A couple of Sundays ago, Jonathan Rea won his fifth straight superbike title at the French round, and we dutifully reported the news on the Monday morning. “Jonathan Rea wins fifth straight World Superbike title,” read the headline, with a photo of a happy Rea on the podium.
This didn’t go down well with reader Geoff James, who saw the story on FaceBook.
“ !@#% spoilers. Goodbye CMG,” wrote James, and then followed it up. “We live in the age of video on demand and dvrs… Those that watch the races don’t need the media to tell them the results, and spoiling the championship DOES spoil the race, in part if not in full. There is such a thing as ‘live championship’ standings during the race as well. Unfollowed.”
He’s got a point. Another reader, Tim, sent us a similar comment. “Can you guys please put spoiler alerts or remove the race winner from the home page title of an article? Nothing worse than reading the morning news and seeing who won before we get to watch the recorded race. Autoblog is the worst for this and now we are seeing it here. Please make it so you have to click through to the article to see who won so we all can still enjoy our recorded races and then come back and read the article. ”
We haven’t changed the way we do things or report racing news, but none of us like spoilers – not for movies or TV shows or sports games, and especially not for bike races. So we took this feedback seriously.
Last weekend, when Marc Marquez scored enough points at the Thai MotoGP race that he clinched the championship (as Rea had done), we considered holding back the news until most people would have had a chance to watch the recorded race. We don’t want to spoil anybody’s suspense for the race, but we also don’t want to ignore it, so we chose instead to not give anything away in the headline, and to run a spoiler alert alongside.
We ran a headline that soft-shoed the result: “Epic race for Marc Marquez at Buriram,” and we wrote a description that said “Spoiler alert! Here’s what happened at Sunday’s Thai MotoGP.” We also ran a stock photo of Marquez on his bike from an earlier race – not the podium shot.
Reader Bruce R was not impressed with our effort. “The ‘Spoiler Alert’ is a little too late given the title don’t you think?” he wrote in the comments. Well no, I didn’t think so – just because Marquez rode an “epic race” doesn’t mean he won, but it seems it just wasn’t subtle enough. So we’ve cried uncle on the whole thing.
“You know, we just can’t win with the spoiler alerts,” I wrote in the comments as a reply to Bruce R. “We thought about holding this story back until everyone had seen the race on PVR, but that would be a bit pointless, especially since the results are already reported openly elsewhere. We thought about just coming out and stating what happened in the headline, like the good old days of sandwich boards and newspaper hawkers, but in the end, we went with an innocuous headline that didn’t give away any details. And it seems we still can’t win. So from now, we’ll forget the spoiler alerts. if you haven’t watched the race and don’t want to know the results, don’t turn on any screens. You’ve been warned!”
Zac agrees with me on this. “Why should the rest of the world go around on tiptoes because somebody can’t be bothered to watch a race?” he said.
These days, spoilers are everywhere. Our phones tell us news, with sports and election results, as immediate alerts through the day. They have to be deactivated to stay mum on information we don’t want to know. However, the nature of the web is that many people find our news from Google searches, and those searches don’t work if the headlines don’t include key words. I thought we’d gotten around that with the “epic race” headline, but apparently not.
So this is where we’re at. From now on, if you don’t want to know the race results, don’t go looking at Canada Moto Guide until you’re ready to find out, and stay away from FaceBook and Twitter. Just don’t wait too long, because the news is going to get out sooner rather than later.
Ultimately, we’re accepting that we can’t please everyone so we’re just trying to do the best job for the most number of people. Do you agree with this policy? Let us know in the comments below.