THE ROAD AHEAD
From the web: “I don’t know if we will be printing the Times in five years, and you know what, I don’t care, either.” - New York Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. “Today I am going to outline how the Los Angeles Times is going to transform itself from being a great newspaper to becoming an awesome, relentless, powerful story-telling machine online and in print.” - LA Times editor James E. O’Shea in announcing the merger of the paper’s previously separate print and online staffs. Two great brands chasing audiences to deliver to marketers in exchange for advertising dollars that pay for the editorial staff whose work attracts the audiences. However, as Newsvideo Blogger and visiting Miami Herald journalist Chuck Fadely describes it, those audiences are “imploding, scattering like a supernova to the far corners of the media universe. Savvy marketers -- from the White House to your local auto dealer -- are bypassing mass media to sell directly to the consumer. At some point the balance will tilt and advertisers will leave our print product like field mice fleeing a grass fire.” That seems to be born out in one statistic O’Shea revealed when explaining the urgency of strengthening the Times’ online presence: “In 2004, automotive print advertising at the Los Angeles Times totaled $102 million. And what will it be this year? $55 million. That is $47 million gone, unavailable to pay salaries and expenses.” Some of that was recovered by increased online classified auto advertising but for every $2 lost on the print side they are presently recouping only $1 online. However, will the respect, credibility, reliance and impact that even these great newspapers enjoy survive when they seek new income by adapting their product to new channels reaching segmented audiences in the far corners of the media universe? O’Shea thinks so. He believes by reversing the protocol and applying all of the paper’s journalistic talent and resources first to the web they will drive readers online and they will be attracted from there to the print edition. Towards that end he is requiring all staffers to take training in web journalism, including himself. This means combining the web’s potential for immediacy, intimacy and interactivity with print’s verbal and visual proficiency without compromising the enterprise’s journalistic standards. For the LA Times autowriter, Dan Neil, O’Shea believes the merger of print and digital and subsequent re-design of the print edition will occasion much greater use of his talent. Let us hope this will be true of autowriters across the nation as the shift from print to online intensifies. One thought proffered when Autowriters.com sought reaction to the L.A. Times move came from retired editor Jim Lycett (Detroit News Sunday Magazine, Palm Springs Desert Sun): “If all the newspapers disappeared tomorrow, we'd still have the First Amendment and Freedom of the Press (or would it be Freedom of the Pixels?) and somehow everything will be sorted out in a lifetime or two. Computers are far better than hot metal, news cycles are immediate and exciting, and you can get the news anywhere, right now. . . . . But I do mourn the days when most little towns and all the big ones had community newspapers, not Wall Street cash cows. There really was a belief that journalism was an honorable pursuit, that courageous editors and reporters could do wonderful things.” Publishers used to spread this gospel, at least until budget time. . . .”
It could be good news that Primedia has put its Enthusiast Group of 75 magazines, 100 web sites, 2 TV programs and related properties on the block or it could be as Steve Parker "The Car Nut" blogs at www.steveparker.com: “An end of an era” - evidence that the publisher is willing to forgo $500 million in annual revenue and forsake such established titles as Motor Trend, Automobile, Hot Rod and many others because the publications have grown weary and no longer reach a target audience. Giving credence to this view is Primedia’s recent acquisition of Modified Magazine, Modified Luxury & Exotics, Modified Mustang and MiniMoto - the latter joining its other bike books. All of the acquisitions serve the company’s new strategy of catering to a younger audience. Wooden Horse News reports that the divestitures reflect the desire of its largest shareholder and effective owner, private equity group KKR, to recover its money and close out its investment in Primedia. While staffers face an uncertain future, for many it only can get better considering the constant turmoil that followed Primedia’s rapid acquisition of so many automobile titles. . . . Also reported by Wooden Horse: Cool cars will be a feature in the new Gulf & Main magazine serving high-demo Southwest Floridians in the Fort Myers and Naples area. . . . Street is a new bi-monthly car culture and lifestyle magazine for Texans from Rio Grande City to South Padre Island. And this quoted from ASJA Contracts Watch: “Writers, designers, and photographers often face requests (or even demands) for spec work in which you do the project, submit it, and only then learn if it will be used and you will be paid. It's a ridiculous concept, and it seems that some designers have created a web site - http://www.no-spec.com - to post warnings of high-profile spec projects and to exhort others to resist the trend.". . . Consumer Generated Content (CGC) continues to attract car makers. Recent examples: Jeep invited comics to go online and help plot a story spotlighting its Patriot subcompact. “Gil The Crab,” a character in a Honda Element ad campaign has migrated to its own page on MySpace where more than 100,000 users have declared themselves “friends” of Gil. Toyota and Pontiac have created community web sites. Toyota for its hybrid owners. Pontiac for all of its owners. . . . Popular Mechanics is among the Hearst publications slated for a cell phone site. Hachette Filipacchi already has one for Car and Driver.
