july 2007 newsletter

We get the right info to the right people who write about cars.

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the road ahead

Quality content is the mousetrap the online world requires. If it is not there fast, clear and informative (in the case of motor vehicles if not all else) the rising generation of consumers moves on. This is one of the chief problems of search engines that return thousands of references in one second.

Writing in Ad Age, Mike Hartley, Creative Director of, a fashion magazine, says: “Google, the most successful online advertising company, is the world's largest Yellow Pages.  Great for finding plumbers! It's also great for finding discounted designer dresses, if you already want them.  But what about adding editorial value, what about branding, how do people come to want these things in the first place?  We all know why we need a plumber -- the floor is wet -- but our desire for a $10,000 dress is more complex and is built using far more sophisticated marketing techniques than the plumber uses.”

Hartley underscores the need for content by citing the woeful web-wide click through rate on banner ads – 1%.  Facebook, the rising star in social networks looks to its users to provide content.  Abbey Klaassen writing in Ad Age quotes Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Owen Van Natta, “Facebook inhabits the intersection of the web and real life...that is, the connections people create on the site can be used to improve typical web services such as shopping or searching for product recommendations.  Putting those actions through the filter of the people you know those actions greater meaning.”

Klaassen goes on to quote Pay-Pal Co-Founder Max Levchin, “There's no network effect [on Google].  The fact that I use Google and you use Google doesn't make us any closer to each other."  What does, apparently, is something worth talking (messaging) about.  Google is not resting, however. Online Media Daily reports Google is creating a social networking technology. The prototype, called "Socialstream," has been billed as an aggregator service of social networks that interacts with and draws data from users' existing social networks. And Yahoo has launched a SmartAds product that automatically morphs ad creative according to a targeted user’s individual profile. But, both efforts presuppose content that engages the web generation.

side road

Syndication in print may mean more money for the author but it could be just opposite in the online economy according to, editor Sandra Kinsler, who along with her husband, Brian Leshon, optimize web sites for positive recognition by search engines.

As she points out, a syndicated article could appear in 150 newspapers across the nation, but most likely would only be seen in one outlet by an individual reader – thereby making where it is seen more or less the authority for that reader.  The outlet is "Number One" on his or her personal search engine.  But when an article appears on 150 different web sites it can dilute the article’s value as far as Google and other search engines are concerned.

Widespread online availability makes any one of the sites where it appears less authoritative– based on the measures search engines use to rank a site.  The less authoritative, the lower it is ranked by a search engine, thereby making it less valuable to advertisers.

Getting a web site highly ranked in search results without paying for a spot in the sponsored results requires optimizing it for that outcome.  Kinsler says search engines employ as many as 106 variables (and vary the variables from time to time) to rank a site.  One tip she offers at least in the realm of web sites for buying and selling cars where she and Leshon work: search engines prefer thesis style articles (annotated, sources cited, etc.) to colorful subjective writing.

passing scene

The Society of Automotive Engineers is sponsoring an International Commercial Vehicle Media Award with a grand prize of $500 and four $100 runner-up prizes for the best among articles, videos, books or photographs about the commercial vehicle industry.  Commercial vehicles include: trucking, farm equipment, public transportation and construction equipment.  The deadline is August 31.  For more information and entry forms, call 248-273-4092 or Email: . . .  Entries are open for WAPA’s Golden Quill Award.  Auto journalists working in one or more of the various media in the Washington-Baltimore area are eligible for the $500 prize to be awarded in January ’08.  For Entry rules and deadline information, contact: . . .  According to a recent Harris Poll, online sites have supplanted TV and Newspapers as the number one source of news and information for the United States, France, Italy, and Spain and are tied for first for Australian adults.  Lack of time is the chief reason given in the U.S. for not reading newspapers. . . . Planning has begun for IMPA’s 2007 Test Days, Sept. 6 and 7 at Pocono International Raceway.  Volunteers are needed and should contact Test Days Coordinator Paul Licata at  Those interested in the benefits of sponsorship packages should contact IMPA President Fred Chieco: . . . “Greenwashing” is likely to become as common as “spin doctor.”  It refers to persons or companies that talk but do not walk the way of environmental concerns. . . . The Road Ahead may actually be behind us with future car buyers flocking to internet game sites where they learn to act their way into right buying from marketers’ viewpoint. Virtual cars, virtual garages, and virtual add-on parts purchased with virtual dollars are available and both Scion and Nissan are sponsoring virtual races that offer real prizes.  In Toyota’s case a real Scion. . . . Wooden Horse News reports that the bi-monthly King Of The Street is published by MIA Entertainment and features the owners and builders of cars with $20,000 to $100,000 invested in their modifications and accessories.  Phil Gordon is the editor. . . . “Doing good and telling others about it” is a classic if somewhat idealistic definition of Public Relations.  It is being tested by Southern California Honda dealers.  Garbed in Honda emblazoned blue shirts, hired crews of do-gooders seek to warm folks to their sponsor by handing out popcorn at movie theaters, unloading grocery carts, paying parking meter fees, pumping gas at self-serve stations and giving their brand’s cars a free fill up.  Lets hope the practice confirms the theory and more markets rush to help us out. . . . Who knew a Prius could go 100 mph?

autowriters spotlight

Jim Mateja is off on a Sunday drive, a reduced work load, a little freelancing and working from home.  He tired of waiting for his employer to make good on the promise of a promotion if he accepted the auto editor’s post at the Chicago Tribune and did a good job.  That was 40 years ago and it never happened. 

But Jim did get two penultimate retirement parties, one at the bureau where he worked for the past decade and another at the Tribune Tower where he toiled many years and earned great respect for “fair and balanced” coverage long before that became a questionable catch phrase.  So much so that his fellow journalists made him the first president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

The only break in his tenure came when an heir of the paper’s then controlling family decided that he wanted the job. That lasted seven months until a reporting faux pas was published and docking fees for his yacht appeared on the silver-spooned scion's expense account.  He didn’t show up the next day and was not seen in the newsroom again. 

