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the road ahead

When Robert Petersen started selling Hot Rod Magazine to Detroit advertisers a prime argument was that each young enthusiast influenced the purchase decision of at least six other persons. Grease under the fingernails of the scruffy kid down the street was a clue to good advice about what brand was best.  Now, car buyers spend an average of five hours on the internet researching their purchase.  The problem with that is the amount of advice available.  Google “autos” and you get 17,000,000 responses in .20 seconds. Make it “cars “and the figure is 23,700.000.  The Center for Media Research cites a report from Borrell Associates that online car advertising now at $2.8 billion is expected to reach $4 billion in three years.  And, that budgets for offline auto ads in newspapers, direct mail and directories will decline by 20% each during the same period.  Used-car marketing expenditures on the web have already surpassed newspapers at the local level, according to Borrell, which predicts local dealers will increase their spending on online video to 79% of their online budget by 2012.  Manufacturer web sites have become a favorite source for persons serious about buying a car but not for those “dreaming” about a new car according to the report.  To an extent this is good news for content creators, i.e. writers, videographers, etc. because all of that advertising needs to be packaged in content that attracts eyeballs.  And hardly in familiar formats.  Behavioral targeting of advertising will increasingly focus in on viewing patterns to the point one seer predicts that the same content on different screens will generate different ads, depending upon the demographics, psychographics and viewing behavior of the viewer.  Small factlets like drops of paint on a Jackson Pollock painting just begun.

new roads

Racer and car builder Steve Saleen resigned from the company that bears his name to take the post of CEO of ZX Automobile of North America, a division of Chamco Auto. The Chinese American Cooperative Automotive plans to bring affordable vehicles to the U.S. by June of 2008. Saleen is already creating a dealer network and his longtime chief engineer, Billy Tally, will be heading-up new engineering designs as the company's Chief Technology Officer.  The first North American vehicles to arrive will be Chinese-built SUVs and pickups headed for the market in Mexico.  U.S.-bound vehicles will be built in a new $300M plant outside Tijuana, Mexico.  Eventually they hope to bring a new generation of affordable performance into the U.S. market.  . . . Culled from Wooden Horse News: MeisterAuto.com is a new on-line magazine in development about German cars (Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, VW) and it is looking for editors, freelance writers, photographers "and more."  It will include new car and product reviews, driving skills, tuners, tech, competition, etc.  It is published by TAM Communications Inc. and if you are interested email  BuzzK@AmericanIronMag.com . . . . Overland Journal is a vehicle-centered magazine covering expedition vehicles, travel stories, equipment reviews, and conservation news.  Executive editor is Jonathon Hanson.  It will be published five times a year. . . . PLATFORM is a new online magazine for PR professionals from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.  It addresses a variety of topics, including leadership, ethics and interviews with the pros.  You can check it out at http://www.platformmagazine.com . . . Muscle Car Review is back on the newsstands, not to be confused with bi-monthly Muscle Car News launched a year ago and edited by Patrick Smith.  It is published by DMW and distributed by subscription in the U.S. and Canada.  Wooden Horse also notes a growing market for freelance writers: blogs for people or companies that feel they need to add theirs to the 154 million plus blogs already out there, but don’t have the time to write one themselves.  Also worth noting for video journalists is the increasing trend to online auto coverage, with the average consumer reportedly doing five hours of online research before buying a new car many content creators and distributors want to serve her or him. . . . DriverTV cable VOD Channel has launched DriverTV.com and Hachette Filipacchi Media recently acquired Jumpstart Automotive Media a vertical network of online content sites. . . . www.CarDevotion.com is being launched with the goal of providing one-stop shopping for consumers seeking new and used vehicle information and financing as well as the latest automotive industry news, unique feature stories and the opportunity to connect with fellow car enthusiasts.  Veteran Los Angeles-based automotive journalist Peter Frey is the editor.  CarDevotion.com’s parent company, Dedicated Marketing Solutions, also based in Los Angeles, has thousands of branded websites in an ever--growing network, in addition to several exclusive web properties.  Sections on CarDevotion.com include: “Green Cars” with reviews, features and news about the latest eco-friendly vehicles; “Streets of Tomorrow” which looks into the short-and long-term future of the automobile and “Automotive News” which presents an overview of major developments in the automotive industry.  The “Industry Events” section will include lists of upcoming car shows, automaker-sponsored concert tours, driving adventures, traveling technology exhibits and new-vehicle ride-and-drive events.  The site will offer more than 3,000 reviews covering new models and others dating back more than a decade.

