By on July 14, 2007

dognewspaper.jpgThe Truth About Cars (TTAC) news blog started on Wednesday. By Friday, we were in trouble. That’s when I posted an item about illegal immigrants getting driver’s licenses in Maine that they could use to purchase a firearm. Some commentators cried flame bait! Others were dismayed that TTAC was wading into political waters. And a few wondered why TTAC was news blogging anyway. In response to the troll accusations, I changed the picture (from a firearm to a gun store) and toned down the text. As for the other questions, well, let’s talk.

As the Maine blog post indicates, I’m naturally drawn to news stories that raise wider social or industry issues. I especially like those stories where [I believe] the media got it wrong, or left out important facts, or presented material that provides a logical jumping-off point for spirited discussion. In case you hadn’t noticed, skewering sacred cows, challenging accepted wisdom and poking around in hidden corners is TTAC’s stock in trade.

There have been many times in the past when I’ve had to rein-in my messianic zeal. A rant about society’s defenseless in the face of car bombs didn’t make the grade. There have also been times when I’ve pulled posts off-line when the ensuing discussion dissolved into a blue state – red state brawl. My conscience, Managing Editor Frank Williams, often waggles his editorial finger. So I understand that there are– and should be– limits.

Of course, it’s simply not possible to run a website about cars with a comments section without triggering passionate socio-political not to mention moral and philosophical debate. How could we publish an editorial or news blog post on Ford’s hydrogen dreams, or CAFE standards, or GM’s union negotiations, without pissing off someone? Even if we restricted ourselves to cars, well, let’s just say the old “anti-domestic bias” issue is in no more danger of extinction than the cockroach.

So where should we draw the line? At the end of the cyber-day (which doesn’t really end), this isn’t my call to make. It’s yours. So tell me if you think the TTAC news blog should shy away from stories that raise political hackles. Keep in mind that we apply the same rigorous posting policy in all cases; so it should be “safe” to debate these issues on this site without personal attacks. Also remember that no one in these parts breakfasts on milquetoast.  

And while you’re pondering that one, what about the other end of the spectrum? I’m not sure whether or not the TTAC news blog should restrict itself to hard news. The fact that it’s called “latest news” represents my preference, but I put up a few softer pieces to see how they went down. The post on Slow Racing did no better or worse than the others, but Justin Berkowitz’ mini-rant on the new M3 stimulated the most number of views and comments.

That said, I’m not a comment whore; just because you CAN get people to post their thoughts doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Besides, I reckon Mr. Berkowitz’ post would have garnered even more attention as a full-fledged editorial or a review. Careful readers of this site will know that our authors have consistently argued that auto brands should be tightly focused and consistent. Do the softer news items violate this principle?

From a commercial perspective, we’re still aiming at picking-up some major traffic by splitting the difference between Autoblog and Jalopnik. Again, we’ve only been doing this for three days, but we’ve already gained 500 to 1000 new visitors, every day, over the entire week. That’s an encouraging sign, but another week ought to tell the tale.

But don’t let that stop you from weighing in on the broader issue of whether or not TTAC should even have a news blog. The bump could be false synchronicity, representing our Search Engine Optimization efforts. And anyway, raising site traffic is OUR problem, not yours. TTAC should be what YOU want it to be, regardless of our [necessary] commercial aspirations.

Meanwhile, an update: we’ve hit a stumbling block on the social networking side. The web guys tell me that switching TTAC onto a new platform would be an enormous, six month process. They’ve proposed an alternative: adding features to the existing WordPress platform. The first plug-in on (in?) my brain is live chat. This module can be placed globally (on the home page) and on each post. Your thoughts?

Once again, thanks for your feedback on these mission critical issues, your on-going support and continued patronage. I’m really swamped at the moment, on every level. But whenever I get disheartened, I look at the emails and comments where TTAC readers show that they understand this website’s mission and share its sardonic perspective on life. And then I get back to work.

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55 Comments on “If News Blogging is Wrong, Does TTAC Want to be Right?...”


  • avatar

    I have enjoyed the news blog. And why not comment on licensing and illegals–it’s all related to cars and driving. I say good work!

    John

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    I don’t know about live chat–I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I can’t picture myself sitting in front of the computer for hours chatting at TTAC. I do enjoy the banter in the comments section, though, but I like that it happens at a pace that allows me to cook, read, or work inbetween. I like the Jalopnik “reply to comment” feature. I think that would be good enough.

