The Future Of Automotive Media

As a kid, I used to enjoy hanging out at my father’s car stereo shop, especially in the back garage area. It was here that his customers, having bought themselves a pile of the latest cassette players, equalizers, tweeters and woofers would come to my dad and his staff to get their new equipment installed in their cars. Looking back, there was always something automotive going down, with a daily assortment of Vancouver’s street machines coming through his stereo installation bays to get their hi-fi setups sorted out.

I also liked hanging out with my dad’s employees, as he would hire young car guys in their 20s, most of which drove an interesting assortment of muscle cars and modded imports. One of these blokes was a Chinese-Canadian chap named Henry who, if I recall correctly, prowled the streets of Vancouver with his dark blue 1976 Camaro. I liked to chat with him, hoping that I could be even half as cool as Henry when I grew up.

There is one conversation in particular I had with Henry that has come back into my head right now. I distinctly recall that he kept a stack of car magazines behind the counter in the stereo shop, and remember nervously asking if I could borrow them. “Sure,” he shrugged. “Take them. I was just about to throw them all out.”

I stared at him with all the horror that my seven-year-old self could muster up. What? Throw a car magazine out? You have got to be kidding! To me, a car magazine was an article of knowledge, a piece of art to cherish to the end of one’s days. What kind of person could possibly throw one away? Needless to say, I rescued Henry’s car magazines and quickly added them to my growing personal library, safe from harm, right next to my Hot Wheels collection.

Fast-forward to the present day, and nothing much has changed. My appetite for car magazines has only grown with each passing year, to the point of compulsion. You see, I love collecting magazines from all over the world, and make of point of buying up examples from each country I travel to. Hot Rod, Top Gear, Gatebil, Autosport, Motorsport, VMax, Bilsport, Hot Rod Deluxe, Intersection, Evo, Car, Fast Car, Performance VW, Modified, Retro Car, Rodder’s Journal and NZ Performance Car are just some of my regular reads. And given that Japanese car magazines are impossible to source within Stockholm, I source my JDM print fixations direct from our Japanese Speedhunter, Dino Dalle Carbonare.

However, I do have to wonder what the future holds for printed car magazines. While some names like Motorsport, Intersection and Rodder’s Journal are nicely positioned as high production value publications, the word in the industry is that print media is experiencing difficult times. For many magazines, circulation figures are continuing to drop as audiences turn to the immediacy of the web, tablet and social for their instant, up-to-the-minute fix of automotive content. The knock-on effect of this is that with each passing month I hear more bad news about automotive journalists being laid off, offices being scaled back and magazine page counts declining. It’s quite sad really to see this happening, but such is the rate of change right now.

Automotive media as we know it is evolving fast. The sanctity of the exclusive auto-journalists club is rapidly being replaced by the empowered car fanatic: a media creator and expert in their own right. We are all Speedhunters after all.

Which group of car-media creators, car companies, racing teams, motorsports organizers and automotive lifestyle brands will make it through the next five years alive remains to be seen. I can say with some confidence that those who can’t adapt will fade away, while the organizations that are able to rapidly deploy change will survive to see another day (that was advanced corporate speak right there).

Will Speedhunters be able take a place at the table with the big, established automotive brands? As of November, 2012 it’s a too early to say, but we are certainly working 24-7 to take the project to the next level. Plans are being hatched, deals made and agreements established as we start to lock down what 2013 is going to look like. I’m genuinely excited by what’s in store for next year!

But before I say too much, let’s look ahead to the immediate future and check out what’s coming up for the month of November.

As always, we’ve got an eclectic mix of car features from across-the-world coming right up.

We’ve shot the craziest, dirtiest street machines around…

… and also some of the most exclusive.

Some of you may recall our preview shots of this Japan based, street driven Porsche Group C machine which we shot in collaboration with Motorhead magazine. At last the full story is coming.

We are also planning a mini-theme based around the Miata-Roadster later on this month.

This will include some history articles, special car features…

… and a quick chat with Miata drifter, Danny George.

We also have an interesting mix of events coming up, from our first visit to the Macau Grand Prix…

… as well as the Formula D Asia Series.

