november 2009 newsletter

Problems viewing this newsletter? Click here to read it online

the road ahead

Google and Microsoft are “content kleptomaniacs” according to News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, as quoted in a report by Media Digest of an interview he gave Sky News in Australia. He also was quoted as saying he would ban search engines from his newspaper websites when he erected pay walls for them. The walls being necessary in his opinion, because there are “not enough advertising dollars to go around and make all web sites profitable.” . . . Google president Eric Schmidt sees future media as super fast, intuitive, largely crowd and social media sourced and advertising based, as reported by Jessica E. Vascellaro in, ironically, the Wall Street Journal Network. The Road Ahead: November 2009

Photo By: Joakim Buchwald

For automotive writers it would seem that advertising-based content would be better as long as car dealers and manufacturers pay to promote their products, locally and nationally. The premise being that auto editorial is needed to attract readers to the ads and sustain consumer interest in the products. . . However, Hewlett-Packard lab scientist Bernardo Huberman as quoted in Online Media Daily believes, “The value of information is giving way to individual expression as more people post on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.” He notes, “Our ability to pay attention to things is limited," so it will become more important to look at ‘propagation of signals’ at social media sites to determine effective marketing strategy.” Which could mean, as AWcom interprets it, every reader an editor, selecting his or her own media input from a vastly expanded range of options.

This is only going to get wider and denser with new apps like offering “a 'new media; social journalism platform which revolutionizes how we create, deliver, and consume content on the Web. Ulitzer authors can get started with their first article in a few minutes and may start a new "topic" on any subject or write a story and post it both to their Ulitzer author page and to any existing Ulitzer topic. The network effect of people using Ulitzer to communicate and collaboratively produce and categorize content is disruptive, bypassing traditional media and middlemen. Topics published on Ulitzer range from Greek Isles in the Summer to New Media via Personal Branding and Marketing & Sales.”

But wait, Kurt Cagle, managing editor of XML Today reminds us in Technology News, “The danger here is in failing to recognize that user-generated content does not necessarily just represent true facts, but also contains opinions, distortions, analyses and biased content.” Which brings into question the current popularity of crowd-sourced car reviews being promoted by Ford, Honda, Toyota and others. By becoming our own editors we will have nobody except ourselves to blame for what we get in the way of news and information.

Comments? Please go to:


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. 

Tom Kelley is a freelance auto journalist specializing in trucks. He is founder of the Southeast Automotive Media Organization and Executive Director of the Truck Writers of North America. Reach him at:

A View From The Edge

In recent installments here at AWcom, we’ve spent a bit of time looking at what’s next in the craft of automotive journalism. Initially, we discussed the physical structure of the information chain, in which the information consumer is rapidly taking over many of the roles of old-media’s top-level managers.

More recently, we tried to make the case that in a rapidly downsizing market for automotive generalists, the answer is specialization (also see footnote #2 below), not to the exclusion of all else automotive, but rather, to expand on one’s foundation of general automotive knowledge by choosing a specific sub-topic area and really drilling down to the point of becoming “the” recognized expert in that niche. Tom-Tom: Rob Krider

Tom Kelley

This next installment was to have been the opening salvo of what would likely be a vigorous debate on which physical elements separate the online practice of journalism from the automotive website of a fan/enthusiast.

However, before I could get to that column, I had the occasion to attend the recent Blog World & New Media Expo in Las Vegas. This year, the two formerly separate shows joined forces to create a single event with impressive attendance growth, especially considering the current state of the economy. This marks my third year of participation, and each year I’ve expanded my knowledge and networks, so this year’s show is clearly an instance of “what happened in Vegas,” shouldn’t be confined to “staying in Vegas.”

Given the number of autowriters from the print realm that have recently re-entered the job search market, and given the foregone conclusion that “new” media is the future of journalism, I found it odd during the first day of the proceedings that I didn’t run into anybody from the autowriting community. Little did I know that it wasn’t just the autowriters from the old media who were conspicuously absent from the event.

On the show’s second day, the opening keynote included a panel discussing “The Death and Rebirth of Journalism.” Moderated by Brian Solis, founder of Silicon Valley PR firm FutureWorks, the panel included Joanna Drake Earl, COO of Current TV; Don Lemon from CNN; NYU Journalism Prof. Jay Rosen; and well-known blogger Hugh Hewitt.