    As for political debate–if you don’t want to participate, don’t. But if it’s a hairy issue related to cars, by all means…

    I have a HUGE problem with *ILLEGAL* immigrants driving, and so do many others–because it’s a real problem. But if you try to tie a hotbutton issue like abortion or creationism to the automobile for no good reason, we might cry foul.

  • avatar

    If it’s legitimately a car (truck, SUV, motorcycle) issue, it belongs. Period.

    Just leave any and all forms of political correctness out of it. Illegal is illegal, and it doesn’t matter who’s being illegal. You don’t want it illegal, change the law.

  • avatar
    troonbop

    “Illegal is illegal”

    Exactly. That doesn’t seem political to me, it just gets political when people claim that simple concept doesn’t matter. Or shouldn’t. Or something.

  • avatar
    jrlombard

    I for one certainly wasn’t moved to comment on the illegal immigration piece. I guess I viewed it as an auto related post regarding something that involved driving— licensing in this case.

    To propose that TTAC just supply car reviews and witty commentary would be selling the site and the contributors short. As long as the posting policy is strictly enforced, and I know that it will be, then we as (mostly) adults should be free to respectfully tackle whatever subjects are out there…and related in some way to automobilia.

    I really enjoy constructive, well-thought out discussion and banter— even if I don’t agree with it. My passion for cars is a lifestyle. Therefore keep those lifestyle pieces coming!

  • avatar
    turbosaab

    There needs to be some relevance to cars. The Maine story didn’t have that; it was a story about driver’s licenses as ID cards, not driver’s licenses as a permit to drive. It wasn’t patently offensive, just out of place here. And, frankly, it wasn’t a very interesting topic (even to me, and I happen to be from Maine).

    I love the “skewering sacred cows”, and I don’t think you should, or need to, impose any self-censorship.

  • avatar
    jschaef481

    One thing this site should not shy away from is debate. Passionate, informed, thoughtful debate on any topic related to autos is why I visit. Your opinion counts if you can postulate or defend a position with common sense, facts, logic and courtesy. Bring it on, Robert! We can handle it.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    I saw the driver’s license piece and felt it is related to cars. No drivers, no cars. This issue may very well affect drivers in many states.

    The gun editorial on the other hand seems entirely unrelated to why most of us are here, unvarnished looks at automobiles and all facets concerning them. This is TTAC’s strength. Don’t detract from it.

  • avatar

    My advice is view this site as an automaker, and apply your own mantra to it that "auto brands should be tightly focused and consistent." As we've all read on these pages most of Detroit's problems started when they bought/created more brands in an attempt to be all things to all people. Ford's PAG, GM's 1001 and counting brands, these things diluted the core brands, and dragged everything down with them. Now, I think the main idea of this website, its focus, is to help its readers make informed decisions on buying cars, and hopefully in the near future, actually assist in the buying process as well. You guys need to look at everything you do and ask "Does this help sell cars?" Because that is the consistent thread throughout the site, helping people buy cars. To buy a car I do not need to know about Maine's choice to hand out driver's licenses to anyone with a pulse; however, editorials concerning the current state of affairs inside the walls of the automakers' glass houses are pertinent to anyone considering buying a car in the next few years. I think you should expand the Death Watch series to all automakers because, despite the fact that loyal readers believe you are fair and balanced, it makes you seem more fair and balanced to new readers, who are, let's face it, more important, than frequent visitors like me, in the long term. I also think the Death Watch series should be expanded because companies like Toyota have been doing some awfully GMish things lately, like starting a full-sized truck line when gas prices are $3+ (late to market with a product that can't end the product cycle of F-150s), trying to be all things to all people with a full range luxury line($30k to $300k, we want your business?), and the general statements by their brass of "We want to be GM." (Actually, I would love to collaborate on such an article/ series!) In general, if your goal is for this site to help people buy cars, as that as your business model, then you should ask yourself, before each article is published "Does this help sell cars?" Or if that makes you squeamish, "Does this help our readers buy cars?" Articles about your automotive histories, how the Glass House Gang is doing, and obviously, car reviews, fit the bill, anything else is just PAG diluting fluff.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    My politics are quite unabashedly in opposition to those of both Mr. Farago, and given the tenor of the climate change article posted some weeks ago, at least one other member of the TTAC staff. I happily dwell in the left-hand lane of the great political freeway of life, often to the point that I’m often veering onto the shoulder of the fast lane. (I know, a lefty who likes cars. Go figure.)

