february 2009 newsletter

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the road ahead The Impact of Social Media on Auto Journalists

The growing impact of social media brings some good news to auto journalists impacted by the dwindling print market for their services. It is a combination of shrinking ad budgets and marketers’ growing awareness that their brands need a winning personality to succeed. It is a theme that runs through nine of the top ten social media experts' predictions for 2009 as selected by Max Gladwell in his blog. Anne Handley is quoted: ”People who are trained as journalists are specifically geared to helping companies execute on their 2009 marketing strategy, which is to become trusted sources of information within their specific industries." The Impact of Social Media on Auto Journalists

Michael Blumberg says, “Giving high-quality content as a gift with no strings attached is likely to increase consumer appreciation. I therefore predict that brands will shy away from ads and toward sponsoring more independent editorial." Paul Dunay of Buzz Marketing for Technology says: “I think you will see more companies acting like Media companies and even launching their own media properties based off of blogs, communities, and wikis they set up over the last few years.” The Impact of Social Media on Auto Journalists

Gladwell adds: “We’re journalists by trade. The best PR firms have always recruited journalists, and now marketers are waking up to the value of using top-notch storytellers to tell their clients’ stories. It’s a tough time for journalists, so it’s good news that they (we) will play a key role in the new media revolution, where all companies are media companies."  Another aspect of social media – interconnectivity – raises yet another prospect for the auto industry. In a January 29 Business article and interview titled, “Detroit Should Get Cracking on its Googlemobile,” Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do? says “The huge declines in sales reflect a fundamental disconnect between drivers and Detroit. It's time for a radical rethinking of the way U.S. automakers do business. ... Car companies have no good way to listen to customers' ideas. If they had opened up, years before, I would have been among the legions who'd have gladly told them to invest 39 cents for a plug-in car radio so we could connect our iPods.”

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the tom-tom

Autowriters.Com invites readers to submit their own Clog
(Online Column).  Your reward: a byline and an audience of your peers.  All submissions are acknowledged, queued
and used at the editor’s discretion. Editor & Publisher Glenn Campbell

Glenn F. Campbell

The auto crisis has spawned at least three major proposals for communicating what their propounders think people and the Congress should hear. One asks for $50 million dollars. Another, a lobbying effort, and the third, advocated in a speech by incoming NADA chairman John McEleney, asks dealers “to tell state and national leaders and the public that dealers are an asset, not a liability.”  These sound like communications models based on the old “fortress” paradigm of the newspaper city room where editors decided what and how much their readers should know. The words “listen” and “engagement” are missing from the descriptions of these proposals.

But, they are not alone in ignoring the reality that the Internet makes journalists and publishers of us all.

From a Center for Media Research summary of a survey of 480 marketing executives, “Senior marketers admit their companies are failing to take decisive, company-wide action to integrate customer voice and experience into key business and marketing processes.” The study underscores critical deficiencies in the way companies measure, optimize and leverage customer experience to drive loyalty, improve brand value and increase business performance and growth.

Chrysler, at least, has initiated a listening program titled, “Chrysler’s Consumer Advisory Board.” Begun in early 2008 by a company named, “Passenger”, the CCAB now has a community of more than 2,000 Chrysler enthusiasts participating. According to Passenger executive, Emily Gates, "What’s unique about one of these communities," she explains, "is that it's less formularized, less hierarchical if you will, and more of a two-way back and forth with customers that you can have an ongoing dialogue with over time, vs. only once.”  She adds in a Behavioral Insider interview: "What we've found," she says, "is that the people closest to a brand can be the most vociferous critics of the company. So it's important going in that brands don't expect sugarcoated comments because that's not what customer collaboration creates. Fortunately the most sophisticated brands understand this and encourage honesty and transparency as the way to yield real insights and value.”

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 Tom-Tom rants, raves, rambles and ruminations are volunteered and express the opinions of the writer.


