Reader Question: Car Restorer Magazine?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Tom asks: Car Restorer magazine went out of business Feb 1. Do you know anything about why they couldn’t make it? They had no advertising, but they were in business for quite a while.

My reply: Not specifically, but generally, print publication is dying. For two reasons, chiefly. One is that not enough people are willing to pay for a subscription; another is that advertising revenue has dropped precipitously. And there’s a third reason, probably. It is that lots of people under 40 simply prefer the digital format. They like the immediacy of it, for one and for another, they dislike reading (and carrying around) a physical, “hard copy” magazine.

To shed some light on the financial side of the problem, this site has a readership approximately as large as that of a successful print magazine like Car Craft or Hot Rod (when they were successful, before the Internet). But EPautos cannot afford a staff.  I can only publish because my costs are fairly low but the point here is that I cannot pay employees and if this were a print deal, EPautos would be out of bidness, too.

It costs a lot to produce and print a glossy mag and then mail it to thousands of people. If you haven’t got thousands of dollars for that – each month – forget about it.

To shed some more light: Before the Internet, I could sell a 2,000 word article to a magazine for $1,000 (sometimes more). I used to write regularly for American Airlines’ in-flight magazine, Easy Rider and some others you’d recognize. But when they lost ad revenue due to the Internet – and when anything I (or anyone else) wrote as an “exclusive” could be easily copied and posted online where anyone could read it for freeeeeeeeeeee that went away.

Nowadays, a write is very lucky if he can sell a same-length article for a couple hundred bucks – and it’s often more like $75.

If that.

The upside is someone like me can publish on equal terms with The New York Times. This is why “de-platforming” and “de-monetization” and probably soon, outright bans on “hateful” material, which will be defined as anything which doesn’t toe the partei line. For example, there are already “calls” to restrict the publication of “misinformation” about “climate change.”

Hopefully, this will not happen. But there’s no doubt that’s what already happened is the death of print media. It shall not return.

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. I remember “Car Restorer” as a 1990’s propaganda rag for SEMA and the retrofit-for-credit crowd. They advocated compulsory vehicle emissions mods like catalytic converters and fuel injection for vintage cars in general.

    The plan was SEMA members and other industry producers were to manufacture all sorts of emissions devices, and all you hobbyist suckers would be forced to purchase and install the parts on your cars. However, your proof-of-purchase would be exploited by the members/manufacturers as justification for reaping emission credits because _YOU_ went to the trouble.

    I wrote several scathing letters to the dolts, and much to my surprise they actually published at least one of them. Eventually, SEMA “repented” and stopped by bovine scat — at least publicly.

    Here we are, all these years later, still dealing with relentless contextual frauds being exploited by pull money out of our pockets, and most suckers are none the wiser.

  2. Frankly, I hate trying to peruse magazine articles on the internet. The search functions rarely return what you’re looking for even if your search terms are fairly precise, and half the time what you’re looking for hasn’t even been uploaded, especially if it’s some random article that you saw in a print edition of the magazine 15 years ago (such as the mini buyer’s guides magazines sporadically include for specific makes and models of used car) – though you’re welcome to pick through 50 pages of complete irrelevance to find that out! It’s like they just take 25-35% of their work at random, put it on their website in random order, and call it good.

    Just give me print editions any day. That way I know where everything is, it can’t be lost in a computer crash or deliberately deleted, and I can’t be cut off from it by a power outage, uncooperative computer, or outside attack on the website.

    • Hi Chuck,

      I like print, too – and for professional reasons. It allowed a less frenzied pace; you had deadlines – but not every day. And an article you wrote today had a shelf life of a month, not just a day. There was also good pay. A staff writer for a successful mag could make a good living. Today, it is much harder to make a living at all – and doing it requires doing at least twice as much writing.

      But there is one upside that makes up for it – the freedom to write whatever I want. To cover topics I think are worth covering and to pull no punches when covering them.

