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)
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.