“An embarrassment of niches” is part of the problem in monetizing digital content. This phrase was used by the opening speaker at a recent Harvard University communications conference to describe the universe of public broadcasting. Attendees said it also describes the situation facing major media companies and certainly start-ups trying to make money with their digital offerings. The old business model of content creator, media company and content user has lost the battle against the tidal wave of content and technology that is enabling users to create, find and select the content they choose. “Tarzan economics” was another colorful depiction as reported in’ recap of the conference. It describes what media companies need to do: “letting go of the last income stream before the next vine is actually within your grasp.” A major recommendation from the conference was for communicators to listen and interact with their audience to create and improve content.


Money (as just discussed) is a severe bump on the technology-paved road to the golden age of communications. Robert Farago, publisher of The Truth About Cars (TTAC) [ ] makes it almost a road block by not accepting advertising that might impinge on the freedom to say what he and his stable of able writer/reviewers truly think about a product or a topic. After more than two years of giving away the provocative, often insightful and never advertiser-compromised content, he asked his reader base to pay per article downloaded. Farago quickly found out, as he reported on line, that the fierce loyalty of TTAC’s fan base extends to just this side of cash money. However, he was given assurances by enough of his readers that he is going forward with a more conventional business plan, a $4.95 per month subscription renewable until cancelled. He’s also offering an annual subscription for $49.30, or you can skip the subscriptions and pay .65 per download. TTAC now averages two fresh columns or podcasts a day and as an added inducement to subscribe, Brock Yates, not a reluctant word warrior himself, will join the writing team. . . . Winding Road [ ] is taking a different course. This monthly on-line magazine for auto enthusiasts is giving away a three-year subscription and will accept advertising from car companies and others in the industry, or out. One of the reasons for confidence in applying this conventional print approach is the appointment of David E. Davis, Jr. as editor-in-chief a few issues back. His success as editor of Car and Driver and founder of Automobile reflects his remarkable ability to reach both enthusiasts and advertisers and keep them both coming back. For those with Macs, Winding Road may be tough to open. However, if the glitch is not already fixed, we’ve been told Mac users can open it in Acrobat. . . . Still another approach to selling content on the internet is’s [ ]. They are set up, Wooden Horse News reports, like a supermarket where content can be put in a shopping basket “one piece at a time and syndicated to multiple buyers.” A number of big publishers have signed up to sell content they “own.” Once again, Wooden Horse warns writers to check their contracts to see who “owns” secondary use rights. And, for that matter, to be cautious about what they post on social media sites like My Space. This site has a small legal notice on it that states once material is posted, My Space has unlimited rights to do with it what they will. See the sidebar  U.S. Supreme Court Tasini Ruling on this topic. It will become increasingly important as portable devices such as flash sticks, cell phones that become a computer mouse, or screens that fold to pocketsize, make it easier to transport content from platform to platform.


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After 20 years as the “Chevy Guy” at Argus Publishers (Super Chevy, Super Chevy Sunday events and Popular Hot Rodding editorial and event chairs) Doug Marion was downsized out and into self-employment. A necessity, he notes, in order to care for his aged parents, his mother turned 88 June 5. He created Chevy Rumble magazine five years ago but left it recently. His current freelance work includes articles for APG-Media’s Diesel World and Drag Racer magazines. In the works are books on the subject he knows best – 1950s and 1960s Chevrolets. He has a treasure trove of 50,000 photos, 1/3 of them high-resolution, on virtually every facet of performance Chevrolets. While he has been inducted into a number of Halls of Fame and recognized by the State of California for his many years of writing and teaching about fuel economy, low emissions and engine efficiency, Doug has this word of advice for younger photo-journalists: “diversify.” When he was no longer on someone’s payroll and in between auto assignments, he was more than able to pay the bills as an accomplished wedding and personal photographer.


