autowriters.com september 2007 newsletter


the road ahead
BLOGS ANYONE?

Blah, Blah, Blah and Blogs seem to go together.  Except when they don’t.  The difficulty is in identifying the ones worth reading, considering the number of blogs on the Internet.  There are now around 70 million, and they are expected to level out at 100 million (with some 200 million started, stopped and floating as cybertrash). 

Blogs can be just about anything one wants them to be according to John Matras who has started one on his www.Carbuzzard.com web site with the intent of encouraging conversations.  Wikipedia describes blogs as “opinion or commentary.”  John Gilbert, who has started blogging three times a week for the redone Mineapolis/St Paul Magazine website (www.mspmag.com ) says most blogs don’t rate being called commentary.  A veteran journalist, he finds himself in the bind of spending time doing a decent job according to his standards despite the low expectations for blogs in general.

John Dinkle, who writes the Carmudgen blog for www.WheelsTV.net is incensed by villains who use the opportunity to post replies as a way to promote themselves or their products.  Not uncommon and right along with that, Matras says, are web sites that put their name on art work furnished them by another source.  The good news is that there is a Media Bloggers Association striving to establish standards.

In the meantime, AWCom asks its readers to nominate the best automotive blogs.  You are welcome to nominate your own but hope you will add others along with a word or two why you consider them worth reading and rate them 1 to 5 (with 5 being best) on Content, Writing, Interaction, or other measure you have. They can be a Vlog, Slog, Clog, Tumblelog, Photolog, Artlog, Linklog, Corplog, Moblog, Aggreblog or other medium or type but the genre is automotive. Please submit your nomination(s) to talktous@autowriters.com and include links to your candidates.
 

new roads

Wooden Horse News reports: 0-60 is all about the performance and mechanics of high-speed cars.  Targeting "the true performance car nerd,"  the magazine covers technical information, driving techniques, used car buyer's guide, car and product reviews, history, road course profiles, and lifestyle editorials.  Brian Scotto is Editor-in-Chief of this quarterly magazine from Harris Publications, now on national newsstands.

Erik Sass reporting in Media Daily News says, “Consumer Reports is teaming with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to make 200 videos of crash tests for different vehicles available online, including a variety of cars, minivans, trucks and SUVs.  They're posting the free videos on the Consumer Reports Web site at www.ConsumerReports.org/crashtest.

On Wheels News Service provides ethnically specific automotive content free to some 800 newspapers for people of color. A big jump from the 50-some newspapers served by pioneer Henry Randall’s Negro News Service.  The only usage requirement is an “On Wheels News Service” credit line. . . . www.Hotswap.com, an Internet video concept of three young entrepreneurs, has attracted big-bucks backers Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, and Red McCombs, co-founder of Clear Channel Communications.  Hotswap’s technical innovation according to Reuters is converting everyday amateur footage into high-definition-like Internet video.  A boon to consumers selling or searching for cars online.

“Automakers seeking to score word-of-mouth momentum for new models or campaigns may want to target the online gaming population,” according to Tameka Kee in OnLine Media Daily.  She reports a study of online gamers shows that a third of them like to give advice on vehicles and two thirds of that advice centers on which make or model to buy. . . . Newslink writer Barbara Quint reports Attributor Corp., www.attributor.com offers to scan the Web for text, audio, video, and images belonging to its clients.  One way to catch pirates.

Also from OnLine Media Daily, magazines continue to add digital initiatives with new cyber forays up 137 percent for the second quarter over the like period in 2006. . . . Hachette and Brightcove (Internet TV producer) will partner to provide online video channels for the publisher's magazines. . . . Hearst Magazines now has its own digital social network with the acquisition of Kaboodle, Inc., a social shopping community where readers can find products featured in the magazines and trade comments with their friends. . . . The publication also reports, “Primedia Automotive Digital serving more than 60 automotive Web sites, has launched a free social networking feature, 'Readers' Rides' on 14 of its properties.”  Users can comment on and rate the vehicles of other community users, and also search and sort owner provided vehicle profiles based on popularity, rating, and number of comments and owners can post up to 20 photos.

Quoted in the Online Spin blog of MediaPost Productions, direct marketing expert Bob DeSena says:  “The days of marketing on the averages, talking to all consumers in the same way, with least-common denominator, messages tailored for mass appeal - - are over.  In the future, folks will focus instead on ‘marketing on the differences': talking to groups of consumers according to how they are different from other consumers.”  Which, along with the Internet’s “Long Tail,” may help account for the proliferation of single brand titles.  Yet another marketing chief foresees in a New York Times piece by Louise Story, “a global digital ad network that uses offshore labor to create thousands of versions of ads.  Then, using data about consumers and computer algorithms,  the network will decide which advertising message to show at which moment to every person who turns on a computer, cell phone or — eventually — a television.”  Can news, reviews and commentaries be far behind?
 

pit notes

Auto Writer Vince Bodiford disagrees with the list of “50 Worst Cars of All Time” proffered in Time Magazine recently by the L.A. Times’ Dan Neil.   In fact he disputes 35 of them and would welcome nominations for a list of really bad cars.  Send yours to Vince@theweekenddrive.com.  He can be seen on the web at http://www.myspace.com/theweekenddrive.  At the other extreme, the black-tie gala celebrating the top ten cars in the 2008 International Car of The Year Awards will be held in the Motor City’s latest pleasure dome, the MGM Grand Detroit Hotel, January 12.