      It’s a harder dollar today, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it!

  3. Hi RK,

    “Imagine 50% of this page covered in ads. Or waiting 30, 60 or 90 seconds while a delayed page or video played before access to the content”.

    You don’t have to imagine, just look at Zero Hedge.


      • Hey Eric,

        I greatly appreciate the way you run this site. Of course, I’m not opposed to commercial stuff being on a site, just the way some people manage it. You manage it very well, it is unobtrusive and related to the content on the site. I do not understand why so many libertarian sites link to articles on Zero Hedge. The site is awful, full of pop up ads and a page that routinely jumps up and down. In addition, I don’t think “Tyler” produces any original content, just posts work by others that “he” finds interesting. Nothing wrong with that per se but, “he” walks right up to the edge of plagiarism, leading an unsuspecting reader to assume “he” has written the post.

        Kudos to you for both the content, and they way you manage this site!


        • Thanks, Jeremy!

          I’m in this for the ideas – the money being a secondary incidental. If I wanted to get rich, I would have said yes to the offer the WSJ made back in the ’90s to go to work for them as an editorial writer (shill) for corpgov interests.

          No thanks. I’d rather keep my soul!

  4. Keep in mind that most of the print mags were ads. Usually over 50% of the pages were advertising. If the magazine had a classified section it probably paid all the salaries of the staff. The back cover probably paid for Eric’s 1500 word essay and the editing, fact checking and typesetting.

    The good old days were nice for producers. If you could get your foot in the door you were golden. In my case I never got my ticket to the big leagues of TV, but these days I’d be right at home with the workflow. Even mighty NBC sends reporters out in the field with a DJI Osmo camera and a cellular hotspot instead of a producer, camera person and satellite uplink technician. That Osmo is pretty much the same thing YouTubers use for their content (and something I’m considering buying for Eric, but it would pretty much ruin the ghetto ascetic of the video rants).

    Imagine 50% of this page covered in ads. Or waiting 30, 60 or 90 seconds while a delayed page or video played before access to the content. A page that might only take a minute or two to read. Then waiting a month (or 3, in the case of quarterly mags) for the next article. And of course with advertising comes muzzling, either by threats from the advertisers or self-imposed. BTW, I’ve got nothing against advertisers pulling their content, or even outraged groups threatening boycotts of advertisers to get what they want. Everyone should be free to act according to whatever outrage the mob wants to impose. But the world we’re starting to see develop (and will probably accelerate now that Bernie’s bros and Antifa are starting to turn on their own already, Facebook Google and Twitter are bowing to government pressure to sensor themselves and people are starting to quit these services), where we pay for what media we consume and there’s no third party involved, will turn out to be the right model after all. But there are extremely powerful people who like the status quo and won’t give it up without a fight. Advertising and marketing is already the biggest expense for many products and will likely increase as automation and government health insurance removes labor cost from corporations. Word of mouth and supplying product to “influencers” like Eric will be much more effective and cheaper in the long run, even though it will be harder to control the message.

    • I did a test once, back when I was still using my crummy Dell Optiplex school-district-special to surf the internet. I regularly had 3 ad blockers running at once, and one of them was able, for whatever reason, to track how long it took a page to fully load. So I ran a loading time comparison with ad blockers on and off. With blockers – 4.something seconds to fully load the page. Without blockers – 47 seconds approximately. And this wasn’t Zerohedge or something crazy like that, it was a longstanding, old-tech, VERY lightly monetized single-make car forum, with a small number of the type of banner ads that would have been common around 2006.

      Oh, that’s the other thing I hate. Sites with unbeatable ad-blocker blockers that say things like “please, we need ads to eat, our ads are minimally intrusive, so we can’t let you see any content until you disable all your blockers” and then when you turn your ad blockers off it lags your computer to death with 10 screen-clogging animated ads that throw off the page layout and one of them may or may not have an offensively loud audio component.


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