By on August 8, 2006

car-and-driver-feb75-cover222.jpgAfter more than two years of free content, The Truth About Cars is about to accept advertising– despite the publisher’s apprehension about advertising’s corrosive effect on editorial independence. It’s an understandable concern. Browse the auto "reviews" in your local daily newspaper. In the main, they consist of regurgitated press releases juxtaposed with stock photos, buried amongst dealer ads. The monthly automotive “buff books” claim they’re above such compromise. They maintain that they provide objective assessments of their test subjects. At the risk of throwing stones from a house about to add a greenhouse, can any publication that features more advertisements than content be objective?

Car and Driver, Road & Track, Automobile, Motor Trend and the rest of the magazines further down the car mag food chain are all supported by advertising. Unless a magazine is subsidized by a non-profit organization (e.g. Consumer Reports) or charges an exorbitant price per issue, it can’t survive without advertising. Few readers have problems with ads per se; they consider them wallpaper. But when the ads outweigh the content, questions begin to arise about who’s calling the editorial shots. Put a one or two-page ad for a new car in the middle of a glowing review of the same and those suspicions can easily turn to full-scale paranoia. Sneak in a multi-page "special advertising section" formatted to look and read like the rest of the magazine and credibility stretches to breaking point.

The stakes are certainly high enough to tempt an ad exec to mount an assault on his or her employer’s Chinese walls; advertising brings the buff books seriously big bucks. A full page ad in Car and Driver’s flimsy pages currently ranges from $102k to $157k. An inside or back cover will set a sponsor back between $182k and $198k. According to Folio magazine, Car and Driver raked in over $104m in ad revenue in the first half of ‘05, a figure that’s 26% higher than the same period in ‘04. The figures for the first half of 2006 will likely be even higher.  With revenues like that, it’s no wonder the average automotive publication’s pages are dominated by advertising. Here are the stats for January–July 2006:

Motor Trend: 693.05 (99 ad pages/month)

Car and Driver: 622.20 (89 ad pages/month)

Road & Track: 622.18 (89 ad pages/month).

These three leading automotive publications average about 175 total pages per issue. And that means your favorite buff book is approximately 55% advertising. The remaining 45% includes photos, page headers, indices and lots of other things that an uncharitable reader might call filler.  By the time you factor those items from the equation you’re lucky if 30% of the magazine is anything particularly useful. Does this unequal balance between editorial and advertising cause any uneasiness about editorial independence amongst the magazine’s publishers? Nope. Motor Trend’s publisher has publicly bragged about the fact that his publication has the highest advertising content in its market segment.

Less objectively, the bathroom has become a fitting location to peruse these publications, given the amount of crap they contain. I’ve read the magazines listed above since I was 12.  I’ve watched them slide steadily into editorial abulia. While the ads have flourished like kudzu on horse manure, articles have become shorter and shallower (usually with more photos than text), and the road tests now read more like product endorsements than automotive reviews.

Perhaps it’s coincidental that this decline parallels the magazines’ increased ad revenues. Perhaps not. When you consider just how far down the slippery slope of compromise these publications have slid, you have to wonder what kind of incestuous relationships exists between the publishers and their ad agencies. Whether or not shady deals go down in ad execs’ cubicles, it’s clear that journalistic integrity isn’t their driving force any more.

The same disease has infected cyberland. While you expect auto magazines’ web sites to reflect their print counterpart’s pattern, many “independent” automotive sites are now dominated by advertising. Some of the ads are extremely clever/morally reprehensible: you think you’re getting objective information when you’re actually reading a page sponsored by a manufacturer. Only a handful of automotive web sites have the integrity to label ads clearly or reveal the perks they receive from the automakers whose products they’re reviewing.

TTAC publisher Robert Farago claims that the same editorial compromise will never occur here. To his credit (or discredit), Farago is a zealot who understands exactly what’s at stake. He’s publicly committed to maintaining this website’s editorial independence at all costs. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the reading. Over the next few months you’ll be able to make your own determination: will TTAC keep its edge when it transforms from an amateur hobby to professional enterprise? Watch this space… 

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67 Comments on “TTAC: Ad dendum...”

  • avatar

    As a “newbie” at TTAC, I’ll bet that Farago’s Friends (i.e. readers) can sift through the advertising on TTAC and make their own decisions. If it takes a bit of commercialism to keep TTAC open and dynamic (read “free to all”)…then go for it. We’re all adults here even if our affection for automobiles sometimes borders on the childish.
    Congratulations Robert for making the decision. I will trust your judgment to keep Advertising out of your opinions.

