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Automotive Industries Magazine Celebrating Its 125th Anniversary: Publisher John Larkin To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Use The Print Side As The Key To Everything Else.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

February 2, 2021

“That’s why I feel there is a life for print, but it’s just a question of what is so valuable that we have to print it? And that’s where we search for stories. Automotive Industries clients do not invest good money after a bad story. So we find if they’re willing to invest in the story, the technology is valuable…it’s worth it.” John Larkin…

Automotive Industries (AI) is the world’s oldest continually published trade publication covering the auto making business. It was founded in November 1895 as “The Horseless Age,” the first magazine created to cover the world’s transition from horse-drawn conveyances to those powered by the new internal combustion engine. The magazine’s present name was established in November 1917.

Automotive Industries is devoted to providing a global coverage on all aspects of the automobile marketplace, with an emphasis on the people, products and processes that shape the industry. Automotive Industries provides manufacturers and suppliers with in-depth news, information, insight and analysis on the global events that affect the auto industry.

John Larkin is the brand’s publisher and enjoys a 16-year connection with the magazine. His passion and excitement for the brand and all that entails is prominent throughout our conversation. This interview is with a man who firmly believes his product’s firm foundation in print, the magazine is 125-years-old, integrates quite nicely with its digital extensions.

I spoke with John recently and we talked about the past, present and future of Automotive Industries. It was a delightful conversation from his home base in Jerusalem. John says he is just passing the torch for the next generation to carry on the traditions of AI and to bring on even more innovations in print partnerships and growth.

Indeed. Mr. Magazine™ would have to agree with John’s optimism and vision. The longevity of the brand stands strong.

So please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with John Larkin, publisher, Automotive Industries magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the direction he sees the 125-year-old magazine heading: The way I see her future, including her print future, is that everything we do in print, of course we do in all formats. So today I feel that the print side is only one percent of the distribution, even less than one percent. However, I use the print side as the key to everything else.

On where the most revenue comes from, print or digital or both: We use the advertising revenue, one purchase, one advertisement, which is in print, we use that to trigger pretty much all of our revenue. We have subscription revenue from collectors, from universities, from libraries, this may transition as we get more knowledge, at the moment we allow one advertisement purchase. this gives our customers print exposure, it gives them web banners, and it gives them an opportunity for an editorial partnership. So we just ask for one purchase, one ticket to the party and we give them full exposure.

On where he would like the magazine to be on its 128th anniversary: The dream is a 24-hour operation. Of course it has to be in English, but then bringing in second languages for the auto industry, whether the principle second language is German, then Spanish, then Chinese. But let’s just think about the English language as a trading language first. So a 24-hour operation publishing news around the clock. A 24-hour channel, whether it’s a Zoom channel or just “a” channel, a digital channel, 24 hours, serving designers and engineers around the globe. That would be the right future and present for Automotive Industries.

On whether he envisions only a green light up ahead, no red or yellow: Our responsibility is to share. To receive information and then to share it. Mobility is a beautiful thing. It’s a dream. From the time the caveman and cavewoman were sitting under the stars around their campfire, we’ve always dreamt about mobility, getting from A to B, whether it’s going to Mars with the Tesla and Elon Musk, mobility is a dream. I love it when a carmaker brings out the most amazing vehicle and he displays it at one of the trade shows. Yet seconds later, the designers and engineers are already working on the next idea. It’s without end.

On why people comes before product and process in the magazine’s tagline: I can’t take credit for that, I wish I could. When I took over Automotive Industries I did not try to change the model because it was already very successful with some of the biggest publishing houses in the world, Cahners & Reed Publishing, for example, and when we acquired Automotive Industries that was already their tagline: People, Product, Process. I didn’t want to change anything. I knew these guys had got it right. She’s such a premier brand in the industry; she’s an iconic brand in automotive design, and I felt if I touched it, I didn’t want to break it. (Laughs)

On why there is a bicycle on the current cover of Automotive Industries: (Laughs) And why did we do that? That interview is an interesting personality Ernst Prost, CEO of Liqui Moly, who took an opposite approach during the pandemic. He hired extra staff, he published more news; I’m not sure about his investments, but he probably invested more in opportunities and their turnover went up 38 percent year over year, when everybody else was going down. And we wrote about that.

On what makes him get out of bed in the morning: I wake up optimistic. I like to wake up with the sun. I love growth. I love ideas that have been born, that are coming to fruition. Maybe the seed of the idea was a while ago, but I love it when it comes together. The greatest satisfaction is when a customer sends me a testimonial or sends me a note saying that they love what we did for them. Getting that feedback gives me joy.

On how he unwinds in the evenings: I like to meditate. And then I like to do a little bit of non-automotive news in the evening. And music; I like some gentle classical music just to soothe the day. I like to work to the point of being tired and then make a nice meal and then fall asleep. (Laughs)

On what keeps him up at night: Not a lot. As long as my family are healthy, I’m comfortable. I just want them to be healthy and then I can sleep well. I can deal with challenges in the morning. I get up very early. I kind of like to be half exhausted, especially after my evening meal and then go to bed relatively early. As long as my family are healthy, then I can sleep.

