What a Month It Has Been!

Further to my discussion of magazine editorials, here is a good one, suitable for any month, with the filling in of the blanks.

Drive It! magazine is among the best car magazines in the entire solar system!
Drive It! magazine is among the best car magazines in the entire solar system!

What a month for [insert name of magazine]. Not only did we drive [insert name of car] but the new [insert name of car]. Without a doubt the people at [insert name of firm] are setting off an exciting new course. With [insert technology] the new [name] will upset purists and thrill petrol-heads everywhere. All this is in stark contrast to [insert first name of car] where everything is as you would expect but more so. Speed, handling, thrilling sounds and astonishing looks, this car has it all, the ultimate [type]. At least until the next model that is.

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: Mitsubishi-motors.com
2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: Mitsubishi-motors.com

On page Y we take a look at the outgoing [name of car] and ponder is this the end of [insert technology here]. And our regular columnists also take pot-shots at [insert phenomenon here] and sing the praises of [insert the thing here], trenchant views from some of the most seasoned-journalists in motoring.

On page X we look back at/look forward to [delete as appropriate] the X motor show and consider the highlights and disasters. Want to comment? Send us an e-mail and we’ll print it.

It’s been X decades since the [name of car] was launched. We drive one and compare it to its successor. Have things really changed so much? Or have they changed at all?

Because nothing stays the same in the car world. We take a look at [place] in the new [model name] and both place and car are as you would expect but also very much altered. Take a look at our drive story on page X to see how we experienced the new [name].

The industry is very much in the news, as always. Both consumers and politicians are taking a close look at how cars drive and what they emit. This ought not to be a problem for drivers in the long term – such crises have been with us before: seat belts, airbags, radial tyres, catalysers, even side mirrors all annoyed us and then became back of the background noise. The same goes for X, even if the short terms some motorists and manufacturers don’t like the pace of change. Food for thought!

We hope you enjoy this month’s magazine! Great driving!

[Insert name of editor here]

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

17 thoughts on “What a Month It Has Been!”

  1. How do you secure the investment of time and money from an audience that has seen it all before, can access vast amounts of information near-instantly for little or no cost and can broadcast its own interpretation of that information globally with relatively inexpensive tools? Clearly not via the traditions and tropes of a mainstream motoring monthly publication.

    1. Agreed. It’s easy to kick the magazine industry, and lament the past glory days, but journalism is a brutal business these days. I have enormous and enduring respect for those who still manage to publish a monthly magazine.

      Despite the huge amount of ‘content’ available online, in the car genre there are still huge gaps online – valid, unbiased and expert opinion, quality investigative reporting (just see how badly the mainstream media misunderstand the VW emissions crisis), adventures and other long form stories. Consumer advice, scoops, reviews and news are all well covered, and presumably these are areas that are hurting magazine sales.

      I remember Gavin Green’s editorials for Car in the late 80s and 90s with fondness – well argued, short essays that set the tone for the entire issue. Nowadays, they seem to be extended adverts to try and pick up impulse sales, as magazines desperately try to protect their circulations. This is a shame for us loyal subscribers, but don’t judge too harshly.

    2. “Despite the huge amount of ‘content’ available online, in the car genre there are still huge gaps online – valid, unbiased and expert opinion, quality investigative reporting (just see how badly the mainstream media misunderstand the VW emissions crisis), adventures and other long form stories.”

      So, why don’t we see any of them in the magazines, either?

    3. “Despite the huge amount of ‘content’ available online, in the car genre there are still huge gaps online – valid, unbiased and expert opinion, quality investigative reporting (just see how badly the mainstream media misunderstand the VW emissions crisis), adventures and other long form stories.”

      So, why don’t we see any of them in the magazines, either?

      Agreed – It hasn’t existed for a very long time … that’s why Vicars articles are so entertaining albeit he does have his own personal bigotry ref certain marques.

  2. I think your template is a bit too specific. Call it “(insert as applicable) It!” and it could also cover white goods, gaming consoles and garden tools as required. Also, there could be a stock of ready made cliches and quasi-witticisms ready to fill in.

    “Once (on the road, stocked with food, plugged into the X Box, up the tree) it was apparent that (this car, the fridge drawers, this joystick, these secateurs) are in a different league with an action as well-oiled as Dave Cameron addressing a Tory Conference….”

  3. Having occasionally been a part of the magazine industry from both the design and writing sides, I can only sympathise with magazine staff. The yawning chasm of blank pages that must be filled and forever looming print deadlines creates a pressure that can and has cracked editors and subs. Throw in slowly tightening budgets, unreliable contributors (often a law unto themselves) and the uneven nature of news events, then it is no wonder there is a certain amount of content churn.

    There is another side to it though. The printing press is a machine that must constantly be fed, but so is the PR machine. As a part of this, editors must constantly court both advertisers and content providers, both of whom are often the same people. I imagine that half of the battle of magazine editorship is maintaining a clear distinction between “editorial” and “PR”, keeping frazzled and underpaid staff writing the former and sufficiently obfuscating the latter (News sections are a good source here).

    For an example of how opaque the relationship between magazines and manufacturers can be, you only have to wade into the thorny matter of “Long Term Tests”. Magazines maintain that these cars are tested over lengthy periods for the insights their long term use will yield. In reality manufacturers provide these vehicles to senior magazine staff for gratis (or as close to) as a non-cash sweetener to subsidise their otherwise low wages. For the manufacturers, another few inches of bi-monthly editorial is merely an additional fillip.

