autowriters.com november 2007 newsletter


the road ahead

David Kaplan, writing for www.paidContent.org, reports a conversation with New York Times Company vice president of research and development Michael Zimbalist who sees the Times’ transforming from a media company to a technology services provider.   Zimbalist elaborated in Kaplan’s account: “Along with every other traditional media company, the Times has experienced this explosion in our competitive set.  Long ago, we just competed against other newspapers in New York and then we began to compete outside New York.  Then we began to compete with all news organizations over the web.  And now we are competing against companies that don’t even create original content, but aggregate it, from small start-ups to the biggest portals.”  (Forbes creates some but hardly all of the 3,000 business articles it posts per day).

Zimbalist goes on to say, " There’s no question that our competencies must move much further into technology because our competitive set now includes technology services companies.  He went on to say, “Technology companies have very short release cycles and then it’s version and version and version.  They follow the model of test, learn and adjust. . . . And that’s part of our Evolution”.

Speaking of evolution, if you find it difficult to communicate in a world of constantly divided attention, get used to it.  Seana Mulcahy, writing for Mediapost reports an www.emarketer.com  study says, “tweens and teens navigate from device to device with ease and are in constant communication.  You may think they cannot process information in such large quantity and with such speed but they can.” . . . Young males, the object of every auto marketers' seduction, want “transparency, personal expression, experience reinvention and connection”  in their internet experience according to a study by The Reach Group consultancy, as reported by Lynn Russo in OMMA’s MediaPost Publications.  “In addition, Reach Group’s Cheri Hanson, says “they like their information blended with entertainment. ”

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new roads

Full color videos in print may be in the future but lenticular magazine photos where the image shows depth or motion as the angle of viewing changes are already here.  Sounds right for auto magazines.  Mediaweek had a piece on this that also described E ink that could produce moving pictures in print. . . . From Wooden Horse News, Velocity is a new bi-monthly magazine for car buffs in Orange County, Calif., with information about muscle cars, hot rods and street rods, exotic autos, men's lifestyle, events, and profiles. It debuted with an October/November issue.  David Threshie is the publisher.

Big World Magazine is a forthcoming travel multimedia web magazine that is seeking submissions for a planned spring 2008 launch.  High-quality, edgy writing about place, strong photography, short video and evocative audio are all fair game. Unpaid, but will pay 50% of any syndication fees. Mary D'Ambrosio, a writer and journalism professor, is the editor and publisher. Big World is at 55 Washington Street, Suite 460, Brooklyn, NY 11201 Email queries and submissions to http://www.bigworldmagazine.com.

SELECTS is a single-topic pullout section packaged with PARADE in more than 400 newspapers nationally.  The first SELECTS appeared October 14 and reported on healthy homes.  The editorial team at PARADE is planning five more SELECTS for 2008, with automotive as one of the possible topics. . . Some of the titles at Source Interlink, including Motor Trend, may be on the market . . . Pursuits, a new glossy magazine from the Wall Street Journal, is scheduled to debut in September 2008.  It will be directed at the papers’ affluent audience. . . . Road &Travel Magazine has re-launched with an “edgy new completely redesigned web site with video and "Web 2.0 features” according to editor-in-chief Courtney Caldwell. It will also expand to a weekly release in 2008.

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road signs

In a story titled “The Iron Belt Wraps Around Domestic-Only Auto Owners”, Media Post’s Research Briefs reports that the top ranking markets for domestic-only brand owners are Detroit; Toledo, Ohio; Peoria, Ill.; Buffalo, NY; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Dayton, Ohio;  Akron, Ohio; St. Louis Mo.; Pittsburg, Pa. and Cleveland, Ohio.  The percentage of domestic-only owners in those markets ranges from 73.4% to 55.6%.  The study also revealed that nationally, 47.5% of truck owners have domestic-only brands and among owners 50 years of age or more, 42. 6% are in the domestic-only category, 12% higher than that of the average adult.  Media Audit released the 88-market study.

Twitter, so far the essence of brevity in online messaging, has added a new feature that allows anyone to track concepts in real time.  The instant anyone Twitters words or phrases you specify, you are alerted.  So far the favorite phrase is “overheard.” . . . . One media commentator complains of social networking fatigue,  for which he has coined the word ”socialnetworkitis” – too many, too much focused attention required, too involving to get in and out of quickly and other ills.  Max Kalehoff, also in Media Post, predicts that social networks will continue to grow in use and importance in our lives, but they will deliver value quicker and more directly as do search engines now. . . . Current TV pays $1,000 for viewer-created spots it uses and if it is picked up by an advertiser for wider use, the creator is paid  “$50,000. More information is available at www.Current.com.

