BEHIND THE WHEEL
Motoring writers tell stories that stir the souls of petrolheads, but cars aside, what also keeps them going is encouragement from readers, says our associate editor.
DDURING a work trip two years ago, I had an interesting chat with a Jordanian journalist as we were being driven to the airport.
He said that during a meeting with one of his advertisers, the client asked him: “Why should I support you?”
Without missing a beat, he replied: “Because my words are what my readers and viewers will use when convincing or advising their family/friends about cars.”
Hearing this, the client promptly signed another ad contract.
Oh, if it were only that easy in Singapore. A decade ago, writing a good story that had context and drew on our personal experiences and expertise, was the biggest challenge we faced. We had to have great photos, too, but that was par for the course.
Back then, this content made magazines attractive to readers and advertisers.
Today, when advertisers can be publishers, too, journalists wonder if their work still matters. This jaded view and selfdoubt are also fuelled by our sceptical nature.
Advertisers have many methods to DIY their branding and promotional activities. They have their own websites, Facebook pages and Instagram accounts, just to name a few. Many say they don’t need us.
IN AN AGE WHERE ADVERTISERS CAN BE PUBLISHERS, TOO, JOURNALISTS WONDER IF THEIR WORK STILL MATTERS.
What really disappoints us, though, is that a growing number of readers cannot tell the difference between editorial pieces and content produced by a manufacturer.
To this group, it is all the same. They just want to see pictures of shiny metal, with tech specs and prices. The source is unimportant.
A letter from a reader two months ago, however, managed to reinvigorate the hearts, minds and souls of this team.
In her e-mail, she talked about how she had responded to gender bias after being told that she was reading a “man’s” car magazine.
She also mentioned that Torque helped her determine which car their family would purchase, and that her husband should definitely continue his subscription.
I believe there are many more readers out there who feel the same. I also like to think that despite all the disruptions to the publishing industry, Torque remains relevant. As my Jordanian acquaintance recounted, he told his client that in every family, there are probably only one or two members who are crazy about cars.
But when these enthusiasts’ relatives want to buy a car, whom do they turn to? They ask these savvy petrolheads all sorts of questions. And these car-lovers will use the stories they’ve read and information they’ve gleaned from magazines and videos to educate their kin.
There are a few in the motoring industry who haven’t forgotten this either. Some marketing and PR managers I’ve spoken to have told me how much they value our reviews and features.
Whenever I hear this, my spirits are buoyed and my mood is lifted.
Outsiders think that this job is glamorous and easy. Sexy sheet metal and the cost of cars in Singapore easily obscure the difficulties of working in this trade.
An exotic car might inspire a story or two. But as I’ve written before, a love for cars isn’t enough to do this job.
A magazine is a business whose customers are made up of readers and clients alike. We have to balance the interests of the readers with those of our advertisers. When both parties are happy, the title has a better chance of thriving.
That said, it feels good knowing that enthusiasts are using our words to spread their passion for automobiles. But what makes our hearts glow is when readers tell us how much they appreciate our efforts. That proves we are relevant. And as long as we remain relevant, the Torque team will continue being the purveyors of your passion.
Today’s motoring writers use tablets instead of pens or typewriters, but Jeremy says that their job as storytellers remains unchanged.