Sue Elliot-Sink has been promoted before she even put out an issue of California Driver.  It and Texas Driver Magazine have been absorbed by the newly announced American Driver Magazine with Sue as editor. Publisher Timothy Miller reports: “American Driver Magazine, published six times a year, targeting the ultra-affluent automotive enthusiast, will be quickly building up to 100,000 circulation, newsstand, subscriptions and controlled distribution, a tabloid sized (10 x 12), perfect bound coffee table type of lifestyle magazine, additional staff has been added. Asked about staying with print when the trend seems to be digital, he replied: “Magazines will never be replaced by digital (although they will support each other) and we can have a complete discussion of that in the future as well as the whys and wherefores.”.  . . . When we saluted Paul N. Abelson, Sr. Tech. Editor of Land Line and Road King Magazines for his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Truck Writers of North America he notes that we might have noted that he serves on the MAMA Rally Committee and was a two-term director of TWNA. . . . Mark Ellis advises that much to his chagrin and ribbing from the editorial staff at Autoweek, he neglected to mentioned that he is a contributor to that magazine when he updated us on his career after AMI. . . . Karl Ritzler, long time editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution Wheels Section advises he is retired but still freelances auto reviews as well as writing auto stories for the Daily Report, a small–circulation newspaper serving the Atlanta area legal community. . . . Jerry Kuyper is officially retired from The Northwest Herald in Chrystal
Lake, Il. but continues to do their Wheels section. . . . . Joe Mavilia who writes Automotive Love Affair on the web and for five weeklies in suburban L.A, County, advises that he is co- developer and producer of a national magazine set for launch in Fall 2006. It is a high end photographic publication with stories, reviews and profiles of automotive movers and shakers. . . . Alice “Nikki” Johnson-Muhammed advises that her Glamour On Wheels magazine has new offices and phones but the P.O. Box remains the same. . . . Another AMI alum, David Thomas, is an editorial producer with He reports that his main responsibility there will be the site’s just-launched new blog. The blog will focus on consumer news, “So,” he writes, ”even a price change, new features for a model year, new incentives, when a new model hits dealer lots, etc....that’s exactly what our readers want to know.” . . . Freelancer Nick Kurczewski is now based in Paris, France and in addition to past magazine outlets he has added Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car, Octane magazines and Winding . . . . After 11 years as Automotive Columnist at The Allentown Morning Call, Larry Printz joined the staff of The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. as Automotive Editor. . . . Bill Baker has added Winding to his outlets, specializing in motorcycles, but not for a while. As he relates: “I took a few days after a BMW motorcycle preview in South Africa to go to France to ski …to make this short - after taking five runs on our first day at Val Thorens, I was heading for lunch with my skis in my hand when I did a Laugh-In fall on icy steps, the skis lending edgewise under me. They did a neat break in my right femur.
The wait in the cold, the wondering what word one yells in French for HELP!, the "fun" of being wiggled in a rubber bag up a slope to the ambulance, the first stop to determine if it's really broken -- MAIS OUI!!! - the hour trip down the mountain to the hospital, three hours of surgery for which I'm awake though numb, installation of an erector set in my thigh, 10 days in a village hospital where they love the policies of George Bush, arranging to get to Paris and back to LA with a cell phone that charges by the milli-second-- these are a few of my favorite things I'll skip in the interest of brevity. I'll be on crutches for three months and still won't be able to play the violin when it's all behind me.” Baker adds, “It was bad luck, but the lesson to take home is to have emergency travel and repatriation insurance and insurance to cover cancelled but pre-paid travel and hotel reservations.”