While Hollywood writers are striking for a great share of the loot from Internet use of their work for other media, it seems writers being exploited by uncompensated publication of their work on the web are in danger of their work being further exploited when it gets there.  Arstechnica  http://arstechnica.com/index.ars reports a lobbying group is advocating for revised and updated copyright laws to make fair use of posted materials easier and publisher “takedown” suits punishable if shown to be without cause.

A Chevy Trailblazer equipped with GPS tracking system, dash-board mounted camera, cell-based wireless and a laptop, mobile router and special server is being used as a mobile newsroom by the Shelby Star in Cleveland County, North Carolina, where TV coverage is not all that good. . . .  Mediamark reports the median age and income of magazine readers has moved upwards over the last five years. The two related trends, Wooden Horse News notes, allow magazines to boast about an increasingly affluent audience, but also face the long-term challenge of recruiting younger readers to maintain their audience shares.

The Center For Media Research reports a recent survey by Deloitte's Consumer Products Group revealed consumers are turning to online reviews in large numbers, and those reviews are having a considerable impact on purchase decisions.  62 percent of consumers read consumer-written product reviews on the Internet, says the report, and of these, more than 8 in 10 say their purchase decisions have been directly influenced by the reviews, either influencing them to buy a different product than the one they had originally been thinking about purchasing, or confirming the original purchase intention.  While the percentages were slightly higher for the younger generations, all age groups are reading and acting on online reviews at significant rates, says the report.  And, the reach of consumer reviews isn't limited to the online world...seven in 10 of the consumers who read reviews share them with friends, family or colleagues, thus amplifying their impact.

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autowriters spotlight

Logically, the more ways to get information, the less value any one way would seem to have.  However, when it is the same “voice” that is read, seen or heard, they combine to make Mark Maynard, a recognized and trusted San Diego “brand” for auto information. 

Autowriters Spotlight: Mark Maynard

He has been auto editor for the Union-Tribune since 1992.  Before that he was Assistant Travel Editor for close to 10 years.  He became editor of the paper’s Wheels section, Mark recalls, “because I knew how to put out a section.  But I always felt -- and still do -- that automotive issues in Southern California were more important that a mere nine columns a week and pushed to build the section.  After a few years it became a real job.”

He began writing reviews in 1994 and has stuck to providing information rather than sensation.  Mark admits, “My sickness is that I have a hot spot for cars and I try to resist the red mist in my writing.  Instead, he says, “I try to tell a good story so even those who don't care about cars -- and there are some of those who read Wheels every week -- will find something worth turning the page for.” 

When the paper added a web site, he showed up there; when blogs became de rigueur, he started one and he responds thoughtfully in print to readers’ letters.   “I always tell them it is better to ask me about your vehicle choice before you buy than after”.  When there are opportunities to meet and speak before interested groups he takes them. “I enjoy getting out in public and talking with readers, even when it’s getting smacked upside the head.” 

He appears on TV frequently and recently he began Maynard’s Garage, a half hour Internet radio show for www.signonradio.com, part of the paper’s SignOnSanDiego web site.  However, he feels that all of his interaction with readers or listeners is “still just pumping fuel for the choir”- people already in the newspaper’s fold.  He says, "What newspapers need is to reach a younger audience" and points to his son, 16, “who has been in newsrooms since he was three days old and sees his dad read a newspaper every day.  But he’s of the electronic age and gets his news from TV, YouTube and other sources.  Maybe when he’s older he’ll subscribe to a Sunday paper but there won’t be time for a daily.”

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top blogs

There’s bad news and good news for bloggers.  The bad news is that making big money with a blog remains nearly impossible.  Henry Copeland, founder and president of BlogAds is quoted in www.PaidContent.org,
“less than 100 of the bloggers in his network of 1500 or so bloggers can live off their blog’s ad revenue...but to a lot of people an extra $200.00 per month makes a difference.”

On the other hand, Standard and Poor’s Outlook (online edition) had this to say: “First came social networks. Then virtual worlds. Now blogs are dazzling the eyes of major media publishers as the next takeover targets.” Huffington Post (which doesn’t pay its celebrity writers) was cited among those with attractive business models.  Maybe an auto blog site with celebrities: Jay Leno (he’s sidelined for awhile), Lee Iacocca, etc. would work. 

In the meantime new candidates for top auto blogs include: www.Jim'sGarage.com; Michelle Krebs’ www.AutoObserver.com; Kicking Tires at www.Cars.com (edited by David Thomas); Michael Knight’s SpinDoctor 500, nominated again by radio host, Joe Benson; the New York Times Wheels blog, which Jerry Garret points out has been re-conceptualized and enlarged; Steve Parker adds to the Auto Extremist chorus and also adds his own www.SteveParker.com to the growing list while objecting to AutoBlog as a blog because, “it just posts press releases”; Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief at www.Edmunds.com acknowledges he may be biased but he likes the straight forward evaluations and insider news at http://blogs.edmunds.com/karl;  for the Hispanic community, http://www.preguntearicardo.com/  joins the list, as do www.truckblog.com and www.musclecarblog.com, nominated by Mike Wilkes.

