The New York Times is shutting down its Wheels car blog, edited by Jalopnik alum/Italian suit model Ben Preston, and will replace it with more in-depth car features and stories according to a memo I just read. They'll also get rid of that stupid logo we all hate. The memo below the jump, from NYT Automotive editors Jim Cobb and Norman Mayersohn.
This went out to the many contributors to the blog, which I've always been a fan of but perhaps didn't fit with the direction of the NYT (which seems decidedly anti-first person pronouns). It's also probably expensive for the traffic it generates.
One lesson we've certainly learned in the publishing business of late is that nothing lasts forever. And while our Automobiles report has been fairly constant for several years, even as a tide of change has swept through most departments of The Times, we're about to make a significant change: the Wheels blog is shutting down.
We've already started to transition out of WordPress, the blog platform we've been using, into WebFirst, which offers significant advantages for integrating the print and online versions of The Times. Some articles that would previously have been posted on Wheels are going on the Automobiles section front instead, with "miniposts" in Wheels that summarize and link to the articles.
The final Wheels post is scheduled to go up this Friday, Oct. 25.
As we move forward, we will be looking at new ways to package and present our articles, videos, slideshows and standing features. Ben Preston, who has done a lot to enliven the blog during the last few months, will be staying on to lend his distinctive voice to features and to edit freelance contributions for the online report – much as he is doing now, though the production process will be different and we won't be calling these blog posts any longer.
We believe that much of this content – ouch, there's that word that we ink-marinated types love to hate – will make the transition seamlessly. Some of the experience-driven posts peppered with first-person pronouns probably will not. We'll be re-calibrating our perceptions of what works and what does not, so don't take it personally if we say "no" to pitches more than we used to.
And, needless to say, the budget is tight.
I should point out that the transition out of blogs isn't peculiar to Wheels. For a while, The Times has been reassessing the blog model for some subjects to see if there might be better ways to engage readers. (Whereas there used to be dozens upon dozens of blogs tended from the newsroom, only about 30 remain.) And we've had several discussions about how to differentiate blog content from the rest of our page (and what readers perceive as the difference) with no clear-cut resolution.
Finally, Mr. Preston will be glad to say farewell to the Wheels icon that he (and Jalopnik) so despises: the 2-speed automatic floor shift, circa 1965. We're sending that to the junkyard — and moving on to new adventures.
Thanks for all of your engaging and enlightening contributions to Wheels these past few years.
Jim and Norman