Site Unseen: TTAC's New Focus
In the Brave New World of electronic automotive journalism, The Truth About Cars (TTAC) squares up against some heavy hitters: KBB, Edmunds, MSN Autos and more. Separately and together, the industry leaders generate more page views than Senator Mark Foley– and us. In truth, there’s an exponential gap between their site traffic and ours. To take on these giants, to pay our writers real money, TTAC must change. Yes, we’ve broken our advertising cherry. But we need to break out of our e-ghetto. So here’s the plan.
As you know, TTAC’s editorials kick ass. Literally. But as much as I enjoy writing, editing and reading our no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners rants, as much I value your witty, passionate and knowledgeable responses, I’ve decided that TTAC’s commercial future lies elsewhere.
Quite simply, we need more of the masses to make money, and the numbers tell the tale: the masses aren’t interested in the arcane debates that float our boat. While I’m not going to deep-six or dumb-down our rants, it’s time for TTAC to re-focus our energies on our most accessible product: car reviews.
Again, rest assured that TTAC will continue to provide a steady stream of honest, literate and provocative editorials. But we’re turning this website into more of a car search widget. In other words, we’re looking to capture more of the people looking for the truth about cars they may want to purchase.
Even as we are now, TTAC gets a LOT of model searches through our Google rankings (enter the model name of a car we’ve reviewed and we’re usually on the first page or so). Once browsers click onto a review, it’s like they landed in a Swedish minimalist buff book. They don’t know what’s where, what’s what, what we’re
on about and what to do next. And once they’ve got the gist, they leave.
To cater to and attract newbies, to keep their attention and profit from their interest, we’re building a new home page. It will contain one or two reviews and a simple, clear search function (for car reviews). The reviews will remain pithy, but become more user friendly. Initially, we’ll bring back the stats and stars, and add a “Why You Should Buy This Car” and a “Why You Shouldn’t Buy This Car” feature (which I designed for Jalopnik).
Eventually, we’ll add [truly] original photography and video, some way cool widgets and lots of helpful, unbiased shopping information (price comparisons, dealer recommendations, etc.).
Meanwhile, on the new home page, editorials will be accessible through title-only links to the Editorials home page. This [Swedish minimalist] navigation assumes that you, our faithful panel of engaged experts, will be able to find your new old home without delay. And again, once there, our talented writers will carry on carping in their own inimitable fashion.
So that I can devote more time and energy to developing the review side of the website, I’m appointing Frank Williams TTAC’s Editorials Editor. Working in the Department of Redundancy Department, Frank will write, commission and schedule our rants. He’ll monitor your replies and snuff out flamers. I’ll still write, but Frank will call the shots.
The basic thinking behind this review-o-centric strategy: focus. I’ve chided automakers for years for not rigidly defining their niche, staying within its confines and maintaining the long-term effort success demands. By making The Truth About Cars the world’s best car review site, I’ll be following my own advice.
Meanwhile, before, during and after our re-launch, I’d like your feedback. In this, the pre-launch phase, I need to know if you think there’s room on the web for a truly independent car review site. I’d also like to hear what functions and features you think we should add to the review mix: comparos, price comparisons, dealer locator, buyer’s club, recommended rides, etc. What should we do that “they” do? How can we innovate?
As always, TTAC lives or dies based on its ability to cater to your needs. We’ve tried tap-dancing for a living, and done well enough. But doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. It’s time for TTAC to get out of the entertainment business, into mainstream infotainment. Oh, and we're also building a MAJOR community site for launch next month (TTAC subs will get a Beta version invite.)
In any case, you have my word that TTAC will never lose its spirit or editorial independence. As the writers and I adjust to this transition, we draw strength from your past support, and inspiration from your suggestions. I will never forget that you gave me the chance to follow my heart’s desire, to work with like-minded individuals to build something fundamentally worthwhile. Thank you for your support.
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