Veteran auto writer Stephan Wilkinson nominates The Truth About Cars, “Its strength,”  he says, “is not only the excellent writing of Robert Farago and several of his best contributors but even more so the incredibly intelligent commentary of his community of readers.  I learn more reading the (TTAC) comments than I have ever learned from print car magazines.”  Farago made a brash entrance on the scene a few years back with an attention- getting formula of searing a subject up front to establish his separation from the pack and with an unrelenting series of “Death Watch” rants on the demise of General Motors (up to 70 some when AWCom quit counting).  Wilkinson, who writes for him, says that now “Farago won’t permit flaming or even impoliteness (I’ve been temporarily evicted a couple of times myself, in fact.)" He does add, “TTAC has its faults, prime among them that it has never met a car it couldn’t deride.”

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pit notes

Good for Deke Houlgate.  Most retired journalists dream about it but few get around to writing a novel and getting rich from it.  He’s done the first part. His first novel, Blood On The Wall, is out and the hero is a self-effacing, lucky and enterprising motorsports reporter whose coverage of the month-long run-up to an early ‘70s Indianapolis 500 includes a murder, a kidnapping, sexy women, the Mafia, two scoops of the newspaper kind and some recognizable characters from the racing scene of that time.  A lot of plot in 169 pages.  His personal knowledge of the “90 days of May” in Indianapolis helped Deke paint an authentic scene and capture the all too frequent petty tyrannies of people given the power to dispense tickets, credentials and parking passes at race venues.  The second part of the dream is with Infinity Publishing  Info@buybooksontheweb.com, for $12.95 per soft cover copy.

Fuel & Guts: The Birth of Top Fuel Drag RacingTom Madigan may be back in the running for a second MPG Dean Batchelor award.  He captured his first in 2005 for his book, Edelbrock, Made in USA. This time it is another subject close to the heart and pride of most MPG members. Titled Fuel and Guts: The Birth of Top Fuel Drag Racing, it weaves together first hand accounts of 29 persons who gave life to the sport’s fastest class and 242 photos - 66 in color - many from the private collections of those he interviewed.  His own experience as a top-fuel driver helps him ask the right questions and stay on track with his narrative, Fuel and Guts is available in bookstores nationally and through www.motorbooks.com, at $50. . . . Befitting Texas and the nations largest truck market, the Texas Auto Writers Association just completed its “biggest and best ever” truck rodeo according to TAWA president Harold Gunn.  63 vehicles entered (at $1200 a pop) and evaluated by 43 working journalists for “Texas Truck of The Year” titles during the three-night, two-day competition and good times.  TAWA paid for all the food, test sites, vehicle logistics, support personnel and other event expenses and helped with transportation and lodging for journalists attending from across the Lone Star expanse.  PR types in attendance matched or exceeded the scribes in number and they contributed to the goodie baskets now standard at most such media gatherings.  While not up to Academy Awards loot, TAWA’s included foul weather Harley-Davidson coats.

Motor Trend Executive Editor Matt Stone’s book, McQueen’s Machines, an inside look at iconic screen star Steve McQueen’s passion for cars and cycles, deserves another plug even if we had not misspelled the title when announcing its availability in bookstores and at www.motorbooks.com.  And, we understand Jim McCraw’s ire when our report of the passing of Bud Ekins, added an “l” to his name. McCraw relates that the late Bud Ekins and his brother Dave contributed mightily to the success of Motorcyclist magazine.  Sharp-eyed Steve Parker also told us of these errors.  Both necessary contributions to keep AWCom respectful of the craft.  As was Brandy Schaffels'  note that the correct url for Ask Patty is http://askpatty.typepad.com/.

Mazda Speed Team’s adoption of Mutts comic strip animals "Earl” and “Mooch” added a timely PR touch during the final two races of the SCCA Touring Car Championships that coincided with the recent considerable news flap over animal adoptions. . . . Jack Nerad has authored An Idiot’s Guide to Hybrids and Alternative Fuel Vehicles for Alpha Books, proprietor of the popular Complete Idiot’s Guide series. He is executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Books and co-host of America On The Road radio show. . . . The Los Angeles Auto Show boasts of 14 world and nearly 30 North American new model vehicle debuts during press days Nov. 14 and 15 at the LA Convention Center.

Steve Parker, citing the growth in street racing and resulting deaths in the L.A. area is championing Terminal Island’s Brotherhood Raceway opening and the cause of the National and International Brotherhood of Street Racers and its leader, Big Willy Robinson. For more information: http www.steveparker.com. . . . The newest motoring press association, Miami-based Southern Automotive Media Association, (SAMA) is up to 50 individual and 12 corporate members. . . .WAJ past president Michael Coates is now regularly contributing to Green Wheels at www.jdpower.com. Broadcaster Ron Harrison succeeds him at the helm of WAJ.

