By on August 17, 2015

GNaaaaaaa, aaaaaa, aaaaa. (courtesy 48facets.files.wordpress.com)

I don’t get invited to many press events, but when I do, I often find myself surrounded by people wearing Hawaiian shirts, khakis, and black shoes. And that’s not even the weird part.

The last event I attended I was representing a blog that rhymes with “La Hop Stick.” This made me a virtual magnet for every forever-alone-Dockers-wearer in attendance, all of whom were nearly twenty years older than I, and all of whom wanted to tell me all about their blogs, which were ususally named something like “MOTORSANDROTORS.TV” and had audiences of approximately fourteen uniques a month. Despite the fact that neither you nor I, nor anybody not sharing a blood relation with these people had ever heard of any of these guys, they all get invited to all of the press events.

“Oh, yeah, I haven’t even been home in weeks,” I heard one humble-complaining, despite the fact that he was dressed like a flood victim and was eating in a four-star restaurant. “Just one event after another.” I assumed that he represented Motor Trend, or perhaps Automobile, since his presence at these events was so desperately desired by the OEMs. Not so much. I would link his blog here except that I fear I would crash his site if one out of every hundred readers here were to click on it.

Why does this happen? For a reason that serves both the OEM and the blogger well, but hoses anybody in search of the Truth.

In the olden days of print, your value as a press outlet was largely determined by one thing and one thing only: your number of readers. It was a fairly easy thing to understand: the paper or magazine’s circulation number consisted of the number of subscribers plus the number of newsstand buyers. If your number was high, you were important. If it wasn’t, you weren’t.

You would think that the web would work the same way, right? If that were the case, there might —might — be about fifteen to twenty online car sites that mattered and, as one of them, TTAC would be invited to everything. But the amount of traffic that a website gets, while still important, is almost secondary.

Nowadays, the Google Algorithm rules all. It’s ever changing, but there are some constants. The Googlebot is constantly searching and looking for new links to report back to the mothership. The more sites that talk about a celebrity/movie release/new hybrid-crossover, the higher it indexes in the Google search. If it includes videos and/or pictures, why, that’s even better as far as Google is concerned.

So, the more sites that an OEM can get to produce content about its new whip, the better, because when you search for “new mid-size sedan,” Google tries to produce the most relevant search it can for you. It uses PageRank, which is essentially an algorithm that tries to determine a link’s popularity. So even though WHEELSANDFEELS.COM has little to no traffic, it’s another place that an OEM can place a link back to its site for the cost of a flight and a hotel room.

Because of that, it’s in the OEM’s best interest to get its message out in as many places as possible, and it’s even better to have that message be as positive as possible. If you have a blog that has a tendency to tell The Truth (ahem) to nearly a million visitors a month, you can simply replace that traffic with twenty sites that will happily reprint your press release and get 50k visitors a month, and it actually works out better. So they continue to invite Mr. Hawaiian Shirt and Khakis, who gets to live a six-figure lifestyle on a four-figure salary, as long as he promises to keep writing nice things. It’s a disgusting, borderline immoral, symbiotic relationship that benefits everybody involved — everybody except you, of course.

So back to our original QOTD: do we really need so many car blogs? Maybe we don’t, but the OEMs sure do.

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64 Comments on “QOTD: Do We Really Need So Many Car Blogs?...”


  • avatar
    dougjp

    Priceless quote – ” dressed like a flood victim and was eating in a four-star restaurant “, yet so common :)

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      Whatever happened to some decorum and some GD taste? Is it too much to ask ‘Muricans to dress semi-appropriately at events not like its the last day of high school?

      You can always tell the American male tourist/Soldier overseas with this clown outfit as well. Normally it’s Khaki shorts, Polo shirt (tucked in of course!), brown belt, and some kind of tennis shoe usually a nasty running shoe. The other Ken outfit seemingly for entertainment value is the new age LL Cool J with hoodie and you-name-it bling brand name.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        In all seriousness, how do you dress on a vacation or in a situation where you’ll be be walking around outside in 90+ degree weather?

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          I realize now that this sounded pompous, but it’s so easy to pick out the American, and I worry a little about some nutjob picking me out for an easy mark for their political agenda. For me I basically try to blend into the local population. There’s an H&M look to most parts of Europe. Worked well in Egypt too. Sometimes that’s inportant, especially if you’re in the wrong spot of Cairo. Not that they overlook you because you look exactly like them but you look local if that makes sense.

