Tag Archives: Motor Trend

Review: Automotive Websites

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Last June, I posted a ranking of my favorite automotive websites. I originally posted a ranking of this type in December 2011. My justification was that automotive websites rank and review cars, someone should rank and review them. I decided that the sites have had a year to implement my changes, so it is time to update the rankings.

There is not doubt you have come across all these sites at some point. The sites reviewed include: Car & Driver, Motor Trend, Top Gear, Edmunds, Jalopnik, Autoblog, Autoweek, and Road & Track. They are the biggest names in the work of automotive journalism. As a close follower of the auto industry, I visit these websites frequently and have my favorites.

These rankings are my opinion and do not take into account their print magazines (if they have one). The magazines are largely similar, and they typically review the same new cars in any given month. Instead, the rankings are based on how their websites are organized and the accessibility of their content.

8. Car & Driver

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Car & Driver has not fared well in my rankings. Their website is consistently one of the worst organized automotive websites. A stark white home page with columns of article titles is no way to get a visitor’s attention. When I am at work or quickly browsing the news, I do not want to only read headlines. Car & Driver has great articles and a fantastic magazine (I am a subscriber), but their website still needs a lot of work.

7. Edmunds

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I debated adding Edmunds to the list. It is not really a news website, but they are one of the best websites for car shoppers. A number of car shoppers read a review of the car of their choice in Car & Driver, Motor Trend, etc. then they go to Edmunds for the full details. Edmunds road tests cars and keeps an archive of all makes and models.  Users can view color choices, trim options, tech specs, and full reviews for new and used cars. The layout is user friendly, but the content is a bit stale. Edmunds is all business, but that is not a bad thing.

6. Autoweek

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Autoweek’s website looks pretty much the same as it did a year ago. Like Car & Driver, the website is just full of headlines, and there are not very many. It is a shame that their content is buried deep in the website because it is very high quality.

5. Motor Trend

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Motor Trend’s home page is too cluttered. There is a small content box with all the top stories, but that is about all. The rest of the page is full of ads and content boxes. They have buried the content in various blogs and webpages. Like Car & Driver, I am a subscriber to Motor Trend, and they have great reviews and features, but good luck finding anything on the site.

4. Top Gear

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Does this site ever change? Top Gear has the same layout as it had over a year ago, but there is no denying that the content has character. The arrangement of the content is not bad either, but reading one of their articles is painful. Scrolling through multiple pages to read a paragraph or two at a time is a pain. Top Gear’s magazine just received a redesign, let’s hope the website is next.

3. Road & Track

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Wow! This website has been completely overhauled since last June. Road & Track was purchased by the parent company of Car & Driver and there are rumors this magazine may not be around much longer or that it may remain as an online blog. The site now has a blog-like layout with the newest articles appearing at the top. This is why I like Autoblog so much. This new layout makes Road & Track a contender for #1, in fact, the top three websites have a similar layout and are great sites.

2. Jalopnik

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Jalopnik is an interesting website in that it is an automotive blog that allows anyone to contribute. While the top stories of the day from the auto industry may not be immediately covered, but Jalopnik has character and interesting side stories about classic cars and auto racing. Jalopnik is more than just the auto industry, it is a website for car enthusiasts. I check the site at least once a day.

1. Autoblog

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The reigning champion! Autoblog is still my favorite website. They cover the latest news in the auto world, have great car review, cover auto culture, and produce enjoyable special features. Autoblog has a great layout, beautiful photo galleries, and a great Podcast. If you want a quick way to keep up with the auto world, Autoblog is your one stop shop.

All the sites reviewed are quality sites. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be there. But when you begin to look at their websites, it is easy to determine which are the most useful to readers. As I mentioned, Autoblog, Jalopnik and Road & Track have a similar layout that makes them the best of the bunch. Sometime Jalopnik can be a bit out there, but that is what makes their site the so interesting. Autoblog has the whole package and that is not likely to change anytime soon.

