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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. tiberiusẅisë Avatar

    Thanks. I've been lurking for a little while but am just figuring out the commenting system here.

  2. Eggwich James Dio Avatar
    Eggwich James Dio

    I really enjoyed Ray's Manifesto, and I heartily applaud change at Jalopnik. I still love Jalopnik, even when it wasn't as good as it may have been in the past, it's still my favorite website. It's one of my favorite posts in a long time.
    But I think it's misleading to act as if this change was caused by feelings of disappointment over the site's direction or a longing for the past. It is caused by a change in business model, as Pesti Esti pointed out on the original post and no one seems to have noticed. It is an effect of change by Gawker, not a cause of change.
    ( I don't seem to be able to post with a link in it, so search "gawker-gives-up-pageview-addiction-quickly-picks-up-a-monthly-uniques-habit" and this about face will make more sense.)
    Since Jalopnik will no longer be paid on pageviews, they will no longer be pageview whores. They will now be paid by # of unique US visitors to the site per month. How to accomplish this? By creating original content, having that content featured on other sites so you get their uniques, and in turn featuring links to others content in turn. Autoblog isn't going to post a Jalopnik story about a press release they covered themselves, after all.
    So while I am very excited about this change, I think it's important to note where it stems from. Jalopnik will play nicer with Hooniverse and other sites, and we will see a lot more linked content, because it now benefits the Jalopnik business model to be a unique site with plenty of tentacles rather than an all-inclusive site covering the whole industry. This change is a good thing, but it and the subsequent relationships are motivated by money, not some feelgood Jerry Maguire moment.

  3. DeadinSideInc Avatar

    NO! I demand web 0.73 animated gif backgrounds!!
    I think my 1997 geocities page had blue flame gifs which I recall as damn awesome.
    [seriously though, if y'all need any help flash the hooniverse signal and someone around here can likely lend a hand]

  4. DeadinSideInc Avatar

    Those of us who are lowly unstarred weekend Jalop only commenters (Murilee weekends are now my new Saturday morning cartoons) really do appreciate it when you favour us with a promotion (every now and again even I say something germane to the discussion) and encourage or continue the discussion.
    I loathe their new commenting system, just for the record, but it works because of Novaloads like you!

    1. Novaload Avatar

      Seriously, I try to promote anything I see that isn't promoted already. I'll definitely keep an eye out for you. The whole point to me is the variety of comments, the different angles and perspectives people have. One guy told me he had been trying for 2 years to get noticed! Sheesh, he gets points for persisting if nothing else!

  5. Deartháir Avatar

    This is an awesome story. Mad_Science and I only really knew each other at all in passing on Jalopnik, and while he and Braff were among my absolute favourite commenters from the first day I commented there, we never really talked off-topic at all. So when the two of them approached me and asked if I'd come play, I was so flattered I told a bunch of friends who had no idea what I was talking about. I suspected that his obsession must have been deeply rooted from his upbringing in the _Science household, and I'm glad to hear that was the case. In my case, it was fighting tooth and nail against parents who thought a beige Camry was the epitome of motoring perfection, and I'm a bit jealous. My father, to this day, owns 30+ businesses and makes more money than he knows what to do with, and drives… that same beige Camry.
    Hooniverse is a great place, and we have Tim and Jeff to thank for that; so by extension, we have to thank Mad_Science_Sr.. Thanks for starting a Mini_Mad_Science on the path towards automotive insanity. None of us would be able to enjoy all this if it weren't for you.

  6. Syrax Avatar

    Ok, that was hyperbolic. But it is a fact that the comment section is not as chat-friendly as it once was.

    1. pj134 Avatar

      Or hilarious… but that's because some assholes bail on the club! We're watching your Syrax… we're watching you.

      1. Syrax Avatar

        I can't get there anymore. It never opens. Tried with every browser I have.

        1. pj134 Avatar

          try this link, it works for me at work on IE6, so it should work for you hopefully. http://jalopnik.com/5287181/storm-chasers-drive-i

          1. Syrax Avatar

            Nope, forever loading. Must be something in my connection. Gawker is shutting down S. America.

