Clip by Clip, You’ve Been Watching The End of Automotive Media


von/par/by Gunnar Heinrich

Understanding that the automobile is a purpose-built time-travel device (in the technical and not Arthur C. Clarke sense) is something the average consumer can grasp. And yet, born from this simple function and of this industrial age product, is an amazing and dynamic cosmos of car-people.

For these enthralled folks, comprised as they are of advocates, enthusiasts, aficionados, collectors, commuters, drivers, riders, racers, and aspirants, the car has come to represent an extension of man’s own ethos.

That guy in the 1985 Porsche 911 Turbo? He’s a type. His car, as it’s often told, says something about him. The girl in that 2014 Cayenne Diesel? Still another subset; a planet within a solar system within a galaxy. Cars do this in a user-oriented way that other identifying products like designer labels, yachts, or watches, really can’t match.

It boggles the imagination if you stop to consider the inordinate complexity of the automotive fora and its participants.

Which brings us to the demand for content.

Now driven largely by social media and the Internet, we have a constant drive for all that is automotive.

But do the Instagram shots do our passion justice? Do the snarky blog posts still give voice to our inner cynics?  What more can we achieve by writing reviews, posting pictures, sharing insights in recreating the experience of it all? Does this constant maw really sate us – or – does it just tease our addictions?

Nearly ten years ago, my tight team of media chefs whipped up a simple video that featured a 1988 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur (above still frame detail, 280p -sorry). It was shot in Sony HDV, with Sennheiser Mics picking up the ambient sound of the-now-classic Royce at work. I made sure that we included the mechanical whirs and electronic beeps because that’s part of what makes operating a car such a sensory experience.

For some, the video brings home the sensation of driving the Spur. For others, it’s a five minute snooze fest.

Since then, some 28K views later, there is now in addition to the Silver Spur video and its kind, a YouTube profile that goes by SaabKyle04 who posts parking lot walk-arounds that he calls “reviews”. Helpfully, he provides his own twangy commentary on how this or that works – from pushing the start button, to adjusting the seat, to opening the glovebox.

With handheld camera, he shows us how it works.

SaabKyle04’s videos get hundreds of thousands if not millions of views. Consider his 2012 Lamborghini Aventador expose as a near-six-million watched case-in-point. That is not to suggest that his videos, nor our own poetic reflection piece on the Silver Spur, are in any way original. Mauro Motors of North Haven, Connecticut has been showcasing the interiors and exteriors of its used inventory on cable TV since at least the 90s. Other car dealers around the US have done the same before even then.

But back to the question at hand, are these commentary-light, put-you-in-the-driver’s-seat shorts the real future of automotive media? Perhaps.

The trends suggest that rather than read an Octane review or watch a Petrolicious video of an owner with his car, we’re much more likely to observe our 10 minute coffee breaks by donning our virtual apparel (VR) and taking that 1969 Maserati Ghibli for a spin ourselves. That sounds like much more fun than reading what I’d have to write about it after having driven it (ostensibly for your benefit, of course ;)) or even watching Alain Delon drive it in a filmed play (La Piscine). 

No, friends, I’m not saying that inside the next five years we’ll see the end of automotive media as we now conceive it. The automotive universe with its legions surely won’t implode for lack of content. I mean, we still have the horse and buggy after all. Only, how many of us still get around via horse and buggy, day-to-day?



October 14, 2015

About the Author: Gunnar Heinrich is publisher of Automobiles De Luxe online and is executive producer of the Automobiles De Luxe Television series on PBS member station CPTV.

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  1. Good to see one of my first favourite automotive sites back on the air!

    Interesting you mention SaabKyle04. I always thought it was interesting that Gomer Pyle doing car walkarounds could become a hit but I have to confess to searching out a few of his videos when some make or model has made its way on to my bucket list. He’s nothing if not comprehensive.

    And now, it’s his living. Yesterday he was at PACE in Germany walking around a Koenigsegg Agera X.

    The other risen phenomenon is that of the car spotter. The amateur (turning pro) automotive paparazzi fuelling the dreams of 15 year olds everywhere. The most prominent of them just collected his own Ferrari FF and McLaren 675 in the same week.

    Meaningful automotive media is harder to make and takes a little more patience to watch. These new-money types provide the sugar hits that make for viral video but there’s still a place for quality. Hopefully there will still be people around willing to make (and fund) the quality stuff.

    And in the meantime, as you suggest, perhaps it’s best that we all get out there and drive a few cars ourselves.

  2. A long time between post Gunnar, hope all is well and prosperous.

    For a long time the automotive media was well sorted and buttoned up and now, like all media, the IED of open communications medium has subverted the order. At first this was refreshing but it quickly degenerated to trash and over the top stunts. (Yes you Top Gear) A new order will work out in do time.

    It may not matter, the industry frets that young adults aren’t interested in motor vehicles. While the erstwhile provider of the ultimate driving machine spends more time mumbling about connected drive than actual driving.

    The bright spot is vintage for the dwindling number of enthusiasts, these machines provide far more pleasure and stimulation than any new vehicle.

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