Some welcome access for media may come from Steve Harris’s recent reorganization of the massive General Motors PR operation. A good news offensive he has undertaken since returning to the top PR spot includes reaching out to media in medium markets where the company’s presence has not been as personal as either side would like. The offense includes a second campaign directed at national media to promote progress being made in GM’s turnaround efforts. A possible example of the two-pronged attack was Bob Lutz’ news-making retort suggesting that it was Friedman who is addicted when he accused GM of abetting  America’s addition to oil by offering a year’s supply of fuel to purchasers of its low-mileage SUVs. A rebate in an eye-catching form. Harris posted a recital of the many things GM was doing to improve fuel economy, conserve energy and utilize alternative fuels, and invited Friedman to visit GM and learn more about what is being done. Classic PR 101. . . . Audi of America is beefing up its PR operations. Jeff Kuhlman, formerly with GM in top sales and marketing posts, has been named chief communications officer to lead and expand Audi's public relations. Several other staffers have been added by Audi in an effort to establish more media attention for the brand. West coast PR manager based in Los Angeles, Celeste Atkinson, joined Audi in April to focus on national lifestyle outreach and entertainment industry communications. Andrew Lipman just joined Audi as East coast public relations manager and will lead business communications for the department from New York. Additional recent additions in the department include: Patrick Hespen (November), media relations and motorsports specialist; Sarah Toycen (February), Audi's press fleet specialist; and Sarah Hayden, press events and auto show specialist (April). Departmental operations and strategy is lead by Jennifer Cortez who remains in her role as director of communications. . . . .Dave Reuter, after a distinguished career in Ford PR , has been named General Manager of Public Relations to succeed John Crawford who will retire as Director of Public Relations for Bentley Motors, Inc. in December of this year. . . . BMW PR director Dave Bucko has yet to respond to request to verify Robert Farago’s account of Bucko’s decision to deny press cars to The Truth About Cars.  According to Farago, Bucko objected to the tone and tenor of the web site and, either volunteered or when pressed, cited TTAC comparing the Subaru B9 Tribeca’s front grill to a “flying vagina” and a particularly harsh review of a Lexus.  If correct as reported,  Bucko’s effort to raise the esthetic and ethical level of auto journalism is a decade or two late.  Better he had heeded the late Henry Ford II’s dictum, “Never complain, never explain.”


Right on the bumper of announcing its Vehicle Satisfaction Awards based on surveys of new owners (Hyundai Azera and Lincoln Navigator) AutoPacific is announcing its all new Ideal Vehicle Award. This award measures eleven very product-oriented attributes. It looks at those people who want No Change in those basic attributes and then develops an additive score based on the percentages. AutoPacific says this means the vehicles that need little or no change are ideal and maker has done an outstanding job understanding the target buyer and is creating the product that is ideal for its buyers. The top winners are: Most Ideal Brand – Hyundai; Most Ideal Car (overall) - Mercury Montego; Most Ideal Truck (Overall) – Honda Odyssey.  . . . The Detroit Press Club Foundation gave top honors in its Wheels Award Journalism Competition to Bloomberg Television. Its documentary "GM: Retooling An American Icon" won in the Television News Programming/Documentary category and the overall Golden Wheel award. Winners in 16 categories of the International Wheels Awards were selected. A complete list of winners is available at


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.


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Tasini Ruling

The court noted that if 'there is demand for a freelance article standing alone or in a new collection, the Copyright Act allows the freelancer to benefit from that demand; after authorizing the initial publication, the freelancer may also sell the article to others. It would scarcely 'preserve the author's copyright in a contribution' as contemplated by Congress, if a newspaper or magazine publisher were permitted to reproduce or distribute copies of the author's contribution in isolation or within new collective works.' The court referred to the belief that 'freelance authors have experienced significant economic loss' due to a 'digital revolution that has given publishers [new] opportunities to exploit authors' works.' "

Events Calendar

15 - IMPA Luncheon, Clean Vehicles, Union of Concerned Scientists, NYC
19 - MAMA, GM Luncheon, Oakbrook, Terrace, IL
19 - NWAPA’s, Summer Run To The Sun, Seattle, WA
21 - WAPA Luncheon, NADA Guides and Kelley Blue Book, Washington, DC
26 - APA Luncheon, Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition, Detroit, MI

11 - MPG Luncheon, Saturn, Los Angeles, CA
13-14 NEMPA Ragtop Ramble, Boston, MA
18 - WAPA, Safety & Technology Ride, Washington, DC
21 - 5th Annual West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Banquet Monrovia, Calif. For more information contact Tim Meyer

7-11 - Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars Traverse City, MI


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