Old Focals - Vintage and Contemporary Eyewear
Vintage and Contemporary Eyewear

road signs

A Research Brief from MediaPost reports, “according to Deloitte's State of the Media Democracy survey, three-quarters of Millennials (ages 14 to 25) view the computer as more of an entertainment device than their television. Ed Moran, Deloitte director of product innovation, notes that "This (early-adopter) generation of consumers was the first to be raised on the Internet and is united across borders and cultures by their digital media preferences, so the implications for global marketers are unprecedented."

More specific to car buyers is a study of young car buyers released by AutoPacific and  In keeping with their entry-level status in the work force,  members of Generation Y, not surprisingly, were found to favor less expensive cars but aspire to larger, more sophisticated and expensive vehicles. . . . Another Research Brief posted January 22nd predicts online and interactive video will be hot in 2009 with 400 senior-level decision makers surveyed by Permission TV saying online video is their top priority for their digital marketing budgets.

Digital editions of newspapers are gaining readers but they will have to increase page views dramatically (in the case of the New York Times, six-fold) to match print revenues which are declining due in no little part to the switch to online used car sales. Toyota, for one, is showcasing dealer inventories of its Certified Previously-Owned Vehicles on EBay. In December, the company’s retail sales operation manager Norm Olson was quoted: “Most of our advertising and marketing is on the Internet; we have been almost completely out of print for quite a while--we found that for our product, interactive is really the way to go."

Which raises the question of who is going to pay for the quality journalism that attracts eyeballs? For those who missed his Time Magazine cover story and speech excerpt on The Huffington Post, or interviews on the Daily Show and Colbert Report, Walter Isaacson has anTime Magazine Cover: How to Save your Newspaper answer. The president of The Aspen Institute, former Time Magazine managing editor and author has revived the micro-payment solution. Taking into account the long-tail economics of the Internet, he was quoted Feb 5 in The Huffington Post, “Newspapers who felt their daily output was worth a dime - - and who readers felt the same way –could end up charging a dime and thus be more likely to survive and thrive. The people at these papers would also wake up each morning with the worthy incentive to produce a paper that people thought was worth at least a dime.”

A slightly different approach is offered by Mitch Ratcliffe in his lengthy January 19 blog on “The Economics of Great Journalism". He calculates that it would cost $180,000 in salary, expenses, overhead, equipment and all for a really good reporter covering a major topic. He sees people interested in that topic making micro-payments to cover that cost. The idea of journalists getting paid by their readers instead of advertisers or media moguls is technically feasible and philosophically appealing but it is hard to sell when what is available now is free. Worse, as G.B. Shaw observed, "if people don’t get what they want, they soon want what they get." And their goes the notion of quality reporting.

Contrary to a published report that major automotive magazine publisher Source Interlink has dropped its wholesale distribution business that includes more than 75 magazines, company chairman and CEO Greg Mays said in a letter to its retail customers that the rumor is part of an attempt “to eliminate competition in the magazine distribution chain.” He added Source Interlink is, “going to fight to keep and grow our current magazine distribution business.” Click this link to read the letter in full: 

And, speaking of magazines, Wooden Horse reports that the National Directory of Magazines found there are "16,596 magazines, tabloids, specialized newspapers, and major journals that carry advertising." Of these 492 are classed as “Automotive.”  And, from another source, “that for every magazine pronounced dead in 2008, four were born.” That includes one-shots.


autowriters spotlight

When journalists anoint Bob Lutz and others as “Car guys” it credits them with the first and highest credential in the hierarchy of autodom authenticity. It is a trait that weaves across station, gender and vocation to unite kindred spirits in a shared affection or affliction, depending on your point of view.

Autowriters Spotlight: Bob Golfen, Speed TV

Bob Golfen

Bob Golfen, the new and first auto editor of, has been a car guy since he and his boyhood friends dreamed about owning the cars they loved and eagerly awaited each fall’s new models. There were some guys with MGs, Triumphs and Alfa-Romeos in the Philadelphia neighborhood where he grew up plus an occasional Corvette or Boss Mustang and he recalls, “I lived vicariously through them."  Later, after graduating Temple University with a degree in Journalism he rebuilt a 1970 MGB, which he used as a daily driver for years. Considering that the car’s belt line didn’t come up to the one on his lanky 6’6” frame, he says driving it has prompted many humorous comments to this day. (He has since rebuilt it a second time.)

