We’ve all got goals dependent upon the actions of others. These can be simple as coming up with dinner plans to launching a business. It’s not right to force or trick others into doing things – as we wouldn’t want to be forced or tricked ourselves – but sometimes it gets to the point where things aren’t going the way we hoped. Frustration is a function of fear. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to the Dark Side. Given enough time, the Dark Side always loses out. Vive la Révolution!
I can run interviews with gearheads like us over and over again, but few of them expressly convey the deeper ideals I want from this outlet; at least, I’m not as good at bringing those themes to light as I’d like to be. Hindsight being what it is, I wonder why I’ve not made a point of sharing more of the things I’ve been personally struggling with – and learning from – here on these pages. These past 4+ years publishing Gearbox Magazine, I’ve discovered new people and ideas, which invariably leads to more people and ideas. I need to share this stuff with you more often. So here we go, then. Liberté, égalité, fraternité.
. . .
In the past week, I’ve heard at least half a dozen reporters quote US Secretary of State John Kerry saying “We can’t want it more than they do.” He’s talking about negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine, but the statement keeps crossing my mind for other reasons. I want gearheads to look at their automotive interests, really explore what they most enjoy about them, and find ways to adapt the skills honed in the pursuit of automotive performance to the rest of their lives, then share those new ideas with each other. Another way of putting that might be to say I want gearheads more interested in deeper, more thoughtful and substantive media.
I’D BE WILLING TO BET
Ask any gearhead – any real gearhead – if he or she would rather spend an hour watching crazy Russian dash cam footage, looking at paginated picture galleries, and taking which-character-are-you quizzes or learning about other gearheads who have used their automotive skills to modify the rest of their lives, most would say they’d prefer the latter. At least, I hope this is the case. I mean, as a gearhead, I love learning how other gearheads are living kick ass lives because they play with cars as opposed to in spite of it, and I’d hope most gearheads want to improve their lives more than waste time online.
Unfortunately, most media – TV, radio, print, digital – exists entirely to sell advertising. This demands thousands upon thousands of viewers to make any money. Automotive media, in particular, is largely beholden to the manufacturers they cover. (OEMs aren’t giving free cars, fuel, and insurance to people who talk shit about their products, after all.) It’s all designed to get marketing materials in front of consumers – and we largely eat that shit up. Every fascinating, animated kitty gif, every mindless top 10 list, every sensationalist headline is designed to do one thing – drive traffic to advertising. I think you deserve better than this.
WHICH GIMMICK HEADLINE GRABS YOU?
I remember a conversation years ago with a fellow auto-journo where we agreed gearheads are hungry for stories that matter. We saw then the vacuum of meaningful automotive content still with us today, and we figured all we needed to do was start publishing deeper stories that made a difference in readers’ lives.
I started by shining our tiny little spotlight on regular joes like you and I – gearheads like us – showing the world how stories of average folks who actually own the vehicles do exceptional things with them, too. Soon after, I discovered the subconscious irresistibility of all that linkbait automotive content is friggin’ designed to be subconsciously irresistible. It’s one of the biggest obstacles facing our job here at GBXM|united.
Check out these “secret weapon” headline formats. Look familiar?
- Photo Radar: Your Taxes Aren’t Enough
- The Photo Radar Trap You’ll Never Beat
- 10 Photo Radar Traps That Will Make Your Blood Boil
- The Secret Photo Radar Companies Don’t Want You to Know
- Take our Which-Photo-Radar-Are-You Quiz!
When the media business exists to make a profit, you can bet selling ads is how they do most of it. That means pageviews. That’s why you get those 300 word articles or galleries spread across multiple pages. Every time you click to the next page, more ads are displayed. those ads are sold in terms of CPM, or cost per thousand impressions. (M is the roman numeral for 1,000, by the way.) More pageloads means more impressions, means more advertising space per “story.”