  • avatar

    The situation is not quite as bleak as you portray. check out the C/D reviews of the Jeep Compass and Audi RS4 in the current issue; the Compass review is almost scathing, and the RS4 is described, in my opinion, objectively. Its nose-heavy obese body is pointed out along with a nasty handling quirk at high speed. In a side bar one of the staff voices preference for the M3 (not appreciated by Audi, i’m sure).

    The other mags, esp. Motor Trend, do seem to be simply mouthpieces for the manufacturers.

  • avatar

    I guess I have never felt “full scale paranoia” while reading one of the car mags, but I agree with what you are saying.

    I appreciate the fact that RF is so insistent on keeping his editorial independence. However, the editorial content is what I will judge the most. I understand the need to make a living and, indeed, applaud it. The ads will not deter me, even if they are auto company ads, if I perceive the content to remain unbiased. From my experience here so far, I have no doubt that the content will remain so.

    We all need to make a living, and you all provide a valuable service in my opinion.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    If I understand the crux of this article (and of RF’s reluctance to accept advertising) it is that advertising corrupts the magazines by causing reviewers to “pull their punches” when discussing automotive topics so as not to offend the advertiser, and that the reader, who assumes editorial independence, is thus cheated out of what he expects to be objective reporting. Is that right?

    Because (a) I don’t think readers are dumb enough to assume that if there’s a 5-page advertising section for Buick or Toyota, that the magazine is completely objective in all respects, and (b) I don’t neccessarily think that objectivity is all that important to the readers anyway. As you pointed out, these are “buff books”, i.e. they’re books for people who like to read, talk, and think about cars. They’re not neccessarily looking to dig up dirt or see some reviewer slag the latest 4-wheeled toy.

    And speaking of which, the above-noted objection to advertising seems to assume that advertising $$ are the only corrupting influence that can cause a publication to skew the truth. But wasn’t it the allegedly independent Consumer Reports who has been sued numerous times (at least twice, by Suzuki and Isuzu) for staging/faking some of their tests and for unfairly criticizing some vehicles? For that matter, doesn’t an allegedly “independent” publication have to slag a product every now and then, just to maintain their “street cred?” (Not to mention to scare people into buying their magazine.) Isn’t that a “corrupting influence?”

    I don’t think you give the readers enough credit. Even pre-advertising TTAC had to maintain some good ties with the automotive industry in order to keep access to test vehicles, right?

    Final point, let’s be honest, most of us look at “buff books”, and even sites like TTAC, for entertainment, not as the font of knowledge which we will use to choose our next car. Even if we do, to some extent, base our choice of vehicle purchase on what we read or hear, that will only be one factor out of many that go into our choice.

    So, I say, bring on the advertising. I’m going to judge TTAC by the quality of the writing and how well it holds my interest, not on whether it maintains some impossible standard of journalistic independence.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    We tried, God knows we tried…

    I was, coincidentally, the editor-in-chief of Car and Driver at the time the AMC Pacer cover that illustrates this editorial was published.

    This story is in my book, a memoir titled “The Gold-Plated Porsche,” but I’ll tell it again.

    When the Datsun F210 was introduced to the press, several of us from C/D attended the intro and we agreed, this car is SO bad we need to tell the world. Well, I was point man, so the job fell to me.

    When my polite but very negative review was published, the senior vice-president of the Ziff-Davis Publishing Co. immediately called me into his office and raged at me, “How can you write this [pointing to my review] when right here [flip-flip-flip-flip to the full-spread ad for the F210 in the very same issue] it says this, and this, and this????” Well, we have a duty to the readers, I said while tugging my forelock.


    I was fired not long thereafter, but I did get laid during that trip–some cutie from the Wall Street Journal. (I was then a bachelor, though she was married to a dentist, as I remember…)

    My friend Don Sherman eventually became the editor of C/D, after David E. Davis (who replaced me) left for Automobile. Don didn’t last long either. He refused to retract, at the ad department’s urging, something he’d written about some pos Jagaur, as I remember.

    As I say, we tried, and some of us paid for it.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Except for added clutter, I’m sure the ads will have no nasty side effects on TTAC’s soul.

  • avatar
    Dr. JP

    Dear Editors,
    I wish you the best of luck with the new business model. From my brief time here, I am not that concerned about advertisers dictating the reporting. The main reason I am not concerned is my perception of TTAC is that you gentlemen are in this because you love cars first and the financial considerations are secondary (but there is nothing wrong with making money at something you love to do). And being a smaller group with fewer and well defined financial needs (no publishing bearuacracy overhead a la traditional mags), you will probably be able to stay more focused on your goals. And I think the readers of this site are intelligent enough to notice if those Chinese Walls are breached. I am confident that I will enjoy reading TTAC for quite a while.

