When I first heard that AutoWeek was launching ShopAutoWeek.com I was a little confused. I’m not a huge car buff, but I know Auto Week, and I know Auto Week’s readers aren’t the type that would cruise a shopping guide before heading out to purchase a vehicle. Gearheads read Auto Week. Horsepower junkies. Industry enthusiasts. The people reading Auto Week are the people I would go to if I were in the market for a new car, which makes it pretty clear that the site isn’t for them.
The site is for people like me, and it spawned from exactly the kinds of conversations Auto Week editors were having with friends and family about buying a car. I spoke with Wes Raynal, an Auto Week editor who has been with the magazine’s parent company, Crain Communications, since 1989. Raynal said working for Auto Week made him a target at family gatherings and barbecues for one question: what car should I buy? As anyone who has purchased a car knows, that just isn’t an easy question to answer, particularly when the person asking the question expects expert advice.
In order to avoid hour-long answers to that very question, Raynal and the editorial staff decided to compile their collective knowledge online. “It’s the friend over the fence in the backyard dispensing car shopping advice as best we know how,” Raynal said. That’s right, Auto Week wants to be the Wilson to your Tim Taylor. They have the sage advice necessary for the job, too. Search for any car on ShopAutoWeek.com and you’ll find the usual data – trim packages, features, price comparisons – but you’ll also get all of Auto Week’s editorial content for the vehicle.
That’s the big difference between ShopAutoWeek.com and her competitors: the editorial content. Most car shopping sites tend to be data focused, delivering just trim packages, feature lists, and occasionally averaging reviews from around the web. Users take that data and present it to friends who know what they’re talking about to make an informed decision. Auto Week flips that process. It starts with the editorial – the in-depth discussion about a car, about the car-buying process, about a manufacturer – and then provides the data necessary to encourage an intelligent decision.
“If Auto Week’s mission is to make auto enthusiasts smarter and more informed, ShopAutoWeek’s mission is to make the general consumer smarter and more informed,” Raynal told me over the phone. One of the ways the site is reaching out to general consumers is with the “My Notebook” tool. My Notebook allows users to compile all of the information relevant to finding a new vehicle. From articles to models to personal links and photos, My Notebook is designed to be the hub of information for car shoppers.
The main reason I’m impressed with ShopAutoWeek.com is that the editors seem genuinely invested in helping the average consumer. I found it easy to locate the information I was after and, even without being an automotive enthusiast, I was able to understand everything that was put in front of me. Wes Raynal put things this way: “We now have a spot for everyone. If you love cars, we have a place for you. If you love racing, we have a place for you. If you love old cars, we have a place for you. And now, with [ShopAutoWeek.com], if you don’t love any of those things and are just interested in buying a car, now we have a place for you.”
ShopAutoWeek.com is also just in its infancy. The editors at Auto Week are currently in the process of taking any and every relevant article from both print and online and making it available through ShopAutoWeek.com. It’s a massive undertaking, but it’s coming together surprisingly fast. There’s already enough information to keep the most paranoid shopper busy for hours.
If there is anything that should make you consider ShopAutoWeek.com the next time you’re looking for a car, it has to be the reputation of the magazine that preceded it. Auto Week has always provided great automotive content, and since ShopAutoWeek.com is packed with the same articles and supported by the same writers, it’s a safe bet the new site will be as good as the magazine and website that preceded it.