    In other words, I don’t tend to agree with your politics at all. Yet despite that disagreement, I’m in support of your decision to cut a political line.

    As your unhired, unwanted marketing advisor of the moment (or at least until the next poster posts something), I think that the site will benefit from some politics being brought into it because it makes TTAC different.You can choose to run TTAC as a strictly apolitical car-focused magazine/blog/whatever you want to call it, or not. Most car mags do the latter, so avoiding politics makes you less unique, and therefore potentially less interesting than the other sites. There are a gazillion (yes, I counted them) other places to read car reviews, so being the one place that combines them with other material makes the site stand out from a rather large field.

    The TTAC brand is unusual for a car site, because unlike most which are centered around test drives, the value of this one is grounded in the brand of Mr. Farago and his GM Death Watch. It sets the tone for everything else here, showing the average reader who may have never thought about it that auto making is not just about glossy photos and engine displacement but that it also a business that also happens to be fairly dysfunctional.

    Business is inherently a political activity, so if you’re willing to discuss that — take that, Motor Trend, a rag that in my years of reading it has never analyzed a single trend — then stepping things up a notch makes perfect sense. Most of your audience will be more inclined to embrace political discussion because this site is already flirting with the political whenever it talks about the business.

    If you choose to discuss politics, you should expect that some members of the audience will object, particularly as many Americans are raised to believe that politics are a private matter that should be kept out of view. That may give the appearance that politics are verboten, but I wouldn’t draw that conclusion. Many more will enjoy the topic, and even if they just lurk here and never post their opinions, will be glad to find it. Most of those who absolutely hate you for it will stick to Motor Trend, etc. and probably never wanted to read the Death Watch type of material, anyway.

    The one thing I’d recommend is that if you’re going to discuss politics that you be mindful in the editorial to avoid the kind of simplistic rhetoric that might drive away people with opposing political views. If the site appears to be the automotive equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, then you’ll end up with a small bunch of parrots for an audience and limited growth. You don’t want the site to revolve around politics, but just have enough to stimulate discussion and to get people to tune in to see what’s next. Someone like Rush benefits from being strongly polarizing in one specific direction, but he can do that because his show is only about politics. I don’t think that you would get the same mileage out of that sort of strategy.

  • avatar
    miked

    The news blog is fun, it’s nice to get more updates throughout the day when I’m bored at work. It also means I’m getting even less work done now.

    As for the political content. I really can’t tell you what to do since it’s your site. But when I saw the original Illegals and guns post I got a bit angry. What bothered me is that the “OMG WTF ILLEGALS WILL BUY GUNS!!!1!!!!111” comment looked to me like someone was trying too hard to push their political views. On a car site, it’s natural to have red vs blue fights over car related issues (e.g. illegals driving cars) But to stretch that to another topic (especially a hot issue like guns) seemed to me a little trollish. Of course it’s your site, and you have complete control over the news you want to display, and I can always just ignore the posts that make me mad – which is what I did for the illegals post.

    As far as live chat goes, I doubt it’ll be very useful. I’ve tried live chats at different stages of refinement (all the way back to IRC in the 90’s) and it never goes well. I find it too hard to follow when there are a lot of people or it’s just too slow when there are not lots of people. Threaded comments with email notification on replies to your comments would be a good intermediate step. That way we can all carry on conversations with each other, but if one of us has to close TTAC because the boss walked by, then it’s ok.

    PS – While I was typing this my wife said “are you on that car truth website again” and I said yes. She then said that she’s going to write “that guy” (RF) and tell him that he ruins her mornings because all I do is read and post while we’re eating breakfast.

