june 2009 newsletter

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“The future is already here, it’s just not widely distributed.”
"There is no known cure for addictive content, regardless of delivery method."

Bo Sacks, president of Precision Media speaking at a conference in Boulder, Colo., organized by the Magazine Publishers of America, as reported by The Wooden Horse News

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the road ahead

In the world of content, technology and people he writes and consults about, pundit John Blossom sees a Content Nation. It is growing rapidly. When he wrote a book by that title a few months ago his Content Nation had a population of 73,000,000. In his weekly Enewsletter, Blossom said recently that today it is easily 100,000 000 people who “use social media to seriously influence others.”

AWCom is not sure if that figure includes all the persons in the world already connected to the web (Blossom says there is a huge market of 5 billion people who are not), but those who are will help generate more data by individuals in 2009 than in the history of mankind through 2008. Global Information Overload - Photo by Jay LopezThat’s according to Andreas Weigend, writing about The Social Data Revolution(s) for Now, New, Next, The Monitor Talent Group Blog.

Obviously, that staggering amount of data needs to be sorted, edited, packaged and purveyed in chunks easy to assimilate, if at all. It is less daunting a task for matters automotive - Google only has 219,000,000 entries for automotive ;-)  -  as of this writing. That’s where auto journalists come in, except increasingly they are being pushed to the web where the good, bad and indifferent are mixed in a growing profusion of auto sites and blogs and the multitude of sources and torrent of words dilute the perceived (and dollar) value of a writer’s words (see Road Signs).

Building on that is the common vision that audiences (readers, listeners or viewers) will congregate and interact around shared interests, rather than physical locations.  This leaves open the possibility of people divided and isolated in camps according to their predilections, as in current divisive talk radio.

One interesting suggestion for dealing with the problem of voluminous undifferentiated data comes from a communications consultant in England. Heidi Sinclair, Chief Executive Officer, Heidi Sinclair & Co., notes in Media Post that many journalists have become media brands. Among them Arianna Huffington, Maria Bartiromo, Fareed Zakaria and Nicholas Kristof. She asks, who wouldn’t go to a sports site sponsored by Nike? And who would have the money and the motivation to produce a reliable quality sports site? Events sponsored by competing sportswear brands might suffer but that wouldn’t be the case if GEICO or All-State Insurance sponsored an all-inclusive consumer auto site. They, too, would have the money and the motive to provide drivers of all cars with a quality experience from great writing and excellent art to complete specs and reliable reviews.

On the other hand, those that bemoan the incursions of the web, (see Talk Back) can take heart in a recent survey that shows 90 per cent of the “tweeting” on Twitter is done by just 10 per cent of its members. And, Wooden Horse News reports that research by analysts at Knowledge Networks leads them to conclude “Facebook, Twitter and others of that genre have failed to become much of a marketing weapon and likely never will.”

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new roads

Slate's The Big Money has introduced a new blog: Shifting Gears, hosted by Matthew DeBord. It will chronicle “the ongoing creative destruction, assessing the successes and failures, keeping track of the struggling giants of Detroit, the frisky startups in Silicon Valley, the resurgent European carmakers, and the rising players in China and India.” . . . Veteran newspaper auto writers Jim Meachen in North Carolina and Ted Biederman in Calif., announced that they have launched, “a new method to drive their madness, a website for the common man (and woman) who would like to gain some knowledge about cars to help or reassure a buying decision and for the automotive news hound that wants to know more.” The bi-costal editorial twosome will bring more than a half century experience to the venture and a promise to keep things informal, informative and fun.

Road & Travel Magazine publisher/editor Courtney Caldwell has introduced a new bi-weekly Road & Travel Enewsletter. . . . Randi Payton, CEO and founder of On Wheels Media, has announced a new publication: DECISIVE, The Best Source for Cultural and Consumer News. He bills it as “the first multicultural Consumer Reports.” It will be published quarterly in African-American and Latino versions. . . . Michael Pearson reports in E-Commerce Times that the 2-year-old web site has opened an online store designed to help publishers and independent authors make sales. The Scribd Store will allow content creators to set prices and digital rights for their work. For more information contact:

A new Forums section has been added for interaction on the 24 Hours of LeMons web site. . . . Renay San Miguel, writing in TechNews World offers his own and cites other sources about rules for journalists moonlighting in PR or related fields to offset the drop in income the profession is experiencing. Linda Thomas who writes The News Chick blog and successfully works both sides of the street is among them.