    I would like to throw out one proposal: In Mr. Williams’ discussion above, he noted the placement of advertisements for cars in the middle of a review of that car. Why don’t you explicitly prevent that from happening? “No advertising in a column that is related to the subject of that column.” You have a nice legal page, explain your advertising policy there.

  • avatar
    Nick Aziz

    A) TTAC’s ads are coming from Federated Media, so I suspect it will all be very clean and tidy stuff
    B) Stick to regular ads. Nothing made to seem like content, don’t take perks or bs trips etc.

    With that, TTAC should be just fine!

  • avatar

    You have a great WebSite. Why attack the monthly magazines, when you are going down the same road by accepting advertising? It sounds like the latest diet fad, which somehow will work this time, even though all the other diets did not work.

    Focus on what you do best, stay positive, write great articles, and let success come to you.

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    I’ve been reading auto mags since the early 1970s, and have been very disappointed with their decline in spunk and independence. However, even in the “good old days” it would have been silly to make a purchasing decision based on one magazine’s road test.

    These days what bothers me the most about the auto mag industry is that it simply refuses to deal with contemporary policy issues in anything approaching a rational way. When, for example, have you seen global warming covered by Car & Driver without large shovelfuls of propaganda from the fossil fuel industry? It’s downright embarrassing.

    The underlying message seems to be: If you are an auto enthusiast, you are a glorified kid. All you want is to play with the four-wheeled toys. And if you do entertain a stray thought about a serious issue, your job as a reader is to accept without question whatever the p.r. shops tell you, no matter how ill-considered and self-serving. Anyone one who challenges an auto industry stance is not merely wrong, but a work of the devil (e.g., look at the way Ralph Nader was vilified for so many years).

    I haven’t been reading this blog long enough to have developed an opinion as to how well you transcend these tendencies, but one can always have hope.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    Thanks, Stephan. It’s always great to hear first-hand reports from someone who has been in the trenches.


  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    I am pleased to hear this. I did not think that a pure subscription model would work for TTAC when there are so many “free” car sites on the net.

    I do have a suggestion on how TTAC might proceed that would facilitate editorial independence: adopt a policy of advertising transparency. TTAC already has a great disclosure policy with regard to use of test vehicles provided by manufacturers. An advertising transparency policy would, as noted, clearly identify advertisements and periodically publish how much money TTAC is accepting in advertising dollars and from whom.

    RF might no want everyone in his business but keeping the robe open, so to speak, would allow the readers to judge for themselves whether the a manipulation might be occurring. Furthermore, such a policy might serve as a deterrence to car companies from pulling any monkey business. I’m sure BMW did not appreciate the disclosure by TTAC regarding their response to the whole Subaru “flying vagina” flap.

  • avatar

    In defence of the “buff books”, part of the reason they’ve lost some of their “edge” is that cars really are so darn good nowadays!

    Other than the occasional glaring misstep (Pontiac Aztek styling, BMW’s I-drive, Ford Excursion over-the-top hugeness, etc.), the vast majority of cars today will adequately meet the needs/wants of the vast majority of drivers.

    Hence, car evaluations tend to focus on such esoterica as styling details (exterior and interior), perceived quality of interior materials, and handling behavior at 7/10ths to 10/10ths of the performance envelope (where very few drivers will ever visit).

    Even the ‘long-term’ evaluations involve a single vehicle driven 40k-50k miles. While this sometimes reveals previously unrecognized qualities, it isn’t long enough or a enough of a sample to give a real-world idea of how much someone might like a particular car over 5 years/100k miles of driving.

    In short, it’s hard to get “edgy” and vitriolic about cars when everything from a Chevrolet (Daewoo) Aveo to a Bugatti Veyron meets the definition of “good enough”.

    Buzz L.

  • avatar

    You gotta do what you gotta do R.F.I can relate I have spent 34 years of my life as an hourly worker at G.M.
    Lately I have been doing my best to sell G.M. products to my friends and neighbors, talk about an uphill battle.
    Anyway TTAC is great keep up the good work.Nobody does nothing for nothing

  • avatar

    You can have add-supported magazines still work out honestly.

    Sports Car International is a great magazine, but also notoriously brutal: their review of the Solstice was 2.5x Farago’s normal snark level. (The first paragraph said “This is not a good car.”). The Bimmer bashing for bad manumatics and awful plastic and horrid GUIs, etc.

    Bike magazine (British motorcycle magazine) is also pretty good.

