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.

Torque (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - JEREMY CHUA IT’S TIME FOR JEREMY TO GET BE­HIND A DIF­FER­ENT WHEEL, SO HIS COL­UMN WILL BE MAK­ING A PIT STOP FROM NEXT MONTH ON­WARDS. THANK YOU FOR READ­ING THE 42 “PIECES” OF HIS MIND.

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.

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