The Tom-Tom: Rob Krider


Rob Krider adds his take on surviving in the content glut brought on by bloggers and the Internet. In print, where, ironically he is taken seriously, he writes the humor column Man Overboard for the Santa Maria Sun (where he actually gets paid) and has been published in AutoWeek. On the Internet, he writes the Racer Boy column for Speed Sport Life and also contributes to Jalopnik and Car Domain (where he doesn’t get paid). When Rob isn’t writing, he’s racing and has won the 24 Hours of LeMons and NASA Performance Touring road races. He writes and also wrenches on cars in California.  


Writers Getting Taken Seriously (Respectfully and Financially)

Autowriters.com: Tom-Tom: Rob Krider

Rob Krider

In the automotive journalism world there is an endless debate regarding the cold war between blogging and print media. I have found myself on both sides of the wall. I have seen and felt the pros and cons of each medium. On one side of the wall I was recognized and compensated, on the other side of the wall, I was starving.

With print media, getting published is a long hard battle. When a writer finally gets published, accepted if you may, there is a sense of accomplishment. Because magazines absolutely must turn a profit to exist, they have the budget to pay their writers for a job well done. Transversely, an Internet site, like www.RacingWFO.com can run for an entire year on $50 (trust me, no writers will ever be paid there). The general public recognizes and pays respect to magazines. Even someone who hasn’t been to journalism school understands you don’t just get published because one day you woke up and thought it would be a cool thing to do (however, this can be done on the internet). Print media is a lot of work. When done right, the rewards can be very satisfying. I have had the experience of standing in a parking lot shagging cones at an SCCA Solo event and had total strangers come up to me and say, “I read your article in AutoWeek.” People know what AutoWeek is, and for me to be associated with it was a great feeling.

With Internet media I have had the complete opposite experience. Even in my own household I don’t get respect for blogging. I’ll ask my wife to edit something I’ve written and the first thing she asks me is, “Is this for the magazine or one of your nerdy car blog sites?” Sure, it’s a bit harsh, but what she’s really asking me is, “Are you getting paid for this one? Because if you are I’ll take the time to clean it up. If you aren’t don’t waste my time; there are reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to watch.” And outside of my household, in the hot pits of Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, when I’ve told a race team I’m writing for Speed Sport Life or Jalopnik, they look at me as if they have no idea what I even said. Jalopnik is a great and fairly successful site, but the name has been a continual obstacle to overcome with the public. It just doesn’t resonate with people like saying, “This is for Maxim magazine. Get the umbrella girl and have her stand in front of the ALMS car for a picture. Pronto!”

There is no question of the ability of websites to crush print media in respect to timeliness. I have had coverage of event results on Speed Sport Life within minutes of it happening with a digital camera, an air card and a lap top. I later submitted that same event coverage to Grassroots Motorsports magazine and had it published seven months later. Was it even relevant seven months later? Probably not, however, where did people actually read it and recognize its significance? The print magazine, guaranteed. Not to mention the photography was compensated by the magazine while the internet coverage was done for “the glory.” Try to buy some groceries with “glory” sometime, tell me how that tastes.

So, why are writers doing the blog thing if most are doing it for free? One word: ego. With the ability for readers to quickly post comments under blogs, there is a certain instant gratification to writing on the Internet. As writers, we shamefully eat this stuff up (although most of us won’t admit it). Writers, I’ve found, are a pretty insecure bunch. They want to see that letter to the editor with a comment about a recent article they wrote. I think some writers are almost a tad confrontational in their content just to inspire someone to disagree with them so they will get mad enough to write a letter to the editor or comment on a blog. What writers need to understand (especially in the realm of print media) is readers aren’t writers. Don’t expect them to be. Readers don’t feel the need to pen a letter to the editor and say, “I really liked Rob Krider’s last column in the Santa Maria Sun. He’s a swell guy.” We shouldn’t need that encouragement to understand what we wrote was good (especially when we are paid). The fact of the matter is most letters-to-the-editor folks are just wannabe writers trying to get their first fifteen seconds of fame. It was the first thing I ever “got published.” How about you?

If we want the satisfaction of quick coverage and instant gratification of Internet media with the respect and compensation of print media we have to make automotive Internet media more profitable. I think this all comes down to us. We need to make sure that our Internet content is good (we can start by convincing our significant others to turn off the Buffy repeats and at least edit our work). The content needs to be good enough to bring in some heavy advertising so we can all get paid. The question is how many of us have to write for free (and for how long) to build up a reputable commercial automotive site before we can actually make it profitable enough for us to waste our time? And, can we do this without building a site, which the readers will recognize instantly (and lose respect for) as just one automotive press release after another (Autoblog)? We need to write content that is interesting and not just regurgitations of the cubic storage space data of the new Taurus’s trunk (what reader really gives a hoot?).

As writers, we are definitely living in interesting times. I just hope we can make a living doing it.

8 Responses to “The Tom-Tom: Rob Krider”

  1. Madelyn MillerOctober 19, 2009 at 10:18 am #

    Women care a geat deal about the trunk size.