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Review: Automotive Websites

In December I posted a review of the Automotive websites. As far as I know, no one has ever ranked these websites based on their content, layout, and ease of use. Auto websites are important because they inform the consumer of the best, and worst, cars on the market. But these sites do not always make it easy for the consumer.

No doubt you have seen them all. Car & Driver, Motor Trend, Top Gear, Consumers Reports, Autoblog, Auto Week, and Road & Track. They review cars and rank them, but no one ranks them. That is about to change.

I follow the auto industry closely and peruse the websites of all the major auto magazines. The rankings listed here are my opinion and do not take into account their print magazines, but only to the accessibility of their websites. The magazines are largely similar as they typically review the same new cars in any give month. The rankings are instead based on how their websites are organized and the accessibility of their content. This is how I rank them:

7. Consumer Reports

I decided to add Consumer Reports to the lineup because it is an important publication. Its car issue is always popular, but its website is a disappointment. I had not tested their website before adding it to this list, so it would be a true test. I assumed it would not give in depth coverage, but I would have access to the rankings and overall scores for the cars. I was wrong. I was surprised when looking up the 2012 Ford Focus that I had to be a subscriber to get their actual rankings and score. That is a shame because all the other websites on this list provide their major reviews in print and online. While this may not be the greatest business strategy, it is great for consumers, something I would have expected from a publication called Consumer Reports.

6. Car & Driver

The only reason Car & Driver is not last is because I added Consumer Reports to the article. Sadly, my original criticisms still ring true: If you are looking for a clean layout, rich with images and easy to navigate, avoid Car & Driver. Their website was much easier to navigate before the recent refresh. The layout is bland and lacks images. Even their image galleries are bland and are not large enough. Readers like to be guided by images, but Car & Driver fails to deliver on that front. It is a shame because they have very good articles, but they are buried in the wordy layout.

5. Auto Week

Still in fifth place is Auto Week. As before, I enjoy looking at the images and the headlines, but I wish there was more content on the home page.  Where Car & Driver is too wordy, Auto Week is not wordy enough. There home page is full of images and links, but it does not feature a great number of articles, just the headlines. For more articles, the reader left with the navigation bar to take you places. Again, Auto Week has good articles, but they are buried within the website.

4. Motor Trend

Still in fourth is Motor Trend. It is probrably the most popular auto magazine and there is good reason for this. Their articles are usually well written and their beginning of the year rankings, “Car of Year,” and “Truck of the Year” segments are always touted by automakers. Their website is not bad. Their headlines scroll across the front page, but it is surrounded by ads. The image above, for example, has three different ads which bury the content on the page. The navigation menu is not the greatest either. Auto Week‘s is better, but you do not get a nice streamlined place to read the news offered by Motor Trend.

3. Top Gear

Perhaps the most surprising change in the ranking is the drop of Top Gear from second to third. This was not an easy decision for me, but I decided to really dig deeper into all the websites this time, and Top Gear begins to disappoint. First, I want to apologize to Lord Stig for saying this, but after really digging through the website, I have have been generous only dropping it to third. The most striking thing to me was the fact the website had not been changed since December. It has the same layout and the cover picture of Richard, James and Jeremy is the same as before (go ahead, check!). But the most annoying part of the website is how they publish their articles. Many of them are spread out across on a series of pages (more than 10) with a few paragraphs of text and ONE photograph per page. It is a real pain. The other reason that I downgraded the site is that many American cars are not covered on the site.