  • avatar

    I have one suggestion, and I don’t know how practical it is. Get ads from upmarket companies that have nothing to do with cars. Pharmaceutical companies, for example.

  • avatar

    TTAC is truly a great site, and I highly doubt that the addition of ads will compromise its quality. Keep up the good work!

  • avatar

    It is actually very hard to imagine that GM would advertise here. Or Ford.

    I seem to remember that GM pulled its advertising from the LA Times for several months after Dan Neil ran a scathing review. I wonder what would have happened to Neil if he hadn’t won the Pulitzer.

    Mr. Wilkinson, thanks for the inside dope, and the Pacer cover.

  • avatar

    I have one suggestion, and I don’t know how practical it is. Get ads from upmarket companies that have nothing to do with cars. Pharmaceutical companies, for example.
    Uh, do we really need any more ads about V14GR4, L3V1TR4, C1AL15, & R0G41N3? I was looking forwards to ironic Google Adsense juxtapositions, but hey, whatever it takes to keep TTAC going.

  • avatar

    Any comments on the effect of adverts etc on Top Gear’s independence?

    Jezza has a open bias, which is entertaining but open. Everyone knows that a Jaguar review on Top Gear is going to be all praises and a Caddy is going to be looked down upon. We know he is biased so it is fine. Covert biases ruin car reviews.

    Transparency rules!

  • avatar

    Thank you Stephan for sharing your C/D insight – I admit I did laugh when I saw the “Pacer” cover on this article (I remember that issue too!)

    I read all the mags as a kid… well as many as I could afford. Later, I had a subscription to Autoweek, and paid a king’s ransom to have “Car” delivered from the UK. Now, other than my copy of BMWCCA’s “Roundel”, I don’t have a subscription to any other magazines. When I’ve picked up some of the old standards at the newsstand, they don’t speak to me the same way any more. The fun of reading about the last car I will never be able to afford is replaced by endless pages of ugly aftermarket wheels.

    To accept advertising dollars on the site is nothing to be sad about however; I believe that RF has such passion and enthuiasm for the automobile and industry that I cannot see him bending his editorial principles.

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    My first review for TTAC was the Mercedes S550. As a serious Mercedes customer, I was offered the car for the afternoon while attending the last Frankfurt show, well in advance of the press rides. When I put pen to paper, I felt very conflicted. If I wrote something negative, I would have jeapardized my unique relationships. In the end I decided to write what I experienced and wound up losing my connection.

    A few weeks ago I received my first press car, my reward after writing many articles and I did not care for it. Once again, I worried if I told the truth I would lose my priviledges.

    No one is above some kind of influence, sometimes it isn’t even perceived. I still read the car books and have learned the language of when something isn’t phrased quite positively, it means they hated it. However, try comparing the same car reviews from them versus TTAC and see how stark the difference can be.

  • avatar

    I too have read my share of car-porn over the years. I would no more choose a car based on Motor Trend, C & D or any other mags recommendation than I would choose a wife from the pages of Hustler. Car magazines are about fantasy and seldom reflect the reality of vehicle ownership. The articles are advertisements for the advertisements. However, I do read the ads. Sometimes they can tell you a lot about the company that places them. Are they trying to sell me features, technology or lifestyle? Sometimes they just insult my intelligence, sometimes they make me laugh and sometimes they exhibit considerable artistic merit. Volkwagen ads are very clever, but I wouldn’t touch the actual product with a 0% interest, zero down, huge rebate pole. If you need advertisers to keep this site up, go ahead. We can handle it. Just keep your editorial honesty.

  • avatar

    As long as I am not bombarded with “male enhancement” adds, I’ll stay tuned!

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    OK, Bonefizz, no “male enhacement” ads. But would a few “penis substitute” supercar reviews be ok?

  • avatar

    I’m dying to find out who won… The Monza or the Mustang II?

  • avatar

    I’ll give you $200,000 to write a good review of the ’07 Pontiac G5. Whadya say?

  • avatar

    Im going to point out maybe something silly, but why does this “advertising” we all dread so much have to be cars? Could not TTAC hold to its mantra if it advertised Meguiars and AC/Delco parts instead of VW or Ford? If the ads were for Fossil Watches or for GNC Vitamins isn’t it possible for TTAC to garner advertising dollars whilst still maintaining (and enforcing) its journalistic integrity (independence)? Just a thought…

  • avatar


    It was the Monza. You should’ve seen what they wrote about the Deuce.

    My complaint with car magazines these days (and C/D in particular) has little to do with editorial independence and much to do with boring, technocratic writing.

