Is F1 more Beatles, Zeppelin or Glee?

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Instagram once sold for $1 billion and Spotify is valued at approximately $1 billion. Survey Monkey is also valued at $1 billion while Pinterest boasts a value of over $1 billion. Sure, they have little to do with Formula 1 but then Formula 1 has little to do with many one billion-dollar companies based on superior user experience (UX) and product/service offerings.

If you’ve used Spotify, you’re most likely familiar with its UX and what the graphic interface allows you to do. You can search for content, create playlists and share your music addiction with the world via social media. Can’t do that with Formula 1—well, you can but only if you visit team websites, follow them on Twitter and Facebook and stalk their drivers hitting the re-tweet button. The occasional visit to their sponsors garners content dripping with marketing verbiage, images and brand logos that you’d like positively silly sharing that across your 3,000 of your friend’s timelines.

Formula 1 is a billion-dollar company (actually more than that but you get my point). It’s a business and as a business, it has more than just races—and the logistics of executing those races—to sell. It has massive content with galactic value and they know it.

Consider Spotify again. Led Zeppelin isn’t on Spotify and that saddens me—and you even if you don’t know it—to no end. Who doesn’t ache to hear the Rain Song once it a while? Rolling Stone lists Led Zeppelin as the 14th greatest band of all time. Why stop there? The band listed as the greatest of all time is the Beatles and they aren’t on Spotify either.

Why aren’t they on Spotify? Simple really—they have content of galactic value as well and they know it. Formula 1 is the Beatles of motor sport. One can see the resemblance in F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s cool haircut—for the longest time I thought he was the 5th Beatle.

When we criticize Formula 1 for not being similar to Spotify, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or any other cultural moray that truly “gets it” and understands how to provide free, exhilarating UX based on cool apps and software that works on our 1st through 5th screen, we get a little edgy about it. In fact, we can get down right poopy about it.

We are, in some way, thinking of Formula 1 the wrong way…or are we? Before we trod off through the dark woods of my precept, it is important to suggest that Formula 1 is similar to the Beatles and Led Zeppelin in that they create content of galactic value (imagine all that footage of Senna, hunt, Prost, Fangio, Clark, Schumacher and Villeneuve they must have in the vault) but where my theory crumbles like grandma’s stale vanilla wafer cookies is that Formula 1 is not just the creator of the content but they have also chosen to be the delivery vehicle or backbone of the delivery of their content as well. They are Jimmy Page and Dick Costolo wrapped in one body (and no, I don’t think Dick knows that David Gilmour favors the Dorian scale with the Major 6th added along with a Major 2nd and I doubt he could play it but Jimmy does and can!).

So Formula 1 is the content creator and the content delivery vehicle and here is where some of our snarky, foul-mouthed criticism actually does stick to them when hurled from a brave distance. The problem is opening Pandora’s box. There isn’t a legal at CVC Capital (majority owner of F1) or Formula One Management (FOM) who wants to open that sucker up!

Once you put a slick UX-centric user interface app out there and start streaming your galactic-valued content, it’s gone. It’s lost its value as it has now been appropriated into the netherworld of the obtuse-minded user world where everything on the Internet is free right? A netherworld that once only housed Grendel and his severely pissed off mom. No, it’s probably best to just stay at home in Geats or take a day trip to Wulfings for a pint and a can of spam but back home before nightfall.

If I was Formula 1, and I clearly am not, I would think twice about offering a social media culture bomb gift wrapped in last year’s Pirelli Kevlar. However, where is the breaking point between those high-expectation Gen Y’s and the sport of Formula 1? How long will they continue to have an interest in buying Led Zeppelin CD’s or Formula 1 year review DVD’s? Heck, they can just watch football or listen to Arcade Fire on Spotify and get on with life.

Time, as we know, is the grand equalizer and it has erased many a soul from the planet as well as the most memorable of songs, video or events. Who can forget this gem? Nothing like seeing the first TV commercial to air and how delightful that it would be a watch company that has graced the helmet of F1 driver Nelson Piquet. That’s the point though isn’t it? We can go to YouTube and see the first commercial ever. Open Pandora’s box and you’ll see F1 content forever.

The Beatles eventually acquiesced and offered their catalog on iTunes and Zeppelin did too. Perhaps a content delivery system more like Apple’s would suffice? Perhaps Netflix would be a better example of how to deliver content? While that company is valued at $20 billion, I truly believe Formula 1 could beat the UX and user interface as Netflix sucks in the UX department and as a $20 billion company, they continue to poor-mouth users about not getting good movies for $8 month. Spare me.

I would like to offer that Formula 1 has a good role model in NBC, CBS or ABC networks here in the U.S. as they create content and distribute it. However, they are clinging desperately to an old school model that worked in 1987 but is falling on its face. They are demanding encryption on video and every cheap trick they know to not become video’s version of a Napster victim lying in a ditch bleeding to death and prompting Metallica to join them.

If Formula 1 avoided the typical Twitter, Facebook, Netflix YouTube penchant for being something and then trying to figure out how to really make lots of money from it, they could succeed. The problem with most social media is its desire to lock down the UX in order to harvest big data on the user in order to monetize the site. Formula 1 doesn’t need to do that. They already have the content and product, they just need s better UX.

In Formula 1’s effort to improve the UX, they’ve created DRS, HD tires and other silliness but perhaps the best way they could have spent that money is opening Pandora’s box in an intelligent, Apple sort of way. Perhaps they could have helped focused on delighting their customers by bringing them into F1’s life experience by sharing passions, insecurities, emotions and the thrill of racing with them. What do I know??!! I’m still trying to slay Grendel over here.

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