Editor’s Note: The following editorial by RV Daily Report Editor Greg Gerber announces the closing of the industry news website on June 21.
I know what you’re thinking, “Here we go again,” or “Haven’t we been down this road before?”
Yes we have, but this time it’s different. I’m burning the ships, blowing up the bridges, and dynamiting the old buildings. I’m leaving my comfort zone to venture into uncharted territory.
Since returning to the helm of RV Daily Report in January, it has been a tough couple of months requiring some serious soul searching and reviewing of all available options. However, after a lot of prayerful consideration, I have concluded the time has come to put RV Daily Report to rest.
We’re going to cease publication June 21 and the domain will be switched off a short time after that. RV Daily Report will fade into the sunset to be remembered only in the annals of RV industry history.
In the future, people will scratch their heads and wonder, “Who was that guy who always referred to the CEO of Camping World as Emperor Marcus Eralius Augustus Tiberious Lemonis?”
A number of personal issues impacted this decision. My uncle in Arizona, who has been my father figure since my own dad died in 1980, is contending with Stage 4 cancer. My mother, who lives in Wisconsin, was also recently diagnosed with late-stage cancer.
Both will require some considerable assistance in the months ahead, but there are some other factors that influenced my decision as well.
Many people know that I experienced a stroke in September. Although I recovered physically, it did leave me with less energy to endure the same grueling work pace that I could have easily maintained a few years ago.
Editing RV Daily Report often requires 12- to 14-hour days. And there really isn’t any time off factored into the schedule until the week between Christmas and New Years, when much of the industry takes a break.
Fortunately, for the past five and a half years, I have been assisted by the beautiful, gracious and always accommodating Rebecca Smith. As my youngest daughter, she has been responsible for posting the lion’s share of material you read every day.
People often wonder how we can gather so much information each day. The answer lies with Rebecca.
Last month, she was accepted into school to become a dental hygienist and she’ll start classes in two months. I know she’ll be exceptional in that career field.
However, her departure would pretty much double my workload. With my schedule already impacted by frequent traveling between Arizona and Wisconsin, it would be extraordinarily difficult to maintain the pace needed to effectively deliver news our readers have come to expect from RV Daily Report.
I just don’t have the energy to give a daily publication the attention it deserves.
Why not sell it?
We’ve been there, done that, have the T-shirt and the souvenir cup.
After experiencing some pretty significant burnout in 2016, I sold RV Daily Report in June 2017. But, that experience reinforced the notion that RV Daily Report is synonymous with Greg Gerber.
Readers and some advertisers held the new owners and editor to unrealistic expectations that the publication would continue in the same realm and fashion it always had with hard-hitting editorials and news stories not covered by any other industry publications.
Without those elements, there really isn’t any difference between RV Daily Report and other industry news sources. The sales agreement required me to maintain my weekly podcast and write an occasional story — just not the type of stories people were accustomed to seeing from me.
Readers and industry insiders kept reaching out to ask me to investigate and report on a myriad of issues impacting RV manufacturers, dealers, suppliers, campgrounds, associations and the RV lifestyle.
It proved to be counterproductive for everyone involved, especially the folks trying to take RV Daily Report into a new direction. That’s why I have opted against seeking a new owner.
A changing market
The editor’s job used to be fun. It offered a good balance between posting company press releases and writing my own stories. But not anymore.
Much of the job is tied to editing press releases prepared by so-called professional public relations exerts who cannot write a simple announcement without turning what is essentially a two-sentence news story into a seven-paragraph commercial about the company, its products and services.
Trust me, nobody wants to read that tripe. Not even editors.
When I started RV Daily Report in 2009, it was the industry’s first entirely-online publication. The mission was to gather all the information we could each day about RV dealers, manufacturers, suppliers, campgrounds and RV owners.
People could come to our website and find links to a variety of news stories about the RV industry and lifestyle. Readers loved being able to scan our newsletter to keep abreast of every segment of the RV market.
At that time, Google loved news aggregators like RV Daily Report. Then, overnight, the search engine giant decided that aggregators were aggravating.
It expected publications to generate only original content. It’s impossible to cover an entire multi-billion-dollar industry without including press releases. Google started punishing websites like ours because a lot of our content was the same as every other industry news website that emerged after us.
But, original content requires time or money. And that’s where another big change came into play.
In the past, every company in the RV industry supported every industry publication. The firms recognized the value of having the platforms available to disseminate company news and to do interesting feature stories about the industry, its people and products.
