In today’s world of social media, digital publishing, and a severe shift towards video content over that of a traditional print mag, it can sometimes be hard to sort through the disposable rubbish, and find legitimate and informative resources on the Internet. It simply seems the higher the number of Facebook followers or hits you have, the more “legit” your publication becomes. It’s pretty sad, really.
With the recent discontinuation of some of the oldest, proudest and memorable print publications going the way of the dinosaur, many of those who have worked on those coveted mags have moved into the digital world to continue pursuing their passion through their work. We’ve paid our dues, took our lumps, put in the work and continue to strive for journalism excellence everyday, usually seven days a week.
Luckily, many of my former coworkers from my previous gig made the trek with me, putting in the same hard work and fruitless labor they had when they were with those bygone titles. Although print may be fading fast, quality content will continue to thrive for years to come. At least I hope so.
Not too long ago, I wrote an article regarding a certain LS-swapped AWD Olds Cutlass that has caught my attention a number of times over the last year or so, and when a brand new video of the car performing an all-wheel drive burnout surfaced on the owner’s Facebook page, I quickly wrote a little blurb about it.
I avoided pointing out the obvious list of modifications the car had; partly because it was depicted in the video description and in the video itself; but mostly because I had already did a complete write-up on the car over a year ago in GM High-Tech Performance Magazine – where I was the Editor-in-Chief at the time. Some of you may remember the story if you read the mag.
Not wanting to repeat myself (since I despise doing so), I took a different route with the article and told the backstory on the car, in terms of why I chose it for the magazine, along with how and why I put it on the cover – because it was a story only I could tell.
Of course, I used the video directly off of the owner’s YouTube channel, as that’s the ethical and professional way of doing things, rather than “borrowing” the video and hosting it on our own. Because despite the constant “sharing” that’s become ever-so-common in today’s digital realm, there are still certain journalism guidelines to follow. The terms, “intellectual property” and “plagiarism” instantly comes to mind, for instance. The same can’t be said for one outlet in particular who chose to do the compete opposite, and found themselves in hot water by not only the original videographer, but by YouTube themselves.
The Lack of Talent Results in Piracy
Anyway, with the relative ease and incredible low upfront cost of buying a domain and operating as a “media outlet,” there have been hoards of individuals who have managed to throw a site together, and grab any piece of action through various sources on the Internet that they can find for their own site as click bait, in the hopes of boosting their hits and ultimately seek advertiser dollars in the long term.
Great, except they forget one thing; most of the articles they post are written by, let’s be kind, and say somebody with “questionable abilities.” More often than not, it’s some yahoo who doesn’t have any journalism experience, has never worked for a major publication and has no actual talent; be it wrenching on cars, shooting photographs, video or even compiling a complete sentence properly. The point I’m trying to make, is that they’re simply after hits or clicks, no matter what it takes – quality be damned.
So when I saw a similar article written about the very same Olds video by another outlet, one that crudely copy/pasted a line out of my story and used it for the title of theirs, I went a little haywire. Usually, I don’t air my dirty laundry on social media, or even vent any of my frustrations anywhere where the world can see. But after witnessing this and watching my friends in the industry experience it as well in other situations, I blew a fuse… I guess it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The amount of support I received from my friends and colleagues was overwhelming, because, in case you haven’t noticed, most of the colleagues I speak of actually have contributed to GM EFI, and almost all of which have extensive backgrounds in automotive journalism. Some of them are among the most highly-regarded individuals in the industry – it’s something I strived for as a necessary ingredient when I first created GM EFI, and that same backbone of talent will also be included in the formula of Timeless Muscle Magazine. Because in my opinion, without reputable, quality individuals, all you have is hot air.
Pirating, mediocre/crap websites are only part of the problem, there’s still the underlining issue of the Facebook and Instagram “fan boy” pages; you know the ones, those that post random car pictures all day, pointlessly, just to get a bunch of likes and followers. That’s cool, but when you do this in the hopes of getting “sponsorships” (trust me, some of them even reached out to me for advice), then you’re barking up the wrong tree. There’s very little value (none, if I’m honest) in posting a photo a follower has provided you with, or one that you found on Google, to an aftermarket company with a tiny budget for advertising opportunities.
