Top Automotive Blogs – Autoblog – Interview with John Neff

July 24, 2011  •  Leave a Comment

Great blogs with great information are hard to find or at least the ones that deliver a message consistent with their passion.  We live in a saturated world of blogs and websites offering many things to many people.  It’s easy to find sites lacking in quality, content, and depth.

I wanted to do something a little different.  Instead of pointing you in the direction of a particular blog that has fabulous content and an experienced staff rich with a variety of experiences, I want to let you know why the content is good and HOW it can benefit you.

Enter AUTOBLOG.COM! The blog itself is well organized allowing you to view articles by brand, subject matter, and many other ways.   The site is clean, easy to navigate, and under its seemingly innocent exterior design, is packed full of impressive content ranging from movie, video game, and automotive design reviews.  This blog truly encompasses what its title tells you…an AUTOBLOG!  Interested in vintage race cars? Got it!  Want to know the latest on aftermarket products? It’s covered!  Automotive technology? Been there..got it!  The amount of content is truly dizzying and will keep you occupied for hours every day!

I often tell you the importance of paying attention to the world around you and being mindful of using photo references to familiarize yourself with the form language and dynamics of cars in motion.  Well…these pros have been generous enough to not only post their pictures up but allow you to download them for free.  Huge value add for you!

Regarding the writers; these are hardcore motor enthusiasts that are well connected and passionate about cars.    Most have a solid reputation in the automotive industry as journalists, writers, engineers, and even race car drivers.  So you get a wide range of different experiences all wrapped up into a pretty blog  with a lot of horsepower.

I had the privileged opportunity to ask Autoblog creator and editor in chief, John Neff, about Autoblog and how they got started.

DM: When was Autoblog first realized and at what point did you get involved with the blog?

JN: Autoblog launched in early July of 2004 as one of the flagship brands of the Weblogs, Inc. network of blogs, which was sold to AOL in late 2005. I became involved with Autoblog as a writer in early 2005. Soon after I was asked to co-edit the site with another guy, and he eventually left to go back to school, which meant I was the guy in charge. It’s been that way ever since.

DM: The content is amazing. Enthusiasts can learn a tremendous amount of information on Autoblog. It’s no surprise that you have such a loyal following and fan base. How do you keep them engaged?

JN: It’s amazing, but the subject of automobiles somehow generates enough content on a daily basis for us to keep writing every single day, every day of the week and every month of the year. We slow down on the weekends and holidays, but there hasn’t been a day since I’ve worked on the site that we haven’t published something on the site. So sheer volume is one way we keep people engaged; readers want to come back often to see what’s new. Other ways we keep readers engaged is with writing that’s easy to read, informative and witty, as well as photography that’s eye candy. Lastly, we try to be inclusive and publish content that all types of auto enthusiasts might find interesting, rather than focusing on just the hardcore enthusiasts or the casual ones.

DM: I was really surprised to find the contributors of AB with such a wide range of experiences. How important is it to get the perspectives of people with different backgrounds? Was this a major contributor to Autoblogs successful readership?

JN: Absolutely. While we specifically look for writers who have a good foundation in the basics and share a general experience, it helps tremendously that each has their own specialty. We have a racer, a pro photographer, a wrencher, an industry veteran, a tree hugger and the list goes on. They’re all auto enthusiasts, but their unique talents add so much to the site.

DM: Your fan base seems to be very connected with the blog. You can see the level of activity in the comments section. What are the pro’s and con’s of having engaged fans when dealing with comments and having to respond to them?

JN: The pros of having an active community of commenters is when they add value to the content about which they’re commenting. You learn quickly that there are people out there who know a lot more than you do, and it’s always a pleasant surprise when a commenter leaves a nugget of wisdom and increases the value of your article. The cons, of course, are the bad apples out there who troll the comments, attack others and take the conversation off-topic. All you can do is be clear that basic civility is the rule and be willing to delete comments and ban offenders who are damaging the experience of others.

DM: Autoblog outputs several posts a day…at least around 20 of them if not more! How do you keep up at such a fast pace?

JN: It’s about 25-30 posts per day. Producing that much content requires a large team of people doing many different jobs. We have editors scouring the Internet for news, other editors working on original features and coordinating event coverage, and of course a large team of writers working on everything from daily news posts to new vehicle reviews to original features. It’s certainly grown into a big machine with many moving parts, and my job is to make sure they all keep moving.

DM: You mentioned earlier that you originally wanted to become a car designer. What lead you to take the path of auto journalism?

JN: The simple story is that my high school art teacher happened to favor another kid in my art class, so I didn’t get much attention from him. I didn’t know I was supposed to be developing a portfolio of work until I had already begun visiting design schools, so I just gave it up and went to a liberal arts school instead. I had been reading car magazines for years by that time, and had saved every one (still have them all, too). I really appreciated automotive journalism as a type of literature, specifically how, when done well, it makes the transmission of facts entertaining. For instance, there’s nothing engaging about saying a car has 500 horsepower, but describing how it feels to accelerate away in a 500-hp car transforms that simple fact into an interesting story.

DM:  Right on…I couldn’t agree with you more.  Writing with descriptive emotion is a definite must to connect with your fanbase and it’s worked out for you in the end.  Finally…what’s one of your all-time favorite rides?

JN: Such a tough question. It’s like asking the Octomom which child is her favorite. One of my favorite cars growing up was the 1991 Ford Taurus SHO. Don’t ask me why, it just stuck and I was lucky to find a mint one a couple years that’s sitting in my garage right now. I just love cars from the ‘80s and ‘90s that are unique, usually because they’ve been asked to do something for which they weren’t necessarily designed. The GMC Syclone and Typhoon, Dodge Omni GLH, and even oddballs like the Subary Legacy Outback Sedan. The best ride I’ve experienced lately is the Audi A7. In terms of beauty, luxury and refinement, I’d choose the A7 over cars costing three times as much.

DM:  The Audi A7? Anytime you need a break from driving one of those A7′s, give me a shout!  I would gladly take it for another test drive!

John…it’s been an honor and pleasure interviewing you.  I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions.  Wishing you and Autoblog continued success!

Let’s not forget why Autoblog has value for our DM fans.  In summary:

  • Excellent source of entertainment and up to the minute exposure to the automotive world
  • Top notch reference photographs to download – BIG BONUS HERE!
  • Talented writing staff with varied backgrounds having a passion for automobiles
  • It’s just a pretty damn cool blog!

If you are tired of sketching and need a break? Check out Autoblog! There is plenty to keep you interested and inspired.

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