But the hands-on experience didn’t further his ambition to write for a car magazine, so he took a straight reporting job at the Arizona Republic. Because he was, “the only gearhead in the newsroom who could write”, he relates, he was asked to contribute to a new Home and Auto Section the paper was starting in the mid 80’s. Since then he’s covered the auto industry and transportation for the paper and he believes he has driven and reviewed just about every new model car on the road today. Those 20 years of auto writing and continuing passion for cars (currently he is rebuilding a 1967 Austin-Healey 3000) will be put to good use in the new post.

“What I’m trying to do is provide first-rate automotive news, reviews, stories and features for a wide range of web visitors, from serious gearheads and hobbyists to regular consumers. This enhanced coverage includes new-vehicle and product reviews, up-to-date industry news at this most interesting time, and event coverage, such as our recent in-depth reporting on the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car event in Scottsdale. While I am the primary writer and editor, I am developing partnerships with other auto writers to post on This is an ongoing effort that will help build the content available to our visitors.

"Some upcoming features to watch for: a national calendar of major automotive events; a column for questions about mechanical problems; another column for questions about new and used vehicles; and an interactive feature for car and truck hobbyists.

“Most of all, I want the Cars section to be fun and entertaining as well as informative. I welcome press releases from every automotive source, business and event."  Send them via email to or by mail: Bob Golfen, 8514 N. 17th Drive, Phoenix, AZ, 85021.”

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For more on Golfen and his new post click here:


new roads

From Wooden Horse Newsletter and news releases: . . . FOREVER MX-5 is a new quarterly that targets Mazda Miata enthusiasts. Content focuses on road trips, car projects and parts, buying and selling Miatas, and club events.  Jeff Zurschmeide is the editor-in-chief of the magazine, which is published by MediaSpigot LLC and sold in bookstores and on newsstands throughout the US... Courtney Caldwell, publisher/editor of Road & Travel Magazine, announced that her Earthbound Express, Inc. has launched Earth, Wind Power Blogazine to bring consumers the latest environmental developments and news on a variety of topics and tips on what readers can do to reduce their carbon footprint. New Roads

Racing World magazine was inspired by the 2008 opening of the New Jersey Motorsports Park in Vineland, NJ, but will cover auto and motorcycle racing from New England to Virginia. It is planned to launch this spring as a free bimonthly with hopes for a 40,000 issue distribution and cover NASCAR but also road racing, GT, vintage cars and the accompanying lifestyle, including coverage of local dining and hotels. Gerald Covella, owner of New Jersey Angler and Golfstyles New Jersey heads up editorial and design and is currently seeking funding. Interested writers and photographers should check out the website at

Decades ago Paul Eisenstein christened his automotive news and feature writing for publications worldwide The Detroit Bureau and continued that service while nurturing his pioneering web site The Car for 11 years until he sold it last fall. He has now launched The Detroit He says the new site does not try to aggregate everything automotive but will be selective and focus on intelligent and reasoned commentary on things automotive. While it is a non-paying enterprise at the moment he has enlisted Joe Szczesny of Michigan’s Oakland Press, freelancer Mike Strong, environmental writer John DeCicco, Netherlands-based Henry Hemmes, marketing specialist Marty Bernstein, spy photographer Brenda Priddy, commentator Charlie Vogelheim, and others he has heard from to help make it a success. There have been offers of financial backing and advertising for the new site Eisenstein reports. However, he says, the main emphasis now is finding out if they can identify a niche in a heavily saturated market and provide a good product to fill it.


pit notes

Driving a golf ball and driving a car seemed to have little in common – except getting to and from the links - until a company in Dallas, Texas made the connection between a golf ball’s dimpled exterior and the ability to drive it a great distance. Max reports in a blog titled The Coefficient of FastSkinz, the product is,  “a patent-pending technology that markedly reduces wind drag and therefore increases efficiency. In a word, it’s cleantech.” With a dimpled exterior generating air turbulence much as it does on a golf ball, a car’s wind drag is less and its fuel efficiency is 18 to 25% more, according to the company, SkinWraps.

