Autoblog and TS – a love-in

Many regulars here will remember that back in January, this site, along with several other Saab forums, promoted the Autoblog Readers Ride of the Year poll. There was a Saab 900 Convertible contesting the poll and quite likely due to the promotion received around the tubes, the 900 ‘vert rose to the top of the standings and won.

The winner’s announcement, however, spent more time acknowledging the Saabophile support and very little time showing respect to the car and the efforts of the owner. This is something I took issue with in a post entitled An Open Letter to Damon Lavrinc at Autoblog.

Given that it was Auto Show season etc, Damon didn’t get around to seeing the open letter, but did so more recently and emailed me the following response:

Obviously, the reason for this note is to address your open letter to me, regarding our 2006 Reader Ride of the Year poll. And just to make sure it’s clear, if I had any idea that you had posted this, I would have responded in a more timely manner.

I’ll readily admitted that when the results were coming in I was a bit dismayed. Not because I had a vested interest in any of the other vehicles, but because of the massive discrepancy between Patrick’s Saab and the other contestants. My editor and I had a knee-jerk reaction at first, but at the end of the day, it was clear who the winner was, and since no rules were outlined and there was no tangible prize, we went ahead and published the results.

Now, to address your main points: I felt the post I wrote up accurately portrayed what happened with the poll. The post on your site, and I assume others, helped to propel the Saab to first place by a large margin, but during the first two days of polling, when readers were voting for their favorite, the Jag was in first. If there was any hint of flippancy in my post, it was largely due to the fact that our RR of the Week and RR of the Year poll had been created for regular visitors to Autoblog, not particularly for a group of enthusiasts of one particular marque. In the end, I felt that our readers were slighted and if there hadn’t been a rallying of the online Saab community the results would have been different.

The other piece of information that raised my heart rate was this comment in your update post from a reader by the name of SG who said, “Okay, I stopped at the magic # “900” votes, so now I am heading to sleep.” I noticed that you questioned SG in the following comment, about what he was supposedly doing. I have no idea if the polling software we’re using, PollHost, has some kind of vulnerabilities, but it’s man-made, so just like everything else, it’s fallible.

All that said, I’d like to make it clear that Patrick’s efforts to bring his Saab back from the brink were not lost on myself or anyone who read the original post. He’s obviously a dedicated gearhead and has every right to be recognized for his time, effort and devotion to a vehicle which he cares for deeply. Additionally, I don’t harbor any ill feelings towards the Saab community as a whole, nor the marque itself (my first experience with a turbo was in a 900), but I do feel that our readers may have preferred that all the entrants were on a level playing field.

Hope this finds you well and I look forward to your response.

All points well taken. My response was written in kind, and included my belief that all entrants were on a level plying field, it’s just that there’s a lot more of us Saabophiles active on the ‘net.

A day or so after, I also received this from John Neff, Editor-in Chief at Autoblog. He’d tried to post it in comments, but I assume he had some issues with the passphrase and ended up emailing it to me:

Hi all, just thought I’d weigh in with a different perspective. We actually considered carefully how to write this post, as some members of the Autoblog team considered the overwhelming support of Patrick’s car by the Saab community as unfair, and we considered that a lot of readers might see it the same way.

Some of us felt, however, that the Saab community’s support of Patrick’s car was in keeping with the rules since we never really set any rules. The RR of the Day/Week/Year was always meant to be just for fun. There are no prizes up for grab, nothing on the line – the posts are just meant to highlight personal rides that we find interesting. As a matter of fact, the RR of the Day is simply chosen by whichever person is writing it that day. There’s no science behind it but the personal preference of that team member that particular night. And at no point have we ever tried to control or regulate the voting, so the Saab community’s support was perfectly fair.

That said, we all agreed had the Saab community not mobilized itself that the Jag would’ve been the likely winner. I honestly think it’s fair to say that’s the case. We felt we had to recognize what happened in the voting and acknowledge it, not to put down Patrick’s car, but to inform other readers how it went down and that it was OK.

You’re perfectly correct that to fully appreciate Patrick’s Saab it helps to read Alex’s original post. It certainly is more than it appears at first glance.

That said, it would be difficult to argue that each member of the Saab community who voted for Patrick’s car also checked out the back story of every other car up for the honor and considered them all equally. In fact, I doubt many voters at all visited each original post and considered every car’s story. Most probably voted based on pics of the cars and nothing more. Again, that’s fine, there’s no rule that says voters have to consider each car as if voting for the next president, because we’re just having fun here.

As for Damon’s closing words, though you’ve chosen to interpret them as a veiled dig, I can personally vouch that they were not meant to be. They were in fact an acknowledgment of the passion this community showed for this man and his car.

Finally, while I agree the NSX ending up in the top five was a little off, that Mitsubishi EVO is pimp, and the ’71 Celica that ended fifth got my vote.

In closing, congratulations again to Patrick for winning the very first RR of the Year.

Again, all good points.

We’ve swapped a couple more emails since and my ones to them included the fact that the Open Letter I originally wrote was a one-time rant.

Autoblog’s a fantastic site and whilst I supply many of the Saab stories they run, there is the occasional story there that I’ve missed and can link to from here. They’ve got some of the best general automotive coverage and linkage on the web and whilst I don’t mind having a crack at something like the “RR-Affair” it’s definitely not somethng that’s reflective of the whole site.

I just want to thank Damon and John for taking the time to respond to the letter and present Autoblog’s point of view. I’m quite sure that the whole issue was water under the bridge for all visitors to this site within 5 minutes of it first happening, but it’s still good to tie these things off nonetheless.

I’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Autoblog for the last few years and look forward to that continuing in the future.

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4 Comments

  1. I’ve got to say, Swade, I think autoblog’s comments are right on. The Saab won because of the support of the Saab community. But stop — isn’t that part of what’s so wonderful about driving a Saab? There’s a Sarah Silverman sketch where this guy in a Ford Focus pulls up next to her car and he goes “Hey! Same car!” Silverman contorts her face, sticks out her tongue, and mimicks him to point out what an idiot he’s being. With Saab, that “Hey, same car!” feeling is not only an integral part of owning a Saab, but even could draw you to the marque in the first place. It’s who we are!
    That said, many people seem to believe that this means Saab could slap a griffin on jugged lutefisk and we’d pay twice as much as it’s worth. The 9-2X and 9-7X’s sales have proven that that’s not true. We love our cars not because they’re Saabs, but because they’re great.

  2. I don’t know, I kind of think the voting was unfair, because in the comments of posts during the whole affair, people kept on writing stuff like “I really really dig car X, but I voted for the saab (because it’s the saab and that’s what we are doing, trying to get it in first”. IMO, that is totally not cool.

  3. I totally agree about why the Saab won. No problem. My main beef was with the post that introduced the result, which mentioned the nature of the vote, but failed to mention how good the car was, which I thought was a bit ungracious.

    When it comes down to it, the online Saab community is very active and in this case they responded when their attention was drawn to the poll. Other marques also had their support (saw some posts on a Jag forum for the E-type) but numbers ruled the day.

    Like they mention, the Jag would have likely been the winner if the vote was restricted to regular Autoblog readers only, but it wasn’t. And if doesn’t go that way then I think as the poll host they had a duty to not only explain the vote (which they did) but also pay some respect to the car that won if it was worthy of such respect (which it was).

    I don’t think a beat up 1986 Saab 9000 would have garnered the same vote.

    The one thing I’ve learned from all this is to post once about such polls and leave updates well enough alone.

    Like I said, all water under the bridge now.

  4. Why don’t they pay any attention to those other communities support for their marques? Because others weren’t so loyal for their marques as we?

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