          For the heat, sandals work without the black socks. Shorts work but khakis just stick out, especially with a tucked in tshirt. Tennis shoes with everything, shirts that don’t really fit well, and the every proverbial ball cap just stand out.

          • 0 avatar
            Jeff Weimer

            For the U.S. military overseas, there is a dress code – collard shirt, belt, and socks. Yes, even with sandals. I poopeth-thee-not.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            When I was in the military, my dress code overseas was wrinkled BDUs, combat boots, helmet, sunglasses, body armor, a balaclava/face mask/scarf, 100+ lbs of gear, and an M60/M249/240B. I would have loved for someone to give me fashion advice at that time.

          • 0 avatar
            Jeff Weimer

            That’s for Liberty overseas in ports. Navy perspective. Dress code for civilian attire ashore overseas.

            Gotta look our best, right? Can’t make the Navy look bad.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I’ve seen you Navy guys when at port. The dress code should be the least of the Navy’s worries. Ha.

          • 0 avatar
            ellomdian

            Complains about the distinctive appearance of Americans abroad, then plugs euro-trash H&M Basic Bitch-ery.

            Tell me Hans, how many pairs of boring, black, boxy, semi-dress shoes do you own?

            Every region has it’s own style, and every people their own bias…

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        “Whatever happened to some decorum and some GD taste? ”

        So true. I’d include commercial flying in my own gripe. Jesus God! As everyone gets fatter their clothing becomes skimpier!

        Reekin’ rotundities ramming their rumps into the RJ seat next to mine.

        Garments should be as much about protecting other people as covering one’s own nakedness.

        Flip side, I find that while traveling my Ward Cleaver dress code and high & tight get me out of all kinds of social contact I don’t want to have.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        Yes Dolorean, we can all stereotype. I for one when I see men wearing Bermuda shorts I know they are either South American or European. If they have FCUK shirts, they are definitely from the UK. Of course, any sort of soccer jersey worn during anytime of the day makes you European or ( Manchester United) makes one a citizen of the UK. I do live in a tourist area ( top 3-5 tourist destination in USA). I for one, hate when people are wearing pajamas to fly somewhere. I am not sure if they are pajama pants but to me they look like it. That seems to be a millennial issue. Also, flip-flops only belong at the beach..ONLY. Not at grocery stores, not in airplanes, not at the mall.

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          You’re right, I’m stereotyping a bit. Will say we’re not as bad as the Russians :).

          Agreed on the flip-flops (or Thongs as Oz would call them). I hate wearing them myself as every car I own or buy is a manual and flip-flops just don’t heel-toe.

          • 0 avatar
            wstarvingteacher

            Nothing would become a stereotype if they didn’t have an element of truth somewhere. Well, actually I can think of a couple, but for the most part that’s true.

        • 0 avatar
          SoCalMikester

          seems where i live, pajamas and flipflops are for shopping. Why bother dressing when youre just going to take the rugrats out in the 99 navigator to the walmart to use up the monthly EBT/WIC/foodstamps?

        • 0 avatar
          scrubnick

          Sorry, when flying, comfort and convenience are far more important than appearance. Sandals of any kind are very convenient when you have to remove your shoes for security. Most pajama-style attire is also security friendly and comfortable to sit on a plane with for a while.

          As for other locations, my feet need time to air out. Having them packed in shoes and socks all day is not good for them.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “when flying, comfort and convenience are far more important than appearance.”

            You’re not one of the off-gassing, tank-topped lardballs I’m talking about.

            Maybe it’s my local population and the fact that unless I drive 120 miles to a larger airport I have to make every flight out on an RJ. I’m paying the Bubba-tax for my sylvan homestead.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        Just cross that with some East Coast Casual Chic and call it L. L. Cool Bean.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          “Khaki shorts, Polo shirt (tucked in of course!), brown belt, and some kind of tennis shoe usually a nasty running shoe”

          And just what the heck is wrong with that? It will get you into just about any Golf and Country Club in North America.

          1) Dark shorts can get too hot.
          2) Would you rather see someone in a Hawaiian shirt or a tucked in golf or tennis shirt?
          3) Belts should be mandatory, or do you prefer suspenders?
          4) I detest sandals. Who wants to smell other peoples feet? And the only thing worse are sandals with sox. A good pair of athletic shoes are comfortable and highly utilitarian.

