A history!

Most of the effort in preparing this is in the image. It shows the number of times per year that exclamation points appeared on the front cover of Car magazine.

Editors of Car 1997 to 2015 set against the use of exclamation points on the front cover of the magazine.
1998 to 2015 (horizontal axis) set against the use of exclamation points (vertical axis) on the front cover of the magazine. Also marked are the changes in editor.

The reason I have chosen to analyse Car is that I have a continuous collection from 1998 to hand. I might later go and do a control and see how other magazines’ use has changed over time.

I have added to additional thin lines to the main curve. One shows the approximated increase in the use of exclamation points prior to Bauer’s purchase of Car from Emap. The other shows the approximate general trend in the use of the exclamation point after that time. Much of this increase is down to the use of exclamation points in lists of the cars featured in the magazine on the cover. Instead of: BMW M3. Honda Jazz. Audi A4 – this kind of list is now presented as: “BMW M3! Honda Jazz! Audi A4!” (minus the quote marks).

Some months still had no exclamation points at all. In the period up to 2000 some years had no exclamation points at all.

What does this mean?

Author: richard herriott

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

18 thoughts on “A history!”

  1. I have every copy since Dec 1989. 🙂 And it’s a Red Top tendency alas these sensationalist exclamation marks… You could also add to your front cover study the increase in the ridiculous use of the word “Free” (additional) magazine included. I.e. Sponsored advertising fodder. God I want to throw up every time I’m patronised by that word on the cover.

  2. The Golden (or more correctly chrome) Age wasn’t immune.

    September ’75: VAUXHALL’S SECRET ECONOCAR TO FIGHT THE WORLD’S MINIS!
    October ’75: THANK GOODNESS PEOPLE DON’T BUILD STEREOS LIKE THEY BUILD CARS!
    November ’75: …the Earl’s Court star that got away!
    December ’75: None, but the ellipsis makes an appearance again.

    Wind on to February 2016. Four exclamation marks, three question marks, and also…

    …Lambo’s V12 gods.

    Were he not rotating in his grave, LJKS would have referred them to Exodus 20:3 and possibly Psalms 40 and 135!

  3. Back in the 1970s & 80s, Car was invariably equally informal and irreverent. But it got away with it as its occasional cringeworthiness was tongue-in-cheek and not accidental, as it is today.

    I distinctly remember feeling that during the 1990s it was taken over by The Style Wankers from the 11 O’clock Show and stopped subscribing in the early 2000s.

  4. It would be interesting to see the matching line regarding circulation/sales. I bet there’s some connection…

    1. Indeed. The more circulation falls the more exclamation marks we see. They should try avoiding them and turning off the website except to make archive material available. Putting the money wasted on on-line development into great stories would be better. It works for Tatler and Suddeutsche Zeitung.

  5. I receive emails reference sales from customers and they often use sentences such as;

    “Where’s my item!!!!!!”
    “I’ve been waiting for 3 weeks!!!!!!!!”

    It’s as if the exclamation marks make it more likely that I will reply, clearly I have to reply – I have sold something and there is a possible claim on the way, no matter how many exclamation marks they use – I will still respond.

    We have a generation of people who have found the written word as a consequence of twitter, facebook and forums and thus now feel the need to ensure that the viewers know that they are shouting or ranting or generally being loud.

    Ironically I have found that the more exclamation marks or ????????????? used, means that they are invariably “trying it on”.

  6. I try to shy away from modern usages, not because I abhor them, but because I feel it’s a bit unseemly for someone of my age. I still reserve the right to abhor them, though.

    Since starting blogging, I’ve become aware that it is a bit of an embarrassment for all concerned when you write an ironic comment, an outright joke or a blatant theatrical lie, and someone else takes it perfectly seriously. Hence the temptation to use emoticons and emojis, But I really can’t bring myself to indulge, so I just have to live with it.

    But I notice that I do use exclamation marks more than I used to. It’s a shorthand and, like magazine headlines, one aims for concision. So a ! sometimes helps but, generally, they are a lazy way of suggesting that your words have an importance they don’t actually have if left ungarnished.