Access RPM will soon become Cool Hot Rod Parts.Com. Previously a yellow pages link to 9700 auto parts and service sources printed in three editions, it will become “a complete book online” with more editorial as well as a buyers guide. . . . Kia Motors America has changed addresses in Irvine, California to 111 Peters Canyon Rd., 92606. . . . Karl Ritzler provides a full picture of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s auto coverage and its switch of the editorial auto section to the Feature Section. It had been in Business (a news department). Ritzler is current auto editor Clint Williams’ predecessor once removed, Rob Douthit was between them. Both Douthit and Ritzler contribute occasional reviews (and articles). The paper’s marketing department (also) publishes weekend and special auto sections edited by John Brieske. He works closely with Williams on www.ajccars.com, the paper’s online auto coverage. Ritzler, now retired, contributes to both sections. Lastly, Karl notes that staffer and long time autowriter Russ DeVault was in features and then with ajccars.com until he retired last year and that Linda Sharp, while not currently writing for the paper, remains active as an auto writer. . . . Truck Trend Editor and Motor Trend writer Mark Williams writes: "Not sure this has been announced formally yet but the Folio Award Winning Motor Trend Classic, our labor of love, has been put to rest... just not enough advertising support to make it viable. A lot of blood and sweat from Angus MacKenzie and Matt Stone went into every issue, and stellar writing from Todd Lassa and Frank Markus as well. For those of us who have been around awhile, you know these things happen. But we're hopeful and optimistic that Motor Trend Classic will survive in one way or another, either as a once-a-year Motor Trend specialty publication or quite possibly some kind of e-zine, we'll have to wait and see. A huge thank you to all those writers and photographers out there who offered their support and skill. We'll keep you updated." . . . Paul Dexler’s website: www.DexleronWheels.com is now live. Subtitled, “ A sometimes irreverent look at cars and the auto industry” it contains rants, reviews and event reports from the perspective of an autowriter who has been at it for 30-plus years. The website is an outgrowth of a column of the same name he has been doing for the members of The Pit Crew at the Petersen Automotive Museum. . . . The first to advise AWCOM of the availability of all of this year’s Detroit Auto Show press conferences online was Marc Rauch of the www.AutoChannel.com. In fact, for those journalists who really want to remind some company execs of what they said not only this year but in years past, the AutoChannel.com has them archived and available for free going back several years from both L.A. and Detroit. . . .William Jeanes’ scathing lecture on leadership responsibility in Automotive News put an industry-wide spotlight on Ford president of the Americas Mark Fields’ practice of leaving the scene of battle every weekend and flying to his Florida home in a company plane at a cost of nearly $1 million a year. The opinion piece by one of the better known auto journalists in “The Newspaper of The Auto Industry” counters claims of a lap dog auto press. It puts other execs in a beleaguered industry on notice that some of their perks of office are fair game for public scrutiny. It also exercised the kind of responsibility necessary to merit freedom of the press.
Now that he is primarily writing novels, Deke Houlgate merits an Autowriters Spotlight. For most of his long career he managed to successfully straddle both sides of the journalist/ PR divide. After resigning a PR post at Riverside Raceway he wrote a syndicated motorsports column and then, from 1958 to 1992 a column for the since shuttered Los Angeles Herald-Tribune. During that time he also served as Carroll Shelby’s first, fourth and seventh PR man, all on the Ford payroll. He also publicized off-road racing events, other racers and numerous auto-related products and promotions. Now residing in Carlsbad, California, Deke is promoting his fourth book, “Blood On The Wall” a novel based on fictional but often recognizable Indy 500 journalists from the ‘70s. He is also three quarters of the way through another roman ŕ clef novel based on the infamous deeds of fictional but sometimes recognizable PR men dating from the ‘40s to the ‘60s. He says his most substantial contribution to motorsports history, so far, is a commissioned biography of dragracer Eddie Hill, whose career, Deke notes, “dragged on (ouch!) for more years than some of us live.” Three previous books by Deke were published in the ‘70s but are now out of print.
