Want to see photos of Jay Leno's 1966 Ford Galaxie? Or find out when the latest edition of Gran Turismo will hit stores? You probably won't find both in a print edition of Automotive News or Motor Trend. But you will find these and other highly niche pieces of information on the blog DUB Daily, which has covered the custom car scene since 2000.
DUB--run by DUB Magazine--and other car blogs are taking an increasingly important role in solidifying cars' place in pop culture, experts say. But the blogs are also increasingly practical: Rather than simply air opinion or speculation, the best car blogs let consumers compare vehicle specs and prices, get up-to-the-second news and show photos and videos--all in a fast, easy way that larger media outlets do not.
In Depth: Must-Read Auto Blogs
While they may not carry the cachet of print publications, blogs like Jalopnik and Autoextremist have become integral to the automotive industry, says Joe Kyriakoza, vice president of strategic insights for Jumpstart Automotive Group, a consulting firm and data provider. The best car blogs separate themselves from the pack by giving readers something they can't get anywhere else: For some, it's discussion about alternative-energy fuels; for others it's photos of limited-edition exotic cars and the five-figure luggage set that goes with them.
Some blogs are nimble and quick, with focused, up-to-date news. Autoblog and CNet Car Tech, in particular, provide a strong overview of industry news and technology news, respectively. Recent posts on Autoblog, for example,include the report that the Swedish government will guarantee a $615-million loan to Saab, and that the National Highway Transport Safety Administration is investigating airbags in the Ford F-150.
Giving an Opinion
To find the best auto blogs on the net, we consulted several industry experts: Art Spinella, the president of CNW Marketing Research; Evelyn Kanter, an automotive journalist and author who runs the blogs Great Drives and Green Travels; Tamara Warren, a longtime automotive journalist and creator of the car and culture blog, Go Tryke; Jason Fogelson, who writes about SUVs for About.com; and the aforementioned Kyriakoza, from Jumpstart Automotive. We omitted blogs associated with major news associations, like The New York Times' highly regarded Wheels Blog, or the Auto Insider blog at the Detroit News.
There are more than 113 million blogs on the Internet, according to Technorati, a blog search engine. Car-related blogs comprise only a fraction of that--but they have gained prominence and relevance since first appearing in the late 1990s (one of the first popular car blogs was Autoextremist, in 1999). Indeed, a 2008 study sponsored by BuzzLogic and conducted by JupiterResearch cited a 300 per cent growth in monthly readership of all blogs since 2004. It also found that blogs can influence purchase decisions more than any type of social network.
Most car blogs have their own twist on what issues they explore. Peter De Lorenzo, who wrote The United States of Toyota and formerly worked in auto advertising, founded Autoextremist as a way to post news, commentary and analysis on the auto industry. His blog is known for its wit and raw opinion: The "bare-knuckled, unvarnished, high-octane truth," as De Lorenzo puts it.
A recent headline: "That rumble you're hearing? It's the slow-motion train wreck unfolding in Auburn Hills." In the post, De Lorenzo derided domestic auto makers, Chevrolet in particular, for their "particular affliction" of producing cars that are "relentlessly hyped, dissected and over-analyzed" for years before they appear in showrooms. He calls the phenomenon "introductus interruptus" and cited the Chevy Volt as the worst example of it in recent years.
For Internet surfers looking for more of an escape, however, there's Celebrity Cars Blog, which features photos of celebrities and their cars, with commentary. Ryan Porter, who created the blog in 2007, recently posted photos of John Mayer in an Audi R8, Paris Hilton in a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and Renee Zellweger in a Mercedes G Class. Porter started the blog while living in Los Angles as a way to combine his enthusiasm for two of Los Angeles' biggest resources: cars and celebrities.
"It's definitely a niche in the automotive world, but it meets the desires of two types of consumers," he says. "One, there are people who just want to see those cars. And two, there are other people who really want to know what they're not supposed to know about other people--which is what they drive."
The current Seattle resident is working to insert more of his own personality into the blog--for instance, he drives (and loves) an Audi A5 and thinks Angelinos should consider other hybrids aside from the ubiquitous Toyota's Prius--but bloggers must earn the right to do that over time, Porter says.
The reason so many other blogs attract an audience is that they tend to focus on a specific topic or theme within autos, not just cars in general. Gas 2.0, for instance, caters to readers interested in biofuel, electric cars and green technology. Recent posts have discussed the possibility of using nonfood biofuels--like inedible weeds--to power cars. The photos of a 600-horsepower, natural gas-powered hotrod based on a 1933 Ford coupe, and a story about seven electric vehicles manufactured in the early 1900s, are also typical posts.
In a drastically different corner of the automotive blogosphere, CNet's Car Tech blog is focused mostly on technology as it relates to cars. It posts videos from auto shows and photos of limited-edition car models, while the main discussion centers on concept cars, car-related gadgets, and tech news.
But for those who want them, there are more generalized auto blogs, such as RPMGO.com. The blog regularly highlights off-beat features, news and items about car accessories and photos of cars in trees or on rooftops. Even some Formula 1 news makes the page: A recent post noted that champion driver Fernando Alonso will join Felipe Massa on the Ferrari F1 racing team. And Car Domain is a must-read for anyone interested in motorsports, racing videos, generalized industry news and aftermarket products used in exotic, classic and muscle cars.
Filling in the Gaps
To be sure, the speed and ease of reading that blogs provide come with a cautionary note: Posts are not fact-checked or edited the way they would be at a newspaper or magazine, and most bloggers will post information that hasn't necessarily been verified by the appropriate sources. But that characteristic is also a strength--it makes for faster reporting, which means news-oriented blogs like Gawker Media-owned Jalopnik can quickly post insider information and possibly true rumours sooner than most traditional media outlets.
That's why it's necessary, for a truly rounded perspective, to read a wide variety of automotive news sources. Scott Painter, who founded the online auto retail business Zag.com, says he reads news from as many as 15 or 20 different automotive outlets, including blogs and major publications, each day.
Similarly, Kanter recommends reading some of the auto magazines published in the UK, India and South Korea. She says experienced auto journalists like John Matras and Nick Yost, both of whom write for Examiner.com, lend much-needed authority to the automotive conversation, since some bloggers write as experts but are more accurately described as enthusiasts.
Either way, there's no shortage of information. These days, Internet users have little excuse for not knowing what's coming next from Mazda's design department--or what John Mayer drives when he's in L.A.
In Depth: Must-Read Auto Blogs
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