Babysitting Bloggers: How GM, Ford, Audi and Others Are Twisting The Coverage You're Reading

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
babysitting bloggers how gm ford audi and others are twisting the coverage you re

We all ran by them this morning on the way to the Fusion introduction. Two signs. One sign said, “FORD PRESS EVENT”. The sign below it said “SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERS”. The arrow pointed a different way. Who are “social media influencers”, anyway?

What was the “Volt Lounge”, and why were so many prominent auto-related Twitterati spending time there today instead of walking the NAIAS show floor?

The photo above is a plane that reportedly left Detroit tonight. Why did Audi reportedly feel the need to fly dozens of bloggers from NAIAS to CES, at their expense?

We’ve complained about this on TTAC before, but on a day where we have seen so many newsworthy new cars, it’s important to remind all of you that a lot of the “news” is bought and paid for. General Motors and Ford both spent obscene amounts of money to fly “social media influencers” to Detroit from all over the world. The way these bloggers experience Detroit is very different from the way the TTAC crew did. They are herded from place to place, given talking points, and relentlessly groomed to Tweet and blog only the most flattering and sponsor-centric information. “Insider events” make sure that the GM bloggers, for example, didn’t see the plug-in Fusion — and the Ford bloggers were nowhere in evidence when the new Hyundais hit the ground. Instead, a group of mostly young, handsome, and gregarious PR people ensure that only the most profitable news reaches the ears of their impressionable charges.

Meanwhile, Audi apparently chartered an entire Boeing 737 to make sure “lifestyle” bloggers went straight from the new Q3 Vail to the newest disposable electronic garbage in Vegas. Lincoln’s introducing the new MKZ in the morning, and it’s aimed right at the Audi A4 — but for the Audi charter crew, that car’s invisible. Meanwhile, Ford’s blogger babies will be Tweeting Revolutionary Em Kay Zee News All Morning. It’s modern American politics writ in automotive steel: ignore the contrasting choices, pick a team, be loyal rather than curious.

As we did last year, TTAC is calling on all compensated bloggers to trumpet that fact loud and clear at the BEGINNING of their coverage, not in a italicized end disclaimer. If your view of the world’s most important auto show was through a marketing glass darkly, let your followers know.

Now it’s time for the TTAC team disclaimers:

  • Jack Baruth drove a Lincoln Town Car with 73,920 miles to the event. He accepted no alcohol or food from manufacturers and paid his own bills.
  • Ronnie Schreiber paid his own way and is a native Detroiter.
  • The Speed:Sport:Life crew flew from Houston, TX and Washington, DC at their own expense, paid their own way, and did not accept any manufacturer benefits on Day One of the show while covering the event for TTAC.
  • Derek Kreindler stayed home in Toronto because his girlfriend is gorgeous and he didn’t want to play pickup ball.
  • Bertel Schmitt monitored our activity from the [s]secret Chinese moon base[/s] nearest internet cafe.

Who paid for the coverage you are reading? You did, by clicking on all those great ads. What? You haven’t clicked on an ad? Get clicking!

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2 of 41 comments
  • Daveainchina Daveainchina on Jan 10, 2012

    "Who paid for the coverage you are reading? You did, by clicking on all those great ads. What? You haven’t clicked on an ad? Get clicking!" Best promo ever to get people to click on ads they aren't interested in. So a question to you Jack, if I'm say a "ford guy"(insert any manufacturers name here) and all I do is blog and post in forums about fords, would I really be guilty for not showing curiosity from a competing brand? Should I disclose that ford paid for my trip, sure, but I don't think I should be roasted for ignoring everything else but fords etc? Normally I agree with you, but I have to wonder who these people are who are "social media influencers"

  • Jsal56 Jsal56 on Jan 10, 2012

    Jack, This article is why, if you are ever in NYC, you can name your restaurant. When I read what what Porsche has been doing a light finally dawned on my marblehead. Thanks for the great work.

  • Damon Thomas Adding to the POSITIVES... It's a pretty fun car to mod
  • GregLocock Two adjacent states in Australia have different attitudes to roadworthy inspections. In NSW they are annual. In Victoria they only occur at change of ownership. As you'd expect this leads to many people in Vic keeping their old car.So if the worrywarts are correct Victoria's roads would be full of beaten up cars and so have a high accident rate compared with NSW. Oh well, the stats don't agree.
  • Lorenzo In Massachusetts, they used to require an inspection every 6 months, checking your brake lights, turn signals, horn, and headlight alignment, for two bucks.Now I get an "inspection" every two years in California, and all they check is the smog. MAYBE they notice the tire tread, squeaky brakes, or steering when they drive it into the bay, but all they check is the smog equipment and tailpipe emissions.For all they would know, the headlights, horn, and turn signals might not work, and the car has a "speed wobble" at 45 mph. AFAIK, they don't even check EVs.
  • Not Tire shop mechanic tugging on my wheel after I complained of grinding noise didn’t catch that the ball joint was failing. Subsequently failed to prevent the catastrophic failure of the ball joint and separation of the steering knuckle from the car! I’ve never lived in a state that required annual inspection, but can’t say that having the requirement has any bearing on improving safety given my experience with mechanics…
  • Mike978 Wow 700 days even with the recent car shortages.