talk back

John Rettie, the Motor Press Guild’s 2004/5 president who continues to manage the National Automotive PR Survey sponsored by MPG, says the group has had a good response, so far, from auto journalists across the country to the 2007 survey questionnaire.  “As we hoped, this survey has evolved into an industry-wide annual PR benchmarking study of automotive PR departments,” says Rettie.  “It has been warmly welcomed by a majority of professionals in the business and is clearly helping PR departments better serve journalists in today’s ever changing publishing environment. ”  By now, every journalist reading this newsletter should have received an invitation to participate in the 2007 version of the survey, which is being conducted currently.  If you have not yet completed it please do so using the link that was in the original mailing or the reminder sent out recently.  “Obviously the more journalists who complete the survey the better the information will be – it’ll help PR personnel help you do your job,” says Rettie.  He also reminds everyone that the results are anonymous so everyone can be honest in their appraisals and comments.  If you would like more information on the survey, please e-mail Rettie at johnrettie@motorpressguild.org  or call him at (805) 687 7158. . . Speaking of surveys, one veteran freelancer responded to this year’s MPG invitation by reporting his long-standing refusal to participate in surveys because they ask him to give away what he sells - his viewpoint and opinions. Automotive News has a similar policy of not responding to surveys, all be it for different reasons. . . Last month’s Newsletter description of the accelerating emphasis on the visual and virtual world brought words of thanks from Hawaiian impresario, Bill Maloney.  He is grateful to the PR professionals who provide new car footage to help him create his weekly half-hour television show that uses a crew of ten, two days of location shooting, four on-camera personalities, with wardrobe, makeup and catering folks, plus at least a half day of studio time and 15 pages of scripting.  Far more costly, he notes, than batting out a review for print or the internet.  Maloney has added a weekly “Bunch of Maloney” column in the Honolulu daily newspaper, The Advertiser. . . .Chris Sawyer, executive editor of Automotive Design and Production, wants to assure his auto journalism colleagues that he is not the Chris Sawyer announced last month as editor of the new Southern California auto enthusiast pub, Inland Empire Automotive Magazine. . . . Bill Moore, former editor of Drive!, appreciated AWCOM mentioning his availability and would have been even more grateful if we had included and email address where a potential employer could contact him. It is hemmmingwa@sbcglobal.net . . . . Tony Barthel, publisher of The Curbside Auto Column advises that the web site associated with the column, http://www.curbside.tv, has undergone a complete overhaul.  A new feature is a patent pending zip code searchable auto event calendar. Enthusiasts he says, can use it to find events anywhere in the U.S., or in their backyard. . . . General Motors is making its 2008 Product Information Guide available only online to journalists with a GM Media Online ID. For more information contact mark.rollinson@gm.com  (313-665-1477) or steve.woznicki@eds.com  (313-665-3181). . . Steve Parker, the Car Nut, teases that he is going to have a big announcement soon about his blog.  The blog in its present state and what the seemingly indefatigable all-channel Parker has in mind for it can be seen at http://thecarnut.typepad.com . . . . Ed Noble, whose Wheels column appears in several papers across the nation wants folks to know his business email will be fasteddiefouru@yahoo.com  starting in July.