  • avatar

    I agree with most of what Pch101 said. I would add that I love the intersection of cars and society, and I find the TTAC coverage of this to be generally very stimulating, and I include everything from illegals to Paul Niedermeyer’s auto biography under that heading. I come much more for that than the reviews. What I do’nt like is something distinctly uninformed, as I found the climate change article to be. I don’t mind reading stuff I disagree with, but I want high quality, well-informed arguments that challenge me.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    I figure, if it’s related to driving, it’s related to cars, and I thought it was a very interesting piece (my main background being in security). Better pull all of the articles of global warming, while we’re at it, since that’s only marginally related to cars. Yeah, the easily offended will always be offended, regardless of what you post, so why cater to them? Giving illegal immigrants drivers licenses is a huge issue, with many repercussions for the driving community. Certainly a topic worth discussion.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    There are lots of political blogs out there, the problem is that everyone who reads and or comments on them generally have the same political leanings. I like the idea of being able to debate car related politics with respectful people of differing political persuasions.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Any website worth visiting regularly is distinctly personal, and once you start “focus grouping” you will lose that individual flavor that is necessary to be interesting. I know you want to expand your readership, but, please think more along the lines of a bespoke tailor than K-Mart…

    In other words, post what you find intriguing, and if something is only vaguely connected to automobilia, try it. The automobile is such a huge part of society that to avoid politics, economics, social sciences, etc., in a discussion is almost impossible in spite of the fact that most enthusiast magazines work hard to avoid those issues. In other words, bring it on!

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I agree with Pch101’s comments re: politics. If I wanted to read a discussion of the world of cars with the same political charge as a discussion washer/dryers or toasters, I could read Consumer Reports.

    The news blog is unfocused to say the least – fuel cell world speed records, Chicago’s impound policy, thrid world traffic snarls, French auto-pyromania – but that’s as it should be. A variety of news sparking the interest of a variety of readers.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    Nice doggie.

    My ex wife used to say that my views are to the right of Genghis Khan, but the liberals don’t offend me.

  • avatar
    maxxm

    Megan Benoit is correct: “if it’s related to driving, it’s related to cars,” which should be enough to qualify for TTAC comment status. What truly puzzles me, though, is why we can’t accept choices — if you don’t want to read a post or follow a topic, then just don’t do it. The “off” button works for television shows, and there is no rational reason why every member of this site must read and/or comment on every subject offered by the owners. I have been reading TTAC for years, and to me, it was as enjoyable and useful when it was only RF’s reviews as it is now in its much broader incarnation. Neither one is necessarily better; they’re both good, albeit different.

    Having said that, my experience is that chat is another matter entirely and would almost certainly alter the focus of the site. If there are no compelling reasons to add it, perhaps it shouldn’t be further pursued.

  • avatar
    SaturnV

    Robert:

    I kind of like the news feed, although I would prefer that it stuck to ‘harder’ news. On a formatting note, I am probably one of the few who like the classic version of TTAC, and the news posts swamp the full articles in classic mode (there’s so many of them). I wonder if news items (as opposed to reviews and editorials) should display only the first sentence in classic, so they don’t take up quite as much real estate.

    On the subject of live chat, I actually prefer the current system. It allows me to read whenever I like, and the lack of time pressure (real or imagined) affords me the ability to edit my thoughts (not enough, obviously). I’m also the sort of person who checks in once or twice during the day from work, so a real-time system isn’t of much value to me personally.

    As to how far you should stray from automobiles, I think so far you’re doing fine. I’ll admit I was a little taken aback by the Maine driver’s licence article’s scope, but mostly because it seemed to invite the kind of un-reasoning flame war that you’ve managed to avoid so far (to your immense credit). I stuck around here for a couple of reasons: The writing is good, the ideas are fresh, and the discourse (in the form of the comments) is almost always reasoned and civilized, even between those of us who don’t hold many views in common. I think that post was about as far as I’d like to see TTAC get from the subject of cars and the automobile industry.
    All that said, I think you’ve earned some editorial discretion and if you think it’s important and connected to the mission of this site, print it.

    -S5

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    Why were you so afraid to let the discussion develop that you had to remove the topic and all the comments?

    Perhaps you could label the News Blogging section with a disclaimer, and anyone who gets offended by political speech can avoid the area.

    Cars as transportation, as status symbols, as toys; cars and fuel consumption, cars and regulations, cars and privacy, cars and global warming, cars and oil imports, cars and wars in oil-producing countries, cars and oil drilling in caribou habitat, cars and shipping oil in single-hulled tankers in fish-laden arctic waters, cars and big SUVs or small hybrids – these are inherently political topics and issues.

    By trying to steer participants away from political discussion, you are implicitly saying these things are in fact not political. That position is, in itself, a very hard right political position. If that is the image you want to foster, then I agree with Pch101: You will only fill your site with Dittoheads.

