My Car Quest

August 10, 2020

Media: Are We Seeing the End of Car Magazines?

by Wallace Wyss –

I loved car magazines. Maybe less now that I’ve worked for them but I still remember some of the great issues I’ve owned. Motor Trend

I recently read that Ten Publishing in El Segundo, CA axed 19 of them in one fell swoop including Automobile, Lowrider and Truck Trend. This at a time when pickup trucks are among the most popular selling vehicles.

 
 
 
 
 

According to Greg Dool, writing back in December 2019 in Folio,

“TEN Publishing will shutter 19 of its 22 automotive magazines by the end of the year, leaving MotorTrend, Hot Rod and Four Wheeler as the only three titles that will continue to be published in print in 2020.

That was well over 75% of the titles they had–19 of its 22 automotive print titles. MotorTrend Group president and GM Alex Wellen in the memo. “I know this is difficult news, but I want to assure you that we remain committed to you and your pursuit to deliver quality automotive storytelling and journalism across all of our content platforms.”

It’s a little confusing who owns what but the article said,

“MotorTrend Group, a joint venture formed in 2017 and majority owned by Discovery, Inc., comprises the digital and video businesses of the company formerly known as The Enthusiast Network, whereas TEN Publishing controls those brands’ print magazines. Under a licensing agreement, MotorTrend Group provides editorial and ad sales support to TEN, producing content for both MotorTrend Group’s digital platforms and TEN’s magazines.”

The executive said “Tens of millions of fans visit MotorTrend’s digital properties every month, with the vast majority of our consumption on mobile, and 3 out of every 4 of our visitors favoring digital content over print.”

So the discontinued magazines will still exist online (just in time for the pandemic). Subscribers to the printed magazines will be offered digital subscriptions to MotorTrend, Hot Rod or Four Wheeler as well as MotorTrend‘s video streaming service.

I am not saying the magazine editor is a vanishing species but the article said there will be a “one-time voluntary separation program, in which some editors and salespeople will be given the option to resign in exchange for special separation benefits.”

Automobile Magazine

MotorTrend Group sent a statement to Folio saying “it is doubling down on our best-in-class digital product experiences, while maintaining our support of the three most popular, profitable and strategic brands across digital and print—MotorTrend, Hot Rod and Four Wheeler.” Automobile will also live on digitally.

What are we to make of it? Well I feel it was inevitable. Why? Because I can go to a magazine website and often see a driving video presented as well, which you couldn’t do in a print magazine. And online you can deliver news faster. One group that may disappear are the guys who painted pictures of future cars because by the time they do a painting there’s digital pictures leaked from somewhere.

What I will miss is the personalities. I believe it was David E. Davis Jr. who started Automobile and he affected a walrus mustached British barrister sort of persona, a connoisseur who pontificated on what was good and what was not (I believe he was from Kentucky) but at least he had a consistent point of view. After he died it was hard to tell Automobile from any other car magazine.

The American car magazine I miss most is Road & Track when the irreverent Henry Manney III wrote for it, and they had a memorable British cartoonist, Brockbank, and some good engineering articles and even articles written by World GP champion Phil Hill. Bill Motta got in lots of original art. Now it is hard to tell them from any other car magazines. When they fired the West coast staff and moved to Michigan they left their taste behind.

Dec.1966 Road & Track

Car and Driver I loved in the Sixties for the irreverent Brock Yates articles and those of Steve Smith as well as David E. Davis, Jr. who was there before he started Automobile. Art wise they excelled by using a lot of the inspired art of Ken Dallison, a British import to Canada. Both magazines are still in print but it isn’t the same. I am trying to get used to the internet versions.

The print car magazine I used to like most, CAR, was great in the Sixties when Mel Fraser edited it. I loved the articles where Carroll Shelby would lambaste Brian Angliss for borrowing the Cobra and continuing to make them without Shelby’s permission. CAR is bigger and glossier now but not nearly so controversial.

