Andrew Maitland: I’m very proud of GMM’s network of sources

GMM is Andrew Maitland, Andrew Maitland is GMM. Now nearly two decades in the business, he remains a pariah of the Formula 1 news disseminating industry, dismissed even despised by some of the journo lifers that report about the circus.

This site has (on and off for the past decade) made use of GMM and the volume F1 news that they produce on a daily basis is extraordinary and essential for a site that prides itself in trying to cover every bit of news that F1 generates, but does not have the people power to produce this volume.

GMM is, to a certain extent, the Reuters, AP or AFP of F1 news. As these reputable agencies do, in this modern era of instant news and constant news, Maitland sources reports from his network of paddock contacts, as well as authoritative online websites, predominantly non-English, credits them accordingly and puts it out wire style to subscribers who pay for the service.

It’s an old school news agency business model.

In an effort to clear the air with regards to GMM’s history, it’s reputation and the future – we present a Q&A with editor and owner Andrew Maitland unplugged:

Interview with Andrew Maitland, GMM Editor

When and how did GMM begin?
AM: I fell in awe of F1 when I was about six – my Dad scored corporate tickets to the race in Adelaide in either 85 or 86. I was expecting to see fast cars, which I already loved, but what I actually witnessed blew my mind. I could not get it through my head that men were controlling these things, but I just knew that I had to do it one day.
I became utterly obsessed with the sport, idolising first Senna and then Schumacher – the best and most ruthless. I did some karting in my teens until I ran out of money. But in about 1999/2000 – when the internet took off – I spotted the opportunity to combine my talent for writing and storytelling with my passion for Formula 1.
As soon as I earned my first dollar (which was a long time coming), I became hooked on the idea that I might just be able to drop out of uni (which I hated) and write about F1 all day. GMM was born in 2001, when I was 21, and I’ve been full time ever since.

What is your process of story gathering, sourcing through to report writing?
Aha! My least favourite question. Do you ask a songwriter how they write a song? I’m joking (a bit). The honest answer is that I seem to be very good at sniffing out the information that is publicly available that other people seem to struggle to find for whatever reason!
But honestly, it’s actually just time and grit, great productivity, out-of-the-box thinking, a natural ability to tell a compelling news story, and lots and lots of practice. I know my reputation is probably my fault, but at the very least I actually work very hard – and at some point long ago, I forgave my 21-year-old self for all those times when he was a 21-year-old twat.
From March thru November, I always seem to be stuck in the middle of yet another long 19 day stretch of very long days – I work in a private office, away from my family, and typically work 9 till 7 – and I’m at my computer for basically all of that time minus an hour for training (I run and ride and have won triathlons). So no one can accuse me of not working hard! I devote a huge chunk of my life to my trade and to Formula 1.
As for the secrets of my sourcing: I’ll tell all to whoever buys GMM! But fundamentally, I discovered that a huge amount of information about Formula 1 was being published or otherwise disseminated every day, in every language, and I realised I could put it all together to tell stories in the form of a single feed of news that I could sell mainly to websites.
And a lot of the news that does not name a source comes directly from the paddock. But fundamentally, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of sources that have the potential to inform the GMM feed every day, and it’s not all just smacked on a website somewhere, waiting for me to find it.
I am very proud of GMM’s network of sources, and it is probably my best asset. A lot of those sources are the people who write and work in Formula 1. The rest is just hard work, good editing, and good story-telling. Formula 1 is a very interesting story to tell.

How many clients do you service monthly? Big names? How has the ‘market’ been over the years?
AM: This is something else that I keep pretty close to my chest, but over the years I have always had between 20 and 50 clients – and it’s still somewhere in that range. And yes, some of them are big names who are now very loyal to GMM – and I don’t take that for granted.
The market was a real feast back in the early days, when every man and his dog seemed to have a website and a way to pay for it. We all know the ways in which the internet market has changed fundamentally over that time, and in the past few years in particular it has become extremely challenging for everyone to compete with the You-Know-Who [Motorsport] Network.
Although affiliated with that network 5 or 6 years ago, I am proud to now be fiercely independent, providing an alternative news view that I believe would be sorely missed if it ever slipped away. To answer your question directly, the market is more challenging than ever, but I’m still here, because I still have something to offer.