Michael Dobrin - Inducted in the San Francisco Rod, Custom & Motorcylce Hall of Fame

Michael Dobrin

Michael Dobrin will be inducted in the San Francisco Rod, Custom & Motorcycle Show Hall of Fame. The veteran PR man, whose Bay Area agency has represented Toyota in the Northwest for some 20 years, has written about and publicized hot rods and hot rodding most of his adult life. . . . . The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Michigan International Speedway have entered into a partnership to use and market the Brooklyn-based racetrack and its existing road course to agencies that manufacture and develop connected vehicle technologies. The partnership will give automakers and after-market providers the ability to test and develop connected vehicle systems in a closed, private and neutral environment. . . . . Michael Karesh says his True Delta web site is the first to have vehicle reliability results on the 2009 Hyundai Genesis . . . editor Bill Moore proudly announces that NHRA driver Ron Capps will be writing a column for the emagazine.

Shades of old-time radio’s Battling Bickersons in this note from Brenda Priddy herself: “Spy shooter Brenda Priddy and her ex-husband John (often referred to as the ex-Mr. Brenda Priddy) have created a new car review column titled Battle Of The Exes. The spicy and sometimes heated column is currently debuting at, but syndication talks are in the works.” . . . Jay Lamm, 24-hour of LeMons impresario, has offered to use his race series for clunkers to help the bailout of Detroit’s auto makers. He wrote a top man at each company, “To help you avoid a negative impact on your brands, 24 Hours of LeMons is offering to obscure your firm's brand identity on all competing vehicles for $1,000 per race.” He also said he would purchase any of their new but unpopular models for the $500 limit placed on cars in his series and obscure their names as well.


AWcom for targeted news release distribution.

lane changes

Keith Buglewicz most recently with AutobyTel, is hoping that his 15 years writing about autos will help his freelancing endeavors in what he finds is a shrinking market. He can be reached at . . . Christopher Sawyer writes, “The harshness of the current economic conditions was made personal on January 6th when I was let go as part of across-the-board budget cuts at Gardner Publications. Which means that, after just over eight years as Executive Editor of Automotive Design & Production magazine, I am out of a job in one of the toughest markets we have seen for years.” He, too, is looking for work and can be reached at or telephone, 248-476-4428. has named Doug Newcomb as a senior technology editor. . . . From Wooden Horse News of Feb. 8: IndycarSeries Magazine will cease publication, according to The last print issue was the 2008 Season Review and the last digital-only issue was the Mid-Winter 2008 Special, published December 2008...Motorsports Retailer which covered the motorcycle, ATV, and scooter industry, has gone online only at . . . New show time for the live is 11:00AM EST.


- 30-


Glenn F. Campbell

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Yolanda Vazquez of Motorweek won the WAPA Golden Quill Award for her FYI piece on a Brooklyn, New York high school that trains disadvantaged kids for automotive technicians jobs. WAPA also presented Golden Gear Awards to Tom Purves, Automaker; Henrik Fisker, Automotive Design and Roger Penske, Lifetime Achievement.

