This isn't a dump post, just a realization that they have either moved away from me or me from them. Maybe it's because it seems like all the new writers are just running through some kind of agreed-upon playbook for new car writers and it's all very stale and old hat. Maybe it's that the comments section, which was pretty much the saving grace of the place, is turning sour and ferral...or there aren't any in articles because they are just blips with very little content. Maybe I'm just old and have higher expectations than is reasonable and/or I've just reached a state of automotive journalism saturation. Though I do keep finding joy in interacting here.
It feels like its been on the slide since hardibird took over. Content went from being fresh and spontanious to formulaic and predictable. Content was happening like clockwork and there were predictable columns which was nice, but in the process it lost a lot of energy. From what I understand, the guy really worked hard to do the right thing for the site and his writers...and credit to him forever for putting them first...the direction just didn't result in a better site, for me at least. With Rory, as much as I like the guy, I feel like there isn't much of the fire left...just keeping the machine running. He's trying to pump up the place with new talent and such but I'm just not feeling it. It feels like old thinking for old problems that didn't work in the past.
Before, there weren't as many places for great semi-professional writers to land on the internet, Jalopnik was THE place in semi-professional auto jounralism, the landscaped has opened up since and there are dozens of places to go now...some with a lot more momentum. Its not as attractive a place to work as I think it used to be and its lost its rep for being the place to take a chance.
Looking at the comments right now, I guess Im not the only one feeling this way. I see a comment posted to me on an article lamenting the stale effort of a piece.
"Basically every online media outlet that in the 2000s and early ‘10s was an edgy independent outlet is now a vulture carcass publishing endless low energy content and literally all written in the same exact voice and perspective because 100% of these people are spending most of their working day on Twitter.
The nightmare scenario of those days was one of journalists literally just re-writing what’s happening on Twitter and publishing the bulk of daily content according to click trends demanded by profit driven ownership.
Every single site here is currently emblematic of this fact, with occasional deep dives and high quality pieces done by people who are talented. I’m constantly bitching in these comments lately, but I truly don’t believe this is the staff’s fault. This is the result of the slow long march to having so very very little quality to read.
What’re you gonna do, go buy a magazine?"
I mean...kinda exactly how I'm feeling. Is it the writers fault? No. and maybe yes. I think that as a creative you have a responsability to push back against the status quo in persuit of creative content. Thats what creative means. There is obviously a line between pushing back and not having a job and maybe thats the problem. Jalopnik feels like being just on this side of "existing", butting up against greatness, but never breaking through. There are probably very compelling arguments as to the forces that make that a reality and how little its within the control of the creatives to break out of that. I wont pretend to minimize these realities but in the end the result is what counts.
Its amazing to me that with the volume of talent in the space right now (both at the site and as a whole) the connectedness of remote work, and the relative ease at which web development and business development can happen online...that there isn't room for an old Jalopnik on the internet. Passonate writers, engaging with enthusiastic readers in comments sections that technically work and aren't a chore to use.
People will be quick to blame the herb, and Im sure that is a large part of the problem, but only part. A business is there to make money and you can't blame the guy assuming the financial risk for wanting to get a return. I DO think he and his group sucks at understanding what success means long term vs short term in this verticle and the unusable nature of the site without adblock is evenidence to that. There is profit generation and then there is chassing away users.
To be clear, its obvious the powers that be do NOT inately understand their industry and are using metrics that will never lead to long term results. The scary thing is that this may be the game plan all along. Pump up the value and dump it to the next guy, though it feels like trying to sell pumpkins in November at this point.
Im not here to place blame really, just to come to Jesus on this issue.
Glad that this place and the interactions here still bring me joy.