  • avatar

    Walking the political line is fine, but hazardous. I think if you’re going to head down that road you have to make sure you can walk on both sides. I’m not saying every article needs a rebuttal, but overall you guys should strive to have an overall neutral viewpoint in terms of editorial content, otherwise you’re just asking to drive away disagreeing customers.

  • avatar

    OK, rethinking the live chat. I was thinking of it in terms of webinars: live chat with reviewers, movers and shakers, etc.

    And point taken on keeping the editorial tone more neutral in the news blog. Sounds like the right thing to do. Oops.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Well said, Pch101. I think to take political debate out of this site would be to ignore an important facet of the discussion regarding cars. The fact is that the government regulates nearly everything about cars from how cars are made to how fast we drive and where we can go. It would be ludicrous to omit these political topics – or sanitize them away.

    The global warming debate was encouraging to me because so many readers stepped up and made intelligent comments – on both sides of the issue – in a civil manner (thanks to Pch101, David Holzman, miked. 213Cobera, KixStart, evohappy9 and many others for their input). Robert and Frank have told me that they only had to zap a couple of comments that crossed the line into hostility.

    I for one think it is important that a broad spectrum of ideas be explored – as long as it can be done logically and respectfully.

  • avatar
    dean

    For my own sanity, I think you should disable commenting in the news section. I already kill enough time here without another hundred comments a day to distract me!

  • avatar
    Luther

    Keep taking tradition, convention, broadcast media/marketing manipulations to the slaughterhouse RF. It is TTAC’s strength and also makes for tasty [psycological] burgers.

    All transportation is regulated so much by Gov’t that to remove politics from discussion will make TTAC read like 1980s Pravda.

    The News Blog adds value to TTAC.

  • avatar
    jabdalmalik

    I love the news blog, and I’m not averse to political issues that involve the auto industry (environmental issues, union relations, gas taxes, congestion charges, import tariffs, etc). I think the line should be drawn at posting stories on controversial subjects that have nothing to do with cars, though: immigration is one, another would be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the role of the United Nations.

  • avatar
    kazoomaloo

    IMHO, the illegal immigrants thing was pretty much at or just past the threshold of an appropriate TTAC news post. The focus being on licenses made it OK because it relates to cars, but the aim of the write-up seemed to be more fear-mongering about illegals buying guns than a discussion of how this would impact our roads. I don’t come to TTAC to get my hackles raised about political issues, I come here because I love cars passionately and I enjoy the posts and discussions. I think in the future if you kept the news postings more relevant to cars or the goings-on of the auto business, you’ll be better off in the long run. Start talking about illegals buying guns with drivers licenses and you’re asking for trouble…

    Then again, starting trouble would probably get some new people here in the short run, but you don’t strike me as wanting to run a big stupid Chevy v. Ford, Red State v. Blue State flame-war site.

    Idunno, I’m no webgenius, but as a visitor to your site I would prefer you stay away from politics, there are few things less palatable. Cars are passion, politics are something just a little different, and they sure as hell don’t mix. You’re a smart guy, you’ll figure where to draw the line soon enough. Good on ya for working to improve the user experience, regardless of hiccups along the way.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    What truly puzzles me, though, is why we can’t accept choices — if you don’t want to read a post or follow a topic, then just don’t do it. The “off” button works for television shows, and there is no rational reason why every member of this site must read and/or comment on every subject offered by the owners.

    Well, I wouldn’t go that far. In time, it becomes a branding and marketing problem. TTAC is a niche site, and so it needs to stay on message in order to properly segment its audience. Stray too far away from the site’s main subject matter, and it becomes unclear what the site is about and why one should bother using it in the first place.

    I would not want a site where readers are constantly faced with the choice of avoiding a topic because it’s not really relevant to the missions of the website. If readers are put off too much too often by the subject matter, they’ll just stop coming here entirely.

    I would agree with those who said that any political content discussed here needs to be relate to cars, the business of cars, driving, etc.

    I thought that the driver’s license article was pushing things just a bit, although I don’t see why you should pull any punches once you’ve already posted it. We all know that a driver’s license has morphed far beyond its original intent to become a de facto ID card throughout the US, so it’s debatable whether it had much to do with TTAC’s subject matter — the issue is ultimately about identification requirements outside of the car — and therefore might not be appropriate. But I certainly didn’t mind it personally.

