Does the song remain the same?

I’m unemployed… again. Most of us in the automotive journalism business have been there. Last month, Amos Automotive Press announced that they would be combining Mopar Enthusiast into a new oversized title called Amos Automotive Enthusiast that would give the readers access to all of their magazines in a combined ‘superzine.’ My position was therefore redundant and eliminated. While I will continue to cover regular stories, like my son John’s Dart Swinger and the Chop-Cut-Rebuild XP Hemi Charger, I will no longer be doing the same day-to-day deadline hustle that defined my life for the last year or so. That’s OK; my wife told me it was killing me, and now that I’ve had a little while to catch my breath, I agree the change was more providential than unfortunate. So I’ll be supplementing my not-so-big paycheck with other ‘employment opportunities,’ likely in this field. Hey, I’m not ready to be a Wal-Mart greeter yet.

Regardless, in the Obama economy, job loss could be a scary development; my final editorial dealt with the reality that Washington is in disconnect from reality. They’ve spent billions and committed to trillions more, money that has not been ‘created’ yet by the capital-based wealth generating system that made America what it was for most of the last 225+ years. What’s been spent is wealth that, frankly, may never be generated, period. Conspiracy theorists have gone so far as to state this was deliberate, in line with the leftist Cloward-Pivin strategy of using increased entitlements and spending to so overwhelm the existing system that it collapses under its own weight, to be replaced by some pinhead professor’s nightmare of utopia. Since guys like us in Tennessee pick up guns when stuff like that proves to actually be true (we’re the Volunteer State, remember), I prefer to think it is unbelievable incompetence by a party that had been out of power until 2006.

So, for now while the DC fiddlers preside over the burning (smells like currency, by the way), I’ll figure out ways to make the best of the situation, one which I was incidentally in when I first started working for MoparMAX, back when it first started out. A little work for this company and that, some eBay sales, some photo work, asking editors for freelance assignments, just like it was in the old days.

But the song is not the same, is it? Jeff Burk saw it before most of us, and I’ve come to a conclusion that once you can buy a Kindle or iPad for $30 or so, and you can either download or flash-card in a complete magazine to that format, the print side of the magazine business will quickly disappear. You will sit on the airplane, on the toilet, or by the pool reading it digitally. The problem with the present internet model has been revenue, as all of the old paradigms of publishing have to go out the window. Did you pay Jeff for this column? No. He paid me (although he may not be getting his money worth some months), because advertisers paid him. Do the advertisers pay him the same amount as he might have needed in a print magazine? I don’t know, but I’m guessing MoparMAX is a good deal for the money spent. Couple this with the ability to link directly to the advertiser’s website, where the entire product line and latest news about them is only finger clicks away, and it’s a winning combination.

So for a magazine to survive as a ‘subscription’ service, you have to be able to offer something that's premium to the free content. I’m discussing some of this with Amos’ people already, but the actual format this is still undecided, and unproven. For several years now, and currently, Amos has worked like MoparMAX does, offering the entire issue for free on the web as soon as it was released, giving the advertisers a chance to get immediate exposure to the customers. The process was not perfect, but we still were selling readers a year-long hard-copy subscription as well. Jeff is now offering a print-on-demand edition of MoparMAX so you can show your friends and neighbors that great shot of your car on hard paper; it’s a little expensive but fills the need (smart move, pal).

So I am not going to reveal any secrets here today, because there really aren’t any yet. Nobody knows how this will all play out, but once it happens, the industry will be in upheaval again. And I still need to make a living from it somehow. I just hope I’m smart enough to find the sweet spot in the barrel of the wave and ride it….