While the entire discussion was quite interesting, and is likely to be fodder for a separate installment in this series, I’m compelled to emphasize an observation that came up midway through the session. A call went out to the room for a show of hands from those who had ever worked as a paid journalist. In a room full of roughly 500 attendees, my hand was among only six or seven that went up in response to the inquiry.

In our own segment of the journalism world, we may be looking at a few hundred people currently looking for work, but if we expand that view to include journalist of all stripes, the number currently in the job market is almost certainly in the thousands.

Again, at this point, the shift to new media is a foregone conclusion, so in a world where thousands of journalists, and as a subset, hundreds of autowriters are looking to write the next chapter in their careers, why weren’t hundreds of old-media journalists, or at least dozens of autowriters attending this event learning how and where to write that next chapter?



autowriters spotlight

John Davis used to wear a red sport coat to press gatherings. A carryover, he says, from the days when television was highlighting its color capability. Or, it could have been a shrewd way of being remembered by PR guys when he called about a car to review for his little known public TV show, MotorWeek. That was 29 years ago and it was the first weekly TV car review in the United States. Autowriters Spotlight: John Davis

John Davis

As he saw it, “Pubic television was at the bottom of the food chain when it came to distributing ad dollars and, in those days, press cars.” Now they review about 175 cars a year but still have to hustle for dollars, “Each year we raise enough money for a season, but there is no guarantee that we will be back the next year.” To make that happen Davis now goes to fewer press events and spends more of his time on the road raising money. “We bring in enough money to pay for ourselves and once-in awhile add something to the station’s budget.” Of late, the show has benefited greatly from being carried on Speed TV and online by, as well as its own

Davis created the show as a companion to the buff magazines that were the prime consumers sources of automotive information at the time. “We weren’t competing with them. We were providing an educated impression of the cars viewers saw on the covers of those magazines. That’s what we still do.” Only they have to target a broader audience. To do so it is designed in components that can be dropped in and most important, they keep it easily understood. “If a viewer says, ‘what was that,’ he can’t go back and read it again. Its on its gone.”

Davis could well lay away his audience with technical jargon – a gear-head as a kid, he graduated North Carolina State as an aerospace engineer - or pontificate on the auto industry and its problems. He also has a business degree from North Carolina University and worked as a research analyst on Wall Street before becoming executive producer of the venerable Wall Street Week TV show. But, he prefers a self-effacing style that tells viewers more of what they want to know than how much he knows. He was able to create the work he really likes because he volunteered at NC State’s campus radio station, rose to director there and then continued to work in commercial radio and TV to pay his way through NCU.

A number of persons who got the their start with Davis at MotorWeek have moved on in the communications business, among them, Craig Singhaus, now in network broadcasting and Lisa Barrow with Chrysler. While year 30 is his first concern, Davis looks beyond and to the new media. He worries that the rush to be first on the Internet may make superficiality the norm and the trust engendered by good magazines and in-depth product reviews may be sacrificed. On the other hand, he acknowledges that once his show was “the new media” and it took a while for it to establish its place in the automotive communications spectrum.

The Emmy® Award-winning show has brought Davis numerous honors and he, in turn, has lent his talent and energies to auto journalism, driving safety and clean air initiatives. But it is not all work. Over those years he has owned and enjoyed a variety of high performance cars, including a vintage Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette and a deTomaso Pantera.

Comments? Please go to:


road signs

Nice if it is a harbinger of things to come - Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper has “revved up its auto section both online and print,” reports Kristin Laird in Marketing Magazine’s Media News. She quotes the paper’s advertising vice-president, Andrew Saunders, “You’ll be able to find passionate journalism that matches the person’s passion for driving–that’s going to be the key point of difference. Everyone drives, so we wanted to take a more lifestyle approach.” The paper’s weekly auto section is now titled “Globe Drive” and its online companion has added more photos and video.