    But as Car’s editors always know ‘New Astra” won’t move as many copies as “New Astra!”. I still wished I’d cancelled my subscription back when Nick did though, and not held on for several more years, in the ridiculous hope there’d be a “Car Magazine Revival Shock! It Really Is Worth Reading Again!!”

    1. I still buy it and seldom read it. Isn’t that just odd. I haven’t been near the website for months (I looked in but ran off a few times). I expect it’s hanging on by its fingernails and I want to keep buying until it stops.

  7. The back page ‘Top Ten’, full of crass platitudes and wrongness, has been a feature for some considerable time, and probably precedes the modern evil known as ‘clickbait’.

    I am now wondering if I will outlive Boring Boring CAR. It seems to have lost its purpose, except possibly as an acceptable cover for the sort of men who are unnaturally excited by wristwatches.

    1. The wristwatch fixation is key to the cipher, no? Big, chunky expensive wristwatches. The 70s guys would have choked on their real ale if they knew their magazine would write about such nonsense.

  8. It has to be said that Ben Oliver’s watch narratives are a shining example to the car scribblers. They are succinct but informative, densely packed with historical and technical detail, and devoid of the hackneyed, turgid verbiage which blights the car articles.

    He also once explained that a “tool watch”, was so named because it was designed to resemble a teechnical instrument, rather than after the sort of person who would wear one.

  9. Oh I remember the days looking forward to my CAR magazine to see what’s happening and all the new cars, etc. I would read every single issue front to back, only skipping very few things here and there. These days the magazines arrives through my letterbox and I now have 5 unopened ones and of the opened ones in the last year, I read about 10 articles in total. I’m keeping the subscription for nostalgic reasons I guess – but for how long? I get all my news on RSS feeds at Feedly.com now. And CAR is too lazy to even update such a feed these days, so I hardly EVER visit even their website, as visiting actual websites for your news (in how I use the internet) is so last century. So Feedly giving me my car related news within hours of it happening and CAR not bothering with RSS feeds, means that sadly CAR is disappearing from my life. A great shame I have to say.But the nails are building up in the coffins of traditional magazines and CAR can’t fathom how all forms of digital media work, so they are nailing their own coffin on that front as well (for some people like me that use RSS readers like Feedy – which Phil McNamara told me in an email “are a minute minority” Hmmm).

    1. What´s the business case for RSS feeds? Does it by-pass the site and give you raw text? Or does it take one to the page in question?
      Magazines should focus on that the net can´t do. In some sense Barlow´s idea of a glossy slab was prescient but it was not backed up with content that was in any way different from the usual magazine.

    2. Just go to Feedly.com and you’ll see – or any RSS reader but Feedly is one of the best. Each RSS feed decide how much they want to show in their feed and the whole point of an RSS feed is to have the link there to click on and visit the real website if need be. Which of course I do on all my feeds to read the real article or see all the photos. With a good 60% of the news there though, the headline and a photo is enough. The rest I click through and read on the originating website. Apart from CAR as I said, since they killed the (pathetically short and photoless) RSS feed they used to have some time ago. It was when I moaned about how pathetic their feed was that Phil told me their were not planning on continuing the feed. Sigh.

      This is a sample view:

    3. That looks like an interesting intermediary between the source and the reader. Could that be problematic for the source? Does it mean less of the site gets seen if a person opts to choose a feed instead of bookmarking? It also might encourage posting articles for the sake of gettingnoticed.

    4. As I said, if the article is of interest, one still clicks through and see the source’s normal advertising etc. So it’s up to the source to get you to click through – OR to provide a feed with just enough to get you hooked but to not post the whole article in the RSS feed. As to seeing less of the source: perhaps in some cases if all you want was the gist and the summary RSS gave you that. But that is still within your own control as clearly you can use an RSS reader in addition to your normal bookmarks.

      The other beauty of this is that you get an unread count for each feed, so for websites that don’t post often, you don’t have to go to them via a bookmark only to find there was nothing new posted. You can see exactly when there’s unread articles in any given feed.

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