James Flamang writes: “After 14 years online, providing vehicle reviews, feature stories, and commentary on the automobile business and car culture, Tirekicking Today is expanding its horizons. Our web site now covers issues related to work, labor, personal finance, and consumer concerns. Titled Toil & Trouble, this new section delves into such issues as, “the urgent need for imaginative ways to deal with rising unemployment; the benefits of non-traditional, self-reliant worklives; the futility of traditional job searches; the role of unions in modern worklife; ways to live comfortably with modest income and fewer possessions; sensible use of credit; the need for financial literacy at an early age; and why so many of us hate our jobs.” He also plans a travel section later on.


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. 

Gary Grant speaks up for the new media in this month’s Tom-Tom. He grew up around auto racing and spent 23 years on the retail and repair side of the industry. His automotive media work began in Toronto in 2002 as radio show’s Toronto guest host. He began in 2005.

Why Traditional Print Media Sucks

"A few months ago, a colleague mentioned that he wanted to introduce me to a friend who's a big fan of the magazine, and a real car/life enthusiast. I've heard this offer before — that person is usually a longtime reader who just wants to talk about his favorite old cars — so I politely dismissed the request. And besides, he lives in Chicago, far away from Los Angeles, even farther for someone who hates the cold. No chance. " Sam Mitani in the May 2009 issue of Road and Track 

The rise of New Media content versus the fall of Traditional Print media has been a hotly contested topic anywhere writers congregate. Not only are TP jobs evaporating but there are newcomers of all sorts who are stealing the thunder away from many of the old boy's club.

The above statement by a respected member of the TP community exemplifies the reason the old boy's clubs are falling apart. Strangely, Mitani is a digital savvy guy who seems to know his way around the web so I was rather taken aback by the comment. | Tom-Tom| Gary Grant

Gary Grant

A huge key to the success of NM is the transparency of the medium. Readers are encouraged to respond and interact. Writers, publishers and videographers will respond in person to a reader's request. Most will go out of their way to actually meet up with readers if location permits because by building a real world community alongside the virtual one builds brand loyalty.

Most NM writers must work very hard and commit to years of work before they are taken seriously and even still are often shunned by the old guard. While some of the NM folks have followed the semi traditional route of going to journalism school and taking the more accommodating route of writing online, many of us actually have real industry and motorsports backgrounds. You could even say that some of us are automotive experts who also happen to write.  How many TP guys can say the same?

TP types often point to the lack of an editor. Poppycock! Pick up the local newspaper. Heck, pick up Road and Track. The quantity of typos is frightful. Recently I spent some time with the chief editor of one of the top NM automotive outlets and I can say first hand that every line of content is scrutinized before the post button is pressed. As the publisher of a smaller blog, I must admit that I self edit and do my best to correct what few small mistakes my writers make.

The big question here is how do Mitani and R & T get off thinking they are above meeting the people? They print 700,000 which they somehow manipulate into 5.5 million readers. Gawker media advertises that serves 2.2 million unique visits monthly which equates to roughly 21.2 million page views. Those are real eyeballs, not a guess as to how many people picked up a copy in the doctor's office. The staff at Jalopnik interact with their readers at every chance they get. They are not alone, as most NM outlets make a point of getting to know their readers while Mitani openly admits to rebuffing a loyal reader!

Until TP manages to wrap their collective heads around the importance of building a real community alongside the virtual community, NM will continue to steal readers. Along with those readers come the ever important advertisers. I would imagine it is tough to fire up a printing press without advertising dollars!

