I got the impression that the magazine “Behind the Wheel” works on the verge of a niche and socio-political magazine. That is, you have a civic position, clear economic views, you share democratic values in the sense of observing the law, and you are obviously patriotic - love your country, not its auto industry. It turns out …
You already said everything for me …
Still, I would like to ask a question: I always wait when, on the cover, instead of the next car, some more relevant photo appears. And you have articles on public topics hidden between the actual automotive materials and advertising. Why don't you go beyond? Is this the law of the genre or deliberate editorial policy?
I, like many, was brought up on the fact that the most important issues are questions of the state of society. But we still serve some specific topic. I have been working in a magazine for 25 years and have been heading it for the past 15 years. The product is important to us, and it is demanded by a certain audience. We are not able to serve the whole society, but we can turn to its parts and thus influence the society as a whole. After all, everything is very simple: the “Driving” buyer is primarily interested in cars. Therefore, on the cover I will never give any acutely social photography. And the reader himself wants just that.
What is the concept of the magazine?
Our concept is simple: “Driving” will tell you about everything that happens in the automotive world. ”And everything should be in place. Let it sound cynical: but we light up the signal lights for the reader, and if you are interested in a car today as an object of purchase or just as a cultural phenomenon, you should be good at orienting yourself in the magazine and not go into the parts where we discuss other problems. We opened the magazine in the right place and everyone found a theme for ourselves. Yes, we look eclectic, but it is this external eclecticism, by the way, is working ƈ This for 80 years of the magazine allows us to be in the lead.
Have you ever been made a political proposal? To you personally or to a magazine? After all, everything related to the automotive theme is material for politicians. And you dedicate your editorial in the March issue to the driver whom you tried to convict in connection with the death of Governor Evdokimov.
Thank God nobody made any political proposals. I remember back in Soviet times, I had a dream that the political bureau of our native party was inviting me to DOSAAF's work. I woke up in a sweat. There, there was more salary, and immediately they made officers, but I do not need this. Everyone must do their job. Although our audience is huge, and objectively we, of course, exert political influence.
What is the circulation of the magazine?
In Europe, and not only in Russia, we are the first among automotive publications - about 600, 000 readers will buy the April issue (taking into account the circulation in Ukraine). I believe that “Driving” today is a national treasure.
Well, yes, if there is no normal car industry, then at least there is a magazine.
You know, a lot can be gathered around the magazine. We obviously influence minds. “Behind the wheel” constantly publishes interviews with top managers of the global automotive industry, these are people who, in a terrible competition, have gained the right to produce and sell cars. These are specialists of the highest class, their biography, experience, their life energy can inspire many.
If you compare your magazine with other automotive publications, it seems that you seem to ignore some of the laws of gloss. For example, I open Automotive News, and there you can read about how, during a test of a new car, a driver rushes at a speed of 200 km. per hour, "dispersing shy summer residents", etc …
People working for me will never write such nonsense. We are not a glossy magazine. That style, an example of which you just cited, in my opinion, could be in demand only at the very beginning, when the gloss began to appear in our country, but now that there are 50 automotive publications in the market, and even in the regions, we can withstand competition cheaper is impossible.
What's your trump card?
We are creating new topics. Here’s “Behind the Wheel” bought two new SUVs made in China. We know that there is great interest in Chinese jeeps. Remembering the Chinese down jackets, I was wary of products from this country. But we conducted tests: two Russian SUVs and one Chinese, and launched at the test site for the virgin soil.
Ours, of course, broke?
Of course. And the Chinese both rode and rode. With this material, we have created a new theme. And we are forming public opinion on this issue. Am I really, having the opportunity to make truly deep and professional publications, I will give up space for some nonsense or photographs of girls.
What is the gap between the circulation of your magazine and the circulation of other automotive publications?
Advertisers, namely due to them there are magazines, they are not interested in real circulations. You can write 150 thousand and two hundred. The fact is that no one is interested in this market so that there are transparent honest circulations. No one. Nobody announces a real print run, except for us. Because no one, including Western brands, will gain those circulations that they can simply announce. It is impossible to declare one circulation abroad, but to make another, but with us they allow themselves this.
But there are companies that measure ratings. You can check everything.
In order for Gallop to measure you, for example, it needs to be paid. I assure you that publications such as Klaxon or Automotive News do not pay, and no one measures them. Nevertheless, “Klaxon” collects good money from advertising. Their circulation is not certified - and everything is in order. Such a reality. And 15 years ago, we were one of the first in the press market, not just automotive, to certify our circulation.
And why do you need this honesty?
The fact is that we are very active abroad. I have a special office there. In order to present our industry there, our market, our magazine. It is very important for me that I be honest on any issues.
What is your mechanism for dealing with custom articles? After all, any photo costs money. Any material can be perceived as advertising or as anti-advertising.
We have such a section "Components", where we talk about spare parts. And letters are constantly being brought to me, where different companies complain that we have cut a business for them. Because we act as experts for wholesalers. But in order to take such a position, we must take a very responsible approach to what is written there. “Driving” orders tests from the relevant institutes. Yesterday I signed a contract with one institution: they will break three automobile glasses for our magazine “on science” - for 80 thousand rubles! If we spend such money on testing spare parts, then will we really exchange for custom articles ?!
But still, they probably come to you and say that such and such material was paid by competitors.
Of course they do. There is such a company, Spectrol, it produces oils and car chemicals. The owner of the company is the respected businessman Brykin. We regularly test various auto chemicals. And when Spectrol has the first place in the rating, this Brykin will not call, will not thank, and as soon as his products are on the last, he comes and begins to tell that the journalist is biased and was bribed. Says, "check this journalist." The last time he came, I already had the material of the next issue, where the products of Spectrol again led. And I told him: “How much did you pay this journalist yourself?”
Are you confident in your employees?
My journalists are paid so well that getting a one-time bribe is simply stupid. Well, how much will they give him? Well, two thousand dollars, maximum. And the risk is big. And for 300 - 500 dollars, no one will twitch.
Have you been offered a bribe?
I don’t. The chief editor of such a magazine is quite difficult to give a bribe. Offer a bribe - and then forever ruin your reputation? What for?
And what happens to car raffles? You've handed out a bunch of cars in recent years.
Yes. More than a hundred cars. But here everyone suspects us. Some believe that we are distributing to our people, and those who received these cars want to quickly pick up the keys and dissolve before we change our minds. And besides, everyone believes that we are missing something. It seems that God sent them this car, and the magazine “At the wheel” healed something and left it for himself.
And now you decide not to mess with such prizes anymore?
You know, we had a case when we were playing a Nissan car. All this was shown on TV, and a representative of a Japanese company was sitting in the hall. And the winner of our competition won the car. And she had a choice between Nissan and Niva. But the girl lives outside the Urals and she, after consulting with her husband, chooses the Niva. The representative of Nissan almost died - for them it was such a failure, they thought we were bought. To abandon the Japanese car in favor of the Niva. It took me a lot of work to persuade the girl to take a Japanese car …. Today we are not persuading anyone. The magazine holds a competition "Grand Prix Driving" for the best car in Russia in 6 classes. We predict more than 60 thousand participants. And for their analytical work (filling out a complex questionnaire), readers will receive cars as a gift.
And the last question. Why do you have almost no photos of models near cars? After all, at any car dealership next to handsome cars, long-legged beauties always stand.