Wheels Magazine’s Great Car Crash

Wheels Magazine – formerly one of the great Australian car magazines – has lost the plot. The cover price is nearly – and it appears to be being smashed, commercially and logistically, by the web, which potentially offers better content, quicker.

The current issue of Wheels Magazine has fewer than 15 pages of paid advertising in its 164 total pages, and only six of the 49 car brands on sale in Australia still choose to advertise in Wheels.

Is it any wonder quality has jumped into the express elevator and hammered the button marked ‘basement’?

Why would anyone other than a bona-fide Wheels sycophnt even bother reading? The editorial is self-indulgent. The magazine seems editorially conflicted (are we writing for the readers or the car industry?) and the comment appears to be unbalanced. Even worse, the facts presented are just plain wrong – as in, factually incorrect – on so many levels. Basic errors – that even a mediocre journalist wouldn’t make – crop up all the time.

It’s easy to see why: The financial rug is clearly being wept from beneath Wheels’ feet – the internet is a better delivery platform for the facts, and it is both quicker to market with information as well as much more relevant to new car buyers. (Advertisers know this. It’s why the other 43 car brands aren’t advertising in it.) It’s hard to be adequately resourced with staff and facilities when fewer than 15 pages of ads are being sold per month.

If you’re a magazine, fewer than on in 10 paid ad pages is well and truly below the poverty line.

In this review you’ll see how they botched basic concepts (like communication about what ‘area’ really is, as a physical quantity – good luck with power and torque if that’s a struggle…)

Even worse, there are three chronic botches of the major news story – on safety. In a six-page report, billed as an ‘exclusive Wheels investigation’, the magazine has done Australian new car buyers a major disservice by getting not one, but three, key facts wrong, in relation to the evolving nature of safety star ratings in this country.

It’s a disgrace.

Elsewhere in Wheels the comment seems either unbalanced, editorially conflicted, or just boring and off the pace.

That’s a disgrace, too. How the mighty have taken a tumble.

Is it any wonder real car buyers these days get their information online?

Wheels must be bleeding profusely from the balance sheet. Stay tuned – this has all the hallmarks of a Costa Concordia reboot.

Interesting times ahead.