autowriters spotlight

New York Times auto editor Jim Cobb straddles the gap between the conceiving and the achieving of the paper’s stated goal to make its auto coverage “the one source where consumers start their research process.”  As the paper’s editorial “Car Czar”,  Cobb, and his able assistant editors Norm Mayersohn and James Schembari oversees five print auto editorial and news pages distributed in the New York metropolitan area with the Sunday paper, a one page distillate for inclusion in the national Sunday edition and the auto pages for the New York Times on the Web.  Befitting the paper’s announced commitment to growing its web presence and revenue, its digital auto offerings have undergone considerable change with more to come.  The pages have been redesigned for easier reading and have begun mining the vast reservoir of auto information in cyberspace, aggregating prices, crash data, ratings, rebates independent reviews and other features from some of the top sources available. Readers can Google maps and directions for travel and get dealer quotes on cars they configure online themselves.  These features buttress and amplify reviews and features by an impressive roster of freelance contributors from around the nation.  Its weekly e-newsletter, Drive Time, has been scrapped in favor of “Wheels”, a blog catering to the interaction and shared interest communities the web facilitates.  Talented freelancer Richard S. Chang compiles and writes most of the blog under the supervision of Mayersohn.  Daniel McDermon is the new web producer, succeeding Henry Spierer, retired, Robert Peele is the department’s administrative assistant, photo guru and go-to-guy and Greg Ryan is art director for the newspaper’s auto section. The Times owned About.Com franchise (About.Cars; Trucks; Vintage Cars, Used Cars, Hybrids, etc.) is not under Cobb’s purview.

passing scene

Summer reading is not confined to romances novels and light mysteries, apparently.  AWCOM has been alerted to four new automotive books of interest.  But first, reading of another kind from this year’s 24 Hours of LeMans from where L.A. Times writer Dan Neil is posting a blog that at least one reader compared to passionate poetry -and the race hasn’t even begun.  Neil promises to do his part and blog throughout the race this weekend, hence the blog’s title, “Sleepless In LeMans.” Check www.latimes.com/sleepless  . . . Curiosity may well be enough incentive to read Joe Oldham’s new book, "Muscle Car Confidential: Confessions Of A Muscle Car Test Driver.  It relies on carefully preserved notes the retired Popular Mechanics editor made from every road test he did in the sixties and early seventies for Performance Car Magazine, along with photos taken at the time – not when, as Joe puts it, many of them became “objects d’art” selling for hundreds of thousand or even millions at the Barrett-Jackson auctions.  It is a behind-the-scenes recounting of what happened and what didn't happen in every test reported, warts and all.  Check with Motorbooks International’s Blake Johnson if interested in a review copy. . . . A limited number of review copies are also available for Dam Few Died In Bed from Tom Saal who transcribed and edited the autobiography of the late Andrew G. Dunlop a race mechanic who worked with more than 70 drivers including a number of famous names, including Wally Stokes, Tony Bettenhausen, Jim Hurtubise, Gordon Johcock, Bill Vukovich and many other well known names.  The book will be out in July and is being published by Racemaker Press in Boston. Order online At www.racemaker.com or telephone 617-723-6533. Contact Saal at tomsaal@mac.com if interested in a review copy. . . . The cars of just one race driver are the subject of a new book but they well stand alone.  Dan Gurney’s Eagle Racing Cars written and amply illustrated and detailed by veteran racing car writer John Zimmerman is available this month.  Sub-titled, The Technical History of the Machines Designed and Built by All American Racers, it traces the conception, creation and refinement for maximum performance ever built by AAR.  Check www.bullpublishing.com for more information or call 1-800-831-1758 to order. . . . Also dealing with car design is Tracy Powell’s new book General Motors Styling 1927-1958: Genesis of the World’s Largest Design Studio.  The managing editor of Automobile Quarterly, Powell says he has just put the finishing touches on the book and he reports it has received very positive feedback, from those who critiqued his manuscript.  It will see print in October and more details can be obtained in the meantime at www.powellhousepub.com.