The most eccentric car magazine was Sports Car Graphic. One time they had their staff engineer, Pul Van Valkenberg, test a De Tomaso Mangusta and he proved in pictures how it would lose the rear end on a dare. The publisher TC Browne was a madcap. I remember at one lunch with some Japanese automakers he started recalling Pearl Harbor blow by blow and only I got a laugh out of it because I knew he had been there!

I could tell tales out of school. I was a staffer at Motor Trend and contributed to Car & Driver but hey, some skeletons should stay in closets. I will just have to get used to the digital age. It’s like some car companies when I ask for a test car say “Oh, you don’t need the car, we can send you pictures.” Yeah, right. Ain’t the same, bro.

But I’ll still keep my flip phone…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss has written 18 books on classic cars. He is co-host of Autotalk, a radio show broadcast once a week from KUCR-FM Riverside.

 
 
 
 

Hot Rod Magazine

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Media: Are We Seeing the End of Car Magazines?
Article Name
Media: Are We Seeing the End of Car Magazines?
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I could tell tales out of school. I was a staffer at Motor Trend and contributed to Car & Driver but hey, some skeletons should stay in closets.
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Comments

  1. Great post Wally! I have represented specialty automotive publications on both sides of the pond for almost 30 years, as well as numerous blogs (Including the launch of Michael’s My Car Quest years ago!), and considered a global expert when it comes to print and digital advertising, and the promotion of print and digital titles. Initially, I represented a dozen magazines in Germany, Japan, Belgium, the UK, Italy, France and beyond. I was THE only way for US-based auctions/Dealers/Concours etc. to reach those audiences for years and I helped bridge the gap between the USA and the rest of the world. My repertoire includes 13 years with Garage Style Magazine (about all things garage and the people who own them) and 16 years representing Keith Martin’s Sports Car Market and American Car Collector magazines. The scape is definitely changing, and digital issues of printed magazines make GREAT sense. In many cases, magazine print subscriptions are up thankyou pandemic, but as a whole only for niche publications. I’ve always viewed Car and Driver and Road and Track (LOVE the early years!) as dental/doctor’s office material, with content now broader and less personal, aimed at trying to please too many tastes. After a while, the theme disappears and you’re not sure what you’re gonna get in a given issue. Our current global situation confirms the new significance of handheld devices and computers, and it’s inevitable we’ll all be reading much more online than offline. It’s definitely more cost-effective to publish online, and a huge benefit to advertisers when a prospective customer can click an ad and go straight to their site, multiple images and a shopping cart. I myself will always love car magazines. They are each a small time capsule. I think there will always be a demand for niche publications, and I predict as with everything else that comes back around every 30, 40 or 50 years, that future generations will someday make reading books and magazines popular again, if only a fad that lasts a few seasons in the year 2054 or thereabouts. Meanwhile, please support your favorite publisher by subscribing for another year, it helps our entire industry.

  2. Robb Northrup says

    I agree with Wallace 100%. It “ain’t the same!” As a practitioner of advertising and PR for over four decades, I never got over the fact that my work had been printed and was there for the world to see. The same with my freelance work for car enthusiast publications — something that might be bound and catalogued someday in a library for future generations to enjoy and learn from.

    Further, there is a great deal to be said about the ability for someone to go into their magazine collection and research past issues — for me that goes back to ROAD & TRACK in the late 1960s through the 80s — to reminisce about cars back then, or do research on a particular car that became a PROJECT! Holding that printed piece is holding onto history.

    It is NOT the same as trying to find a past issue on the internet of a particular digital magazine. Ditto with researching a new car prior to purchase. Photos and specs only tell part of the story; it’s getting into the car and driving it that speaks to the seat of your pants, the sensory inputs to your hands and the feeling in your heart. And for the “classics,” ebay and Bring-A-Trailer are NOT the same…

