A Love Letter From Edmunds
The text after the jump appeared on Karl Brauer's blog "Karl on Cars" on Edmund's Inside Line. I asked Mr. Brauer for permission to publish it here, without editing or commentary. Nothing. (The same response I received when I asked Karl to email me Edmunds' policy on press junkets and public disclosure thereof.) So, under the "fair use" principle, I'm publishing it anyway. If Edmunds takes TTAC to court, I'll counter-sue for libel and send a note to the IRS asking about the tax implications of junketeering. If Edmunds sends an email asking TTAC to remove this excerpt, I'll take this post down and publish the email. Anyway, Edmunds may have a million visitors [multiplied exponentially], but at least we have transparency, integrity and a spell-checker.
Yada Yada Yada… "But one dark side to the "new media" is that anyone with an Internet address can badge themselves an "automotive authority" and subsequently expect the industry (and consumers) to take notice. After eight years at Edmunds I have a keen perspective on how hard it can be to convince the world you aren't just a punk kid with servers in your basement and a desire to get free test drives in new cars. In my case I was a punk kid with LOTS of servers and a desire to get free test drives…but I also wanted to provide accurate consumer information regarding those test drives to over one million visitors a month. That was in 1998, and our monthly visitor numbers are exponentially higher, as is the respect/cooperation we get from the manufacturers.
It wasn't always an easy journey, and I can relate to those publications still trying to achieve legitimacy in this ever-growing space. But I am also annoyed by those publications that break some basic rules of automotive journalism:
1. They target the established guys (like us) with all the usual "you've sold out and are owned by the manufacturers" crap. The most common battle cry is "the manufacturers pay for you to travel somewhere and drive their cars, so you obviously can't write a non-biased report." I think they mistakenly believe that by making such claims they can short-cut the process of becoming established themselves. Hate to rain on your parade guys, but there's only one way to make this trip — provide consistent, high quality automotive journalism over an extended time period (and I'm not talking a weekend, or month or even a year). Do that and the audience will come, followed shortly by respect from the rest of the industry.
2. They go after the manufacturers with false claims of influence to justify their own access to press vehicles. This usually comes in the form of lying about traffic numbers. And yes, I banged on the OEs to get press vehicle access over the years. Hell, I still do, as does everyone else in this space. Trying to get the hottest vehicles as soon as possible is part and parcel of being an automotive journalist. The difference here is that — once you're established — you can accurately claim people will be influenced by your road test content, and thus it's in the OE's best interest to be represented on your site. I've seen plenty of indigant editors out there who refuse to divulge monthly traffic numbers but insist they represent a core automotive Web site. Now why doesn't that behavior pass the smell test? The hypocrysy is also pretty hilarious. Do you think these guys would actually turn down a press event if they once got to the level of actually being invited? Me either.
3. When they don't get their way, they publicly trash said manufacturers and/or established publications. Apparently these guys feel that the best way to inform the automotive consumer/enthusiast is to whine about how nobody pays them any attention. Hey, as an automotive junkie you know what I really want to read about? How about 1,000 words on why manufacturer XYZ is a jerk because they won't give publication PDQ any cars? That's just fascinating stuff, let me tell you. Sure, we may have a First Drive on the Shelby GT500 and Acura RDX going up live tomorrow, but in the end we just can't compete against the ravings of an angry editor at a publication with 800 readers, now can we? Correction — after that latest rant they are down to 728 readers, and dropping fast…
Remember guys — the reader comes first. If you've got a problem with a manufacturer, deal with that manufacturer and spare your audience all the whining. Is there a specific publication I'm talking about here? Yes, there is. But there's no way I'm going to give them any additional publicity, so you'll all have to guess which one. Or maybe you don't care enough to guess (I'm hoping for the latter, as it further suggests a "not-a-moment-too-soon" death for this "illustrious" electronic rag)."
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