QOTD: How Do You Fix Automotive Media?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

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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Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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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?

  • GregLocock Not interested at all. Apparently I've got Apple car play but I've never used it in 3 years. The built in nav is ok.
  • Corey Lewis Probably worth about what they're asking, given its condition. The color combo isn't a desirable one, they look sharper in non-beige shades. Like two-tone green, maroon, navy, or gray. The end of the time when MB built its cars properly. No shame in turning up in a clean W126, they'll always command respect.
  • Lou_BC Another way to look at this is the upgrading of hardware and software. ...............The average length of car ownership is 10 - 12 years ....................The average lifetime ownership of a cell phone is 2.5 years. ................................................................... My phone will remain up to date, my vehicle won't. Especially if you buy a new "end of run" model.
  • TheEndlessEnigma "...we could be seeing a foundational shift in how Americans and car buyers see Stellantis products." yeah, I view Stellantis products as being off the cross-shop list. Stellantis is doing an excellent job of killing the Chrysler and Dodge brands and turning Jeep into something it isn't.
  • 2manyvettes 495 hp in a base C8 is more than enough. 800+ hp in a ZR1 is not worth the extra $60k (plus dealer markups). Unless the buyer is going for bragging rights. I remember when the C7 Grand Sport came out, and a reviewer got his hands on one and put it on the track at Lime Rock. His conclusion? Save yourself $15k and skip the Z06 and get a Grand Sport.