Wolverine Furs - Distinctive Apparel - Outstanding Service. Located in the heart of the Motor City.
Distinctive Apparel. Outstanding Customer Service. Located in the heart of the Motor City

Wooden Horse News reports: Aftermarket Business, the auto title from Advanstar Communications, will go online-only. The December issue will be its last. Starting in January, the title will publish a monthly digital version as well as twice-weekly e-newsletters. . . . A survey of 3,800 people in a cross-section of newspapers' newsrooms revealed they are not the ones slowing the change from print to digital. As reported by Mediapost, a study from Northwestern University’s Media Management Center, found almost half of today’s journalists think their newsroom’s transition to digital is moving too slowly. Those most favoring the change are involved in internet use outside of work and those with knowledge of online users and their preferences. . . . However, in a speech by New York Times executive editor Bill Keller to the paper’s digital staff, he described prioritizing the web at the paper as ”our Manhattan Project,” according to Zachary Stewart writing for the Nieman Journalism Lab.

The Washington Post will merge its print and online operations January 1,2010 . . . Volkswagen is launching its newest GTI without using any traditional media. Only online will be used, with a free downloadable game featuring the car and a contest with six real cars being awarded.

“Social purpose is the new social status,” according to Mitch Markson, chief creative officer for Edelman Worldwide and creator of the company’s, “goodpurpose Consumer Study.” As reported by Aaron Baar in Marketing Daily, the study shows consumers are more inclined than ever to spend their money with companies and brands that have dedicated themselves to a social purpose. As many as 67 percent of the 6,000 persons surveyed in 10 countries said they would switch brands if another brand of similar quality sported a cause they were interested in and the same number said they would buy a hybrid car over a luxury car. Click here to get a PDF of the study (48 pages).

Comments? Please go to:


pit notes

Advertising Age reports that Hyundai and General Motors are among companies faced with “squatters” using their name as a Twitter site. The last thing you’ll see at Twitter’s @Hyundai page is a car and, Rupal Parkekh writes Twitter has not responded to complaints. One way of Twitter compelling sign ups as self defense against others using your name or brand on the social network.

Legendary Race Cars by Basem WasefLyndon Bell, African American On Wheels editor was first to promise a review of the Legendary Race Cars book. Jeff Zurschmeide’s offer came in second. However, he reports that his "Automotive Welding: A Practical Guide" is in its second printing after 3 months on the market and his new MINI Performance Handbook is due in May. . . Huffington Post will launch a Los Angeles city edition of its national news commentary web site and Steve Parker, who has covered the world of cars and trucks for the national edition will do likewise for the L.A. version. He says, “It’ll allow me to get into stories which have that unique ‘Los Angeles angle’ you can’t find anywhere else," and cites celebrity cars, auto design studios, customizers, auto innovators and the Petersen Museum, as all on his beat.

News that Pontiac cars are selling fast supports a Jim Muise  "Any Driven Sunday" column forwarded here. He laments passing of the brand, particularly after test-driving one, and blames its demise not only on the old GM’s incompetence but also on media and politicians applying dated information and mistakes of the past in assessing its worth - without actually driving the current iterations.

There is an automobile, truck and motorcycle event in Wichita. Kans. next August 26-29. Promoter Frank Upton promises “the largest cash prize offered of $25.000” with top cars from around the United States competing. He estimates 3,000 to 5,000 and automobiles and an equal number of motorcycles attending the Black Top Nationals. For more information contact him at: . . . Susan Pi of Heyday Books and Heyday Institute in Berkeley, Calif. plugs a new book “Wheels of Change: From Zero to 600 Miles Per Hour, The Amazing Story of California and the Automobile. The author is Kevin Nelson ( ) who has penned books on baseball, running and one for fathers-to-be. Pi says the book, “brings to life the personalities that have helped shape the story of California's love affair with cars.” Contact her about a review copy at:

While no age bracket is provided in reporting its latest study“ The Generation Y Opportunity,” AutoPacific says they are younger drivers and far more open to Chinese or Indian branded vehicles than the generation before them. AutoPacific president George Petersen says, “Growing up with continuously evolving technology and electronics has given Generation Y a unique ability to adapt easily to change, a willingness to accept new brands, and an expectation that their vehicle provide the best of what is available.” . . . Exactly what kind of car Generation Y will want in 2030 will be a market force and design studios from Audi, GM, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota will provide their visions of what that may be in this year’s design challenge at The Los Angeles Auto Show, with the winner announced Dec. 3.

The International Motor Sports Association and Cooper Tires are partnering and have renamed IMSA’s prototype development series the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship. It will feature an expanded schedule and a points restructuring that will make the competition tighter.