Although it has dropped in the rankings, my previous comments still stand: Top Gear is a great TV show from the United Kingdom (the History Channel’s version SUCKS), and it is a great auto magazine. In the US a subscription to Top Gear costs $90 or you can pay $9.95 at the newsstand. Their magazine would be largely unfamiliar to Americans because it is very different from our auto magazines. While a typical issue of Car & Driver is somewhere around 100 pages, an issue of Top Gear is closer to 300. The articles are more extensive and there are more articles on historic cars as well. Top Gear‘s website is like that as well. You do not only get new car reviews, but commentary on car culture as well. If you have watched Top Gear on the BBC, you know that the hosts are all about fun, but there is a large staff in addition to the three hosts that put together Top Gear, the website and magazine. The only reason the Top Gear is not number one on my ranking is because it focuses on European cars and does not cover a number of cars only available o the American Market. Nevertheless, Top Gear is a great place to read about great cars and learn about cars that we only wish we could get in the US.

2. Road & Track

I really like Road & Track and is has moved up to second in the rankings. The website has a great feature section at the top and an easy to read list of headlines in the section below. They have updated the website nicely and feature full articles and reviews. Although the magazine Road & Track is not the most popular, their website is pretty easy to navigate. You can find most everything you need on the home page. The headlines scroll across the top and there is a listing of the most recent articles below the headlines area. Their articles are well written and enjoyable.

1. Autoblog

Even after six months, I have no new comments to offer on Autoblog. They are still the best!

THE WINNER: I chose Autoblog as the best auto website because it is unlike any other website on this list. They do not publish a magazine and only deliver their news on via the Internet. Autoblog reviews cars, has the latest news, covers car culture, and even incorporates news from the other magazines (such as Motor Trend and Top Gear). This makes the website the best place to gain quick access to the latest automotive news. The website is organized much like a blog, so you can read the posts in the reverse order they were released. It is, therefore, easy to stay caught up with the latest news.

OVERALL

All the websites presented in my rankings produce quality content, this was a way to rate how easy it is for the readers to access this content. While Car & Driver and Motor Trend are the top two magazines, their websites are not as accessible as Autoblog. All the websites in this listing have received minor updates since December with the exception of Top Gear. Although none of the websites are perfect, there is a clear hierarchy. If I could offer a few suggestions to these websites, I would ask them all to create better menus. They all have similar menus, but they could be better. I will admit that choosing ranks 1 – 5 was difficult as they all offer similar content. In fact, I would recommend any of the top five sites to anyone looking to purchase a new car. I could not recommend the websites of Car & Driver and Consumer Reports, however. In print, they are exceptional publications, but on the web, they need work. Overall, the automotive industry has a vibrant media, and I believe that is well represented in this article.

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Review: Automotive News Sites

You’ve seen them all. Car & Driver, Motor Trend, Top Gear, Autoblog, Auto Week, and Road & Track. They review cars and rank them, but no one ranks them. That is about to change.

I follow the auto industry closely and peruse the websites of all the major auto magazines. The rankings listed here are my opinion and do not take into account their print magazines, but only to the accessibility of their websites. The magazines are largely similar as they typically review the same new cars in any give month. The rankings are instead based on how their websites are organized and the accessibility of their content. This is how I rank them:

6. Car & Driver

If you are looking for a clean layout, rich with images and easy to navigate, avoid Car & Driver. Their website was much easier to navigate before the recent refresh. The layout is bland and extremely wordy. Readers like to be guided by images, but Car & Driver fails to deliver on that front. It is a shame because they have very good articles, but they are buried in the wordy layout.

5. Auto Week

Where Car & Driver is too wordy, Auto Week is not wordy enough. There home page is full of images and links, but it does not feature a great number of articles, just the headlines. For more articles, you have left with the navigation bar to take you places. Again, Auto Week has really good articles, but they are buried within the website.

4. Motor Trend

Motor Trend is probrably the most popular auto magazine and there is good reason for this. Their articles are usually well written and their beginning of the year rankings and “Car of Year” and “Truck of the Year” segments are always touted by automakers. Their website is not bad. Their headlines scroll across the front page, but it is surrounded by ads. The image above, for example, has four different ads which bury the content on the page. The navigation menu is not the greatest either. Auto Week‘s is better, but you do not get a nice streamlined place to read the news.