Josh Max’s original 10 articles per month for the Your Drive section of the NY Daily News has grown to five articles per week.  That cuts down his press trips but opens up the section to “aftermarket equipment, consumer-oriented gadgets, excerpts from new books, and a full page of pictures of new products.”  Send materials to JMaxRoadTest@aol.com  . . . Russ Dodge, Automotive Columnist for the Cumberland (NJ) Reminder reports construction has begun on New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville.  NJMP, when completed in June 2008, will consist of two full road courses (1.9 miles and 2.25 miles), as well as a three-quarter mile oval and an off-road course.  There will be a karting course within the 1.9-mile road course.  Hotels, villas and automotive education facilities are planned for the venue adjacent to the Millville Airport.

Joe Oldham did not respond when AWCom sent him Marty Schorr’s correction as to the provenance of most of the road tests and evaluations in Oldham’s new book, Muscle Car Confidential.  Schorr says they first appeared in Cars Magazine, not Performance Car Magazine.  He should know as he edited the publication from 1960-1973. Although, he concedes that at one point “Hi-Performance” did run over the Cars logo.

Former Sports Illustrated writer Sam Moses is promoting the paperback edition of his book Fast Guys, Rich Guys and Idiots by competing in various auto races and signing copies of the book which The Wall Street Journal Book Review named one of the five best books ever written about motorsports.  If you can’t wait for Sam to appear at a track near you, send $21.95 plus $4.60 for priority mail shipping to Senor Madre Press, P.O. Box #5, Hood River, Oregon 97031 and he will send you a signed copy. . . . Ben Haber of the www.racepointgroup.com  e-mails that a new web site, www.earthcars.com lets people research environmentally friendly vehicles.  He says Mark Bonfigli, CEO of www.dealer.com  created it as a personal mission to help the environment. 

While statistics evaluating subjective matters are naturally suspect,  AWCom always is pleased to report that do-good PR does good.  Advertising Age reports that consideration of Honda is up 33 per cent among Southern California car shoppers halfway through a $30 million marketing campaign that includes organized community good deeds by the brand's dealer sales persons. And, their dealer ratings by consumers were improved for being "informative",  "trustworthy" and "not intimidating".  Wrap-around ads painted on personal cars now bring up to $800 a month according to the New York Times while banana leaves were used by Toyota for a car ad inserted in a popular Columbian magazine.

Motorsports fans and nostalgia buffs will enjoy veteran motorsports writer Johnny McDonald’s book San Diego Motorsports 100 Racing Years.  There are over 450 pictures covering the early days of Barney Oldfield and Bob Burman, Torrey Pines sports cars, Balboa Stadium's midgets and modifieds up to local driver Jimmie Johnson's 2006 victory at Daytona.  He has only 350 copies left and will sell them at a reduced $20 each plus $5 handling. Contact him at: johnny23@cox.net or telephone 619-583-0432. . . . Ricardo Rodriguez-Long, Editor of the Spanish language Auto A Fondo, is the “Ricardo” on Michelin North America’s “Ask Ricardo” web site and is Uniroyal’s Hispanic marketing spokesman.

To find out about manufacturer issued recalls on a vehicle, check out www.nhtsa.gov  or www.autorecalls.org.
 

autowriters spotlight
Photo: John McElroy

John McElroy who this month celebrates 10 years of hosting the “AutoLine Detroit” TV Show has been enthralled with the who, what, why and how of the automotive industry since touring his first auto plant at age 6. 

As a young man he read all the books on cars and the industry he could get his hands on and later became a UAW hourly worker to help pay his way through college.  He also ventured, briefly,  into amateur auto racing.  That background helped him get a start as an auto writer after graduating Wayne State University with a degree in English.  He was the Detroit Editor for Road and Track for five years but most of his early writing career was spent at Automotive Industries where he rose through the chairs to Editorial Director.

While that publication has since folded, John continues to provide its combination of news and insight, broadcasting five one-minute “Automotive Insights” daily on WWJ Newsradio, the CBS affiliate there,  as well as co-producing the TV show that runs nationally on the Speed Channel at 10.a.m. on Sundays and locally, a half hour later on Public Television station WTVS, channel 56. 

