TTAC to Become a Social Networking Site

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
ttac to become a social networking site

For over two years, we’ve been telling Detroit to wake-up and smell the homily: everything either grows or dies. We’ve admonished them to adapt and evolve. This they haven’t done. The Truth About Cars (TTAC) will continue to chronicle this slow motion train wreck until the last car derails, and beyond. Meanwhile, we’d be hypocritical if we didn’t follow our own advice. The truth is: we’re not growing. So we’re about to shake things up. Again.

TTAC currently welcomes some 14k unique visitors per day. Our readers hang around for an average of four minutes, viewing an average of 2.63 pages, generating 1m page views per month. Other than a 10 percent increase in the number of new vs. “old” visitors, we’ve been generating the same stats for the last six months. Not to put too fine a point on it, we’ve flat-lined.

Our existing strategy: cater to the Google searchers by emphasizing car reviews while maintaining our base (that’s you) with a side order of editorials and comments. The current layout reflects this two-tier tactic, and we’ve been working hard to make it work.

On the newbie Googlista side, we’ve added TrueDelta’s most excellent shopping data and “stars and snarks” mini-reviews for thesaurus-challenged scanners. We’re also finishing negotiations with a car broker. When complete, the fully-independent broker (gotta maintain those brand values) will kick us back some real money– as opposed to the dribs and drabs of income provided by Google Analytics and AdTags.

On the hard core readers’ side, we’ve been posting one car review and an editorial on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and then two editorials per day otherwise (with some exceptions). In the next couple of weeks, we’re returning to regular podcasts and entering the news blogging arena. We’ll split the difference between Autoblog’s mild-mannered and Jalopnik’s limited slip differential (LSD) approaches, and add some TTAC ‘tude and international coverage.

While I’m delighted to offer these improvements, I realize that they’re minor tweaks to the existing recipe— which, in relative terms, is proving about as popular as chopped liver at a Hawaiian luau. Like GM, small changes to the status quo ain’t gonna cut the mustard. To survive and thrive, TTAC needs a genuine game changer: something insanely great to lift us above the competition (or at least away from it).

Unlike GM, TTAC doesn’t have 421 levels of bureaucracy and the kind of union grievance procedure that makes changing a light bulb a federal offense. So, within the bonds of decency and dollars, we’re free to reinvent ourselves. Ah, but how?

My light bulb moment arrived via an email from an editor/writer with an enormous and well-deserved reputation in the automotive press. After praising the site, he drilled down to what made it unique: you. TTAC’s commentators’ literacy, insight and expertise blew him away.

After nursing my bruised ego, I gave his analysis some serious thought. And of course he’s right. We’re not TTAC. You are. Sure our writers’ in-yer-face prose is stimulating stuff. And yes our Draconian posting policy creates a safe haven for vigorous yet respectful debate. But your comments are what set TTAC apart from all the other automotive websites. We would be an empty shell without you.

And that means YOU are our future. So here’s what we’re going to do…

My team and I are going to turn TTAC into a social networking site. In other words, we’re going to give you a HUGE canvas upon which to paint. An ENORMOUS theme park in which to play. And it will be YOUR intellectual playground to build and explore. TTAC’s writers will still provide reviews, editorials and news. With your help, Frank and I will continue to turf out the flamers and trolls without fear or favor. But YOU will be in charge of TTAC’s destiny.

The new site will have user groups, forums, user generated blogs, live chat, webinars and webcasts, podcasts, event calendars, picture sharing, video sharing and who knows what else. Well, actually, Frank and I do. But for competitive reasons, we’re not specifying the platform or listing all the features. And anyway, it will evolve.

We’re building the foundations now. When we get closer to launch, in a month or less, I’ll invite you, our faithful subscribers, to wander around in the Beta version and claim your own piece of turf. I’ll ask you to tell us what does and doesn’t work.

TTAC will do everything in its power to make the new site the best place for automotive enthusiasts to gather on the entire World Wide Web. And keep it that way. Meanwhile, if you can give me some feedback on social networking sites you use— or hate— I’d be most appreciative.

They say the truth shall set you free. What the Hell; let’s give it a try.

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2 of 69 comments
  • Seths Seths on Jul 10, 2007

    Hey Robert, Great to meet you and your daughter yesterday. Cool site! Hope to catch you around Prov. sometime soon. Cheers, Seth

  • Dynamic88 Dynamic88 on Jul 14, 2007

    "idea for reducing bad behavior on forums: force people to sign in with their real names." Good idea. - John Smith.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?