QOTD: How Do You Fix Automotive Media?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
qotd how do you fix automotive media

This may be a bit inside baseball, but two big automotive media sites, CNET and The Drive, apparently let some writers and editors go recently.

The Drive is owned by Recurrent Ventures, a private-equity firm, and CNET is owned by Red Ventures.

Red Ventures, coincidentally or not, also offloaded some of the other brands it owns.

I'm not writing this to pile on to anyone who got let go or to evaluate how good any one of those folks was at their jobs (my personal take, though I am biased as I've met some of these people, is that these are good editors and writers who didn't deserve the ax), but rather to pose a larger question.

We know that the automotive media has shrunk in recent years. Enthusiast titles, mostly print rags, have been shuttered. Popular Web sites seem to die out of nowhere (see: Drive Tribe). The buff books are thinner, in terms of print pages, than they used to be and more ad-heavy.

The thing is, there is a market for automotive content. A market that, in theory, at least based on what I hear and see anecdotally, should be able to support multiple Web sites and outlets, covering various niches. Niche titles aren't dying because of a lack of interest from enthusiasts, but because of broader changes in the economics of media, at least in this author's opinion.

In other words, there's room out there for sites beyond the in-market shopping sites (Cars.com/Auto Trader), the buffs (Car and Driver, Road&Track), and sites like this one.

So I ask you, if you were some guru of media and business, how would you support independent automotive content? Would it be to have less insane expectations for growth compared to private-equity firms (the knock on PE firms is that they tend to make cuts if profit is good but not to the percentage they'd like)? Subscriptions and paywalls? Find a benefactor or benefactors that will spend money but not interfere in editorial independence? Have the OEMs create a fund for journalism, with the agreement that the manufacturers would not be involved at all in content*? Something else?

Yeah, I know, if someone had figured it all out by now, that person would likely be a wealthy media mogul. Still, I am curious.

What say you?

*Not my idea, saw it on the tweet machine.

[Image: Shutterstock.com/Daniel Tadevosyan]

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3 of 69 comments
  • DenverMike DenverMike on Oct 10, 2022

    It’s FUBAR. You pick whichever sucks the least, sucks up to automakers the least and reviews of boring cars, let someother outlet do those. Doug D does get ahold of lots of cool cars but he ruins it by talking.

  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Oct 13, 2022

    How about correct grammar and spelling?

  • Jwee More range and faster charging cannot be good news for the heavily indebted and distracted Musk.Tesla China is discounting their cars. Apart from the Model 3, no one is much buying Tesla's here in Europe. Other groups have already passed Tesla in Europe, where it was once dominant.Among manufacturers, 2021 EV sales:VW Group 25%, Stellantis at 14.5%,Tesla at 13.9%Hyundai-Kia at 11.2% Renault Group at 10.3%. Just 2 years ago, Tesla had a commanding 31.1% share of the European EV marketOuch. https://carsalesbase.com/european-sales-2021-ev/@lou_BC, carsalebase.com changed their data, so this is slightly different than last time I posted this, but same idea.
  • Varezhka Given how long the Mitsubishi USA has been in red, that's a hard one. I mean, this company has been losing money in all regions *except* SE Asia and Oceania ever since they lost the commercial division to Daimler.I think the only reason we still have the brand is A) Mitsubishi conglomerate's pride won't allow it B) US still a source of large volume for the company, even if they lose money on each one and C) it cost too much money to pull out and no one wants to take responsibility. If I was the head of Mitsubishi's North American operation and retreat was not an option, I think my best bet would be to reduce overhead by replacing all the cars with rebadged Nissans built in Tennessee and Mexico.As much as I'd like to see the return of Triton, Pajero Sport (Montero Sport to you and me), and Delica I'm sure that's more nostalgia and grass is greener thing than anything else.
  • Varezhka If there's one (small) downside to the dealer not being allowed to sell above MSRP, it's that now we get a lot of people signing up for the car with zero intention of keeping the car they bought. We end up with a lot of "lightly used" examples on sale for a huge mark-up, including those self-purchased by the dealerships themselves. I'm sure this is what we'll end up seeing with GR Corolla in Japan as well.This is also why the Land Cruiser has a 4 year waitlist in Japan (36K USD starting MSRP -> buy and immediately flip for 10, 20K more -> profit) I'm not sure if there's a good solution for this apart from setting the MSRP higher to match what the market allows, though this lottery system is probably as close as we can get.
  • Jeff S @Lou_BC--Unrelated to this article but of interest I found this on You Tube which explains why certain vehicles are not available in the US because of how the CAFE measures fuel standards. I remember you commenting on this a few years ago on another article on TTAC. The 2023 Chevrolet Montana is an adorable small truck that's never coming to the USA. It's not because of the 1.2L engine, or that Americans aren't interested in small trucks, it's that fuel economy legislation effectively prevents small trucks from happening. What about the Maverick? It's not as small as you think. CAFE, or Corporate Average Fuel Economy is the real reason trucks in America are all at least a specific dimension. Here's how it works and why it means no tiny trucks for us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eoMrwrGA8A&ab_channel=AlexonAutos
  • Gabe A new retro-styled Montero as their halo vehicle to compete against the Bronco, Wrangler and 4Runner. Boxy, round headlights like the 1st generation, two door and four door models, body on frame.A compact, urban truck, Mighty Max, to compete against the Maverick. Retro-styled like the early 90s Mighty Max.A new Outlander Sport as more of a wagon/crossover to compete against the Crosstrek and Kona. Needs to have more power (190+ HP) and a legit transmission, no CVT.A new Eclipse hybrid to compete against the upcoming redesigned Prius. Just match the Prius's specs and make it look great.Drop the Eclipse Cross, I am not sure why they wanted to resurrect the Pontiac Aztec. Keep the Mirage and keep it cheap, make the styling better and up the wheel size. The Outlander seems fine.I like the idea of some sort of commercial vehicle, something similar in size to the Promaster City but with AWD.