And now for the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with John Larkin, publisher, Automotive Industries magazine. 

Samir Husni: As publisher of a magazine that’s almost 125 years old, in what direction do you see the future of Automotive Industries heading?

Larkin: The transition for Automotive Industries and yes, she’s 125-years-young; I like to say that she is the grandmother dancing at the wedding. She’s full of energy. She a 125-year-old startup. In a way, I feel that we’ve been preparing for the digital age from probably 2000 onward.

I wasn’t with Automotive Industries in 2000, but I did take over as publisher 16 years ago. I constantly have the mentality that we should be virtual as an organization, that our costs should be principally toward the magazine, so if a client spends X to advertise with us, then as much of their cost is toward the magazine and toward the cost of sale. Very little cost needs to be indirect cost, so therefore the advertiser is getting a bigger bang for his buck.

How we achieve that, my office is my home. So any fixed costs are at a minimum. That has made us light as an organization. The pandemic only accelerated our journey to digital, but not full digital because I feel that Automotive Industries has been 125 years in print, so my goal is to pass the torch to the next publisher. I feel I’m only holding the torch. And I’ve always had that mentality since my beginning with AI (Automotive Industries).

The way I see her future, including her print future, is that everything we do in print, we publish in all formats. So today I feel that the print side is only one percent of the distribution, even less than one percent. However, We use the print side as the key to everything else. So when we do a story with a client or any contact within industry, we create a front cover for them and we broadcast that front cover. We print that edition with their front cover; we’ll give them as many print editions as they need, but we will then broadcast that front cover edition to tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of automotive industry professionals through various social media platforms.

It’s an interesting question, the life of print, for me, the answer is very simple. If something is important enough, it will have life in print. Everybody will print their marriage certificate; everyone will print their birth certificate; photographs of special memories of their family, and so on. Into the future my feeling is if something is important enough, it will have a print life.

So my goal with Automotive Industries is that we go in the direction of collectible print; go in the direction of a souvenir editions, even a hardback edition, where people will own that particular edition without end, for an eternity. So I feel there is the collectible element and the social media element, which is also unlimited in numbers.

I want Automotive Industries to be in print for many, many years into the future, but also of course, relevant in print, which I feel is in the direction of collectible, souvenir, celebrating anniversaries, such as a 100 year anniversary of a car-making company, a 100 year anniversary of a supply company, an amazing new model or innovation that people are so excited about that they want a print collectible version. We use that print cover to broadcast to potentially millions of people.

Samir Husni: Is most of the revenue coming from print or digital or both?

Larkin: We use the advertising revenue, one purchase, one advertisement, which is in print, we use that to trigger pretty much all of our revenue. We have subscription revenue from collectors, from universities, from libraries, but at the moment and this may transition as we get more knowledge, at the moment, we allow one advertisement purchase, that gives our customers print exposure, it gives them web banners and it gives them an opportunity for an editorial partnership. So we just ask for one purchase, one ticket to the party and we give them full exposure in all formats.

Our goal is to reintroduce Automotive Industries to a bigger publishing organization, that can obviously go in the direction post-pandemic of conferences and events because of her brand equity. She has readers in various supply companies around the world and in the United States who have been reading trusted editorial content from AI generation to generation.

So the easy answer is all of our revenue is from print advertising, because we just bundle it into the same package.

Samir Husni: Where do you want to see the magazine for its 128th anniversary?

Larkin: The dream is a 24-hour operation. Of course it has to be in English, but then bringing in second languages for the auto industry, whether the principle second language is German, then Spanish, then Chinese. But let’s just think about the English language as a trading language. So a 24-hour operation publishing news around the clock. A 24-hour channel, whether it’s a Zoom channel or just “a” channel, a digital channel, serving designers and engineers around the globe. That would be the right future and present for Automotive Industries.

Why? Because that reflects the automotive industry. General Motors is not a North American operation. General Motors is a 24-hour operation. So is Ford Motor Company, all the German makers, the Chinese makers, all the Asian makers, it’s a 24-hour conversation between professionals in the industry. I can see AI being a 24-hour news operation. And then giving designers and engineers the opportunity to plug into Automotive Industries anytime of the day or night with some type of live activity. That live activity could be a news channel around the clock, of course it already exists as a 24-hour print operation.

One of the blessings in disguise during these last 12 months was that we re-broadcast the website a hundred percent, so we moved from our old platform, which was dated from 16 years ago, and then we went with WordPress, an application programming interface which we find very efficient. It’s a bit like driving one of the luxury makers’ vehicles. We used the quiet time during the pandemic to race ahead with our digital platform. As a 24-hour operation, Automotive Industries would reflect the news requirements of the automotive industry today.

Samir Husni: You envision only a green light? There is no red or yellow light ahead?

