december 2008 newsletter

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the road ahead

“Western world media is on the brink of two years of carnage” according to the digital director of Englands Guardian newspaper, Emily Bell. As reported in the Immediate Network’s Press, PR & Media Digest, she told a gathering of digital leaders, “We are at the meeting point of a systematic downturn and a cyclical collapse... Nobody in my business has a grip on it yet.  Survivors will have to undergo what is essentially an unprofitable existence.”The Road Ahead: What Lies Ahead for Auto Journalists?

Writing in Online Spin, Dave Morgan says, “Many believe that the Tribune bankruptcy filing represents just the first domino in an inevitable series of sweeping announcements and events involving traditional media companies. I agree with that notion. I think that much more will follow, and follow quickly. He predicts more newspaper bankruptcies, newspapers losing investors and advertisers, local broadcasters benefiting, publication frequency dropping and more “online only” newspapers. In an earlier column he said,” Printing presses, massive mailrooms, fleets of delivery trucks and drivers don't belong in newspaper companies any more.. . . The days of trees to trucks vertical integration are over, as are their distractions.”

Also from the Immediate Network, Englands Press Gazette reported, “Newmedia expert Ryan Sholin says he would expect the next generation of journalists to bring a 'trinity of multimedia, interactivity and data skills' to job interviews."  According to Sholin, these are the questions they will need to answer:

  • Can you code a Flash stage for chaptered soundslides?
  • Can you edit audio, photos and video into a compelling multimedia presentation?
  • Can you manage a community of users?
  • Can you moderate comments and forums, reader contributed stories, photos and video?
  • Can you build applications that combine info from multiple sources into one integrated tool?
  • Can you design interactive graphics in Flash?

Not good news for many veteran autowriters looking for work in a shrinking market.

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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. editor Glenn Campbell invites any reader to submit his or her thoughts on this or any other topic pertaining to automotive journalism or the auto world in general.

I Told You So

Three outstanding candidates for the “I told you so” award are Dan Neil of the Los Angeles Times, Robert Farago of The Truth About Cars web site and Peter DeLorenzo, of The Auto Extremist web site. Each richly deserves consideration for predicting what General Motors is now admitting in supplications before Congress. Editor & Publisher Glenn Campbell

Glenn F. Campbell

Neil earned his shot at the award a few years back by stating in the midst of a new car review that the top executives of the company that made it should be fired. Farago easily qualifies with the steady drumbeat of the “GM Death Watch” dirge on his web site which had 222 verses at last look. And Delorenzo made the finals with his frequent rants making cogent pleas for rapid change at the car maker.

Neil got plenty of bang for his two-cents worth of opinion. GM withdrew its corporate advertising from the paper and strenuously sought similar action by all of its dealers in the market. When that brought nearly universal bad press, top executives took a jet to Los Angeles and reached a curious agreement with the Times: the advertising would return, Neil could continue to review cars as he saw them but, apparently, the Pulitzer prize-winning writer would not be able to draw any conclusions about the leadership of the company that made them. Later on in an Orwellian twist, GM’s PR vice president at the time was fired and renewed efforts to change the public’s perception of the company were undertaken.

Farago hammered on his obsession with GM’s fatal flaws to the extent that it became routine and its news and shock value diminished. He however, did not have the marketing clout of the Los Angeles Times and his reward was being ignored by GM and he and his writers deprived of press cars to drive. In fairness, Farago’s ability as one writer put it, “to never find a car he couldn’t diss” earned him similar treatment by other car makers.

Delorenzo comes to the awards podium from another tack. Armed with extensive insider contacts, a ton of experience in the marketing of cars and a serious understanding of how cars are made and perform, he has been the loyal opposition, making critiques intended to spur change in a company he obviously wanted to succeed. In return, he has been neither challenged nor shunned and certainly has been an outlet for GM workers thirsting for change. Possibly he was even used by GM to leak and thereby condition the public at a much slower pace to the inevitable blows that came rapidly once the company turned to Washington for help.

However, the “I Told You So” award would hardly be icing on Neil’s much frosted journalistic cake. For DeLorenzo, it would be a bitter reminder of what he did not want to happen, at least in this fashion. That leaves Farago as the recipient with full rights to say it as often as he chooses. Otherwise, as recounted, there seems little profit in being a prophet - one is proscribed, another denied and a third co-opted.

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


Advertisement: AIP Business Pages

road signs

The Chicago Auto Show (February 11 to 22) will provide exhibitors with an independent, data-driven report on where and why visitors migrate on the floor of mammoth McCormick Place. Permanent overhead cameras have been installed to record traffic patterns as well as movement of individuals with RFID devices embedded in their credentials or badges. Information gained in this auto show first will help companies evaluate and better plan their exhibits for other shows.