  7. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    Well put.

  8. Tanshanomi Avatar

    As soon as you make pure profit your focus, you can't help but lose the plot. If you aren't out to make a profit, but just enjoy the rewards of watching something awesome come into being for everyone, it's amazing how many people will pitch in, share your vision, and keep you on track.
    It kind of reminds me of Windows vs. Linux.

  9. joshuman Avatar

    Just when I was starting to get over it I find out I'm the lucky third. Gee whiz.

  10. muthalovin Avatar

    Clever. The commenting system was one reason I never got into commenting on [REDACTED]. It just seemed that my wit would be lost completely in the shuffle, and ASH78 comments.

  11. muthalovin Avatar

    Aside from page-load times, I enjoy the layout of everything. Keep in mind that you are focused on Unique Monthly Visits now, so you will want to completely destroy everything, and copy someone else. Oh wait, that's not Hooniverse…

  12. iheartstiggie Avatar

    I agree. When we lost our ability to have our comments seen, I turned into a lurker then bailed. Wasn't worth it for me to try to deal with stars, no stars, feeling I was making a valid point then having to ask someone with a star to approve my comment so it was shown in the main thread 2 days later after everyone had moved on to a new article.

    1. pj134 Avatar

      Mwah, I just make fun of Roy and go on tirades about Cadillacs not being Cadillacs. That and I curse.

  13. chrystlubitshi Avatar

    ray.. i had just starrrrted to use my star promotional ability for good.. and made one bad joke… and promoted a fluff comment at the same time… and lost my star for it… there was no warning… having been a reader from the start/an "early" applicant as far as the site goes… i was rather insulted to lose my "worthiness" and pushed to second page/only those who wish to reply(that are starred…) etc…
    no, hard feelings, i brought it on myself….jalopnik

  14. muthalovin Avatar

    DoctorNine, you came. I was wondering if you would make it.

    1. DoctorNine Avatar

      Lot of work lately, but the gang's all here…

  15. SSurfer321 Avatar

    If memory serves me correctly, it was Jalopnik 2.0 that introduced the star system. Off topic/malicious posts were to blame. Whether it was the Gawker Overlords or Jalopnik brass made no difference to me as I was essentially censored.

  16. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    I remember at the time being baffled by your refusal to buy an e39 M5 (the ~98-03 ones). After all, all the auto mags said it was the best thing ever.
    An awesome car, to be sure, but I learned a lot more from the RX7, my Jeep, your Jeep, and the Mustang.
    Of course, now that they're in that <s>nightmarish maintenance money pit</s> interesting phase, maybe I'll pick one up in the next few years.

  17. acarr260 Avatar

    I was shocked (in a good way) to see your best of the Hooniverse post. I still show up on [redacted], but I mostly read it through RSS. Here's to hoping that your mission is a success. :: Cheers ::

  18. Novaload Avatar

    Excellent work on producing Mad_Science Jr.!

  19. outofstep Avatar

    I remeber reading a few days ago that Gawker is focusing on "unique" visitors, because that is typically what yields the most ad clicks. What they've found is interesting articles are what draw people to websites, what a concept. Slogging threw boring quips on top of press releases doesn't draw people in, showing a LeMons car being built does.
    Who would have thought being interesting would sell better.

  20. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    i agree with you, but have to find humor somewhere, so, behold…….
    This is interesting, right?
    <img src="http://www.edmunds.com/media/editorial/letterstotheeditors/march01/01.pontiac.aztek.f3-4.350.jpg"&gt;

  21. selective sound Avatar

    MG has its eyes set on the juicy Chinese small hatch segment, and the company’s first crack at the market debuted in the form of Zero Concept at this year’s Beijing Motor Show. At shave over 13 feet long, the pint-sized five-door is designed to offer up more style than space. MG says the vehicle was penned by Anthony Williams, the brand’s British director of design, and offers drivers a unique interior loaded with your standard concept-tech. The Zero boasts a floating center console, complete with touch screen controls, as well as some kind of communication system on the rear of the vehicle. Yeah, we don’t get that part, either.