The half-hour show features automotive journalists from national news outlets discussing key industry topics and interviewing auto industry executives and experts.  A "Who’s Who" of industry execs have appeared on the show.  New vehicle reviews round out the half-hour program that also can be seen on www.autolinedetroit.tv

McElroy also writes a monthly column for Ward’s AutoWorld.  Over the years his Autoline Team has won numerous awards for excellence in journalism, including the Detroit Press Club’s International Wheel Award in the television documentary category for its film on the “Woodward Dream Cruise” in 2004,  in 2005 for ”Challenge Bibendum “ and second place in 2006 for “A Car Is Born”.   A frequent guest expert on national news shows, McElroy has won numerous awards for his editorials and reporting.
 

lane changes

Cars.Com Managing Editor Patrick Olsen was quick to notify AWcom that one of the side roads that semi-retired former Chicago Tribune Auto Editor Jim Mateja will be traveling is freelancing for that web site’s blog. . . . Chicagoan Gary Taylor advises that he is resuming production of his TestDrive TV episodes this fall but switching to sunny Southern California to do so.

Rob Douthit reports the Altanta Journal-Constitution auto pages have returned to his care after a brief sojourn in the paper’s features department.  This follows the paper’s reorganization to accommodate the digital age.  He says the staff is now divided into four sections: two that provide the content, Enterprise and News , and two that process it,  Print and Digital.  Douthit edits the AJC Cars Friday and Saturday print sections.  Digital, for the time being, picks up from print and wires.  The paper’s marketing-produced car sections no longer exist, he reports. Clint Williams, Douthit’s most recent predecessor, is now in the paper’s Cobb County bureau but will review cars.

Barry Toepke former L.A. Auto Show PR honcho, is now Director of Global Communications for RWB, a West Coast marketing communication agency that specializes in high performance automotive, aftermarket and motorsports.  RWB clients include: Dow Automotive, Lexus Motorsports, Toyota Motor Sales and Ford Racing. . . . Brendan Flynn succeeds Toepke as Director of Communications for the L. A.  Auto Show. 

Veteran freelancer Peter D. duPre has added Editor-In-Chief of the independent bi-monthly MINI magazine, MC2, to his portfolio.  Former editor Gary Anderson will remain as Editor-at-Large.

Multi-tasking Al Vinikour has added an auto column for Chic-Auto a new high-end glossy insert in the Chicago Sun-Times and Pioneer Press Newspapers. . . . Dave Muramoto moves from Sr. Editor to Editor-In-Chief of Nissan SportDave Ochenreider, former Editor-In-Chief of the quarterly magazine for Nissan, Infinity and Datsun enthusiasts, moves to publisher.  Muramoto continues as Rocky Mountain Division columnist for Sports Car Magazine.

Robert Breazeale is now the Auto Editor at the Greenville (SC) News. . . . The Detroit office for On Wheels, Inc. has moved to the Penobscot Building and its home office to Bowie, MD.  . . .  After 14 years at Motor Trend photographer and feature writer John Kiewicz has moved to Acura PR at American Honda in Torrance, California. . . . Jere Downs succeeded Robert Schoenberger as the Labor and Auto Industry writer at the Lousiville Courier Journal, Schoenberger having moved on to the same duties at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Scott Jamisen, Assoc. Business Editor at the Charlotte Observer, has the auto beat there until a replacement for Carol Smith is found.  . . . After a lengthy tour in Japan for Automotive News, Jim Treece has returned to the paper’s Detroit headquarters as Industry Editor.

Newsday Business Editor Ben Weller, like others at the newspaper these days,  is doubling up assignments and now also edits the paper’s “Wheels”section formerly steered by Warren Berry. . . . Brandy Schaffels says she has been missing mail so important stuff should be sent to her at: P.O. Box 572841 Tarzana, CA 91357.  . . . Tina Van Curen and Chuck Forward now own and operate Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California, while former manager Doug Stokes has moved on to Banks Power in Azusa as Corporate Publicist.  Banks Power is an engineering firm that designs, constructs and tests high-performance equipment and special project vehicles featuring cutting-edge diesel and gasoline development and multiple high horsepower turbo applications.

Angela Coletti, formerly with Nissan PR in the Midwest, is headed to a marketing post in California with GM and Nick Twork has departed Ford for GM where he will be working with former journalist Jack Keebler. . . . After earning a master's degree in mass communication in Florida, freelancer Brett Becker has moved back to Ventura, Calif., where he is writing and shooting on a freelance basis, and working on a book about the car buying process. . . . Eric Adams advises that while his post as a Sr. Editor at Rodale’s Men’s Health doesn’t include auto writing, he has launched an auto blog and will freelance reviews.
 

talk back

Steve Parker writes: " Re:  'getting a website highly ranked' - the ‘secret’ to website popularity are the ‘meta-tags’.   These are the words which the website ranking ‘spiders’ use in determining site ratings.  What they are and where they go (and how often) are all parts of the ‘secret’.  Anyone wanting or needing help with website ranking, drop us a line at sparker@dc.rr.com.  We can give you some pointers.”