Generally, each company bought an advertisement or two each year. That gave the publications money to hire staff to produce more content. It was a win-win situation.
Those company marketing executives have since retired, and Millennial data-driven marketers have risen to take their place. For them, it’s no longer about supporting industry publications to deliver much-needed news; it’s all about delivering clicks, impressions, open rates, etc.
From my perspective, it’s an unrealistic expectation. A company marketing a product to less than 1,000 RV dealers cannot expected to get hundreds of clicks on banner ads — especially when the messages never change.
Trade shows are for selling. Newsletters and magazines are for maintaining brand awareness.
Companies have scaled back their traditional advertising in favor of Facebook and Google ads. In fact, those two firms now collect 85% of all online ad revenue.
So, it doesn’t leave much money for online publications that aren’t backed by magazines.
Companies still have no problem spending a thousand dollars for a single quarter-page magazine ad, but they do balk at spending $300 on a newsletter banner to run every day for a week — especially when they can get a month’s worth of Google ads for the same amount.
I’m also cognizant of the fact that some firms are afraid to be seen associating with RV Daily Report. I do tend to stir the pot and we do tend to post stories that no other industry publications will touch.
That makes us a lightening rod for powerful companies and powerful people. And some CEOs simply don’t like journalism. They only want to see happy news.
One of the big players in the industry once asked me if I had ever considered how my coverage of hot-button issues would impact my ability to bring in advertising to sustain my business.
I did, and yet I made a conscious decision to do what was right and not turn a blind eye to the plight of people who saved their entire lives to buy an RV only to be left making payments on a piece of equipment that could not be used, nor could it be fixed in a timely manner.
A large swath of the RV industry is okay with that scenario. I’m not.
In many ways, not much has changed in the RV industry since I wrote my Death Spiral column three years ago, which adds to the frustration.
The same companies that steadfastly refuse to support this publication, routinely pummel us with press releases seeking free publicity.
RV Daily Report either offers value to the industry, or it does not. The industry has spoken and RV Daily Report will now take a bow and exit stage right.
It’s funny to note that companies choosing to invest an ungodly sum of money hiring cheesy public relations companies to produce press releases for free publicity, soon won’t have any platforms available to promote the news commercials.
I love to write and I love to tell stories. As I noted in January when I returned to the helm of RV Daily Report, there are a lot of very interesting stories to tell about the industry and people enjoying the RV lifestyle.
As luck would have it, the folks at Workamper News were looking for someone to produce quality feature content for their bi-monthly magazine and daily newsletters. There are some other firms which have also approached me about developing stories for them as well.
I am reading more and more articles about how companies are upset that their messages and ability to communicate are being controlled by search engines and social media algorithms.
Marketing in the future will not require artificial intelligence — we have plenty of that in the RV industry in the form of public relations agencies.
Some companies are returning to the good old days when they hired people who can actually write and are effective storytellers to produce content to attract, inform and retain their own customers.
I can fill that niche.
There are others who want me to continue podcasting as a way to let people tell their stories, their way, in their words. I enjoy podcasting and think I could really step up my game in that arena.
I also feel the tug to pursue faith-based media — writing, video and audio — because so many people are looking for something in their lives, but they don’t know what it is or what it should look like.
I suspect that many people are unintentionally looking for God, but won’t ever set foot inside a church. Perhaps I can help them find the life-saving, live-giving faith they are seeking.
Thus, I will be relaunching Faithfire Media as the next chapter in my life.
The past 10 years have been an incredible journey, made possible by some pretty exceptional companies that have financially supported the efforts of RV Daily Report for a very long time.
Through thick and thin, they have endured threats from manufacturers, pressure from readers upset with our coverage, and a crazy old editor who firmly believes that if you’re going to be a journalist, then act like one.
Call balls and strikes. Blow the whistle and toss penalty flags when necessary. Praise people and companies for doing the right thing.
Since entering the RV industry in January 2000, I have sought to do just that — and with some pretty good success. I’m proud of the accomplishments that RV Daily Report made in changing the way information is delivered to the industry, and in shaping what the industry talks about.
But, as one of my all-time favorite TV characters, Star Fleet Captain Jean-Luc Picard, famously noted, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.”
Now it’s time for me to move on and let the tech-savvy people work around all the algorithms. Like a lot off old duffers, I’ll just sit back and tell stories — but with a keyboard.