  3. Wally, your comments regarding the evolution of car magazines is timely and appreciated. You do a masterful job representing the editorial segment of the industry. Yes, people retire, writers lose jobs, readers’ tastes change and the print industry has revolutionized. Long gone are the large Heidelberg presses, rubylith film, darkrooms and faxes. The digital age has put everyone on hyperdrive towards a gluttonous orgy of global information gathering. The result? Content has suffered, convenience has trumped the anticipation of receiving your mag in the mail and compulsive scanning the internet has replaced reading. Where have all of the iconic car personalities that provided good content gone? Where are today’s creative individuals that dare to do something different? Do publishers really think that converting Bentleys, Jags, Porsches and McLarens into SUVs are really what car enthousiasts want to read? Are stories about 2,000 hp LS conversions or driving at 200 mph in a Corvette really enlightening? Sorry, but creativity is the only glue that will keep readers coming back. I agree that a ‘shakeout’ is needed. Exaggerated market segmentation needs a ‘correction’. It is welcomed.

    As an ‘outsider’ to the publication world, my decisions regarding the placement of ads for my products is complex. With limited budgets, a dose of critical thinking and some PR experience, we must still rely on rely on media kits (knowing that the stats are inflated or ‘spun’) and selective exposure within niche markets. The transition to web-based exposure is a daunting challenge, both technically and content wise, as the retention spans of viewers can be measured in nano-seconds and, if lucky, 48 hours. As a micro-producer of classic vehicles, in a niche market, I am up to the challenge of change. However, guerrilla marketing, show and tell, as well as word of mouth (customer/’personality endorsements/media testimonials) remain the core of my strategy.

    Keep telling it like it is Willy. Love your contributions.

    Roger Allard
    Allard Motor Works

  4. Like driving a classic car vs a modern car, holding and reading a magazine is so much better than reading it online. And try reading it from your damn cell phone. My Classic Cars magazine April issue from Great Britian was offered to me via an app for my cell because it was running very late due to the virus had disrupted overseas shipping. I tried to read it on my cell but decided to wait for the issue to arrive a few weeks later. It’s been read and now circulating amongst friends.

  5. Glenn Krasner says

    Right after that announcement (I was receiving “Automobile”), it was also announced by “Autoweek”, that after 70 years, they, too, were ceasing publication. For some reason both magazines extended my unused issues to my subscription of “Car & Driver”, which is like adding apples to oranges. “Playboy” went from monthly to once every 2 months to a quarterly to “no print”. They just gave me a one-year subscription to 3 of their online websites, which are useless – no more in-depth interviews, articles on social issues, or arts and culture (yes, these were in Playboy). I get almost remaining car magazines, and I can honestly say, like Phillip above, the best one is “Classic Cars” from England, closely followed by all the Hemmings publications. I don’t know what the future is, but it ain’t pretty! I have been reading car magazines for 45 years, and I cannot stand reading a magazine on a phone or computer screen.

    Glenn in the Bronx, New York.

  6. Rob Krantz says

    Great piece by Wallace. Sad to see what has happened to print magazines. As a young boy in Rochester, NY, I used to read “Hot Rod” magazine cover to cover, cutting out pictures and taping them to my bedroom wall. I didn’t know much at that time about European cars! Then I discovered Car & Driver and was a subscriber for many years, reading the exploits of Brock Yates, the Cannonball Baker Sea to Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash (i.e. Cannonball Run), the Bolus and Snopes Racing Team, and all other irreverent articles and great writers that magazine had. I then got hooked on Road & Track and also subscribed for many years. I truly loved Peter Egan’s brilliant writings and was so sad when he officially retired. I relished getting R & T every month just for his “Side Glances” column and special articles on some of his road adventures….pure joy. His retirement, to me, was the death nell for R & T and I let my subscription lapse not long thereafter and had also let my subscription to Car & Driver lapse even before that. My only print magazine that I read cover to cover now is Sports Car Market, which gets bigger and better each year. My favorite magazine and I’ve been a subscriber since the mid 90’s. I am glad it is flourishing in these tough times.

    As someone else had mentioned as well, holding a paper magazine in my hands is never to be replaced, even though digital has some positives. It is sad to see what is happening and maybe I’m just becoming a dinosaur, though I cannot believe that I am that old now to consider using that phrase! Long live print media and I will do my part at least to keep it alive by buying and subscribing to some of the good remaining publications out there.

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