    The first check I ever wrote was for a one-year subscription to C/D. I used to love reading it because, even if I didn’t agree with what their “editors” wrote, at least it was never boring or formulaic. Now I can’t tell the “big 4” magazines apart, except that C/D is the one with lots of white space on its pages.

  • avatar

    There are a few things that might help TTAC avoid the typical advertisers trap. The first has been discussed: no ads from auto companies. And while this is great in theory, this IS an auto review site and it’s a natural place for manufacturers to advertise. Of course, this is a very treacherous slope.

    The second is to have regular posts that explain what is going on and why. This is already happening (like, uh, this post I’m replying to), and should continue. Numbers and details don’t need to be mentioned, but there should be as much honesty and transparency as possible. Give the readers as much information as they need so they can make their own conclusions.

    Finally, detail the relationship the writers and the site have with each maufacturer. Include which companies won’t let you test cars, and why. This information could be included in the “About” or “Fair Disclosure” section. Again, honesty, transparency, and disclosure are vital.

    So far, it seems to be working. Good luck.

    Steve McAllister
    TTAC proofreader/copy editor

  • avatar

    It’s an interesting coincidence that this happens right when I have become so disgusted at C&D for being such a tool of the oil burners. I thought that with the departure of Brock Yates that maybe the rag would be more even handed, but the September 2006 issue has the worst treatment of the greenhouse gas situation that I’ve seen. Basically, Patrick Bedard claims that CO2 has little or no effect on climate. Could this be influenced by their dependence on GM, Ford and such – you bet! While I do still enjoy the sometimes funny reviews, their veracity and any trust I might have as to their candidness has been severely challanged. After 25 years of being a subscriber, I doubt I’ll renew when the time comes up.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t care less whether TTAC accepts ads or not. I base my judgements on getting to know how a certain reviewer reacts to different vehicles, and extrapolating from that. So far, I haven’t figured TTAC out in over a year of trying.

    Here’s what I think about the US car publications:

    Motor Trend — utter and complete rubbish from the manufacturer’s poop sheets, and it was just as bad in 1962, fer crissake. It hasn’t changed.

    Road and Track — why are they still in business? Awful since 1959.

    Automobile — pass the paddle, we’ve lost the rudder, but a glass of bubbly would be just fine right now, thankyou dear. Mmmm.

    C/D — I don’t find much wrong with it, which must be why you guys attack it so much. It’s obviously the one you have to knock off the perch. Just between you and me, you’ve got a long way to go.

    Yes, I am that strange fellow, a person with an attention span long enough to actually read a book, and can obviously entertain the anarchical thought of reading more than 800 words on a specific vehicle, including some actual technical tidbits, which don’t appear to inhabit the TTAC realm, other than as complete buffoonery, viz.

    “Aston’s paltry 302lb-ft of torque at 5000rpm is shameful for a modern eight-cylinder”. Right. Sure. And how good is it for a 4.3 litre engine, Sajeev? Or has the concept of cubic capacity eluded you, and the easier thing to remember is — it’s a V8. Whoa!

    Here’s my review of the iPOD, in the TTAC vein:
    It’s white and it’s crap. (plus 795 words on Steve Job’s disastrous wardrobe.)

    Doesn’t tell me much. Time to figure out your true “space” in car reviewing, because it sure ain’t clear to me, and probably not to potential advertisers either. Since every car you review appears to have some fatal flaw or another, I can’t figure out what’s going on. So I just read TTAC for the rebel rush of someone sticking it to the big guys. As for helping me to select my next car, it is at the present time, useless.

    However, I do groove on GM Death Watch. Very good. Which is where I came in.

  • avatar
    Jack Shry

    Well, all good things come to an end. My barometer of your success at being truly independant in your here-to-fore great reviews will be when you start showing BMW ads. (flying vaginas and all!).

    If you think that the pressure of keeping the bottom line solid, and continued growth are tough now. . . Just wait.

    I hope like hell I’m wrong here, but I’ve been in business too long to believe this (new?) concept is possible.

    I would have gladly paid 5$ a month to continue to read (and trust) your editorial reviews. I constantly check my email for another bit of your wisdom.

    I wish you the best in Corporate America. The stakes are high and the risk is that you will be tempted to deal-with-the-Devil.

    With that I wish you all the best. I look forward to another installment; but now I have to worry about the real motivation.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    ” “Aston’s paltry 302lb-ft of torque at 5000rpm is shameful for a modern eight-cylinder”. Right. Sure. And how good is it for a 4.3 litre engine, Sajeev? Or has the concept of cubic capacity eluded you, and the easier thing to remember is — it’s a V8. Whoa!”