Comments? Please go to:

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



Old Focals - Vintage and Contemporary Eyewear

autowriters spotlight

Crossing the line between advertising and editorial can work sometimes. Camilo Alfaro is a case in point ten years in the making. He produces auto sections for 48 newspapers reaching two thirds of the nation’s Hispanic population. Autowriters Spotlight: Camila Alfaro

Camilo Alfaro

Starting as an ad rep for Chicago’s LaRaza newspaper’s automotive department after graduating Michigan State University with a degree in advertising and a minor in Spanish, he soon learned, “It wasn’t easy selling automotive ads to a dealer prior to the Census. Their idea of Hispanics was that they all washed dishes in the back of a restaurant or mowed lawns for a living, so a lot of educating had to be done back then.”

He also learned that the auto interests of the paper’s readers were underserved editorially. And, that car makers were open to reaching the growing Hispanic market, which was at 11 percent of the population then and growing. “I asked some manufacturers for cars and suddenly we had a column,” he recalls. His writing and producing an auto section caused a lot of drama in the news room but, fortunately, he says, the publisher shared his vision.

After several years at La Raza, Alfaro worked at Automundo Magazine. He became one of a few bilingual auto writers and continued his career with the Sun-Times News Group (STNG). As automotive editor at STNG’s Pioneer Press headquarters for their suburban division, Alfaro was responsible for a 12-24-page weekly automotive supplement serving 50 plus suburban newspapers. Providing this volume of content for 75 percent of STNG’s publications wasn’t an easy task, but he assembled an outstanding team of writers to get the job done: Al Vinikour, Ed Noble, Jeff Taylor and Kirk Bell all worked with him. Alfaro also helped launch Chic-Auto, a high-end, glossy magazine that was inserted into the Pioneer Press and the Chicago Sun-Times.

His work for STNG brought him an offer he could not refuse: automotive editor for impreMedia’s umbrella of 24 Spanish-language print/portal publications in the nation’s top ten markets. Among them: La Opinion Los Angeles, El Diario NYC and La Raza Chicago.

With the economy’s downturn, Alfaro saw an opportunity to create, a complete Spanish-language automotive content source for publications serving the nation’s 28 million Hispanic and international outlets, as well. It makes the economies of scale available weekly to 48 print/portal publications nationally, including impreMedia, with a combined weekly circulation of 5,375,562 - almost three times USA Today’s, he proudly notes. Publications serving the nation’s largest minority population (now at 15 percent) and largest second language group with an estimated purchasing power of $951 billion, are growing. Eighty two percent of the respondents to a recent survey in the five states with the highest Hispanic population say they read Hispanic publications regularly and over half of them are under age 35 - a favored demographic for car makers.

To supply quality weekly content in volume, Alfaro, as he did with the Sun-Times, has assembled an outstanding team of writers: Carlos Guzman, Jorge Covarrubias, Ignacio Demaria and Jaime Florez. “ Working with these guys makes this enormous task easy. I think when you do what you love, everything becomes easier.” Alfaro says.

Recently Alfaro has expanded to broadcast. He talks about the week’s latest auto news every Sunday on Jaime Florez’s ESPN Deportes Radio show, “Ruedas ESPN.” The show is heard in the nation’s ten largest markets from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (EST) and also on Sirius satellite radio channel 91.

Comments? Please go to


road signs

Amazon has introduced a large-screen Kindle DX suitable for reading newspapers, text books and other large-format print. However, Dave Morgan, writing in MediaPost (May 7) thinks it will not become popular with newspaper publishers because, Amazon, he says, is asking for 70% of the revenue generated from subscriptions delivered to Kindle devices. . . . The Denver Post is creeping along a new road, installing printers in a few dozen homes. They’ve tried it in a Denver hotel. The paper pays for the print and ink and the printer manufacturer sells the device for a deep discount recouped over time while the paper makes money on the targeted advertising the system facilitates.