3. Road & Track

Although the magazine Road & Track is not the most popular, but their website is pretty easy to navigate. You can find most everything you need on the home page. The headlines scroll across the top and there is a listing of the most recent articles below the headlines area. While this is helpful, it is just a list of titles of articles. Like the others, their articles are well written, but there should be a better way to feature articles.

2. Top Gear

Top Gear is not just a great TV show from the United Kingdom (the History Channel’s version SUCKS), but it is also a great auto magazine. In the US a subscription to Top Gear costs $90 or you can pay $9.95 at the newsstand. Their magazine would be largely unfamiliar to Americans because it is very different from our auto magazines. While a typical issue of Car & Driver is somewhere around 100 pages, an issue of Top Gear is closer to 300. The articles are more extensive and there are more articles on historic cars as well. Top Gear‘s website is like that as well. You do not only get new car reviews, but commentary on car culture as well. If you have watched Top Gear on the BBC, you know that the hosts are all about fun, but there is a large staff in addition to the three hosts that put together Top Gear, the website and magazine. The only reason the Top Gear is not number one on my ranking is because it focuses on European cars and does not cover a number of cars only available o the American Market. Nevertheless, Top Gear is a great place to read about great cars and learn about cars that we only wish we could get in the US.

1. Autoblog

THE WINNER: Autoblog. I chose Autoblog as the best auto website because it is unlike any other website on this list. They do not publish a magazine and only deliver their news on via the Internet. Autoblog reviews cars, has the latest news, covers car culture, and even incorporates news from the other magazines (such as Motor Trend and Top Gear). This makes the website the best place to gain quick access to the latest automotive news. The website is organized much like a blog, so you can read the posts in the reverse order they were released. It is, therefore, easy to stay caught up with the latest news.

OVERALL

All the website presented here produce quality content, as I would not have included a website that did not. While Car & Driver and Motor Trend are the top two magazines, their websites are not as accessible as Autoblog. This ranking, after all, was about the quickest way to access the latest car information online. And for that, Autoblog easily wins.

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The Problem with Apple’s Newsstand

Apple’s iOS 5 is full of great new features (features I will review in full detail in my review of the iPhone 4S) and one of my favorite was supposed to be Newsstand.  I say “supposed to be” because there is one major flaw in Newsstand.  It is not the fact that it is nearly impossible to put Newsstand into a folder, but it is the price of subscription to some of the publications.  The idea of selling media digitally is to cut down on the costs of printing and postage.  One would think, therefore, that digital editions of magazines and newspapers would be cheaper than their paper counterparts, and some are.  For example, The New York Times can be delivered to your iPad for $20 per month.  That is a $10 savings per month over home delivery costs.  Autoweek’s digital subscription only costs $4.99 for a year subscription, half off a print subscription.  National Geographic charges $19.99 for the Newsstand subscription, the same as print.  Charing the same amount is fine, but some magazines have really gotten it backwards.  Motor Trend is a great example of a poorly conceived pricing structure.  If I subscribed to Motor Trend by mail, I only pay $10.  However, if I want to get it digitally on my iPad it is $19.99.  WHY???  The iPad edition is more interactive and includes videos, yes, but I can get the same videos from their website for FREE. Why should I pay more for a magazine that it not generating the costs of printing and postage?  Motor Trend is not the only magazine doing this, here are a few other examples:

-Popular Mechanics: $12 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

Esquire: $8 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

Golf Magazine: $10 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

Reader’s Digest: $10 by mail, $14.99 on iPad

Vanity Fair: $19.99 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

The New Yorker: $59.99 by mail, $59.99 on iPad

Publishers need to realize that in order for a digital distribution system to work, they are going to need an aggressive pricing strategy.  Charging twice as much for digital over print is ridiculous.  I understand that this is new to many publishers and they are working on pricing, design, etc, but I feel that over time prices will come down.  I do not mind paying for content, but I do mind being screwed.

*I have emailed Motor Trend with my concern and will update this post if they reply, but I doubt they will.

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