Tom-Tom: Doug Stokes

Doug Stokes has been a practicing automotive PR type since “way back when.” His work has taken him from running the IKF (Go-Karts) to promoting Sprint Cars at Perris Auto Speedway, and from an early environmental auto assignment (Geo Tree Program) to NASCAR as the communications director for Toyota Speedway in Irwindale. Along the way he ran an automotive-oriented bookstore, worked the media for Mickey Thompson, and handled corporate communications for Gale Banks Engineering.


Print Isn’t Dead It’s Overpriced

Autowriters.com Tom-Tom: Doug Stokes
Doug Stokes

Over the weekend I was in Las Vegas doing PR for the Lucas Oil Off Road Series and needed to buy a Sunday paper to see what kind of coverage we were getting for the show. I put the paper on the counter in the hotel gift shop and the young lady said, “Three dollars, please, do you want a bag?” No, bag thanks. Thinking that I was paying a “normal” kicked-up resort price, I peeled off the three bucks and left.

When I got back to my room I looked at the front page and there found the “street” price – an astonishing $3.00, who’s going to have that many quarters (even in Las Vegas!) to pump a news rack with 12 quarters? Who’s going to pay that much to end up with a 80-20 split of adverts and editorial content?

For that matter, while we’re at it, who’s paying $4.95, 5.95, 6.95 and more for monthly magazines that are rationed out just about as above, when you can get similar material (all capsule-ized and easy to bite off and chew) on your computer (or phone) for “free”.

Of course we all know that free is by no means free, that there’s always a catch somewhere, and that even the best journalism has a price, it’s just that now there’s really no established place to go to get it  – regardless of what one is willing to “pay”.

The press, the “MEDIA”, has been Balkanized so widely and so thoroughly that I’m often amazed that my neighbor and I get the same two newspapers delivered on our respective driveways each morning.

In the latter days of this epoch newspapers and magazines have cut staff so severely that getting any sort of attention now seems to require a “friggin’ bombshell” instead of a (I was going to say “bon mot” but I won’t) good story. Solid equates to stolid for desk people and some malcontent’s (or bad actor’s) grousing, carousing, confessing, a sex schmozzel, a murder (or a combination of all of the above) always trumps what’s left of the headlines. Blowing out great straight stories about people, products, things.

My small company specializes in motorsports PR*, mainly because that’s been my interest as well as a source of rent money for about 40 years now. I work personally with a number of clients to try mightily to get media recognition of their work product, be it events, hardware, or services.

In the past few years the ranks of my potential targets have seemed to dwindle pretty drastically. In actuality the string was pulled on the costume and hundreds of tiny targets spilled out all over the place, each proclaiming that they were the equal of the one big guy that was once there. (Website wonders? bloggers? points of light?)

When I’m watching a TV show and I’m directed to effectively shut the TV off (or at least not watch the next offering) go to my computer for “more” of the show that I was watching –  I have to wonder how that works. And it’s exactly the same for the news programs: turn us off, go to your computer and see more about this story squib that we teased you with – I start to feel that the media itself is systematically shedding and drinking its own blood, kind of like that snake eating its own tail.

Again, please tell me how that works in real life.

* PR (and automotive PR in particular) is most likely another one of brother (Jack) Baruth’s least favored professions. If he thinks that all automotive writers should be shot, I shudder to think of what kind of a grisly fate he’d have in store for us car and car event PR flacks. . . .  And what makes his little, dried-up, cake-white butt so pure and holy anyway?

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Is every Tom-Tom until the end of time going to mention me? How much of a stranglehold do I have over your minds?

    P.S. For the record, I’m 6’2″ and 230lbs. In fairness, my butt could be described as “cake-white”. I don’t tan my hindquarters on press junkets like the Frank Bacon crowd.

    1. Jack:
      Sounds like you’ve been working out … who’s Frank Bacon?

      1. You are, of course. You just don’t know it.

  2. Sure, print media is pricing itself out of the newsstand business…just as good newsstands themselves are becoming tougher and tougher to find. Print media itself is NOT too expensive. While I could go on about how a $4.95 magazine is priced appropriately when adjusted for inflation, I’d rather give an excellent example of REAL price reductions.

    In the 1980s, a subscription to my favorite buff books would run about $10 a year, give or take a couple of bucks. The other day, I resubscribed (by phone) to one popular magazine and through negotiations got a $10 subscription…for TWO YEARS! On the newsstand, I could buy two issues…by pre-paying, I got 12 times more for the same price. And this one magazine wasn’t alone when another prominent magazine gave me the same offer.

  3. Doug, you’re right. But it’s not that print is overpriced, it’s a dead business model. You have to cut down trees, manufacture ink and then deliver it to a place where it’s processed and then delivered individually to houses or news stands. The delivery of this product uses a finite resource, petroleum-based fuel, which is a valuable and scarce natural resource.

    This lengthy and inefficient process pales in comparison to someone who, with an iPhone or whatever, attends a news event, captures video (much more compelling than the written word), edits it and posts it within moments of the actual event. All this happens without much impact on the environment whatsoever.

    This is also true of car show calendars. You can read about them on dead trees or simply find an event near you in seconds on http://www.curbside.tv. Just the way the world works.

  4. “When I’m watching a TV show and I’m directed to effectively shut the TV off (or at least not watch the next offering) go to my computer for “more” of the show that I was watching –  I have to wond how that works.”

    I bet your father sat and wondered why the nice people on NBC Radio wanted him to turn on a television set. Here’s a hint. The viewers will eventually switch media. You want to keep them consuming your pablum.

    Now get out of the way, old man.

  5. Great story Mr. Stokes. Have you won the Dean Batchelor Award yet? You got my vote next time. I try my best to stay away from “the news” paper or electronic. The “drive-by news media nowadays is too much opinion led. What ever happened to: “The facts and nothing but the facts”? We (PR people) on the other hand, can spin happily all day long.

  6. thank Bobby … no luck on the Batchelor yet … a few years ago I was given the Jim Chapman by AARWBA. See you soon! -Stokes

  7. THANKS BOBBY

  8. Trying to reach Doug Stokes

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