The Tucson Citizen is the fifth large regional newspaper to close its print edition this year. It will be online only. . . . Daniel Lyon is quoted in The Immediate Network’s Media Digest as writing in Newsweek, “Newspapers are dead. When you ask people running these companies what they are going to do, you get nothing. Writing is now worth zero. The value of what we do is worth zero.” . . . Michael Wolf, writing for Newser, said, “Newspapers stopped working a long time ago and a better means of doing their job is readily available. Who wouldn’t want their news delivered in a form that was searchable, saveable, resendable. Which you can talk back to, which is linked to other relevant news, which allows you to read as lightly or as deeply as you wanted to and combines text, pictures and video?" . . . Arianna Huffington reminds in her Huffington Post “the future of journalism is not dependent upon the future of newspapers.” She says the pay walls protecting content are down and journalism must rely on search engines, online advertising, citizen journalism and foundation support to go forward.

A nice thought but relying on the high morals of citizen journalists or the self-correcting nature of web postings a la Wikipedia is risky. Great journalism costs says Mitch Ratcliffe. He lays it out in a detailed Rational Rant for the ZD Net. He says, “I think the economics of journalism and ethics are deeply related and we tend to view them separately, emphasizing the dying channels for distribution at the expense of understanding the net loss of reporting.” He puts the cost of a great journalist at about $180,000 a year regardless of how delivered and irrespective of IT, telecom and office space. Many an auto journalist would settle for that.


pit notes

The first Women’s World Car of the Year.  Canadian freelancer Jill McIntosh sent along press release describing the new competition that will select winners in four categories: Family Car, Sports Car, Luxury Car and Economy Car. They will be selected from a short list by women journalists. McIntosh is one of two from Canada. Others are from Australia, Europe, India, North America, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Sandy Myhre, based in New Zealand, who originated the award said “most awards are chosen by a huge majority of men who tend to view cars differently to women.” Eligible cars must be new to market between September 2008 and September 2009 and be sold in at least ten countries. The overall winner will be announced at the end of the year.

Recent new books from autodom include the first and undoubtedly definitive biography, Mark Donohue, Technical Excellence At Speed. Written by Michael Argetsinger and published by David Bull, it includes a forward by Roger Penske. Every race Donohue ran, every car he drove and illuminating back stories are covered in 344 pages that includes 16 pages of photos plus a painstakingly thorough indexing of his motorsport life and times. The publisher‘s edition provides audio tapes of Donohue dictating material for his own book, Unfair Advantage. Anyone who reads this book and comes away without an understanding of how and why Donohue put a new face on America’s auto racing should turn in their driver’s license. Ordering information at

Frank Aukofer, who in retirement pens DriveWays, a weekly auto review column distributed by Scripps Howard, recounts his 40 years with The Milwaukee Journal and its successor Journal Sentinel  - 30 as Washington D.C. Bureau Chief- in a new book, Never A Slow Day, The Adventures of a 20thCentury Newspaper Reporter. He chronicles his coverage of some of the nation’s biggest news events, starting with assassination of Martin Luther King. It is available through local bookstores, or online at . . . . Still another auto opus new to AWCOM is PJ O’Rourke’s DRIVING LIKE CRAZY: Thirty Years of Vehicular Hell-bending, Celebrating America the Way It’s Supposed to Be – With an Oil Well in Every Backyard, a Cadillac Escalade in Every Carport, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Mowing Our Lawn. It, too, is available at and most bookstores. . . . A true “auto insider” book is due later this month from Sue Elliott and a final literary note: MPG has purchased five free tables for its members to display their books at the Southern California Chapter of the Society of Automotive Historians annual Lite Faire on the grounds of the NHRA Wally Parks Museum in Pomona, June 28.