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lane changes

James Amend has returned to the Detroit scene as an associate editor at Ward’s, succeeding Scott Anderson, while Eric Mayne has added Alisa Priddle’s duties as Sr. Editor, News, www.Wardsauto.com.  Priddle is now Sr. Editor, News, www.CarandDriver.com. . . . . Curt McAllister advises he has moved from PR firm John Bailey & Associates in Detroit to Toyota’s Public Relations office in the Motor City as Midwest Product News Manager, a new post. . . . Mac Demere, former Senior Road Test Editor at Motor Trend and, most recently, a test driver for Michelin is now a freelance writer based in Simpsonville, S.C.  While at Michelin, he became certified for a dozen different tests, from noise and comfort to snow and race-track handling and earned a Class A Commercial Drivers License with extensive over-the-road experience in 18-wheelers. If you'd like to see him drift a Freightliner, drop him a note at macdemere@hotmail.com.

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across the finish line

Shav Glick, 87, auto racing writer for the L.A. Times for 37 years.  A very much liked person and professional.

Allan Miller, Pasadena, Texas radio broadcaster, The Car Counselor.

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information please

The possibility that machines may replace editors, as reported in last month’s newsletter raised a couple of questions by readers: Corvette Quarterly editor and freelancer John L. Stein asks about affordable errors and omissions insurance.  At least one publication has asked him to pay the costs of any lawsuits that may result from its publishing his work. Maureen McDonald asks if there is a software program that proofs copy according to AP style. Her own web search uncovered Claire Charlton‘s excellent review of online writing labs, Just A Click Way that ran in the September issue of www.writermag.com . . . . Autowriters.com is building a list (and results when announced) of all the many vehicle of the year awards.  Those we know of: Motor Trend, Wealth TV, Auto Fondo, Green Car, Readers Choice, SAMA and Urban Wheels. Tell us of more, please. 

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awards, honors and events

"The only live supercar show in the world” has been announced by Chris Beddows Communications, USA and Canada promotion agency for the April 24-27 Top Marquees Monaco extravaganza featuring the “greatest luxury and super cars in the world.”  For more information, Chrisbeddowscommunications@shaw.ca . . . Gary Witzenburg was presented the “Carl Benz Award of Distinction” for 2006 by the Society of Automotive Historians at its annual awards banquet Oct. 12.  He won for his article, Standing the Test of Time, The Continuing History of the Packard Proving Ground.

The Truck Writers of North America are calling for 2007 Communication Awards entries.  The competition recognizes excellence in trucking industry journalism in both the trade and the mainstream press, as well as excellence in communication with the industry by public relations professionals.  TWNA members and non-members are eligible.  Entry deadline is December 15.  More information: www.twna.org/comm-awards.htm.

The Toronto Star’s Mark Toljagic won the Jaguar Award as the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada’s journalist of the year.. . . American Driver Magazine (print) and Automotive Traveler (web) are among 15 finalists in their respective categories of the annual MIN awards to be announced Nov.13 at the Tavern-On-The-Green in New York City. . . . The Car Middle East Awards (for people, products, innovations and services) will be presented - where else - in Dubai Nov. 14 by the Emirates Automobile and Touring Club. . . . Ron Beasley, instigator and now president of the Southern Automotive Media Association (SAMA) was presented the first-ever Automotive Advocate Award by In Focus Magazine.  The recognition came, according to co-publisher Tony Lesesne, because, “Without him, the local automotive community wouldn’t be where it is today.”

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NOVEMBER

6-7 MPG Track Days, Willow Springs, Rosemead Calif.
13 NEMPA Dinner, Boston Globe, Saab
14 MPG Breakfast, Los Angeles International Auto Show
15 IMPA Luncheon, 3 West Club, IIHS, NYC, NY
15 MAMA Luncheon, Nissan, CATA, Oakbrook Terrace, Il.
16 TAWA Awards Banquet, San Antonio
26 NEMPA Buffet, Pre Auto Show
30 Registration Closes, Automotive News World Congress, Detroit
   

DECEMBER

4 MPG Dinner, Dean Batchelor Awards Banquet, Los Angeles
12 WAJ Dinner, South San Francisco
29-30 24 Hour of LeMONS, Thunderhill, Race Track, California www.24hoursoflemons.com
 

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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, Ron Harrison rharr70210@aol.com
WAPA Washington Automotive Press Association, D.C., Kimatni Rawlins, President - www.washautopress.org

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- 30-

Glenn

Glenn F. Campbell
Principal
autowriters.com

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