Plus, when I see you take a photo I posted, copy it, and even copy my caption, without so much as mentioning my page, then I have an issue with you. I’ve even had one guy crop out a watermark to one of my photos (that I paid a hardworking freelancer to shoot), apply his watermark, post it on his page, then reach out to me in the hopes of “sharing pages” for promotional purposes. Yeah… I don’t think so, pal.
Oh, and don’t call yourself a “CEO,” simply because you “own” and operate a Facebook fan page… because you just look like a dork if you do. Stick to your day job, you’re just mucking up the waters.
Jalopnik and the Recent Camaro Drive Fallout
I get it, Jalopnik was one of the first online automotive publications, and they can post humorous and semi-relevant content from time to time. Yahoo Autos even regurgitates their content periodically – cool. But there’s only so much of their content you can take seriously, including the articles that are filled with profanity, the ones that source their readers for input and the countless articles that constantly make fun of musclecars – usually ’80s-era F-bodies.
Speaking of Camaros, there was a little matter in where they released embargoed information on the 6th-gen early. Patrick George, the Editor, thought it would be “his duty as a journalist” to unveil the information as soon as it plopped into his lap. Much to the joy of their loyal followers and to the dismay of Chevrolet, he leaked it and was instantly scolded by General Motors for doing so. He refuses to apologize.
The Jalopnik fan boys stuck up for him, inevitably, citing that “he was just doing his job.” Except that he wasn’t – he simply wanted the “big, breaking news story” and clicks for his site. The thing about embargoed content, is that it’s scheduled for a certain release date due to legal issues. Sometimes the details within them can change, usually there’s certain copyrights attached to them, and so forth.
Publishing something with an embargo date weeks or even a single day early can only mean bad news for you and your company. It makes you look untrustworthy, for one. We get embargoed content all of the time, but unlike Jalopnik who try to make themselves out to be the silly, rebellious, hardcore bad boys of the automotive journalism world, there’s still that little thing called professionalism that comes into play. Whether you’re out to cater to the juveniles delinquents of the world or not, you still need to do your job properly.
Releasing embargoed content early is pretty much on par with selling bootlegged DVDs on the corner of 5th and Main – a week before the movie is even in theaters. Except worse. Think of it as the best friend who has a deep secret they don’t want you to share – then you run to the playground and tell all of your other friends their secret immediately after you’ve learned it. How long do you think that person will be your best friend? It’s a lesson most of us have learned in grade school.
Some of the ignorant ones out there, will cite this as “catering to the automakers,” without understanding the fact that the automakers don’t have to invite you to their events at all – there are literally 30-50 other media outlets who are already on hand that will just as easily bring the same story to their readers as you will. They don’t need to spend the money on flying you to Detroit and feeding you for the weekend – not when you’re an embargo-breaking putz.
Even after this little “hiccup,” Chevrolet still flew him out to Detroit, put him in a 5-star hotel, fed him, provided him with cocktails on the house and even let him take a brand-spanking new 6th-gen for a spin around Belle Isle in Detroit. He thanked them by stuffing the car into a wall.
Not on purpose, but due to an apparent lack of skill. You can argue understeer and unfamiliarity of the car all you want, but when you lock your arms across each other, upside down no less, in an aggressive turn faster than you should be taking it, then you’re displaying your “talent” to the world. Understandably, Chevrolet gave him the boot.
But millions of readers will still continue to flock to their website for the latest “exclusives” and El-Oh-El popcorn entertainment stories. Most of which are under the age of thirty and consider the Fast and Furious film series to be an extended, ongoing documentary.
In a world that’s losing the understanding of real editorial value and hard work, we can only hope that the poseurs will eventually disappear into obscurity and the real talent will finally emerge as the victor. Only time will tell, but we’re here for the long haul. We’ll let you know how this turns out in about thirty years.
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.