Larkin: Our responsibility is to share. To receive information and then to share it. Mobility is a beautiful thing. It’s a dream. From the time of the caveman and cavewoman sitting and wondering under the stars around their campfire, we’ve always dreamt about mobility and getting from A to B. Whether it’s going to Mars with Tesla’s creator Elon Musk, it’s mobility, it is a dream. I love it when a carmaker brings out the most amazing vehicle and displays it at one of the trade shows. Yet seconds later, the designers and engineers are already working on the next idea. It’s creativity without end.

So the dream for Automotive Industries is just to reflect that news. It’s not us, it’s the engineers and designers. All we’re doing is being a stage or a platform to let them share their amazing developments. Whether it’s a technology that saves a life or whether it’s a technology that gives  greater fuel efficiency so that we’re saving the planet, it just doesn’t stop. It’s beautiful.

We could have 100 times more people than we have and we still couldn’t share all the news. (Laughs) I love the energy of the industry and the innovations in the industry. I’m very lucky that I work with AI which has been sharing those innovations since the birth of the industry and I am looking forward to passing it on to the next person.

Samir Husni: The tagline for Automotive Industries is people, product, process. Usually in most of the trade magazines, the focus is on the trade itself, you put people first. Why is it people before product and process?

Larkin: I can’t take credit for that, I wish I could. When I took over Automotive Industries I did not try to change the model because it was already very successful with some of the biggest publishing houses in the world, Cahners & Reed Publishing, for example, and when we acquired Automotive Industries that was already their tagline: People, Product, Process. I didn’t want to change anything. I knew these guys had got it right. She’s such a premier brand in the industry; she’s an iconic brand in automotive design, and I felt if I touched it, I didn’t want to break it. (Laughs)

But it rings true. And the bottom line is, yes, it is the people who design the cars. It’s the people who come up with a new method for factory automation. The original editors of Automotive Industries called for a society of engineers to make the parts for the cars more common, otherwise inventors from different parts of the world would be coming up with different sized engines and wheels and it would be a big mess.

So, our founding editors helped create the Society of Automotive Engineers. The “Horseless Age,” was founded in 1895, 10 years before Ford Motor Company was started. However, for 10 years before starting Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford was in racing circles whose members would meet every month in a different city to have a racing event. They started publishing a newsletter for their members distributed at these events and by mail. So, I’m confident that Henry Ford was among those professors, inventors, doctors and racing enthusiasts who were among our first readers in 1895.

Samir Husni: I have to ask, the current issue of Automotive Industries, a car magazine, has a bicycle on its cover? 

Larkin: (Laughs) And why did we do that? That interview is an interesting personality, Ernst Prost, CEO of Liqui Moly, who took an opposite approach during the pandemic. He hired extra staff, he published more news; I’m not sure about his investments, but he probably invested more in opportunities and their turnover went up 38 percent year over year, when everybody else was going down. And we wrote about that.

We did a cover to celebrate his 30 year relationship with one of the executives in his corporation. And one of the things that he talked about in that conversation was how longevity, loyalty of staff; how many of his workers have been with him 30 years or longer in the company. He was dedicated to relationships, dedicated to investing in his customers. So I loved the bicycle because it was like, “Wait a minute, what’s going on here?” We’re talking about cars and there’s a bicycle on the cover. So it was just to get people to think twice.

That’s a good example where Sebastian Zelger, Ernst’s CEO of Liqui Moly’s operation in the United States shared this edition with a thousand of his contacts, so that’s how we help to get their print story go viral in the social media world. That’s why I feel there is a life for print, but it’s just a question of what is so valuable that we have to print it? And that’s where we search for stories. Automotive Industries clients do not invest good money after a bad story. So we find if they’re willing to invest in the story, the technology is valuable…it’s worth it.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick? What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Larkin: I wake up optimistic. I like to wake up with the sun. I love growth. I love ideas that have been born, that are coming to fruition. Maybe the seed of the idea was a while ago, but I love it when it comes together. The greatest satisfaction is when a customer sends me a testimonial or sends me a note saying that they love what we did for them. Getting that feedback gives me joy.

What wakes me up in the morning? I just feel having all areas of my life fairly balanced, like the spurs of a wheel. Of course, my family and of course, health and Automotive Industries’ growth. I want AI to be in good hands. So I guess it’s a combination of things.

Samir Husni: How do you unwind in the evenings after a long day of work?

Larkin:  like to meditate. And then I like to do a little bit of non-automotive news in the evening. And music; I like some gentle classical music just to soothe the day. I like to work to the point of being tired and then make a nice meal and then fall asleep. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Larkin: Not a lot. As long as my family are healthy, I’m comfortable. I just want them to be healthy and then I can sleep well. I can deal with challenges in the morning. I get up very early. I kind of like to be half exhausted, especially after my evening meal and then go to bed relatively early. As long as my family are healthy, then I can sleep.

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

2 comments

  1. […] print future, is that everything we do in print, of course we do in all formats,” Larkin said in an interview with Husni. “So today I feel that the print side is only one percent of the distribution, even less than one […]


  2. […] print future, is that everything we do in print, of course we do in all formats,” Larkin said in an interview with Husni. “So today I feel that the print side is only one percent of the distribution, even less than one […]



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