Susan Callaway has returned to Fortune Magazine to pen a column on
the auto industry. . . . Rich Homan left Edmunds.Com for the wilds
of New York City. . . . Scott Oldham replaces him as Editor-in-Chief of
Edmunds Inside Line. . . . Tim Higgins is a recent addition to
The Detroit Free Press auto writing staff. . . . Chris Palmeri came
on board as a Senior Correspondent in Business Week’s Los Angeles bureau
following the retirement of Larry Armstrong. Armstrong plans
freelance writing but for the time being, will not include car reviews in his
portfolio. . . . Bryan Glickman has departed Edmunds.com . . . Nidhi
Gupta is now Content Editor at Cars Direct.com and Andy Bornstein
has departed.. .. . . Veteran autowriter for the Portland Oregonian and
others, Paul Duchene, is now editor of Sports Car Market. . . .
Mike Hudson plans to announce his association soon with a West Coast
automotive PR agency on the West Coast. He, too, has left Edmunds.Com . .
. Tom Krisher is filling in for AP autowriter
Dee Ann Durbin while she is on maternity leave. . . . Walter Haessner, the man behind the annual International Automotive Media Awards, died Dec. 27 after a prolonged illness, which, in part, accounted for the absence of a physical presentation of last years awards. His widow, Elaine, who worked with Walt on the program for years, is handling the annual promotion. She says the enthusiasm for the program is great and they intend to return to gathering the winners for an awards dinner as soon as she and some of the program’s long-time supporters can determine an optimum date. . . . Also arriving recently at the end of their roads, reports Richard Parks of Car Racers Newsletter, were Bill Bagnall, 80, a former president of The American Motorcycle Association, Danny Oakes, 95, a barnstorming Midget Racing Champ and long-time Indy crew member and drag racing legend “Dandy” Dick Landy, a master engine builder and one of the first Dodge-backed drivers.
EVENTS, HONORS AND AWARDS
AARWBA AWARDS: Tony Schumaker, Jerry Titus Memorial Driver of the
Year Award; Journalist Mike Hollander, Presidents Award and long time
Ford racing representative Kevin Kennedy, Jim Chapman Award.
Eastern Motorsports Press Association Awards: Jim Donnelly won first place for his profile on dragracer Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.
The winners of the 2007 World Automotive Design Competition (WADC), sponsored by Autodesk®, were announced at the 2007 Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS). First place, Paul Kim from the Academy of Art University of San Francisco for his entry the Ford Legion. Second place, Ryan Campbell from the Academy of Art University of San Francisco for his entry the VW Connextion. Third place, Matthew Finbow from Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning of Toronto for his entry the Concourse. This year's challenge was to design a car for an aging population that equally appeals to the young and takes in account social and environmental concerns. Eighteen schools representing 61 students and 49 entries competed in the competition.
February 20 - - CAR (Center for Automotive Research) Seminar Ypsilanti, MI
The Future of Automotive Labor Relations and Human Resources in North America.
February 21 - - WAPA Luncheon, The National Press Club, D.C. Mazda designer Franz von Holzhausen.
March 6 - - MPG Luncheon Los Angeles, Yahoo
March 7 - - APA Luncheon, Detroit SAE
March 13 - - NEMPA, Boston Winter Wheels Awards
MOTORING PRESS ORGANIZATIONS
The 13 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.
APA Automotive Press Association, Detroit - John Lippert, email@example.com
IMPA International Motor Press Association, NYC, Fred Chieco, President - firstname.lastname@example.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- email@example.com
RMAP Rocky Mountain Automotive Press, Denver - firstname.lastname@example.org
SEAMO Southeast Automotive Media Organization, Charlotte, NC www.southeastautomedia.org
TAWA Texas Auto Writers Association - http://www.TexasAutoWriters.org, Harold Gunn, email@example.com
TWNA Truck Writers of North America, www.twna.org Tom Kelley, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
WAJ Western Automotive Journalists, San Francisco - www.waj.org, Michael Coates, president, email@example.com
WAPA Washington Automotive Press Association, D.C., Kimatni Rawlins, President - www.washautopress.org
- 30 -
Glenn F. Campbell