    Compared to the torquey powerband of its mass produced 4.6L Ford counterpart, its pretty lousy for a V8. The Aston needs to be revved like a VTEC to make decent power.

    This is why we have a comments section. Thanks for asking. :)

  • avatar

    BruceA, if Aston can only manage 302 ft-lbs from a 4.3L, then they are doing something wrong. Nissan can manage 340 ft-lbs from a 4.5L and at least 274 ft-lbs from a 3.5L.

    I would say that in comparison, Aston’s 4.3L is expensively anemic.

    My wife bought me a years subscription to R&T as a birthday gift. I really do not enjoy reading it. The reviews are fluffy and never call a make or model to task. They rave about BMW eventhough their test car died. They criticized the G35-X for its oversteer potential on the track (controlled oversteer), yet in the same article they praised the Subaru Legacy GT for its ability to hang its tail out around corners.

    The lastest issue is sad. Let’s compare 3 exotics from Europe and 3 American ‘exotics’ and see who wins (at least per the cover). The European cars clearly won the day (with the exception of the Ford GT, the only true American exotic in the lineup), yet they called a ‘cease-fire’.

    They also had a cost per mph figure for each car. The Viper and Corvette took 1 and 2, with the Porsche Turbo taking 3. I am sorry, but the average buyer of a Ferrari or Lambo is not even going to consider a Viper or Corvette.

    I enjoy reading car magazines when they contain actual content. I really enjoy Car, though it is a bit pricey. Their stories are incredibly interesting and their reviews seem to strike a good comprimise between critique and praise.

    I didn’t come to TTAC for the reviews, I came for the editorials like this one. I find the reviews to be too subjective about performance and the writers seem to be trying too hard to come up with funny metaphors, similes and allusions.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman


    I would choose a wife from the pages of Hustler.


    A $25,000 Mustang GT wrangles 320 lbs. ft from a 4.6 liter V8.

    Look at the price difference. That Aston’s output is shameful.

    And for the money you could get a Mustang GT, a Mustang GT Convertible and a Z06.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I understand the advertising thing. And quite honestly I don’t see RF or any of the other writers toning it down for any reason. Which is why I love TTAC.

    Over the years I have noticed more ads in C&D, which is aggravating, but I get over it as long as the content keeps me entertained. I must say C&D does, way beyond the others. I remember them ripping the Ion when it first came out (“We waited seven years for this??”). They remain, IMO, true to form. My only criticism is, like this last issue, very often the entire magazine spends it’s time on exotic or expensive vehicles, when in fact the common, run-of-the mill cars are the ones I want to be reviewed.

    Good luck on your quest…..

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    One of C/D’s lodestones, like it or hate it, is that they review _all_ cars. Maybe not every single trim line or to the same extent they’ll slaver over the new 997 Turbo, but you will, in some issue of C/D, find some sort of review or test of everything–Kia Rio, Hyundai Elantra, Saturn Ion, Ford F150, whatever.

    Automobile, in fact, tried to make hay of this policy by advertising that it reviewed “No Boring Cars.” I guess they still do. I have no idea. I only read Automotive News and C/D. The rest are a total waste of time.

  • avatar

    Go for it, Robert.
    I’m new here, but I have driven 3 print mags as editor-in-chief and spend some of my time running an ad-supported website in another industry. In every instance I’ve tried –usually with success– to keep “church and state” separate and have found that advertisers generally support publications that take editorial integrity seriously. A couple of times it has resulted in a few painful discussions, but the companies still advertise.

    Advertisers, when you come down to it, are buying eyballs. If TTAC continues to do and say stuff that brings in eyeballs and has good demographics advertisers will be here.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman


    I just need to point out that Robert Cumberford has breathed new and much needed life into Automobile.

    It is now as much a design magazine as it is one about Road tests.

  • avatar

    I like TTAC.
    I like Edmunds, and Autoextremist.
    I like C&D, R&T and Automobile.
    I like Car, Evo and Sport Auto
    I like Consumer Reports.
    I like the Wall Street Journal.

    I’m also wise enough to know that no one has a monopoly on the truth and that every publication or web site has some inherent bias, ads or no ads. I’ll continue to read them all and then make up my own mind.

  • avatar
    ulu aiono

    Objectivity is over rated. Petrol heads are quite capable of finding, assessing, and ranking multiple sources of information. And discarding the egregious ones. Advertising or not, TTAC can stick to its knitting. Then we will continue to get tightly written, opinionated, bombastic, and knowledgeable articles — laced as usual with TTAC’s personal opinions and biases.