  • avatar
    whitenose

    I’m still not sure how the driver’s license article related to cars, exactly. (There’s a pull quote for you.) It had nothing to do with cars, it was a mixture of OMG gun rights!/OMG brown people are stealing my job!! While the DMV may or may not issue the identification used to obtain the guns, what does that have to do with veracity as it pertains to automobiles? When did this become The Truth About Uzis and Immigration?

    It distracts from your mission and dilutes the value of your RSS feed. Environmental issues are absolutely fair game. Guns, illegal immigrants (unless they’re building cars to get here and you feel the desire to review such vehicles), abortion, religion (unless we’re talking the Popemobile), and the Simpsons are not, IMHO. There are many sites dedicated to each of these other things, and to the debate of the merits for/against each. Focus.

  • avatar
    radimus

    Meanwhile, an update: we’ve hit a stumbling block on the social networking side. The web guys tell me that switching TTAC onto a new platform would be an enormous, six month process. They’ve proposed an alternative: adding features to the existing WordPress platform. The first plug-in on (in?) my brain is live chat. This module can be placed globally (on the home page) and on each post. Your thoughts?

    I’ll make it easy for you. Just go buy Boompa and find a way to cross-link the userbases. :)

  • avatar
    mrcknievel

    I agree with the people that caution avoiding a change of the overall feel of TTAC with articles like the one at the center of this discussion.

    I see TTAC as a refuge from the stupidity and fear mongering that makes the mainstream media nearly insufferable at times. I come here to read what is in my opinion the best commentary on automobiles and the industry that creates them bar none.

    I can honestly say that seeing that article, especially with the original graphic and getting a feel for it’s tone made me feel like a Porsche purist hearing about the Cayenne the first time…

    Politics are very, very polarizing and I personally don’t want to see the other posters here as anything other than fellow car lovers…Not Neo-Cons in Nissans or Hippies in Hondas…*shrug*

  • avatar
    shaker

    Assume that TTAC is a “Vehicle”, and its mission is to take Robert (et al) where they want to go (i.e.; a profitable future), and bring along as many as possible for a ride (readers). A Ferrari is too small (though the most exciting), a bus (for the sake of the analogy) is too big and boring (save for the babbling of its many riders). Since the staff has the ultimate responsbility, they must decide the size/nature of the Vehicle, and its desired function. If it doesn’t fit with the “mission” (i.e., hauling a boat-trailer full of political snipers) then jettison it as “dysfunctional”. All truly “functional” Vehicles are compromises, in the sense that they carry a blend of characteristics that make them perfect to accomplish the Mission. If it becomes necessary to change the Mission; then consider a more appropriate Vehicle.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I think Jalopnik handles news stories quite well… and I’m pretty sure they would never post a story about guns for illegal immigrants, but you guys don’t want to become another Jalopnik… and yeah setting up a large scale social networking site is a huge amount of work. 6 months seems optimistic if you ask me. Plus you might find it’s not a good investment. A lot of layout without much payback.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I think you’re doing a great job. Really. The only thing that I would tone down a slight notch is the ‘Vagina’ and ‘Chery’ remarks that can overshadow the substance of your arguments.

    You also have the opportunity to take on some of the less savory elements in the business, and yes, that will improve traffic as well as make you a lot more commercially viable to a lot of people.

    Your site is based on trust, and the fact that you haven’t granted the empty platitudes of a lot of the commercial-focused sites, speaks a lot for your site’s integrity. I really believe the greatest asset of this site IS it’s integrity. If you want to get greater exposure and publicity for this site (and a stronger financial base), then you need to market that trait as your primary asset.

    You already know my idea, but feel free to go in a different direction if you like. The core strength of TTAC won’t change.

  • avatar
    GEMorris

    I’m a bit concerned that since the newsblogging started the rate of editorial posts has dramatically decreased. Is this intentional?

  • avatar

    For the next few weeks, we're aiming for a MINIMUM of… 1. One review Monday, Wednesday and Friday 2. One editorial Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 3. Six news blog posts per day

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    Right or wrong, I applaud you for making it part of the discussion. Cars, those that drive them and ride in them, fix them, sell them and buy them are the topics that I find of most interest. And let me add that this site, The Truth About Cars, does the best job of any site that I have ever read, and I have been reading web sites and magazines about cars for over 50 years. I wish you much success for your benefit and mine.

  • avatar
    Yuppie

    Don’t have time to read all posts. But I agree with the first few comments – if it relates to cars, even tangentially, it’s OK, even if it’s politically charged.