We are also planning to hit up the Street Car Supernationals in Las Vegas…

… to check out the world’s fastest doorslammer drag cars. Look out for some deep technical investigations on what can only be described as the wild-west of engine building.

We’ll also be wrapping up our SEMA reporting and getting ready to kick off our coverage of the Auto Fashion VIP Festival in San Diego. Of course I am only showing a small selection of what we have in store for the month of November.

As I sign off, let me ask you a question: what do you think is the future of Automotive Media? Will magazines survive? Or will everything move over to screens?

:Rod


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76 comments
Baljit Singh
Baljit Singh

You could look at magazines as "legacy hardware" to quote Tim Cook and in this day and age, legacy hardware is a fast dying breed. With being in the middle of a recession and cost of living rising people are looking for ways to get new content fast and free. They don't want to be paying and it saddens me but its understandable. The extra 5/6 quid you save each month stacks up and can be put to something more essential like food and water. I havent bought a paperback magazine since 2010 and I'm rather disappointed with myself but I know I need that extra money and so online content is my only way to still keep up with the world. It does take the magic out of reading about cars but it's instant and available 24/7 and doesn't cost us anything.

SkippyTaylor
SkippyTaylor

I like the writing as is. Sounds like I'm the only one... I came here looking for community- other sites (haymarket media's Piston Heads for example) has well written articles and an "active forum" but it's not inclusive- the way speedhunters written now - in a relaxed easy matter - is one of the reasons I keep coming back: I don't feel like I'm being sold something. Don't ruin what we have for the sake of people who can't see past a few mistakes to what is automotive gold.

bigcatldn
bigcatldn

...i forgot to say thanks in advance!

bigcatldn
bigcatldn

Awesome stuff coming up. Can i ask what is the name of the magazine on the initial picture (the japanese magazine that has been featured before) and how can i import it into the UK. I would really like to get hold of some copies as the editorial content looks amazing, along with the photo quality.  

Gvk
Gvk

I think magazines will survive, but only the best of the best.

Robo_No1
Robo_No1

At the moment I have a combination of the two, I'll admit Speedhunters is one of my favourites though, not only for the quality of coverage (which across the board is outstanding!) but because its almost like a live automotive feed I keep up with daily, I actually miss my speedhunters fix if I've not been on in a few days, and relish the thought of having a catch up! But if you want a good example of a solid print mag moving over successfully to electronic media, you should check out EVO mag, not only is it a great read but they're really getting it right with their iPad edition, they've found a way to maintain the quality of the mag but enhance the features, and month on month they're learning and improving the formula, its actually really great to see (and feel part of thanks to my subscription will I'll be 100% paying when it's next due).

Rompechelas
Rompechelas

I think the traditional magazines are going to fade but not dissappear. Only the strong will survive. On the other hand, I think the success of speedhunters rest on your fresh editorial style. Amazing, big photos (which allows the lazy "reader" to just look at them and not read the whole story) mixed with a great experience based approach on your writing that makes us feel like we are standing right in the middle of Daikoku PA or at crazy events like Gatebil. For me, this is the key of your success.

 

Bathsalt Barry
Bathsalt Barry

You guys need to make a magazine because you cover every type of automotive culture. Todays market of car mags only focus on one thing. I want a magazine with a little bit of everything, because I love everything from drifting to time attack to endurance to just daily driven street machines, all of which you guys cover on here.

DannyGeorge
DannyGeorge

You guys have the formula! Make it and they will come. I think variety is the key. I can only look at so many things of the same. You guys feature it all. Miata is a badass car. Stock may seem overhyped but other similiar style cars or ones with more power just don't get the same feeling. its a package deal everything is matched. I have 3 running right now all in different states of upgrades. Each one makes smiles. So capable. Drive one for a whole day with an open mind and you will become a believer. There is something to be said for driving at 10/10ths on the streets and still be legal. Larry and I talked about this on our cruise to dinner in my mild turbo street car. Miata for life!