Comments? Please go to:


lane changes

The shaking of the auto industry’s foundation and the downturn in advertising brought a sudden and serious retrenchment at NADA. The award-wining Auto Exec Magazine was shuttered Oct. 9 and all but one of the seasoned pros covering the dealer side of the automotive business were cut loose. Joe Phillips remains to work with NADA’s online communications department while Marc Stertz, Joan Mooney, Mary Anne Shreve and Peter Craig depart. Stertz chose to retire as executive director of publications after 21 years with the magazine which had its beginnings in 1917 and whose readership was recently ranked only behind Automotive News among automotive trade publications. Stertz plans to consult in publications management (print and online) and can be reached at Senior editors Joan Mooney and MaryAnne Shreve, and managing editor Peter Craig are on the market at this writing and can be reached respectively, at:,  and

Joni Gray is an auto blogger for the L.A. and is busy on freelance assignments now that she has been laid off by the L.A. Times. A former Sr. Editor at Kelley Blue Book, and previously in advertising and marketing management with Mazda, Hyundai and Honda, she welcomes more freelance work and can be reached at . . . Barry Toepke has departed RWB, LLC marketing and PR firm and is prepping announcement of the new, treasured responsibility he is undertaking in automotive PR.

Robert Farago may have stepped down as editor but not away from The Truth About Cars blog he founded. Still fighting to right wrongs wherever he sees them in autodom, he recently dissed Automotive News for chastising Fortune Magazine’s publication of insider criticisms of GM that bordered on gossip . . . . . AutoWeek has named Dutch Mandel associate publisher and editorial director, upped Roger Hart from managing editor to executive editor and named Wes Raynal editor of the print magazine and

Nancy Lewis has departed SAE International and Sean Andreassi is now SAE’s Manager of Corporate Communications . . . . Michael Taylor has retired from the staff of the San Francisco Chronicle but still does occasional reviews for its auto blog Top Down ( He can be reached for other assignments at:

Comments? Please go to:


- 30-


Glenn F. Campbell

table of contents



subscription info

Did someone forward you a copy of our newsletter? Sign up for your own subscription here. If you want to stop receiving this newsletter, please send an e-mail to

We welcome, appreciate and encourage, forwarding of our newsletter, in entirety or in part, with proper credit.


Kellyn Curtis wins TAWA Scholarship
 SMU Professor Tony Pederson, honoree Kellyn Curtis & TAWA’s Harold Gunn

Southern Methodist Journalism student Kellyn Curtis was awarded TAWA’s annual scholarship.

Russell Purcell won the Journalist of the Year award presented by Jaguar Land Rover of Canada
at the Automotive Journalists of Canada‘s annual dinner. Greg Williams won the 2009 Julie Wilkinson Motorsports Award presented by Bridgestone Canada Inc. (BSCA).

Collectible Automobile®, a companion publication, has been honored by the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH) for the magazine’s coverage of automotive history


November 2009
17 APA, Breakfast, Detroit, MI, Ron Harbour
18 WAPA Luncheon, Washington, JW Marriott, BMW
19 IMPA Luncheon, Mazda, 3 West Club, New York City, NY
19 SAMA Luncheon, Annual Election, Rusty Pelican,  Miami Beach, FL
21 National Automotive History Collection, Automotive Authors book Fair, Detroit, MI
28 SAMA, Rides-n-Smiles Charity Benefit, Homestead, FL
December 2009
1-3 Advanced Battery Value Chain Summit, AED Conference, Washington D.C.
1 Earth, Wind & Power Car and Truck Awards, sponsored by Bridgestone, Los Angeles Marriott Downtown, Los Angeles, CA
2 MPG Breakfast, Opening Media Day L.A. Auto Show, General Motors
2-3 Los Angeles Auto Show Media Days
4-13 Los Angeles Auto Show, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
5 Petersen Automotive Museum Garage Sale and Swap Meet, Los Angeles, CA
8 APA Luncheon, DAC, Detroit, MI
8 MPG Dinner, Dean Batchelor Awards, Automotive Museum, El Segundo, Ca
8 NEMPA, Annual Holiday Party, Boston, MA
10-12 PRI Trade Show, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL
10 National Automotive History Collection, Collectible Vehicle of the Future Award, Detroit, MI
15 Center for Automotive Research (CAR) Breakfast Seminar, 2010 Forecast, Ann Arbor Marriott, MI
16 APA NACTOY Luncheon, Detroit, MI
17 SAMA, Annual Holiday Party, TBD
January 2010
11-12 NAIAS Press Review, Detroit, MI
12-14 Automotive News World Congress, Detroit, MI
12 On Wheels, Urban 2010 Car, Truck and Green Vehicles of the Year, Sound Board Theater, Motor City Hotel and Casino, Detroit, MI
13 NEMPA Dinner, P.J. O'Rourke, Boston, MA
12 MPG Luncheon, Proud Bird, Los Angeles, CA
17 3rd Annual Wheels of Wellness Vintage Race Car Showcase, The Wellness Community, Phoenix, AZ


