Imagine a matchup between today's cars, parts, and magazines against the ones from 10 or 20 years ago. We would outright ...
As I write this month's Bangin Gears column, we are putting the final touches on what is my 120th issue of Popular Hot Rodding. I almost missed the milestone, except the other day my wife reminded me that we had been living in California for almost a decade. It didn't seem like that long at first, but then I started to note the changes.
Let's acknowledge (then forget!) the facts that after 10 years I'm 40 pounds heavier, I have to wear bifocals, and—thanks to a 17-year-old daughter—my hair is almost completely gray. Otherwise, I basically don't feel any worse for wear. One of the nice things I never anticipated is the ease—and more importantly, the fun—that results from being part of a well-oiled machine. I used to lurch from deadline to deadline, losing sleep wondering if readers would like a story. Over time, I've gotten a better feel for what makes a gearhead tick. In fact, dreaming up cool stories—and floating them past you via social media—is one of my favorite parts of the job. A hundred and twenty issues is a lot of experience to draw from—both the successes and failures—and I promise to use that to make PHR even better in the coming years.
One of the biggest changes in the last 10 orbits around the sun is that car magazines have gotten light-years better—and not just PHR, all of them. The ones that didn't get better went away. You survive, or you die. Check it out for yourself: If you're like me, you've got old magazines stashed everywhere. The garage, the bathroom, the living room, the trunk of the car, a drawer at work—you name it, they're everywhere. Now pick up an older one—the older the better—and thumb through it. Look at the photography, the layout design, the story text, the paper quality, the printing registration, the color, and compare it to what's on the newsstand now. There's no comparison.
As proud as I was of my first issue of PHR—which did very well on the newsstand in 2003—it pales compared to what we're doing these days. We've got more events, more contests, more coverage, better tech, and more chances to get into PHR than ever before. Readers also have direct and immediate access to the staff practically around the clock, not only through email, but on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. If you're plugged in, then months ago you already knew about—and weighed in on—what would be in this issue. And the magazine is materially improved as a result. It's like comparing closed-loop self-learning, wide-band sequential EFI to open-loop, batch-fire EFI.
With the rise of the Internet, some people have come to the conclusion that magazines are irrelevant. I think those are the same people who say cars are irrelevant. To a gearhead, cars aren't just transportation, they are a chosen lifestyle—and car magazines are an immutable part of that lifestyle. Just try this thought experiment: If you had to choose between getting your car on the pages of a magazine, or on one of your favorite websites, what would it be? I would be surprised if even one of you chose not to be on the newsstand in every Wal-Mart, grocery store, and bookstore in the country.
And while print circulation has dwindled in the last 10 years, it has caused magazines to evolve into more exciting and interactive products that blur the line between print and digital. Ten years ago, it was unrealistic to think that you'd see photos, results, or video coverage of an event, car feature shoot, or tech story just hours or even minutes after it happened. But that's how we roll these days. If you don't count the current print issue, in the past 30 days we've posted 18 new videos, 38 blog posts, a 170-pic photo gallery, and untold numbers of Facebook and Twitter posts. We're comin' at you like a spider monkey 24/7 with all kinds of cool news and content!
Making a better magazine, however, wouldn't be possible without you guys. You are building faster, cooler, more awesome hot rods and you're using faster, cooler, more bitchin parts from the manufacturers that grace our pages. Everybody is upping their game at the same time in an upward spiral of mechanical evolution. Imagine a matchup between today's cars, parts, and magazines against the ones from 10 or 20 years ago. We would outright slaughter 2003 and 1993 if there was an actual matchup—and on top of that, the "us" of 2013 has it way harder than the "us" of 2003 or 1993. We are a leaner, meaner fightin' machine. Now take that progress—that evolution—and project it 10 years into the future. Man, there are some fun times in store for us!