The interruption turned out well for Jim.  He was given a raise to return. He greatly expanded the Tribune’s auto coverage and in the 70s added a second special section coverage of the Chicago Auto Show, making room as AWcom well knows, for midgets, hot-dog skiers, living hood ornaments, human mannequins, Amy Carter look-alikes and other stunts that garnered more attention for one exhibitor’s display than its lackluster car lineup. 

He’ll continue to write for the Tribune: a Sunday column and his popular responses to readers’ letters as well as freelance from his Wisconsin home. One thing he does not plan to do is blog, which he suggests, too often descends to an inane level well below dialogue.  Rick Popely will take over the auto business coverage for the paper and Jim’s two weekday columns have been discontinued.


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lane changes

Motor Age Editor-in-Chief Bill Cannon is retiring after 25 years with the 105 year-old title. He is going to write and teach at West Chester University in Pennsylvania while completing requirements for a Masters Degree there. Then he will teach, write freelance and work on a book about one of his ancestor’s Civil War experiences.  No successor has been named but when selected, he or she likely will work out of publisher Advanstar Communications’ Orange, Calif., headquarters.

Christian Wardlaw’s departure from AutobyTel was mentioned in last month’s AWcom Newsletter, but not his new post which he describes as follows: “I am the new Content Development Director for, and my job is to distill ‘voice of the customer’ survey and transaction data from J.D. Power and Associates into content of interest to in-market consumers across a wide range of industries.  Our initial focus is on North American automotive, but ultimately my growing team will expand to include electronics, travel, insurance, finance, telecom, healthcare and homebuilding industries in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. . . . Also at Edmunds, Jeremy Anwyl has been named Chief Executive Officer and Avi Steinlauf has been promoted to President.  Peter Steinlauf, the company’s controlling shareholder, retains the title of Chairman.

A location change but not a lane change: Sue Elliott-Sink took her Easier Way Media editorial services with her when she moved to Napa recently. . . . On Wheels, Inc. has relocated its Detroit editorial headquarters to the classic Penobscot Building in downtown Motown. . . . Barry Toepke has left the Los Angeles Auto Show and his post as Communications Director; a replacement has not been announced at this writing.  Barry can be reached at . . . Toni Honsowetz, has left Hyundai’s PR staff and will resume automotive PR consulting.  She has more than 20 years experience in the field, specializing in product public relations with an extensive background in new product launches, i.e. Auto Show Debuts and National and Regional Media Introductions. She can be reached at

talk to us

We are frequently asked if we have a good source for health insurance coverage for autowriters. We do not. If you have found a good source, please let us know so we can put the word out. Or, if you have an interest in finding good coverage for yourself, let us know. Send an email to

talk back

AWCom has closed shop on corrections to the last issue but we believe Houston Chronicle Auto Editor Tim Spell’s comment on blogs ( prompted by the corrections we did circulate) is worth noting: “When a journalist posts a blog there has to be the same focus on accuracy as there is with a regular news story, and sources have to be identified.  The out-of-control part comes with reader posts that follow. We better get comfortable with blogs -- and even vblogs (video blogs) -- because they are here to stay.  The old print-only days are fading and journalists of the future will have to be multimedia stars.” . . . And, in case our previous mention was confusing or misleading, Timothy Miller advises that there have been four issues of his upscale bi-monthly American Driver Magazine and that he is, indeed, interviewing for an editor.  The publication “celebrates the automotive luxury lifestyle.”  Tim can be reached at  . . . And, unlike recent American Idol and other contest winners, Brenda Priddy doesn’t have to blush when young men tell her they’ve been looking at her pictures since they were little boys...she says it does remind her, however, that July is the anniversary month of her 15 years as an automotive “Spy Photographer.” Her serendipitous 1992 shot of a 1994 Mustang Convertible made the cover of Automobile Magazine and started her on her career.

coming in at deadline

Speed Machines, the web site, is up and running at  Edited by Bill Moore it covers everything fast, and includes reviews of cars, trucks, planes and watercraft with features by 25-year San Diego Union Motorsports Editor Johnny McDonald.  A national print version is planned. Contact Moore at  or (510) 763-8410.

award, honors & events
July 17 WAPA Luncheon, National Press Club, D.C., Lexus
July 19-20 NEMPA’s “Ragtop Ramble," Boston
August 5-8 SAE 4th Asia Pacific Automotive Engineering Conference (APAC), Renaissance Hollywood Hotel.
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 31 Deadline for SAE Commercial Vehicle media award
Sept. 6-7 IMPA Test Days, Pocono International Raceway
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,
IMPA International Motor Press Association, NYC, Fred Chieco, President -,
MAMA Midwest Automotive Media Association, Chicago -
MPG Motor Press Guild, Los Angeles -
NEMPA New England Motor Press Association, Boston -
NWAPA Northwest Automotive Press Association, Port Orchard, WA-
PAPA Phoenix Automotive Press Association, Phoenix, Cathy Droz, President- 
RMAP Rocky Mountain Automotive Press, Denver -
SAMA Southern Automotive Media Association, Miami FL, Ron Beasley, President,
SEAMO Southeast Automotive Media Organization, Charlotte, NC
TAWA Texas Auto Writers Association, Harold Gunn, 
TWNA Truck Writers of North America, Tom Kelley, Executive Director,
WAJ   Western Automotive Journalists, San Francisco  -, Michael Coates, president,
WAPA Washington Automotive Press Association, D.C., Kimatni Rawlins, President -
- 30-

We'll see you in September!


Glenn F. Campbell

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