lane changes

Popular Mechanics West Coast Editor Ben Stewart is now the magazine’s Auto Editor, replacing Don Chaikin, retired.  Stewart will remain on the West Coast.  Matt Sullivan is the magazine’s new online auto editor, following Ben Chertoff's decision to test the freelance market.  Ben can be reached at benjamin.chertoff@gmail.com . . .  Kenn Peters says the Post-Standard made him a buy-out offer he could not refuse so he retired after years as the Syracuse daily’s auto writer.  Business editor Marie Morelli said Peters will not be replaced.  The paper will rely on the wires for breaking news and vendors for other automotive material.  Peters continues to write for magazines published by the paper’s parent company and is interested in freelance assignments.  He can be reached at: kpeters@twcny.rr.com . . .  Also in the freelance market is former Motor Trend Road Test Editor Neil Chirico.  His email address is svoneil@hotmail.com . . . Joe Ray has replaced Ralph Fuentes as editor of Primedia’s Low Rider Magazine and related enterprises (calendar, events).  Nick Licata is the new editor of Camaro Performers magazine, replacing Tony Kelly. . . Steve Wheeler succeeds Jerry Wallace as the auto editor at the Baton Rouge Advocate. . .  Christian Wardlow has departed Autobytel’s Auto Site, leaving it a one-man operation by Ben Chee. . . . The Vancouver Columbian no longer uses an autowriter, staff or freelance. . . . Monica Sotomeyer has moved up to news director of Wireless Flash a San Diego-based pop culture wire service specializing in off- beat news including automotive. . . Sue Elliott Sink edited the first edition of American Driver before departing the magazine which morphed from Texas Driver almost before she had settled in as editor of the regional pub some months ago.  Now the magazine’s publisher/editor, Tim Miller, has re-announced morphing of the upscale enthusiast magazine and, reportedly is looking for an editor. . . . Joni Gray, formerly online content editor for Kelley Blue Book has moved to the L.A. Times as Senior Editor, Autos. She’ll be doing more assigning than writing. And for now, she’s completely renovating the (new and still to come) Highway 1 section online and (hopefully) in print. With all that responsibility, she'll be behind the scenes for a good couple of months. John O'Dell has taken a buy-out from the paper and his position is open right now so send resumes to Gray if interested.  Leigh Anne Sessions replaces Gray at Kelley Blue Book. . . David Boldt, a past president of the Texas Autowriters Association, has changed hats and locations.  He is now Product Public Relations Manager for American Suzuki Motors Corporation in Brea, California. . . . The very well-known in auto circles Leo Levine is now an editor-at-large for David E. Davis’Winding Road" E-zine.

pit notes

As usual, the new owner of Primedia’s enthusiast division, Source-Interlink Cos., has issued the “steady as she goes” advice to the many editorial employees effected by the sale.  What’s a new owner to do but wait until the dust settles on its purchase of 70 magazine titles, 90 websites and 60 event programs for 1.2 billion dollars? However Source Interlink borrowed the $1.2
billion at a cost estimated to be $110 million a year.  The magazines brought in an operating profit last year of $75 million, so changes will be made.  The new owner already has closed the magazines’ L. A. circulation office, laying off 30 employees while consolidating circulation operations in New York City.  On the plus side, the new owner, described as a home-entertainment distributor, serves 110,000 retail stores.  Those include Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Kroger and Best Buy.  Titles to jump off that many shelves would seem to be a priority and opportunity for editors and writers. . . . AWCom neglected to salute William Jeane’s appraisal of the Chicago Auto Show which, as a Windy City native and a veteran of a dozen of the Lakeside hoorahs, we agree with but for one exception – labeling it the “National Show.”  That designation could freight the event with an exuberance-quelling self-consciousness that would dampen the show’s “let’s have fun “ambience. Perhaps like the Dallas Cowboys before they were Jerry Jones’ team, a mythic “America’s Car Show” title not to be taken literally but one celebrating the spirit of this annual door-opener to the spring-selling season would work.  . . . Motor Club Events, LLC. of Atlanta, Ga. plans an event in far away Carmel, Calif., on Tuesday, August 14 which club spokesman Doug Freedman sees as an underutilized day during the 10 days of the Monterey Peninsula auctions, concourse and vintage car races. He envisages 14 streets of Carmel, including Ocean Avenue, filled with underserved landmark cars and other motorized fun products produced between 1946 and 1971. . . . Vince Bodiford is proud to announce that his Weekend Drive TV show is now also available on-demand at tv.com (a unit of CNET Networks), its 15th video outlet worldwide.  The Weekend Drive TV half-hour HDTV broadcast series is in production now with Orchard Entertainment with a view to national distribution. The Motor Sports Radio (am) Network of Johnson City, NY. reached a broadcast milestone May 18 with the 700th network episode of "Radio-Road-Test", the network's weekly five minute program of driving impressions hosted by Paul Kaminski.  The show has been in continuous national syndication and production since its premiere on January 28, 1993. . . . On Wheels with Warren Brown launched May 8 on WMET World Radio. Broadcast every Tuesday from 12 noon to 1p.m.on WMET 1160 in Washington, D.C., the program addresses the product needs, business concerns, and personalities of people of color in the global automotive industry. Host Warren Brown is a senior editor and automotive columnist for The Washington Post and has long recognized as the 'Dean' of African-American automotive journalists.  On Wheels featured seventy black men holding top positions in the auto industry in its June/July African Americans On Wheels Magazine. . . . Some 43 journalists and broadcasters gathered with 56 manufacturer’s representatives for the purpose of evaluating 49 of the automotive industry’s latest models at TAWA’s annual spring challenge.  A Ford Mustang Shelby GT was named car of the year by the writers who selected winners in four other categories, as well.