          So other than travelling with a wardrobe suitable to Cary Grant’s, I would highly recommend a good pair of khaki shorts, ironed golf/tennis shirt and athletic shoes with sox.

          It’s not so much the wardrobe, it is what it is fit onto and the attitude of those wearing it that might be disconcerting.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      People dressed like flood victims in nice restaurants is indeed aggravating. While I’m generally not critical of other’s sense of style, is some kind of collared shirt and losing the hat too much to expect?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    To which I say “so what?”. There is not now nor has there ever been much in the way of “journalism” involved in writing about cars. The New York Times this site is not, nor is Jeff’s Car Blog. It is 99.99% entertainment, and always has been. Yes there probably are too many car blogs, but who cares? They are mostly worth the paper they are (not) printed on.

    If I want to know what a car is actually like, I’ll just go drive it myself.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      I have one Hawaiian shirt. It’s the white lei flowers on navy blue that is exactly like the one Hawkeye Pierce wore in the T.V. show M*A*S*H. I had this shirt with me in North Baghdad for OIF I, which I would wear everyday during the morning update brief to my Commander. Straw hat included. All others are Magnum P.I. rejects.

    • 0 avatar
      Dingleberrypiez_Returns

      Seriously, there is almost no point to this article. It’s just another lame editorial published for the primary reason of ripping on other people- in this case guys who are passionate about cars but dress poorly. Not exactly high journalism.

  • avatar
    niky

    I actually like Hawaiian shirts. Though the rest of the outfit is shorts and driving shoes. My theory has always been if you dress horribly for these boring press events, they’ll eventually stop inviting you.

    Didn’t work. Had to actually resign my editorial position to make that happen.

    Shame things work out that way, but even pre-Internet, you would get a lot of non-car PR repeaters simply for the added exposure. The only difference now is that you get ones nobody has ever heard of.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      I have one Hawaiian shirt. It’s the white lei flowers on navy blue that is exactly like the one Hawkeye Pierce wore in the T.V. show M*A*S*H. I had this shirt with me in North Baghdad for OIF I, which I would wear everyday during the morning update brief to my Commander. Straw hat included. All others are Magnum P.I. rejects

      ‘Pologies for the double post

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        Having spent the better part of 3 decades in the islands, there’s nothing wrong with proper Hawaiian casual wear, although that normally means a Reyn’s Spooner at triple digit prices per “inside out” print shirt, plus a $50 premium if it’s one of John Severson’s designs. Yes, you can wear the shiny rayon print shirts to parties, but if you have more than 2 and one of them is the Bird of Paradise type you may need to rethink your wardrobe.

        On the plus side, classic Hawaiian business casual wear translates directly from the office to evening social gatherings with zero incongruity, ensuring you’re never entirely certain whether the person you’re chatting with is a corporate CEO, a banker, a professional surfer, or some combination of those professions.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Nothing wrong with Hawaiian shirts. The issue has always been the sandals and black socks that come along for the ride!

    If there are that many car blogs out there, and their readership is low, how do they sustain themselves? Nothing is free, so I suppose those blogs that aren’t worth a dime will disappear and the good ones stay around.

    Thing is, if the good ones stay around like TTAC, how is it that awful ones like “La Hop Stick” survive?

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    those little guys pay for their own website and the OEM pay for their trip. the general public is not forced to subsidize them with “public radio tax”or something. So I don’t see the problem.

    and who are you to say they are worse than TTAC or other larger outlets? This is old “paper magazine monopoly”thinking where only a few “elite” thinking where only a company with critical mass could print a magazine. Was the quality of those old journalist magazine better because they could easily exclude the little blogger? I’d say TTAC, Jalopnik etc. wouldn’t exist if the “little blogger” didn’t get a chance, because, I assume, this is how it started.

    the big websites and and print magazines need some grassroot competition. I haven’t read any of the blogs, but can’t imagine they are worse than the average print magazine (=paid praising of cars) I see when I sit at my dealer waiting for an oil change.

    Yes with the internet anyone with $5 for a website can spell out some BS. But in the old days the BS was just more profitable and monopolized for the few that had the power in print.