    Re: TurboSaab’s comment, he may have a point, albeit not the one he intended. If someone takes the risks to get into the USA illegally, he/she is not going to let the lack of a license get in the way of him/her operating a vehicle.

    Here in Socal, most illegals who drive do so w/o insurance.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    The site is called “The Truth About Cars.” (I tried desperately to get italics right on this, but I am not good with the tags thing I guess).

    Truth has always involved a lot of discussion, and frankly, if you can’t talk about political issues then you likely lack candor.

    Having once been the “victim” of a polite edit from the moderator, I still believe that without moderators, these sites become useless. With some moderating, they are great places to have a discussion about all sorts of things.

    Unless you limit the discussion to being about cars, without talking about the auto industry, then politics and other topics are going to have to be in the mix. Can’t avoid it.

  • avatar
    50merc

    There was nothing wrong with the article. Basically it’s about how our society’s reliance on cars and driving has made the driver license more than a transportation safety measure. Some people overreacted because Maine’s laxity in issuing licenses aids illegal immigrants and anyone who wants to create a phony identity to buy a gun or whatever. These are tripwire issues that excite folks on all sides.

    Speaking of tripwire issues, there is a far more important topic: the problem of blatant and shocking–Shocking!–prurient material. One need only refer to the review of the Subaru Tribeca to find two (!) references to genitalia, as well as the indelicate word “posterior.” Using the now-common journalistic and social science research technique of extrapolating from a single data point, one must conclude that every review must contain such raciness! What is next–pictures of the front bumper of a 1956 Cadillac or that infamous Buick hood ornament Freud must have designed? Thomas Bowdler must be spinning in his grave.

    Yes, to make sure absolutely no one takes any offense at all, it’s best to just write about mechanical details. In fact, numbers only.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    i guess, all of us expose our pain and angusish against those , of whom we care. You don`t scold your neighbours kid for the chocolate-chip cookie embelished sweater……. we roar, because we care.

  • avatar
    Glenn 126

    I say continue on with appropriate news and let the comments stay put as long as they are appropriate and not flaming the site or other commentators, as always. Politics is in fact, a part of our life. We cannot disassociate politics from cars.

    Case in point;

    http://www.newenergychoices.org/index.php?page=fullblog&sd=df&rd=pages&blog_entry_id=176

    See? Ethanol can’t just be seen as a motor fuel – it is political. In fact, I daresay it is more political than it is a (useful) motor fuel.

  • avatar
    nichjs

    btw, liked the Faithless lyric article title.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    watching politics is as interesting as watching chess. or paint dry. playing…. is a different story.

  • avatar
    Cowbell

    RF,
    Don’t give up on the live chats. I think espn.com does these very well. It’s basically an answer and question session with an expert for an hour. On screen, only the questions that the expert answers are posted so things don’t get out of hand, and the expert only answers questions they find interesting or relevant. Once the chat is done, the transcript can be posted for everyone to read.

    It usually works out pretty well, and I think the format would lend itself well to ttac. They usually do a few every day at espn.com if you want to check one out.

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    Robert,

    Keep up the good work! As far as the social networking goes, I would say, be careful. As soon as you let others submit articles, it could hurt the overall product. Take a look at autospies.com and you’ll see what I mean.

    The major media outlets all consider themselves activists, and the content suffers because of it. Let them yammer on about Bush, and we’ll talk about cars.

    Keep doing what you’re doing because I love the website.

    Thanks.

  • avatar
    FreeMan

    If the live chat is an hour with an expert/insider/other persona of note, then I think it’d be a great addition. If it’s just you, me and the rest of the mob doing a stream-of-consciousness barf, then it’s totally pointless, completely unmoderatable, and a waste of time.

    As for politically charged issues – go for it! This country is so totally filled with milquetoast, it’s disgusting! No one seems to have the teeth to chew anything anymore, we’ve all had them removed in the name of PC inoffensiveness. I may not agree with you, but that’s why God gave us this country – so we could disagree, but still be neighbors. If I dislike what you (collectively) say so much, well, I have the right to state my opinion (without caps-lock, 133t spelling, or flaming), and/or leave.

    For those who can’t handle the truth, let them go elsewhere.

    EDIT: wow, just realized the ‘persona’ typo, but now, I think I’ll leave it – so many ‘important’ people are nothing more than a persona, I think it’s probably more accurate that way!

