Jalopnik Unveils New Manifesto, We Pontificate

Dude, if it's that orange, it's time to find some lube
He's Means Business Now
In case you missed it (or didn’t click on the post b/c it looks like something about with Tom Cruise), Jalopnik’s grand panjandrum Ray Wert just unleashed 13 paragraphs of…something. A mix of mea culpa, mission statement and call-to-arms, it seems they’ll be taking a more focused direction. Our thoughts after the jump. I wandered over there from Gizmodo some time in ’06 and had my mind blown by the mix of automotive omnivorism and writing talent. I’d never found rerfernces to literature that went over my head and ’75 El Caminos in the same paragraph. But I’m glad I did. Alas, Jalopnik was like a great bar that got too popular for its own good. Let’s get something straight: just like that bar, Jalopnik is a business. They have writers and bills to pay. Since Wert took over, he drove the site to do all the things an internet business is supposed to: increase traffic and increase ad revenue. He did so in the most effective ways possible: post more mainstream content and cling to stuff that generates more pageviews. That means regurgitating every press release during an auto show and 100 times the Transformers coverage there should’ve been. Great for the books, bad for those of us how showed up there in the DAF Vs FAF and Fantasy Garage era. We understand, really, that those days are gone and never to return. Manifesto or not. Case in point, contrast Wes Siler’s recent S4 review to Lieberman and Johnson’s RS4 review. That wouldn’t fly today. Why even bother to refocus? Why not embrace the sell out for all it’s worth? Here’s where we speculate. Simply put, you can’t out auto blog Autoblog. Playing in the up-to-the-second mainstream auto news world is costly and draining. It requires you to be in a lot of places at once. Take a look at AutoBlog’s authors list and contrast it to the Jalopnik sidebar (those who actually still write for them). I’m not necessarily saying this to root for AB, but the point is, it’s kind of like Subaru trying to compete with Toyota (ignoring for the second that Toyota owns ~25% of Subaru). Ain’t no way you’re gonna slay that giant. In the mean time, upstarts like AutoFiends, Webrides, Ridelust and Exhaustnote joined the already crowded “auto news with the occasional youtube video or craigslist find” space. Meanwhile, having diverted every dollar of writer pay towards the stuff that actually gets traffic, they crowded out the fringe stuff that built the Jalopnik brand to begin with. This isn’t evil, it was smart. DAF Vs FAF doesn’t pay the bills like Transformers, and ’08-09 was a terrible time to be dependent on automotive advertising budgets for revenue. Case in point: Motive (a paragon of awesome) bit the dust in March of ’09. That said, if you abandon something for which there’s demand, others will take your place. Former Jalopniker Mike Bumbeck started Clunkbucket, Speed:Sport:Life grew as an example of longer format features-only content. Cardomain‘s got a great gig going. Bring a Trailer is a great place to get your project car lust all worked up. Oh, and then a bunch of Jalopnik commenters decided to do their own thing with a place called Hooniverse. (no “The”, except on twitter. Stupid twitter.) In short, we’re guessing Jalopnik was getting beat on the high end and eroded on the low-end. If you’ve got limited resources, you put them where they’ll be most effective. If they can re-create a name for themselves as a place where you don’t have to hear about the 47th Hybrid CUV, but still have lots of high-end coverage of all the stuff enthusiasts actually care about, they’ve got a corner of the blogosphere they can call their own. Smart, really. Using a metaphor involving “corners of a -sphere”? Not as smart. Whatever. So if Jalopnik goes all hardcore again, should we be worried? Simply put: no. In fact, it’s an odd question to ask when their “From the Hooniverse” post just resulted in our highest-traffic day to date. Jalopnik’s not going to take “our” content because our prime directive is to seek out the stuff that no one’s covering. The less we appeal to _-=ZR1F@nLS9=-_ and his arch-rival G0dZ1LLaRuLeZ!, the better. Jalopnik 3.0 will be a great place for those guys to debate the merits of everyone’s favorite budget supercars until the End of Days. And obviously, there are a lot more of those guys than there are that can ID a Deutsch Bonnet straight away. First and foremost, this blog is about participatory, not observational car culture. If nothing else, we want all of you to go out and buy whatever crappy awesome car you can afford. We want you to start LeMons teams. Literally this afternoon, I was cajoling Jeff into buying a sweet 2002 that just needs a new rear diff. Apparently his wife wants to kill me. If we’re gonna talk about S4s, they’re most likely going to be used wagons that turn out to be surprisingly cheap. Should Audi ever grant us access to a new S4, we promise to make it the centerpiece of a work of writing worth reading, rather than a pile of regurgitated specs and overanalysis of nuances of on-track handling that you’ll never notice anyway. Back on-topic: what do we make of this manifesto? We think it’s a good move and wish them the best. In pure self-interest, the more eyeballs that follow the occasional link they throw us, the better it is for us, too. That said, declaring you’re going to do something is a lot easier than actually doing it. Ask us again in 6 months.

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