    If nothing else, those little bloggers give us more choice, and maybe some will be the new TTAC some day. You don’t have to read their blogs. Or are you afraid the OEM don’t have enough money to whine and dine you when they spend all their money on the little bloggers?

    Yes we need the bad blogs, we need the good blogs, we need the ones that totally disagree with us, and the ones that agree. that way we can form our own opinion out of many angles. And unless you do a china-like Internet control, they won’t disappear.

  • avatar

    I really enjoyed this post, I avoid these events like the plague after a few very similar experiences. I later realised that a number of the bloggers I met were literally just copy-pasting press releases after signing up with all the major manufacturer’s mailing lists.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Snarkin’ & trashin’ other blogs agin. Barooth tradishun.

  • avatar

    This is how fashion blogging once was. The industry went out of their way to court bloggers, especially around the time the New York Times interviewed a then-12-year-old Tavi Gevinson about her own fashion blog, Style Rookie.

    From then on until around last year, fashion bloggers were at the major shows, blogger conventions with ties to the shows came together, brands started collaborating with bloggers… it was a fun time had by all, yours truly included.

    And then, the scene matured, NY Fashion Week erected a few more velvet ropes (not that the brands cared, since the bloggers were their guests, not those invited and verified by Mercedes-Benz), and those who would’ve cracked open a WordPress.org blog years earlier are more likely now to turn their fashionable ways toward Instagram and YouTube.

    Thus, do we need so many blogs about the latest Prabal Gurung collection, new recipes and parenting methods, or the 2016 Cadillac CT6 de Nysschen Edition? Why not? The Internet, for better and for worse, has democratized publishing; so long as someone somewhere has something to say, someone else somewhere else has something to read.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Until this moment I hadn’t put 2 + 2 together about why you’ve transitioned to writing about the auto industry. Fashion for he-men!

      Great to see your (latest) avatar again!

      • 0 avatar

        Speaking of fashion for he-men, the Council of Fashion Designers of America recently gave menswear its own NYFW — the first gathering occurred last month, and covered Spring/Summer 2016. Media were split between excitement for the idea, and boredom for the clothes and/or presentation among each collection featured.

        As for my transition, I guess it would be only natural to make the jump from clothes to cars; they both share common ground, from Pebble Beach, to NYFW (now sponsored by Lexus after M-B decided to roll their own with Milk Studios in New York).

        And thank you for the kind words. :)

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          Heh… boys just want to have fun, too. They’ll get better at it.

          And yeah, I see where it’s now Mercedes Benz Fashion Week…. hey, Johan, you gonna let this go unanswered?!

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Thank you for at unusual and insightful perspective!

  • avatar

    Cars and Electronics are the easiest money I’ve ever made. My Youtube channels pull in over $2000 a month on their own.
    I used to write for Epinions till they got destroyed by Ebay and that was an extra $500- $800 a month. That’s atop my regular income. I’m going to start an LLC for these alone.

    The hardest part is standing out and getting to new products early.

    I cater to American muscle car enthusiasts in the Middle East, India, The Americas and Australia.

    The “pros” refuse to disparage between products.

    I tell it like I see it.

    My best videos, oddly enough are my ANGRY, SHORT rants.

    7 Rules for Hellcat Owners earned me $3000 on its own.

    My 300/ Jeep videos are regular earners at around $100 a month.

    I HAVE TO buy a Jeep HELLCAT simply for the views I’ll get.

    My videos PAY MY CAR NOTES AND INSURANCE LOOOOOOOOOOL

    Shooting video on my own iphone6plus saves me overhead. Nothing but PROFIT.

    No cameracrew to pay.

    I just made two videos I think will go viral.

    Why the 2016 candidates suck.
    Galaxy Note 5 vs. iPhone 6 Plus.

    I gained 1000 subs in less than a month as well as a lot of haters.

    They can hate while I’m cashing checks and doing burnouts.

    7 billion people in the world and I’ve only reached 11 million.

    There’s room to expand.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    “Nowadays, the Google Algorithm rules all. It’s ever changing, but there are some constants. The Googlebot is constantly searching and looking for new links to report back to the mothership”

    I will hate to remind you that wayyyyy back in 2006, my MyYahoo page recommended a little known blog called TTAC to me.