    Two issues for readers of http://www.carladynews.com are where to put your purse and how much trunck space there is.

    I am thrilled to learn about big trunks. More space to stash my stuff.
    It is just one reason I love the new Taurus.

  2. Sam MosesOctober 19, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    Yadada yadada yadada …. so tell me something I don’t know … until the last couple sentences about writing something interesting vs “regurgitation” of trunk specs.

    Krider is missing it. Car reviews should be for information, not entertainment (which is where most autojournos think “interesting” goes), maybe only because within the attempts to be interesting, the bullshit (about the truth about cars) flows. I always include trunk size in my car reviews. You’re bullshitting (lightly, indirectly …. and granted from a hardcore point of view, for the sake of argument here) the reader by depriving him/her of info, if you don’t.

    In other words …. trunk size is objective, “interesting” is subjective.

    What’s regurgitating is repeating the manufacturers’ boasts about golf bags.

    Reality is, it’s real hard to get to the “truth” (performance evaluation) in the amount of seat time we get, nowadays. And so few are qualified anyhow.

    Trunk size matters.

    Sam Moses

  3. Michael KareshOctober 19, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    If and when you convince your significant other that what you do is worth the effort, can you do the same with mine? Or at least tell me how you did it?

    On the trunk size, it depends on the audience. Enthusiasts might not care. Typical car owners definitely do.

  4. Jan WagnerOctober 19, 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    Even though I am still writing and doing photography, as well as editing a print publication, most of my income from automotive journalism is now coming from entering and winning monetary awards in various photo contests. Hopefully our efforts in the area of automotive journalism will eventually find a home on the internet that pays its contributors for their skill and experience in providing content that its visitors go there to see.

  5. Aaron GoldOctober 19, 2009 at 5:55 pm #

    Sam, I disagree with your point that car reviews are about information rather than entertainment. (Two words: Top Gear.) It’s all about audience. When I write for About.com, it’s mostly information, with (hopefully) enough entertainment thrown in to keep ’em reading to the end. But for some pubs, you’re writing for an audience that’s already read every review. They’re not going to buy the car. They’re reading for entertainment. Yes, they want information, because that’s how they become experts, but if the review isn’t interesting, they’ll go elsewhere. Write a review for entertainment, and they will come.

    — Aaron Gold

    PS, Taurus trunk is worth writing about because it’s so awesomely huge.

    • Sam MosesOctober 19, 2009 at 6:35 pm #

      Aaron Gold is right, too, I don’t disagree, despite what I might have said. It is about audience.

  6. Michael KareshOctober 20, 2009 at 7:04 am #

    Aaron–and yet not as huge as it was before the 2010 redesign. So even more worth writing about–function sacrificed for form.

  7. Chris HemerOctober 20, 2009 at 9:53 am #

    Good post, Rob, but I must respectfully disagree with you on several points:
    1. Magazines DON’T pay their writers for a job well done. They pay the same page rate they’ve been paying for 20 years.
    2. “Even someone who hasn’t been to journalism school understands you don’t just get published because one day you woke up and thought it would be a cool thing to do (however, this can be done on the internet).” I absolutely DISAGREE. Have you read any of the “enthusiasts pubs” lately? They’re ALL written by people who woke up and decided it would be cool to write for a magazine. They can’t afford REAL writers (or simply won’t pay for them), so they take kids who’ll write for a byline and free parts. And it shows. One of my new hobbies is to sit down with one of them and see how many errors I can find on one page—and believe me, I don’t have to try very hard.
    3. Writing for a magazine can be rewarding, but those experiences are few and far between. Most people don’t pay attention to the magazine they’re reading, much less who wrote it. It’s nice when someone’s heard of you, but that doesn’t pay the bills.
    4. I don’t like blogs either, but the reality is, that is the media of choice for the younger crowd. People look at you like your from Mars when you mention Jalopnik because they’re probably closer to your age. Say it to someone who’s 22, and they’ll probably ask for your autograph.
    5. I would NEVER write for any publication or site for free. In fact, I turn down work quite frequently if it doesn’t pay enough, and turn anything down if it pays net 60, net 90, or, worse yet “on publication.” I used to care about my name in print in my 20s, but I couldn’t care less now. Just cut me a nice check, get it to me fast, and you can put your name on it if you like.
    6. “The content needs to be good enough to bring in some heavy advertising so we can all get paid. The question is how many of us have to write for free (and for how long) to build up a reputable commercial automotive site before we can actually make it profitable enough for us to waste our time?” I hope I can speak for everyone when I say I won’t write for free—unless it’s on my own site or magazine for the purpose of getting it rolling. When we agree to write for free or for little, we lose the respect of the people we write for. Journalism is a profession, just like any other, and we should be paid for it. Unfortunately, as long as their are hacks that are willing to write for “glory”, and readers who don’t know the difference between good and bad writing, the good guys are never going to get paid well for their craft. That’s why most of the veterans have disappeared from the pages of magazines—they’ve long ago sought greener pastures in the PR business, writing for OEMs, or in different careers altogether.