QOTD: Do We Really Need So Many Car Blogs?

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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.

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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  • Tjh8402 Tjh8402 on Aug 17, 2015

    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*

    • 360joules 360joules on Aug 17, 2015

      Hertz Gold membership. There, fixed your conundrum. Please remit payment to 360Joules at paypal (mild sarc).

  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Aug 17, 2015

    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.

  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.