Roosevelt Gist announces that his will introduce a virtual TV studio network (GRID) for auto journalists to produce their own live and on-demand video. He reports The Grid will give freelance and employed auto journalists an opportunity to learn or to use their existing know-how to create a virtual TV studio at substantially reduced production costs. A participant must be a member of a local automotive journalist association. Details, including cost and revenue generating opportunities are available at . . . . Research house Auto Pacific reports that Cadillac has the most satisfied owners but Porsche owners are the most willing to recommend their car. . . . For the first time ever, all seven of the only Packard concept cars ever built will be displayed together. They are scheduled to be at the Fairfield County Concours d'Elegance in Westport, CT, on the weekend of September 12 and 13, 2009. (AWCom does not pretend to note all Concours but a “world first” merits it.). . . .Its official: media workers are the heaviest drinking professionals in England – out-quaffing their nearest rivals, IT workers, by nearly 25%. This according to a recent survey by that country’s Department of Health, as reported in the May 28 issue of the Immediate Network’s Media Digest.


AWcom for targeted news release distribution.

lane changes

Mark McNabb is the new President and CEO of Mazerati –North America, Inc. Previously with Nissan, he succeeds Marti Eulberg, resigned. . . Don Bain, who wrote about autos for LaVoz in Denver has moved on but releases can be sent to Pauline Rivera at . . . .Steve Parker advises of a new email address: and, a surface address new to AWCOM: Steve Parker Productions, Inc. - 900 Hillcrest Road - Beverly Hills, CA USA 90210 . . . A good email address for freelancer Stewart Berg is  . . . Kevin Aguilar is no longer Feature Editor at Sport Truck, promises to update soon. . . .When Executive VP and Men’s Enthusiast Network Group Director Nick Matarazzo departed Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S after 28 years, it was interpreted as a harbinger of the publisher selling its enthusiast titles that include Car and Driver and Road & Track. However, in a statement accompanying the recent sale of Boating and other magazines in its stable, the company said it intends to strengthen those titles


across the finish line

Bob Sinclair, retired popular auto executive, most recently as head of SAAB in the U.S.


- 30-


Glenn F. Campbell

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National Tire Safety Week
Check Your Tires

June 7-13

Petersen Automotive Museum
Los Angeles, CA

P.J. O’Rourke Book Signing
 DRIVING LIKE CRAZY: Thirty Years of Vehicular Hell-bending
June 13 (2 pm - 4 pm)

 Exhibit Opening
California Car Design: local style
June 27

Paul Newman racing retrospective
with Motor Trend executive editor Matt Stone, author of ”Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman,” and showing of the actor’s first auto racing film, “Winning.”
June 30

NEMPA Ragtop Ramble
Boston, MA
July 16-17

Dean Batchelor Awards Deadline
September 1
Entry Info

IMPA Test Days
Pocono, PA
Sept. 10-11

Bob Bondurant at Concours d'Elegance
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
Sept. 13

Ironstone Concours d’Elegance
Murphys, Calif. (Featuring Hudson and ex-Harrah cars).
Sept. 26

Plug-In Vehicle Conference  ( )
“The Business Of Plugging In”
sponsored by the State of Michigan, Univ. of Michigan and GM
Detroit Contact: Denise Semon at Center for Automotive Research:
Oct. 20-21


June 2009
9 NEMPA, Dinner, Boston Globe, GM Tell-ALL
9 MPG Luncheon, Los Angeles, CA
17 WAPA, Luncheon, Nat'l Press Club, DC, Mazda
18 IMPA, Luncheon, Mazda, NYC, NY
22 APA, Luncheon, Detroit, MI, J.D. Power
25 MAMA, Luncheon, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, Toyota
25 SAMA, Luncheon, Rusty Pelican, Miami, FL, GM
July 2009
13 MPG Luncheon, Los Angeles, CA
16 IMPA Luncheon, Cadillac, NYC, NY
16-17 NEMPA, Ragtop Ramble, Boston, MA
23 SAMA, Luncheon, Rusty Pelican, Miami, FL, TBA
August 2009
11 MPG Luncheon, Los Angeles, CA


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 -,


Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association


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,

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talk back

Subject: Newspapers vs Web

Glenn: Every time I read your news about us old newspaper writers and  their future, I cringe, become depressed and want to puke. I look forward to the day the f****n' Internet crashes and people will be  forced to get their real news from newspapers.... if there are any  left. Sorry, but I'm bitter. 

Nick Hromiak


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