ILoveDrifting19
ILoveDrifting19

Yeah i remember  getting my magazines as a 9 year old they were the coolest and most cherished things like when i thoguht Super Street was the shit lmao but for some reasons i could look through the magazines 1000 of times and never get bored and always find something interesting (time period "fast and the furious")  

john franco
john franco

omg i am not the only one with a magazine fiending. I used to fall asleep with at least a few "rags" under my pillow and i used to stockpile them as a kid. i would read them cover to cover twice over and i learned so much. when I got my license i finally got to use the knowledge gained from all that reading.

roeby
roeby

I feel car magazines are tend to look for the most complete car, in the magazines I read, i dont see cars like I see on here, (i.e rat rods and the like) perhaps i dont read the right magazine's, but no magazines have the same variaty as on here (ok, so they have target audiance's). But i dont want to look at hundreds of "VW's", or "Fast Fords", or "Total Vauxhall". Everything on here is just about right. That said, we dont see many vauxhall's or Ford's on here (the daily drivers, so to speak). There are some tastfully modified.

datsunsss
datsunsss

I for one most certainly do hope that automotive magazines do not fade away... Yes the interweb has more information available much quicker, but NOTHING beats holding that newly purchased magazine in your hands, the smell of the fresh ink on the pages when you open it for the first time and the excitement that each turn of the page brings...

LouisYio
LouisYio

I'm certain Speedhunters has the right formula going on. There is a nice mixture of different car cultures that come together for all car enthusiasts to enjoy. You guys are present at many events and you guys are up to date with social media. This year seems to have been the biggest year for SH as a whole in my opinion. You guys revamped the site, got new stickers, started selling SH swag, started #iamthespeedhunter, and much more that I can't think of or don't know about. Anyways, speaking about formulas, Doctor RODerick van der Waals, I was hoping that you guys would go to the Circuit of the Americas this month for Formula 1. It is, after all, FORMULA ONE!!!!!<------ding ding ding!!!!

Edohaus
Edohaus

Magazine still has its place in the society. It is sort of like a collectible item. If you have guests at home, it's still a better idea to have magazines for them to see, much like what libraries are for. Digital ones are temporary, hard-copies last longer.

TreyFiveOhJoe
TreyFiveOhJoe

Loved the quote about how much car magazines meant to you as a kid! That was me all the way.

KiwiMotoring
KiwiMotoring

I'm looking forward to the Miata/Roadster/MX5 mini-theme, and the Lotus Esprit feature. From what I've witnessed over the years, the printed magazine industry has always been a difficult market to survive in, particularly for the automotive sector. Print will never die completely, but there's no doubt that it will continue to decline as online media grows. I can't remember the last time I bought a physical magazine, but I spend a few hours a day viewing similar material online, with no direct cost (note that I didn't say 'free'). Regardless, both mediums have their strengths and weaknesses, and the brands that exploit these differences will do well. The Speedhunters book is proof that there is still a demand for high quality printed material that people can keep and treasure.

Yelo
Yelo

As much as I love print media, in the last year, i started subscribing to online media and reading on my Android tablet, for that reason, I think printed media is due to died in a not so distant future...

bradjh
bradjh

As motorsport magazines are now, they wont survive. But if someone somehow re-invents what the motorsport magazine is and how we use it, then maybe.  

bigmac69
bigmac69

i love the speed of the internet but there is just something about magazines its hard to explain. for me its the slight feeling of hope i get when i check the mail each day hoping my monthly copy of hot rod has arrived and the excitement when it finally does come. I really hope the printed side of the car world does not vanish like so many other things have because of technologies ever expanding grip on society.

Philly
Philly

I think speedhunters has already got the formula right. Yes, mags are a dying thing and blogs, forums and other sites are first point of call but I think the speedhunters book is a master stoke. Even though I had seen nearly every image in the book online, I still wanted a permanent document that I can pick up and have to hand. All the anticipation, feel and tactile joy was still there. Maybe high quality books will replace mags! Whatever I'm still looking forward to the next speedhunters book.

ilikecars212
ilikecars212

As a few others have said, there is an experience had when reading a magazine that isn't communicated by a computer screen.  It's the mail you can't wait to get, and the image on the cover that steals you away when walking down the street or in a store.  Sitting with friends and sharing the smell of the ink and building anticipation as the page is slowly turned.  Then, it all changes when a punch to the face is delivered by the red interior of the NSX-R.  Computers don't deliver the desired repetition for that sequence of emotion every time a page is turned, or the laughter with friends after a joke is told about the pages sticking together while flipping through to reveal a new found dream car.  This is the nostalgia associated with reading a magazine someone mentioned before me.  Unfortunately, I do think magazines will evolve into something digital, but I believe the format many have grown to love will carry on.

