, somehow, I will start a blog on that very subject and it will make loads of money.
I was pre-occupied with the money. As a freelance, you’re acutely aware that you are a hired gun, you turn up, do your thing, hopefully get paid and leave. I desperately wished to break out of the boom and bust of freelance work and build my own brand.
The problem was, as per my comment above on domain names, I was thinking too much of how to make money from Historic Racer. I knew that the whole historic motorsport industry was immensely profitable. Driven by record low interest rates that give poor savings returns, there had developed a hysteria of people with funds to invest to put the money into classic and historic racing cars.
Surely, I could find a way to step in front of some of that money and crate a successful business for myself.
So if everyone loved the content and the audience was slowly rising, what was the problem? There was one critical thing I wasn’t considering.
Historic Racer was in the ‘magazine’ genre.
That means that my first principle of website content – of creating timeless content – was being broken right away. For sure, some features, such as the Ferrari 288 GTO and the story of being caught speeding in France, were indeed timeless.
However, I began to realise that the readers that I did have were expecting race reports after a busy weekend. And the latest auction reports from the big classic car auction events. And lots of other news-type articles.
This was breaking my second rule of wishing to have the true freedom of online working. This was not what I wanted. And also, other websites were doing a very good job of that already. They already had large editorial teams, large audiences and an established authority.
That didn’t mean I couldn’t do it. But it wasn’t what I wanted. It was always going to be a hungry mouth to feed. And monetising it was going to be hard.
Essentially, I was replacing one client with another – I was replacing paid client work with he demanding client that was Historic Racer. I didn’t know what to do.
I have Yaro Starak to thank for inspiring me to make the tough call.
I was at a loss to figure out a way forward and subliminally, perhaps two things were beginning to happen.
Firstly, I realised that there was a lot of travel needed to create the quality of content I wanted to achieve.
And secondly, I began to realise that this direction wasn’t what I wanted. I was exchanging one tying commitment for another.
During a coaching call online with Yaro, he asked some very simple, forthright questions that started a discussion that articulated perfectly what I was thinking sub consciously.
- That the magazine model is always going to require an insane amount of content and a huge amount of traffic to be successful financially
- That the ’niche’ business model, which I actually already had right here in my blog, was a far better idea.
Yaro pointed out some really simple things that were so blindingly obvious, it was a facepalm moment online with him.
I have considerable expertise and experience in writing, photography and digital marketing. Why on earth wasn’t I writing about that?
And that I really ought to be considering how I can help people with problems that I already had solutions to. These were timeless subjects, the perfect type of content that fitted my ‘write once, use multiple times’ philosophy.
This was twelve months ago and soon after, I stopped adding content to Historic Racer. And last month, I migrated the content over to my blog right here, turned off the domain name and set a 301 redirect for the entire website.
So if you miss Historic Racer, then blame Yaro! He’s the one that inspired me to make the tough call and accept that firstly, it was always going to need insane amounts of content and secondly, it really wasn’t what I wanted to be doing.
So What Can I Show You From This?
Firstly, sometimes, you have to make a tough call. Historic Racer wasn’t what I wanted. I had started it without really, really thinking about what I wanted to achieve from it myself and instead, went down the Me Too route of thinking that if it was a success for others, then surely I could too.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, if there is a successful website in a niche you are wishing to enter, don’t be deterred. It proves that there is a market there.
Secondly, do your research and look carefully at the marketplace.
Thirdly, be sure that what they have is also what you want. I didn’t want to be feeding a growing monster of a website, chasing editorial teams for content, thinking about the next few weeks of what on earth I was going to create. My whole ethos online has always been to try and create timeless content that has long term value, added to monetisation strategies that enable my income to be independent of my location.
Fourth, if you are genuinely interested in starting a blog, or any kind of online business, get an expert opinion from someone who has been there and done it.
When you are all-consumed by an idea that all of your friends tell you is amazing and sure to work, it’s easy to jump in and waste time gong down a route that really isn’t going to bring you the results you may wish, no matter how much traffic you have or how popular the blog may be.
And finally this. So Historic Racer was a failure then?
No, not at all. I loved creating the content, it did indeed make some money and the content is still right here for anyone to read.
And I had to go through the process of exploring Historic Racer to progress in my learning and get to the point where I fully understood that, while this wasn’t what I really wanted, what remained was something that I really I DID want.