Deadline for entries in the 18th International Automotive Media Competition is March 5. Entry forms and rules for submissions published or aired between January 1 and December 31 2008 are available from IAMC Executive Director, Elaine C. Haessner 11725 E. Thunderbird Trail, Tucson, AZ 85749. The awards banquet is scheduled for June 24 in Detroit and Karl Ludvigsen will be honored then with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Automotive Hall of Fame selected Gale Banks for a 2009 Distinguished Service Citation.  He joins an impressive list of honorees that dates back to Ransom Olds in 1940. Earlier, his first 50 years in the industry were saluted with a Banks Power exhibit at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, Calif. . . . . Race fans will get to compete against Daytona Rolex Grand Am 24-Hour winner David Donohue February 15 (on a Daytona Speedway simulator) as part of a charity fundraiser at New Jersey Motorsports Park. . . . A tribute to the late great Mark Donohue and his cars will be part of the2009 opening weekend festivities at Watkins Glenn International April25-26. A new biography of Donohue will be released there and the author, Michael Argetsinger, whose father, Cameron is credited with bringing road racing to upstate New York and making Watkins Glen famous, will be on hand to sign the as yet untitled book.

“Speedy” Bill Smith of Speedway Motors will be the eighth recipient of the Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award. It will be presented during the 11th Annual Hotrod and Restoration Trade show in Indianapolis, March 12-14


February 2009
12-24 BMW Art Cars, LA. County Museum of Art, Designs by Warhol, Stella, Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg
15 MAMA, Annual Business Meeting Outlook, Oakbrook, IL
17 APA, Luncheon, Detroit, MI, A.C. Mazda
18 TAWA, Breakfast, Dallas Auto Show
19 IMPA, Luncheon, 3 West Club, NYC, Craig Cather CEO and President CSM Worldwide
19 SAMA, Luncheon Meeting, Mazda, TBA
25 APA, Breakfast, Detroit, MI, Author Jim Harbour
26 WAPA, Luncheon, National Press Club, D.C. Consumer Reports Top-Picks
28 "What Were They Thinking" exhibit (cars that didn't make the grade) Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, CA
March 2009
10 NEMPA, Winter Awards Dinner, Boston Globe
10 WAJ, Dinner, So. San Francisco, CA, Volvo
10 MPG, Luncheon, Los Angeles, CA
12 APA, Grant Thornton Advisory Luncheon, Detroit, MI
19 MAMA, Luncheon, Oakbrook, IL, GM
19 IMPA, Luncheon, NYC, NY, Audi
19 SAMA, Luncheon, S. Miami Beach, FL, Mercedes-Benz
24 Curator’s Tour,” What Were They Thinking” exhibit, Petersen Automotive Museum
April 2009
7 Experts Panel, Dan Neil, Mike Sullivan, Eric Noble, Charlie Vogelheim, Petersen Automotive Museum
9-10 Media Days, Greater New York Auto Show
15-17 Advanced Battery Manufacturing Conference Almas Temple Club, Washington D.C.
14-15 CARS Regional Summit, Chicago Renaissance Hotel, Surviving and Thriving Amidst Ongoing Automotive Turmoil
20-22 WAJ Media Day, Mazda Raceway, Laguna Seca
20-22 SAE, World Congress, Detroit, MI


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.


Automotive Press Association, Detroit - Katie Kerwin


International Motor Press Association, NYC, Fred Chieco, President -,


Midwest Automotive Media Association, Chicago -


Motor Press Guild, Los Angeles -


New England Motor Press Association, Boston -


Northwest Automotive Press Association, Port Orchard, WA-


Phoenix Automotive Press Association, Phoenix, Cathy Droz, President- 


Rocky Mountain Automotive Press, Denver -


Southern Automotive Media Association, Miami FL, Ron Beasley, President,


Southeast Automotive Media Organization, Charlotte, NC


Texas Auto Writers Association, Harold Gunn, 


Truck Writers of North America, Tom Kelley, Executive Director,


Western Automotive Journalists, San Francisco  -, Ron Harrison


Washington Automotive Press Association, D.C., Rick Trawick, President

talk back

Re: December Road Ahead

I know there are programmers who write well, and I'm sure there are writers who program well. But the demands of each discipline are so great I doubt there will be more than a few who manage to do both well -- and profitably."

Don Adair

Re: Frank Washington Note

“What a beautiful note.............those of us that have gone through serious illnesses and surgeries really appreciate all the prayers and support of our family and friends. And believe me, it does work. I certainly believe in miracles!Have a great day!"

Ree Hartwell

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