Everyone is competing for attention these days. We want our voices heard. So do businesses. They want us to click to the next page – whether we read/buy anything or not. And they’re doing a pretty good job of it, too. Maybe too good. Not looking for sympathy, but one of the most frustrating things about running this magazine is seeing so many gearheads – who I suspect want more out of life – caught up in the latest low-value, sensationalist linkbait, leaving little time for reflection on how being a gearhead can mean living better.
YOU CAN’T WANT IT MORE THAN THEY DO
When I first heard this comment, I thought, “Maybe that’s right. Maybe it’s futile to keep trying.” If I want gearheads to live better, more meaningful and rewarding lives because they’re gearheads – and most of them either don’t think it’s possible or are content with the intellectual void that is social media – ie: don’t want it as much as I do – then perhaps I’m fighting a losing battle.
Less than 50% of the people who subscribed to our monthly issues actually opened them last year. Less than 10% actually paid for a subscription. The nearly 1,500 articles published on this site since 2009 have averaged 2.5 comments each – and I make a point of replying to everyone who comments, so half those are mine. If that meant at least one person left a comment on every post we ran on the site, it would be awesome, but the reality is more like five people comment on one big story, and there’s no response to the next nine.
Numbers like these serve to grind a guy down over time. Especially a guy who wants to help his fellow gearheads live better lives. It’s easy to see the glass as being half empty, even though I know it’s probably a case of using the wrong-sized glass to begin with.
In reality, I know it’s no small accomplishment to have people willing to pay for what we’re doing here – even if a large part of that willingness stems from belief in who we are moreso than our business model. If we’re getting a lot of traffic and comments on a story (take my JDM Dream intro, for example), it’s my job to figure out why that story resonates and then make sure we deliver more stories like it. The more I think about it, the more I feel like you HAVE TO want it more than they do.
YOU HAVE TO WANT IT MORE THAN THEY DO
If you think you’ve got a solution to one of life’s many challenges, but nobody seems to care, this isn’t the time to give up and walk away. This is the time to re-figure your game plan, double down, and get to work. You’ve got to want it more than they do. You’ve got to want to get up early, stay up late, make time to work on that dream if it’s going to happen.
For me, this means re-focusing on writing, on delivering new stories and ideas to this space, and to coming up with better ways to add even more value to paying subscriber-members. The issues – digital and otherwise – were a nice touch, but it was a lot of effort for what amounts to mostly vanity. I loved the way stories looked, all built-out on the page, but I’m running severely thin on time these days. I need to make the most use of that time. More useful content. More value. More often. More consistently.
We’re going to continue introducing you to gearheads like us, but we’re going to get a whole lot more personal, methinks. I’m going to press interviewees on deeper subjects where I can, and try to run a less-than-TL:DR post at least once a week. (haha) I’m going to make the Death Valley Rally happen one way or another. I’m going to bust my butt to build out GBXM|u content and curriculum. I’m going to roll up my sleeves, lose the pretension of labels, and make a difference.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
And what are you doing about it? If you’re a gearhead trying to make a difference in the world, I want to talk to you. I want to show everyone how hard you’re working to make the world a better place – even if only to work for yourself and spend more time with your family and friends. You can lead by example.
We all run into situations where we’re counting on others to help us advance an idea or two. When things aren’t turning out the way we wanted, it’s easy to chalk it up to you can’t want it more than they do. It’s easy to let setbacks grind us down. But just as a flat tire doesn’t usually mean the end of the trip, neither does this. You’ve got to want it more than they do – and find a couple who want it as much as YOU do. Then get out of the car, change that tire, and get back on the road.
I want to hear from you. All the people I’ve met over the years, the circles I’ve traveled in, the books I’ve read, the crazy ideas I’ve had – I want to share it all with you – and learn about the people you’ve met, your ideas, and so on. Am I completely off-base, here, or does this make sense? Show me you want being a gearhead to mean something as much as I do. Leave a comment, share this on Facebook or a forum or something, tell me how you’re trying to change the friggin’ world.
Keep going fast with class and press on regardless.