events, honors and awards

June 15-16- SAE Student member formula-style race car competition, California Speedway
June 15-17 – Annual Holly Hot Rod Reunion, National Trails Raceway, Columbus, Ohio
June 20 – WAPA Nissan, Luncheon, National Press Club D.C.
June 21  - PAPA, Kia, Dinner, Phoenix
June 21 - IMPA-Mazda, Luncheon , 3 West Club, NYC
June 17-19 NWAPA Summer Run to the Sun Event, Seattle,
June 24 – Society of Automotive Historians Lit Faire and Exchange at Wall Parks NHRA Museum, LA County Fairgrounds. Free Tables for MPG Members.
June 28 – APA, Honeywell Turbo Diesel , Ride’N Drive, Luncheon, Gem Theater, Detroit
July 10 – MPG, Kia Motors, Luncheon, Los Angeles
July 19 20 NEMPA’s “Ragtop Ramble," Boston
August 6-10 Center For Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminar. Allan Mullaly, Keynoter, Traverse City, Mich.
August 8 WAJ dinner, Basque Center, South San Francisco
August 5-8 SAE 4th Asia Pacific Automotive Engineering Conference (APAC), Renaissance Hollywood Hotel.

Ken Purdy Award the deadline for entries in the 2007 contest is February 1, 2008 but IMPA urges everyone to be on the lookout for and to collect potential winners throughout the year. A complete set of rules can be found at www.impa.org 

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.


APA      Automotive Press Association, Detroit - John Lippert, jlippert@bloomberg.net
IMPA    International Motor Press Association, NYC, Fred Chieco, President - info@impa.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, Cathy Droz, President-
RMAP      Rocky Mountain Automotive Press, Denver - vince@theweekenddrive.com
SAMA    Southern Automotive Media Association, Miami FL, Ron Beasley, President,
SEAMO    Southeast Automotive Media Organization, Charlotte, NC www.southeastautomedia.org
TAWA      Texas Auto Writers Association - http://www.TexasAutoWriters.org, Harold Gunn, hgunn@gunstuff.com 
TWNA     Truck Writers of North America, www.twna.org Tom Kelley, Executive Director, tom.kelley@deadlinefactory.com
WAJ      Western Automotive Journalists, San Francisco  - www.waj.org, Michael Coates, president, coateskm@aol.com

     Washington Automotive Press Association, D.C.,
Kimatni Rawlins, President - www.washautopress.org

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Glenn F. Campbell