  • avatar

    Like it or not, advertising or not, TTAC is the Op Ed of the automotive news/journalism world. Politics aside, TTAC is the Rush Limbaugh of the news/journalism universe.

    If Mr Farago and associates forget that, they will be forgotten.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson


    Yeah, I know Robert.

    Unfortunately, if there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s design critique. It’s the fey guy standing there one hip outthrust, index finger to his lower lip, squinting and declaring that the lip of the fender simply doesn’t WORK with the cutline of the door.

    Oh, shut up and drive. I really don’t car what a car looks like, as long as it isn’t Aztek-dreadful. Bangle Butt? People are wasting time hyperventilating about a high trunklid? Get real.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Oh, jeez, don’t tell Farago he’s the Rush Limbaugh of cars. I don’t think he’ll take it as a compliment.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman


    Cumberford has always been a huge Bangle-booster.

    That said, I really enjoy design critique — if it is smart and well argued. In fact, to me it is infinately more interesting that reading about “unequal length control arms” and “Variable valve timing.”


    As a TTAC writer, I do not take that as a compliment.

    Though, sitting in Manhattan penthouse watching NFL on a giant screen, smoking Cubans and popping Oxycontin/Viagra does hold a certain appeal for me…

  • avatar

    I say bring on the ads, I mean doesn’t almost every other site we all read have ads anyway? I actually think that RF has nothing to worry about because there is no chance that Battelle is going to be able to sell this site to any auto manufactures anyway. I think this site would do great with any type of aftermarket parts/oil/etc. Either that or more upscale goods at someone upthread mentioned(liquor, wine, watches, etc)

    Keep up the great work TTAC, I love this site!

    ps. I sell online ads for a living

  • avatar

    I like big (bangle) butts… and I cannot lie! You other brothers can’t deny….

  • avatar

    Jumping back in to this discussion let me give this example. I hang out a fair bit at, a great place for those of us enarmored of the quirky Swedes. (Yeah, I know…. GM and all that BS. Lie goes on. At least two of mine are at least pre-GM.) It’s primarily a problem solver site as the folks do a lot of DIY but I know some of them come here, too. Lotta gearheads, most very articulate.

    But more to the point, saabnet has lots of ads, and it works just fine. While visible, they aren’t obtrusive and the advertisers seem to stick around, so they are getting something out of it. The parts suppliers seem to do especially well as no one wants to pay retail for Saab parts.

    Anyway, I have no problem with ads on a site (especially since they pay my salary on one site I run) so I say go for it. I know I’ll still be here because the content is good and sure beats a lot of the verbiage in the print car mags. I’ve all but given up on those.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    Subaru’s Swedishness would come as a huge surprise to the Japanese bigwigs speaking at the press launch I attended today…

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    Oh yah.. they bought us lunch. Think I should write something nice? :)

  • avatar

    Should Farago get paid for his work?

    Heck, Lorenzo at gets paid very well. The more he rants, the more money he makes – usually.

  • avatar

    The Bedard article in C&D on emmissions was spot on and only a repeat of an article published in the London Sunday Times two years ago. On the other hand, I can’t help wondering if Brock Yates’ sudden and hasty exit wasn’t prompted by his truthful assessment of hybrid cars as the biggest con-job out of Toyota in many years. (Hey, psssst, wanna buy a Tundra? We’ll throw in some spare ball joints!).

  • avatar

    I have to say, reading TTAC for the better part of the last year, I was expecting the worst from both C&D and R&T. I found a subscription to them (3 years of each for a total of $7 on ebay) really cheap, so I decided to pull the trigger.

    C&D actually isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. There’s some decidedly fluffy pieces, but overall, it seems at least competent. R&T on the other hand, seems like a group of writers who like to get around and lay congrats on each other for fluffy articles, and have no real connection to their readers. Either that or I’m very much the wrong audience. Both mags did a piece on the Z M coupe, and the R&T piece was just junk next to the C&D one.

    But anyways…for $7, it’s a rag to read instead of maxim on the next restroom break…

  • avatar

    well, i’m disappointed for sure, and don’t see how 100% editorial independence can be maintained, no matter how loud the editor(s) shouts to the contrary. You ‘pay’ for it one way or another… animal farm, anyone?

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    I’m curious. Does anybody else do this, or am I the only magazine reader so anally compulsive?

    When a magazine shows up in my post office box, whether it’s The New Yorker or Car and Driver. I immediately go through it and tear out every single ad page printed on special stock, particularly the expensive, glued-in cardboard ones. I pull out and throw away every bound-in reader-service and subscription card, every single loose blow-in card, every insert, every perfume and aftershave ad with a stink strip, every advertorial section. I don’t even look at them, I simply chuck them into the trash if they in any way interfere with my magazine’s propensity to lie flat and open page by page without my having to deal with some kind of pine board between pages 65 and 66.