Online Marketing reports, not surprisingly, that the Detroit automakers are on the web promoting their case. Yet, Media Post Publications reports a Forrester Research study reveals that 77 percent of consumers don’t trust corporate blogs – mainly because they offer no engagement, and provide one-sided propaganda. . . . Another report claims that “sexy” auto ads: stunning women, glamorous locales and high speeds, do not sell cars. Great eye candy but not a persuasive diet, as a study by Chicago-based consultancy Mintel reveals, according to Karl Greenberg reporting in Marketing Daily. "We found that for most people, driving a car or truck does not make them feel sexy, fast or powerful," states Mark Guarino, senior analyst at Mintel. Those studied ranked utilitarian values much higher

According to Technorati's State of the Blogosphere 2008 report, the majority of bloggers surveyed currently have advertising on their blogs. Among those with advertising, the mean annual investment in their blog is $1,800. The mean annual revenue is $6,000 with $75K+ in revenue for those with 100,000 or more unique visitors per month. In August of 2008, comScore Media Metrix estimated blogs in the U.S. had 77.7 million unique visitors. Emarketer says there were 94.1 million U.S. blog readers in 2007 and 22.6 million U.S. bloggers. Technorati also notes that the lines between what is a blog and what is mainstream media is becoming less clear as blogs grow in influence. . . . Online Media Daily reports, “With the help of minority-stakeholder NBC, auto-focused Web site and VOD channel DriverTV has launched a new content and ad network. The network, which features the DriverTV's proprietary "Virtual Showroom Experience" videos, allows publishers and advertisers to pair targeted overlay and display ads with targeted content.


autowriters spotlight

A&M Specialists should not slip quietly under a merger blanket without being recognized (indeed, thanked) for starting what has become an indispensable part of automotive journalism – full time, professional press fleet jockeys.

A&M Founder Don Morton

Don Morton

It began when a Detroit television personality, the late John Spears, was delivered a damaged press car to review. It sparked an idea that he took to Don Morton, former general manager of Hurst Performance and of Detroit Dragway, which he had helped build. They agreed on a plan and took it to Chrysler PR honcho Moon Mullins who gave it life by committing the Chrysler press fleet to their care in 1974.

For Mullins, innovative and always open to offsetting the larger budgets and staffs of his competitors, A&M was a way to save staff time and reduce the stress of getting vehicles to and from the media as promised and in A-1 shape. Don Morton had always been involved with specialty car design and development and that know-how was an important part of the service A&M offered. Vehicles were right when they left the premises.

Their first location was a forlorn, abandoned three-bay gas station on the edge of Detroit’s downtown, with four employees and a cadre of friends to help with long distance moves. Although they did do some work early on for Chrysler’s Marine division, the name stood for Automotive and Marine, mainly because Don liked the sound of the name and liked watercraft. The business grew and they re-located but, unfortunately, three years after they began, John Spears succumbed to cancer.

Later, in the 80’s, Don suffered a heart attack and his wife, Merle, left her post in HR at WDIV-TV in Detroit to take over the management of A&M. By the time it merged with Specialty Transport to form STI Fleet Specialists, A&M had 182 employees at 9 locations across the U.S. and more than a dozen competitors specializing in transporting new cars not only for the media but for special events and activities staged by the car companies.

Autowriters Spotlight: Merle Morton

Merle Morton

For the most part, Merle recalls, it has been a very straightforward business of moving vehicles from point a to point b and maintaining them in between. However, she recalls Don once waiting for a copy of a speech to be completed and then taking a plane late that evening to deliver it to Lee Iacocca's hotel suite when Chrysler was seeking loan guarantees from the government. Another time he had to fly on a moment's notice to Italy for the same purpose.

John, Don and Merle conceived and validated the concept of a press fleet management company and they, along with Mullins, deserve recognition and gratitude for doing so.

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pit notes

First, A&M Specialists and Specialty Transport merge their national fleet management firms to form STI Fleet Services and then, a number of other independent media fleet and event management companies affiliate to form NAVS or North American Vehicle Services. Its members remain independent but, according to the news release offer a choice of “contracting with a single, uniform entity; individually with our members; or a combination of both.”  Participating in NAVS are: -- Automotion (Boston), Automotive Media Solutions (Denver), Event Solutions International (Detroit), G. Schmitz and Associates (Chicago), Page One Automotive (San Francisco) and Prestige Auto (Miami).

Alun Pearson has designed a new classified advertising website, that caters to enthusiasts. He explains: "... There has never been a suitable outlet through which to sell them (parts he has accumulated in his automotive hobbies), so they have just been gathering dust.  The site offers garage space, where you can list ten items for free. If you find the part you are looking for, you can look in the seller's garage to see if they have anything else you want to buy. The price is fixed by you, and the items stay in your garage until you sell them. The site is for selling and buying anything, but it's perfect for motorsports, where there are lots of bits and never enough money.”

White is the most popular car color choice for the second year in a row in the DuPont’s 56th annual color popularity report. Interestingly, DuPont sees sticking with white as a “palette cleansing pause” before car buyers trend to another hue. Being in the black undoubtedly is the industry desire while consumers may remain content with a passive “paid for” white. For more than you may ever want to know about car color choices and your psycho-social, ecological make up check out:

New Jersey Motorsport Park has booked seven major races along with 400 club and driver school events for the second season at the Millville speed emporium. . . . Jay Lam’s dance card for the 2009 LeMONS Series now has 10 events: two in Texas (Feb. and Oct), two in South Carolina (April and Sept), two in California (August & Nov.) and one each in Louisiana (June), Connecticut (July), Nevada (March) and Ohio (October). For the exact dates and tracks and applications go to Entry deadline for the first race is Dec. 20 . . . Roosevelt Gist edits, a weekly live web TV show that focuses on the buying, selling and financing of automobiles with emphasis on improving the relationship between dealers and consumers.