Why do F1 journos despise GMM?
AM: Ha! After all these years, it’s no longer impossible to be offended by that question. In fact, I really love it when a well-known journalist goes on a rant, and I always make sure to thank them for the publicity! But it’s not just journos.
At least one team boss blocks me on Twitter, but I just assume he’s jealous of my much smaller belly. Plenty of press officers dislike me too, and I have had some problems with some of the big names of F1. One hilarious rebuke, by a certain 89-year-old with a Beatle mop, is framed on my wall.
As I suggested above, no 21-year-old is perfect, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I admit it: I wasn’t always exactly overly polite or deferent when I engaged with some of these guys. In my defence, a lot of the ‘journalists’ in F1 are assholes. But now, in 2019?
I think reputations tend to hang around, even when there is no longer any genuine justification for it. Whatever. I guess I’m a bit like Trump – a lot of people hate him but few of them can actually articulate a reasonable criticism other than the fact that he doesn’t always play the game or bow down and lick feet.
And when there was criticism, in a fair world there is normally a right of reply – and I’ve kept my head low. So there is probably a lot of bullshit that is said and thought and written about me.
Then it just perpetuates. So be it. It’s also a hugely competitive market, so if I’m able to work with big names in publishing without being able to defend myself in the paddock, there is scope for competitors to gang up and try to get rid of a rival. There’s been plenty of that. And there have been many determined efforts to kill me – most of them highly cynical.
The thing that has always kept me fairly solid is that people like reading the news. Whether they say they like it or not, they certainly inform themselves by reading it. That much is obvious. So a lot of it is just noise, probably in many instances fuelled by jealousy or survival. Some people just can’t handle my personality.

Why do F1 fans have a bad impression of GMM?
AM: Yeah, the more I consider this question, and the previous one, the more it irritates me. The fans may have a bad impression, but they clearly read the news – and you don’t read a news source if you don’t want to know what they have to tell you. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.
So it pisses me off when people use GMM as one of their sources for knowing about what’s going on, and in the next breath, they’re saying it’s crap. So I tend to listen to my clients because people don’t pay for something that doesn’t represent value.
As I said, I was originally a 21-year-old fumbling my way into this world, and now I’m a 40-year-old, and the service has developed as I have. GMM is me, so while flawed when I was young, it is now more mature and measured. All I want is to accurately give Formula 1 fans just like me the kind of news that I would want to read myself, and those most interesting of waters are usually pretty murky.
I think it’s so important that a plurality of voices exist in the media, but increasingly it is becoming a monopoly. And a pretty boring one at that. But F1 is exciting, fun, shady and scandalous. Big money and big egos are involved and everything is at stake. And I’m determined to not be bowed by the pressure to be just like everybody else and offer up a version of the truth that pleases everyone. Because that’s not the truth.
Years ago, I got into a lot of trouble (oh, I could drop some names!) for fearlessly reporting about Michael Schumacher in the wake of his skiing crash. Little was known, journalists were treading very carefully, and I made sure that what was known or was being whispered made it to the eyes of his fans.
As I said in the first question, I love and idolised that man, and yet I found myself having to fend off accusations of sensationalism and heartlessness.
What I was actually doing was trying (not always perfectly, sure) to let people know what was going on in a very high-profile case with almost no official disclosure and mountains of rumours – many of which were probably upsetting for many, including his family.
That sums me up: I’m not going to be intimidated or diluted, and often I have to take some pain because of that. And I will continue to operate in the same way. But I have definitely matured, and so has GMM.

What would you say to a new client about your service?
AM: I’m not much of a salesman – in fact, I’ve hardly ever done any marketing. The news seems to sell itself. Personally, I think it’s fairly obvious that my feed is a no-bullshit, cut-to-the-chase, “what’s really going on that the people involved don’t really want to tell me?”, “is there another side to this story?” type of version of the truth.
In short, the official, diplomatic version of every story doesn’t necessarily get you a free espresso in the Ferrari motorhome – and that’s fine with me because I have my own coffee machine right here. But let me put it this way: you don’t survive as a news source for almost 20 years if the vast majority of the declarations, predictions, rumours and the like don’t turn out to have been spot on, or very close to the money.
So that’s what I say to a new client – get ready for the truth because it’s not always what you’ll read on the mainstream site whose editor high-fives the F1 team press officers on the way into the paddock. But your readers will thank you for it.
The truth can hurt, so my clients understand that there is a big market of fans who are pretty thirsty for it – warts and all. Some people in this industry serve themselves. I try to inform the readers. God knows what happened to real journalism, but a good one should be a servant of the truth.

What do you say to those who believe you are up to no good?
AM: To those people, I could easily say something ruder, but I’ll just say you’re wrong. I really love this sport, even though I am highly critical of it, and I love the pursuit of truth just as much. I have no desire to mislead people – it’s the complete 100% opposite.
I actually don’t even understand the arguments of those who think there’s something nefarious afoot. I’m not that smart or sinister. I really do want to hammer the point that if you’re engaged in a weird and wonderful media world like Formula 1 and you intend to be fearlessly independent, there are going to be forces who want you to shut up so they can go back to the insider boys clubs of the past.
Well, keep trying, guys. I’m sticking to my guns and my values and I’m going to let my product do the talking. As I always have. I deserve to write about Formula 1 just as much as you do.

Plans for the future?
AM: I’m not going anywhere. GMM has had its ups and downs, but what I do is powered by my passion – and no one can kill that. In the immediate future, I am going to start writing exclusive columns for GRANDPRIX247 – and I’m quite sure they will drive some people absolutely nuts. Trigger warning.

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