JDMized
JDMized

Automotive magazines are dying because of sites like Speedhunters (and blogs alike), AND its readers (me included). You guys churn out daily news on the net for free. Stuff that happened last week @ SEMA is gonna show on a prints next month if not the following month. So why ponder? You and I responsible for putting out of job those mags' journalists,(and everyone else who read blogs and sites). These days only a handful of people want to shall out $14 for an Option mag. Most of the car enthusiasts get their Japanese fix online for free. I don't see why you're concerned? The malign cancer, if we want to call it that way, erodes from blogs/ sites, FB and Instagram that do a wonderful job at divulging the news instantly on the minute..... If you guys started charging money to access your blog for news , you'll have a drop in audience garantee! But on the other hand, the mags financial crisis will level off. Would you be willing to take the risk and charge a small fee to the audience so that they can get their automotive fix daily? Nah, you're in the business to suppress the competitors and increment the traffic on the blog, so anything free sounds damn good.....so let's not whine!

hishaam
hishaam

how can I keep up with the Magazine world when the Speedhunters book sold out in just 4 days!!!

abud_TR
abud_TR

i prever the screen reading, but there must be a backup of all this beautiful articles. just in case the internet goes down. *always love the mean looking bomb plane theme btw

krullibull
krullibull

If you live in Sweden Rod I think you should check out "Street n' Strip". In my eyes a way better car magazine then "Bilsport".

w
w

That Miata cracks me up - all that aerodynamics and skinny tires. I would egg that car if I pulled up behind it.

simoncu
simoncu

The only thing that sucks about collecting car magazines is moving house. The bloody things weigh a metric shit-ton when all piled up!

gcv
gcv

People though records were going to die. I'm 26 and have my own record collection. The internet is going to kill car magazines, although it will hurt it. I get annoyed whenever I pick up a car magazine and there is an article on a car or event that I read about a month or two ago. The time difference in publication is what really hurts the print magazines. But there will always be people who would rather have a magazine. 

Nikhil_P
Nikhil_P

i think that most of the media is going more towards the internet....i mean we seem to have an app for everything now! but i think the magazine will survive, shame to see magazine die away like Redline did....!

 

and speaking of whats coming up in November....whats the word with the new speedhunters swag?!

RyanB
RyanB

I feel as if print will slowly dwindle away, unless it can evolve into something that cannot be found on the internet. For a magazine to compete with an online publication seems futile when a site like Speedhunters can provide its audience with information within days or even hours. I personally hate waiting to hear about an event two months after it happened. I don't mind sacrificing the tangible feel of holding paper in my hand for the ability to be kept in the loop as it happens. Youth will also  probably more comfortable holding a screen in their hand then a piece of paper.  Just a thought.

 

That being said, looking forward to the Tan Miata feature!

TAROconQueso
TAROconQueso

Physical media will always be alive as long as people want to hang onto something. Digital is almost temporary. 

FunctionFirst
FunctionFirst

I have two subscriptions that are in the flesh and one that is on my Kindle. I figured I'd try out the kindle version of a magazine and see if I liked it. It's not too bad, but I definitely like having paper in my hand more. I'm the kind of person that has Christmas once a month when my magazines come in the mail and I still have all my SCC and Turbo mags from the turn of the millennium. This is a question I've been pondering since SCC closed doors, and I honestly don't have an answer. I just really hope physical copies of magazines don't go the way of the Dodo bird.

 

Only time will tell I guess.

Simon at Classic Ford
Simon at Classic Ford

As someone that currently works as a motoring journalist, I think the general consensus is the magazine format will never die. I believe it will hold a certain nostalgic quality that people will still pay for, similarly to how LPs are still sold even though an MP3 does the same job but better. And even if magazines did die/go completely digital then content still needs to be written. At least that's the idea...

