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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