    Against the background of a publishing industry with all those pages to fill month in, month out, maintaining a clear distinction between press and PR must be an incredibly hard tightrope to walk. Some might say it is impossible.

  4. Reverting (as we often do) to the magazine that was the unwitting instigator of DTW, Car, it is of course unrealistic to compare the independent publication of 25 and more years ago with the one controlled by a huge media group.

    Starting off in the 60s, the people who edited car were young and, more critically, had control over it. They were both able and willing to take risks, offend advertisers and live with the consequences. Today’s team just work for Bauer, and know that an unhappy advertiser or a 1% drop in circulation might result in a scary call from Hamburg.

    And, let’s remember, when the proprietors of FF Publishing, who we remember so fondly, took EMAP’s money and ran, they doubtless realised that the magazine, whose bravery and independence they liked to trumpet so much, would never be the same again.

    1. We shouldn’t forget though that JC was likely paid a lot by Ford at one point. For many years the press were courted by the manufacturers… witness Vicars tales of boxes of wine etc etc. However it would appear in the earlier days of mass media magazines there were many independent views from the writers. Today they all sing from the same hymn sheet. That’s why it is uninteresting to the thinkers… but the average punter doesn’t think.

  5. I cannot help but feel that the golden age of motoring writing has passed. We have touched here before upon how cars no longer carry the weight they once did as a cultural trope. Their ubiquity and associated environmental and societal costs are all serving to weaken their popular influence. Cars are now seen as devices for movement and conveying status, not machines for imbuing joy. As such, one cannot help but fear that writing about them is a case of preaching to the converted, and to an ever thinning mass at that.

  6. The Mel Nichols article is a good reminder of the chronology of Car. It identifies Doug Blain as the instigator of its irreverent yet well-written style (interestingly, The Automobile which Blain now publishes, and which I enjoy reading, doesn’t always avoid the factually interesting yet not that sparkiingly written, articles that Blain railed against in the 60s).

    My memory of Mel Nichols’ time at Car is that I got tired of reading his supercar bonanza jollies. In fairness, when he was editor the motor industry was in the doldrums and, if I’d been offered the chance to convoy three Lamborghinis across minimally speed-policed Europe in 1977, I might have found it hard to stand on my principles and focus on an Allegro/Horizon/R14 shoot-out.

    But his suggestion that Jeremy Clarkson is, in some way, the spiritual heir to Car’s style seems well off the mark. JC long ago sold his soul to become a mainstream smartarse, witnessed by the fact that the bits of Car he can quote verbatim are the short and glib GBU sum-ups of individual models. Car included smartarsery, but overall it was far, far more nuanced than Top Gear ever was (or will be Amazon).

    But, yes, the Nichols piece makes it very clear that Car was a reaction to its time, and no-one is going to re-create that today.

    1. My memory of Mel Nichols’ time at Car is that I got tired of reading his supercar bonanza jollies. In fairness, when he was editor the motor industry was in the doldrums and, if I’d been offered the chance to convoy three Lamborghinis across minimally speed-policed Europe in 1977, I might have found it hard to stand on my principles and focus on an Allegro/Horizon/R14 shoot-out.

      Laughing very loudly. I agree ref JC. Mr Clarkson and his very clever crew (there are several key members) have tapped into people being very bored of cars ,,, abd probably very boring about cars. I recall my work colleagues in the 90’s droning on about how the 3 series was the best handling car, that they had the 328 with the ding dong wotsit…. and yet had no real interest in automobiles at all.
      However JC/crew have done a very good job of tapping in and dramatising the automobile into a caricature of their own lives. This works – and fair play to them, we all have to make a living somehow.

      The real problem for writers, I suggest, is that there aren’t really any bad cars anymore and not a lot going on that anyone can call an interesting development other than for example Tesla (out of reach of the average Joe). Everyone and their dog has a BMW or Mercedes or could have chosen one if they so wished, the developments are in sat nav or bluetooth or auto cruise technology. Nearest thing I can think of that might be interesting to Joe is self parking … but that’s hardly the gift that keeps on giving to the person who is seriously interested in automobiles.

  7. The other problem of course is that everyone and their dog now writes experientially, making true differentiation difficult. Also, in this age of widespread traffic enforcement, those “experiences” have been diminished. Evo constantly bangs on about their fabled Triangle, but have you ever tried driving in Snowdonia? On a sunny day the roads are heaving with Hyundai, stoned looking sheep saunter into the street seemingly at will, and there’s a concealed camera van on every corner. I half suspect they’re making their stories up.

    1. That’s a thought. The more coy road testers say things like “performance was brisk , within legal limits” in a nudge/nudge sort of way, whereas others are happy to say “on the straight Snowdonian stretches, I was easily seeing 3 figures on the clock”. Presumably if some eager copper were to actually take this as an admission of law breaking, as a defense they’d say that they were just using journalistic licence for a good story.

      And maybe they have all been lying all along, with Mel Nichols and his Lambo born mates back in the 70s trundling along the Autoroute at a conscientious 130 kph maximum. And maybe all the derring-do, from Setright to Bovingdon was all just fantasy, and generations of us readers have felt woefully inadequate in their shadows for no good reason.

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