    • 0 avatar

      I think I found out about TTAC when I was reading about how they got themselves banned from certain manufacturers by calling the Subaru a “flying vagina”. I burst out laughing, visited and I been here ever since. TTAC goes through Editors like maxis. I’m not even sure how many I’ve seen.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        I didn’t find TTAC. It found me. I somehow wound up on an e-mail list and received a message in my office inviting me to sample the site and join shortly after its launch. I checked it out and decided to sign up. I posted a lot in the first year or two.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish I could remember exactly how I first came upon TTAC. Maybe it was through Jalopnik, maybe it was through Google (which is how I found Jalopnik way back when). At least I know where it is now. ;)

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Are we allowed to post links here? This man explained the review/influence process nicely and took the latest Mercedes C Class launch event has an example. Thought it was a good opinion worth listening to.

    Edit: Guess not. Search “can you trust a car review” on youtube.

  • avatar

    The only way to beat the Google Algorithm is to have a presence on YouTube which drives traffic to your channel.

    Google’s algorithm killed my Epinions money.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Sophistry *is* human nature.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    It takes all kinds to make a world. For every Jalopnik there exists an Ate Up With Motor. Regardless of what method of measurement the soon to be “Alphabet” uses, the cream usually rises. I have to admit I find myself suffering from info overload on a daily basis, and occasionally wishing for the yearning pangs once suffered when waiting for my weekly Competition Press, or monthly Road and Track with their unique smell and tactile sense. But then I’ll discover some obscure blog that aligns with my old man worldview and be blown away by the mass of information at my fingertips. It is hard to believe we repaired our cars without OBD. The more things change?

  • avatar
    Fred

    This is really only a problem for the manufacturers, in that they are spending money that does not really benefit them, or at least as I can see. I think most of have seen those BobsCars.com sites and they offer nothing new or interesting, so we move on.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    All these blogs to tell us how to think when it comes to a particular car, but yet my friend’s who know little to nothing about cars are hot and heavy about a Subaru Outback just because the wife sat in a friend’s and it “rode nice.”

    The blog spending sounds like wasted money to me by the auto manufacturers. I would focus the money on community events and on people who actually HAVE MONEY to buy new cars…aka old people. Not cool or hip (maybe a broken one), but it is the truth.

    I don’t see the luxury automakers or the supercar marques pandering to hipsters and they seem to be doing just fine.

  • avatar
    ZT

    I see the same thing in the world of cycling blogs. There’s a lot less money at stake and the audience is way smaller, but a lot of bloggers can get access to events (Interbike, Leadville) and lots of free stuff. Bike parts are very expensive and bloggers are usually participants as either racers or advocates for the sport.

    I can’t begrudge that at all, because I have been the beneficiary of the system. Free swag or access is fun and while my journalistic sensibilities can’t oblige, I rationalize it all by doing better work in my day job that actually pays the bills and pays for my crappy amateur cycling “career.”

    The hard thing is to be an impartial reviewer and avoiding becoming a shill. There are lots of shills in blogging, no matter the industry.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “do we really need so many car blogs”

    Well where would we all waste time at without them?

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Flipboard’s Auto feed is my car news firehose and time saver, with R&T, C&D, Motor Trend, Autoblog, BaT, Green Car Reports, and a few others. It’s good enough as is, I haven’t felt the need to create my own feed.

      I do stop here at TTAC, Curbside Classic, and Jalopnik for the comments, along with AutoNews. Ironically, they have an ongoing series about too many manufacturers chasing the same thing, with the third installment up today:

      http://www.autonews.com/article/20150817/INDUSTRY_ON_TRIAL/308179997/duplicating-vehicle-engineering-pushes-costs-and-prices-higher

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    It’s funny I’ve had more than one person tell me I should write car reviews. There is a catch 22 to it all though – you have to get access to cars to write reviews with which to draw readers, but in order to get those cars, you have to already have readers which means you already have to be writing reviews. *sigh*

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The more, the merrier. The SEO issue will work itself out eventually; Google is good about adjusting their formulas to compensate whenever crap factories start taking over their results. With any creative work (and car writing is definitely creative work even if some of these guys don’t apply themselves to it), you have to have lots of dreck in order to find the good stuff.

    I visit TTAC and Jalopnik on an everyday basis, TTAC because of the commenters and Jalopnik mostly because of habit and Jason Torchinsky. There was a time when the commentariat on Jalopnik was as good as TTAC’s, but no longer.

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