advertisement the #1 resource for people who are searching for products, services, information and reassurance that will help them, and their loved ones, better age in place.

motoring press organizations

The 15 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, Bellevue, 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, tom.kelley@deadlinefactory name="And_one_more_footnote"com


Western Automotive Journalists, San Francisco -, Ron Harrison


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

talk back

The following are some comments that were posted on the blog and sent directly to us:

Re: October Road Ahead

Everyone ignores the issue of the survival of the Associated Press, which is the primary bastion of news reporting around the world. Without legitimate news organizations to pay dues, how can it survive? And without AP, can there be any such thing as legitimate news?

Re: Don Adair

As Don's new writing partner, I can attest to his professionalism and knowledge of the industry. I'm a seasoned writer, but I'm new to this genre. So, having access to his expertise has been invaluable. Besides all that, he's fun to work with!

Re: October Issue

I always enjoy and learn from your newsletter, but this month's might be the best yet. Please do keep up the good work. Maybe you already hear this from plenty of people...but if my experience is any guide, you don't hear it from nearly as many people as you should.

Michael Karesh

Re: October Tom-Tom

At the end it invited comments, this email addy is where I ended up. My comment ...Yadada yadada yadada .... so tell me something I don't know ... until the last couple sentences about writing something interesting vs "regurgitation" of trunk specs.

Krider is missing it. Car reviews should be for information, not entertainment (which is where most autojournos think "interesting" goes), maybe only because within the attempts to be interesting, the bullshit (about the truth about cars) flows. I always include trunk size in my car reviews. You're bullshitting (lightly, indirectly .... and granted from a hardcore point of view, for the sake of argument here) the reader by depriving him/her of info, if you don't.

In other words .... trunk size is objective, "interesting" is subjective.

What's regurgitating is repeating the manufacturers' boasts about golf bags.

Reality is, it's real hard to get to the "truth" (performance evaluation) in the amount of seat time we get, nowadays. And so few are qualified anyhow.

Trunk size matters.

Sam Moses

Re: Autowriters Newsletter

You guys always do a fantastic job with this newsletter. Thanks!

- Mike

I know how hard you work on this and recognize how difficult it is to pull together every month. Thanks so much for keeping us all in the loop!

thank you!

Some of you have asked for ways to make a donation to support the AWcom newsletter - and we're happy to oblige.
You may make your donation safely and securely via PayPal:

Support the Newsletter

Or you may send a check or money order via surface mail to:
785 Larkspur Rd. St. George, Utah 84790
Please indicate that it is for the newsletter.

talk to us

We’re always looking for better ways to put out a newsletter people want to read and advertisers want to use - -  so talk to us! What do you like or dislike about this newsletter?  What topics or information would you like to see covered?  Have a question you'd like posed to the readership?  How can we make this newsletter more useful to you? Talk to us!
Send your rants, raves, questions and suggestions to:

automotive journalists

Help us make sure you continue to get
the information you want
the way you want it
Keep your profile current. Fill out the form online.
 Thank you!

services & rate card

PR, Marketing and Media Relations Pros, can work
 with you to get the right info
to the right people who write
 about cars!
Contact us for your next release.
or phone 435.656.1040.

Our Ad Rate Card is available online at
or by request.

table of contents



home services newsletter blog autowriters sign-up autobloggers sign-up contact us

Copyright © 2009 All Worldwide Rights Reserved.