AWcom for targeted news release distribution.

lane changes

Sarah Webster is the new auto editor at The Detroit Free Press, replacing former business and auto editor Jamie Butters who resigned. . . . Veteran Detroit area scribe Marty Bernstein takes over the Finecars page of Watch Time, magazine, succeeding Laurence Yap who moved on to a car firm. Bernstein also contributes to Business Week, Ward’s Dealer Business News, Auto News, Ad Age, Pinnacle and other publications.. . . Colum Wood, who confesses, "I poured my soul” into Modified Luxury and Exotics, is at large now that Source Interlink dropped the title along with its Toronto, Canada office and moved Modified Magazine to its California digs where it has been merged with Sport Compact Car.  Colum can be reached at . . . Alex Kellogg, previously with The Detroit Free Press, has joined The Wall Street Journal’s Motor City bureau as a reporter on the auto industry beat., . . . . Jonathan Fahey has moved on at Forbes and no longer covers autos. Detroit Bureau Chief Joann Muller navigates the industry’s financial straits.. . . Gary Anderson is now the editor of the Star, magazine of the Mercedes Benz Club of America. Previously, he edited MC2, the Mini Magazine and Classic Motorsports. . . . Tyghe Trimble is the new online editor for Popular Mechanics. . . . Michele Herrera is the new contact for Aventura Magazine, . . . Around Your Home Magazine has closed its doors.


- 30-

Enjoy the holiday season, treasuring the moments with your family and friends and we'll see you next year.


Glenn F. Campbell

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Minority leaders in the auto industry discuss the industry crisis from noon to 1:p.m. (EST) on the On Wheels Warren Brown Radio Show and Webcast (WMET, 1160 AM) and -Dec. 16

Annual CARnival Family Fun Day at The Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles- Dec. 20

AARWBA – All-America Team Ceremonies, Ontario (Calif.) Hilton. Day-long activities

International Car of The Year Awards, and Eco-Friendly Car and Truck Awards MGM Grand Detroit- January 10

Urban Wheels Awards Detroit Opera House, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tony Plana, Co-Host, Comedian Henry Cho performs- January 13



18 MAMA, Holiday Social, Taylor Brewing Co., Lombard, IL
20 IMPA Meeting, NYC

January 2009

11-13 NAIS Press Review, Detroit, MI
15 MAMA, Annual Business Meeting Outlook, Oakbrook, IL
15 NAIAS, Industry Preview
16 NAIAS, Charity Reviews
17-25 NAIAS, Public Days
19 -22 Automotive News World Congress, Detroit, MI
20 IMPA Meeting, New York City
23-25 World of Wheels, McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
25 Auto Hall of Fame Inductions, New Orleans
February 2009
11-22 Chicago Auto Show, McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
15 MAMA, Annual Business Meeting Outlook, Oakbrook, IL
28 "What Were They Thinking" exhibit (cars that didn't make the grade) Petersen Automotive Museum, 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 -,


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., Joe Phillips-

talk back

Anytime words like "the first" or "the best" are used, chances are some one will come along and challenge it. Case in point, this item in your most recent newsletter:

"The long running weekly AutoLine TV show launched the world's first daily global automotive newscast. Hosted by Autoline's John McElroy, a new five-minute Autoline Daily is posted at noon every day, Monday through Friday and can be automatically delivered to your computer or mobile device."

On Aug. 6. several weeks before AutoLine Daily, AutoWeek launched a three- to five-minute daily video newscast on the day's automotive events called News Brake on our website,, as part of AutoWeek TV. I am not claiming's News Brake was the first daily global automotive newscast, because I haven't spent enough time researching the issue. But I know it started before AutoLine Daily. I'm sure John was too busy preparing AutoLine Daily to see News Brake.

Just thought I'd bring this to your attention.


Roger Hart
Managing Editor

“The main difference between Chrysler in the 1980s and all three companies now: there was a lot of low-hanging fruit in the 1980s. A mediocre front-drive compact sedan was sufficient to boost sales. The Japanese were voluntarily limiting imports. There weren't many transplant factories. Large new product segments opened up, and Detroit was the first to serve them.”

Steve Still wrote to ask we plug his recently created web site: 

When we did plug it on our Newswire, separate from this Newsletter, along with other sites justifying bridge loans to the auto industry we heard from Michael Lynch of Carmel-by-the Sea California:

“I thought this was a newsletter for autowriters. Autowriters, like other newspeople are supposed to be unbiased reporters unless their work is labeled as editorial. You are now simply spewing industry propaganda.”

AWcom acknowledged that providing only links to the “pro” side of the question implicitly favored that outcome. We still do and no links to opposing views have been forthcoming.

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