SkippyTaylor
SkippyTaylor

I think the future is here: a mix of print and digital. It's a difficult balance but... I have subscriptions to both digital and print - because iPads don't roll up like a magazine and tuck down the side of a backpack, because at 4am on a ferry USB ports are bloody hard to find, because you must be mad if you think im leaving a 500 quid fondleslab in a tent, and ultimately.... Computer screens don't smell the same as a fresh magazine. There is a need for both and positioning yourself bang in the middle of each market can be very profitable indeed.

JP Dane Castro
JP Dane Castro

I think Grassroots Motorsports has a great recipe.  Anyone who has read it knows that they produce quality stuff and are fun to read.  I don't see them taking too big of a hit in the coming years.

Big Pooky
Big Pooky

On a lighter note, I hope the 300ZX has the power to back up its looks! 

apex_DNA
apex_DNA

@ILoveDrifting19 Some of the early "ricer" rags were far more fun to read than the hipster publications of today.

RodChong
RodChong moderator

@sean klingelhoefer which ones?

RodChong
RodChong moderator

@Philly cool! So are we :)

RodChong
RodChong moderator

@JDMized all good points :)

RodChong
RodChong moderator

@krullibull will have a look

gcv
gcv

thought* 

isn't going*

RodChong
RodChong moderator

@Nikhil_P we have an announce in the next hour :)

sean klingelhoefer
sean klingelhoefer

@RodChong@sean

I think for every person the answer varies, but I think supporting any books that speak to your personal interest and feelings is a worthy cause. I've worded it to people in the past like this - if there is ANY magazine that you would be honored to one day be a part of - whether that means having your car featured, or being a photography contributor etc -  you should be buying it... because if you don't, that day may sadly never come. 

 

For me there are a number of incredible books out there today that embody the good things about life with cars and seem to put making a buck on the back burner. A few of the magazines I like include Motor Head (Japan), EVO(UK), Racer (USA) and RAMP (Germany). But if I were to go through the tonnage of magazines I have you'd come across three dozen or so titles, many of which like 0-60 and Sport Compact Car were amazing but went the way of the dinosaur. :(

 

JDMized
JDMized

 @RodChong  @JDMized I brought it up to the attention of people that matter in this industry. People (most of them engineers) that know what they're talking about. People that used to write articles for decades and decades for mags that no longer exists.

I told them: "start charging money for your site, for the valuable news you provide......the audience % WILL drop garantee, but if EVERYONE (all the blogs, and mags that run blogs) will start charging money, the audience will not have options but to suck it up and pay if they want the news right away."

Those guys are afraid to commit because of the drop in internet traffic. Mags that run blogs should start charging a small fee to access their online news. That way (IMO) there is a chance mags WILL survive. The field would level off, so to speak.

 

You release the mag on the newsstand on a X day, and on the same exact day, you'll upload news for the online subscribers, so everyone gets the news at the same pace/rate......very simple. 

The question is: who is willing to charge money to the audience KNOWING that competitors alike will offer news for free?

As long as you have cheap bastards that always want sh!t for free, the internet will always prevail and the mags will eventually die.

 

(I am one of those guys that spend an average of $600-700 a month in mags) why? Because I like the "archive" feeling. If I want to go back and get info about a given car or subject, I just pull it out from my shell.

How many times have you searched for info online just to discover that the stuff you're searching no longer exists, or the URL link is down, or the provider took down the info, and you can't get it anymore? Frustrating! The mags in that sense win hands down.

 

If my prediction is correct, and everyone will start charging money.....you'll have folks (blogs)  who will charge more because their news is more valuable than others.

For example: these days there are a sh!t load of "stance" crap on the net. Those guys think alike, yet they compete against each other hoping to edging each other in the net-traffic war (same as Speedhunters vs. other blogs). If those blogs provides the same exact news/info (they already do), the audience is not gonna shell out extra money to read the same stuff.

So, in that sense you, as a blogger WILL have to get creative, you'll have to think outside the box and provide the audience with fresh new content that no one else does. It's hard, but it's possible......if you don't, you'll be just mediocre and people (the audience) is not gonna stick around too long.

RodChong
RodChong moderator

@JDMized which magazines do you read?


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