John Matras, Chief Buzzard of www.CarBuzzard.com  notes high rankings don’t necessarily equate with value.  He says: ”There's a lot of dreadful writing on highly ranked sites and, in the case of automotive reviews, there are some that are nothing more than recitations of features with no opinion, or subjectivity if you will, which is comparable to writing a theater review with nothing more than a retelling of the plot.  Opinion, please. Carbuzzard.com is about to hit 20,000 linked car reviews--and we hand-select every one and only link genuine reviews--and I've seen the full range of talent.   I don't claim to be the most talented writer, but I do know good writing when I see it. Obviously Google hasn't a clue.”

In response to our query about health insurance we received some suggestions for affordable coverage.  Andy Schupack of Kermish-Geylin Public Relations recalled that in his freelancing years when he had small children to be concerned about, he found the local chamber of commerce offered a good plan with competitive rates.  He notes that AAA offers health insurance and for those over 50, AARP has good rates.  Other possibilities suggested were professional organizations for those who qualify such as: Authors Guild, ASJA and “The Entertainment Industry Group Insurance Trust, Teigit, (available in only a few states where the entertainment industry is strong).  PR operative Laura Oliveto also has some sources for health insurance. She can be reached at:  laurao1787@sbcglobal.net.
 

awards, honors and events

AutoPacific’s Annual Ideal Vehicle Awards:

     Most Ideal Premium Brand - Lincoln
     Most Ideal Mainstream Brand - Mercury
     Most Ideal Car (overall) - Mercedes S-Class
     Most Ideal Truck (overall) - Nissan Titan

Urban Wheel Awards Nominations Now Open: www.urbanwheelaward.com
 

SEPTEMBER
18-20 Automotive Industry Restructuring Finance Summit, Hyatt Regency, Dearborn, Mich.
19 Groundbreaking Ceremony, Thunderbolt Raceway, New Jersey Motorsports Park 5:00 p.m., Millville, NJ
19 WAPA , NHTSA, Noon, National Press Club
OCTOBER
2 MPG Luncheon, Dieselmax Land Speed program, Luncheon, L.A.
3-5 NWAPA “Mudfest” SUV Event, Portland, OR
5 MAMA Fall Rally, Volo Auto Museum (North of Chicago)
9 APA/NADA Luncheon, Detroit, MI
9 NEMPA/SEMA Dinner, Boston, MA
10 WAJ Dinner, South San Francisco, CA
13 MPG Power Trip long Beach to Toyota Auto Museum, Torrance, CA
16 APA/Consumer Reports Luncheon, Detroit, MI
16 Automotive Hall of Fame Annual Induction & Awards Night, Dearborn, MI
25-28 TAWA’s 2007 Truck Rodeo Grapevine Texas
motoring press organizations

The 14 regional automotive press associations provide information and background not easily found elsewhere.  If they are too distant to attend their meetings, belonging usually gives you access to transcripts or reports of these events and other benefits.

Contacts

APA Automotive Press Association, Detroit - John Lippert, jlippert@bloomberg.net
IMPA International Motor Press Association, NYC, Fred Chieco, President - info@impa.org, www.impa.org
MAMA Midwest Automotive Media Association, Chicago - www.mamaonline.org
MPG Motor Press Guild, Los Angeles - www.motorpressguild.org
NEMPA New England Motor Press Association, Boston - www.nempa.org
NWAPA Northwest Automotive Press Association, Port Orchard, WA- www.nwapa.org
PAPA Phoenix Automotive Press Association, Phoenix, Cathy Droz, President- drozadgal@aol.com 
RMAP Rocky Mountain Automotive Press, Denver - vince@theweekenddrive.com
SAMA Southern Automotive Media Association, Miami FL, Ron Beasley, President, RonBeasley@SAMAonline.org
SEAMO Southeast Automotive Media Organization, Charlotte, NC www.southeastautomedia.org
TAWA Texas Auto Writers Association http://www.TexasAutoWriters.org, Harold Gunn, hgunn@gunstuff.com 
TWNA Truck Writers of North America, www.twna.org Tom Kelley, Executive Director, tom.kelley@deadlinefactory.com
WAJ   Western Automotive Journalists, San Francisco  - www.waj.org, Michael Coates, president, coateskm@aol.com
WAPA Washington Automotive Press Association, D.C., Kimatni Rawlins, President - www.washautopress.org
 
- 30-

Glenn

Glenn F. Campbell
Principal
autowriters.com

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