  • avatar
    greenb1ood

    Seems like I’m going to be the echo of the majority when I say that any political / auto entwined issues are good – political / non-auto issues create confusion.

    Now if you feel that you have managed to capture a particularly intelligent audience and are looking to expand your focus, may I suggest “The Truth About Politics” or “The Truth About Political Thought” as an extension of your brand without diluting the main message.

    Looking long term, one could reasonably concieve of an entire line of “The Truth About…” websites each with it’s own focus, but always returning to a more fair and balanced discussion than mainstream or politically motivated media.

    Websites with very little slant that lay out the facts and have intelligent discussion around them on ANY topic are increasingly hard to find.

  • avatar
    MarkStuppy

    The only issue I have with the News posts, is that they are included in the main RSS feed. Getting Editorials and Reviews together is not too big of a deal, but the News posts are (as you’ve said) targeting a different audience. Multiple RSS feeds would be a welcomed site upgrade.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    I don’t mind the news blogging. It should boost readership and more frequent visits from the people who have been here awhile. Previously, I’d check TTAC when I got to work, look over the latest editorial or review (I’ll read reviews here about cars I could care less about–odd), then leave. I’m also a regular commentor at Jalopnik where I check the site several times a day to see what’s been posted.

  • avatar
    pete

    Personally I think you’re likely to get more opportunities for flame wars to start and even spread to other threads. Once the temperature rises its difficult to douse the flames and ultimately rather than simply remaining quiet, people might choose to desert TTAC.

    I had an experience simply as a lurker on a usually highly technical moderated genetic origins alias. The signal to noise ration was OK for a while, the only irritation being daft newbie questions, until one day someone took offense and then rendered the whole process null and void. People left in droves within 24 hours.

    I liked the balance before the news blog as there was clarity of purpose attached to the editorial section and news can always be found elsewhere.

  • avatar
    ttilley

    In general, the discussion of “Real ID” has little to do with motor vehicles, except peripherally… some of the *opponents* of “Real ID” raise, as a side-argument, the observation that enlisting driver licensing in the Fight Against Illegal Immigrants is in opposition to the public safety aspects of licensing drivers. In other words, cars only appear in the narrative at the margins, due to their ubiquity. Otherwise, the argument is really over the impact of illegal immigration and responses to it, it’s not related to how drivers ought to be licensed.

    My call…the Maine post had virtually nothing to do with cars, and violated a long-standing successful site policy against such posts.

    The wording of that last paragraph “against such posts” is awkward because many issues related to cars _are_ political; therefore topics can’t and shouldn’t be avoided due to being political. But I think it’s reasonable for a car site that news blogging topics come up because of their core connection to cars, and not because they’re separate topics with only a peripheral connection to cars. I strongly disagree with articles that downplay the environmental impact of cars but find it obvious that this impact is centrally related to cars, and expect my contrary comments to be taken in that light. No such core connection is, or was attempted to be, established by the Maine article.

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    I like the idea of a live chat. http://www.crownvic.net has a similar feature, the ‘Shout Box’ which can be interesting at times. I’ve found, though, that after a few weeks, the novelty of the shoutbox wore off, and fewer people used it. However, I would say it brought members of the CVN site closer, as we could chat about anything and everything in real time.

    As for the news blogs, I think they’re interesting, and if they get extra viewers (and therefore, I assume, more ad revenue) then why not. I see the blogs as analogous to the Chevy Aveo. Chevy makes it’s money off it’s trucks and SUVs (TTAC’s editorials and truth-ness.) But Chevy needs to make the Aveo to meet certain standards – they probably don’t really want to, but they can’t make trucks if they don’t have the cars. Likewise, without the blog bringing in new viewers and more revenue, this site likely won’t exist, and neither will the editorials or truth-ness. I say keep the blogs, sometimes makes for interesting reading.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    The story was about driver’s licensing. If that doesn’t have anything to do about cars, then neither does cars!

    Robert, keep on keeping on. Ignore the nay-sayers saying “nay.”

    Online Chat might be interesting to try, but I cannot do it as often as I can pop in for a quick read or a short comment.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Count me a skeptic about this new direction. Well written original content is interesting and worth stopping by for. Random quick jabs at other people’s content seems easy, cheap and ultimately booring, kind of like fast food. So far the news blog section of TTAC seems to be going in that fast food direction.

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