    I’ve occasionally hoped that an ad-agency VP who just spent $16 million to have some cardboard PoS bound into every issue of every car magazine in the country sees me doing this, but so far, all that has happened is the occasional fellow resident who says, “Good for you! I do that too!”

    So I’m asking: is the ad-agency world thowing away millions of dollars because we all do this, or am I the onlly reader who doesn’t feel the new cardboard Chrysler pop-up insert is a true collectible?

  • avatar

    I too de-crud my magazines before I read them, particularly if it’s a magazine I plan on keeping a while. I’ve had too many old mags destroyed by inserts getting snagged on table edges.

    That said, I think print ads are interesting. It’s sort of fun to go back and look at how things were sold twenty or thirty years ago.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I only rip out the ones that hamper bathroom reading — anything that folds out.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    Stephan, I do the same thing, before I read the first word. I’ve seen it referred to as “deboning” the magazine.

    And on the scented ads, I will cancel my subscription if a magazine can’t provide me an “unscented” issue. I refuse to have my allergies aggrevated by that stench (which pollutes everything in the mailbox with it).

  • avatar

    I even go one step further and on magazines that have a stapled center fold, I rip out the pages that are all ads on all 4 sides – usually pharmacutical inserts. Amazing how thin Newsweek is once the ads and inserts are gone!

    I also love doing this to magazines in doctor’s offices!

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    I hold ’em up and give ’em a real good shake, nothing so annoying as those damn things that fly out like shedding leaves… especially when you’re in the tub. (where I usually read C&D)
    Anyone notice how bad those Volvo ads smelled a while back? Reminded me of that gross Divine movie that came with scratch n’ sniff cards.

  • avatar

    Advertising is fine with me – you gotta pay for things one way or the other.

    I just have one request: P.J. O’Rourke. I love his writing and he would piss off all the tree huggers who would not know good science from medieval alchemy.

    He wrote for C/D before it became another M/T clone. We need him back writing about cars, road trips and fun.

  • avatar

    Thanks guys.

  • avatar

    Bring on the ads. Robert, learn to embrace the lifeblood of publishing. Car & Driver is pretty damn independent, as I far I can judge. If you need a self-check to learn if you’ve become a whore, just read 3 sentences of Motor Trend. How MT keeps its readers is one fathomless mystery. Or maybe the circulation is exclusively Motown executives.

    Keep the ads attractive: And it won’t hurt if you land the Victoria’s Secret account.

  • avatar

    I’m seeing the ads now. Fairly unobtrusive, only slightly annoying due to animation. At least they’re not flashing/”warning!” pop-ups. Hope this income helps the website move forward. You have my vote of confidence so far, Mr. Farago.

  • avatar

    I’m Stephan Wilkinson’s brother. If you want to know the model’s name, email me. Oh, nuts, I was too young at the time to remember.

    Could we please lay off hybrid bashing? And global warming deniers? Puhleez.

    I own a Prius.

    I love cars. I had maybe the only M7 in the country (E23 chassis, Euro M6 engine and drivetrain, 750 brakes). It kept up with the Corvettes of the time on the track at Road America. It got 6 mpg on the track and 24 mpg on the highway. And I had several M3’s, including a Dinan supercharged E36 M3 that was the best car I ever owned.

    Then I moved to the city. It’s pointless to have a beautiful car in the city unless you shrink wrap it. So I bought a Prius. Hybrids are not a hoax. The damn thing gets 45 mph city/hwy with a leadfoot driver. It gets 24 mpg at a steady 100 mph (don’t ask). It cruises comfortably at 80.

    The turn-in is terrible. Its lock-to-lock is twice that of the M3. The brakes are barely adequate (although they rarely get used because of flywheel braking). It will out-accelerate most consumer cars for the first 2 seconds (I do love drag-racing SUV’s at the toll booths).

    The point is, the Prius is a flawless appliance. I took it in for its first service at 20,000 mi. (Yes, I know, I abuse the car. I don’t care.) The car hadn’t burned a drop of oil. The oil was still clear. The dealer charged me $175 for an oil change, a new air-conditioning filter, fluid check, and a tire rotation. That’s the price of a wiper-blade change on a BMW. The Prius is the cheapest, most reliable non-car I’ve ever owned.

    Don’t know if I’ll buy a new one, though. They changed the design to make it look more like a Toyota and less like a refrigerator.

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