You are an automotive journalist, writing for a variety of publications, and one of the youngest reporters who specialises in the automotive sector. Can you tell us a bit about your career?
It is a profession that, in a certain way, represents a life’s dream come true. At 16, I realised that I might have what it takes to become a journalist specialising in the automotive sector. So I did not waste any time: I got my driving licence only three weeks after my 18th birthday and, immediately, started looking for my first assignments. When I was still at high school I already had had the chance to get behind the wheel of most cars on the market. At 20, I signed my first contract as a professional regular contributor. Now, at 25, I manage an independent business working with capable contributors who are as passionate as I am.
How do you write articles for different audiences? What are the main changes you make when covering the same topic for a specialist audience and then for a more ‘general’ readership?
It is essential to put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Those who read specialist magazines usually know the sector reasonably well and are experienced from a technical point of view; therefore, the added value that you can offer, is to explain down to the tiniest detail the characteristics of a given car – finding even the subtlest differences to its main competitors not often perceived by the common driver.
Conversely, it is important to catch the general public’s attention with an element or characteristic (usually technological) that they do not expect to find in that car. Being a motor enthusiast, my common denominator for both reader groups is, in any case, to always try to instil in everybody the sensations that you feel behind the wheel, one of the most important points which is unfortunately often underestimated.
You contribute to Swiss, Italian and German publications. Are there any differences between the three markets editorially? Does the approach to your sector of interest change in the three countries?
Switzerland suffers mainly from a very limited audience (in scale), which is also divided between three languages and, for this reason, starting big projects or securing a large audience is not easy. Both the populations of Germany and Italy have a great passion for cars, in common, which makes working in this profession satisfying. I like working in both countries, even though, in Italy, it is often more difficult to propose new projects, since doors are rarely open for young talents and it is far more difficult to close a commercial deal. Nevertheless, luckily, there are exceptions.
Are there any sectors or topics in which you are particularly interested or that you would like to cover more extensively in the future?
I have always been fascinated by security and law enforcement, so much so that I still keep those sectors as a childhood dream in case I have to change profession.
Journalism is adapting to the new opportunities and new technologies. Do you use any multimedia or interactive elements for your articles? Do you think online journalism will replace print journalism?
I have always had a personal theory: online media users rarely read print publications, while readers of print publications use online media as well. This means the online offering must include short and concise articles, a captivating design, and multimedia content. On the other hand, it must also serve as an “archive” of everything that has been published in detail in print. I must, therefore, be able to find concise and captivating information at any moment, as well as complete and extensive information in case I need to go deeper into a given topic. At least, this is the case when it comes to my sector.
Do you think the automotive industry can help Europe in coming out of the economic crisis? How?
Automotive is the second most important business sector after real estate, providing jobs, directly and indirectly, for an unimaginable number of people. The automotive sector has all the potential to drive a country’s economy, but, in order to do so, it has to have more freedom from political ties: the obsession with emission reduction which makes the engineers’ lives impossible and makes cars ever more expensive, nonsensical taxes that kill the sports and luxury cars markets, restrictions on traffic and laws that discourage the use of cars. If cars were not always as criminalised and attacked as in the 21st Century, everyone would benefit!
As well as being a journalist, you are also a professional racing driver, and have won the 24 Hour race of Nürburgring. How does it feel being on the “other side” of the news?
Stating that I am a professional is exaggerating, but I found some satisfaction in showing that I am not that bad “between the kerbs”. It is certainly a curious sensation. For instance, I have to write a press release to be sent to various publications when, usually, I am on the receiving end of those press releases. As a journalist you know how to pique your colleagues’ interest though and how to convey the information that you want to be published in the best possible way.
Do you use social media platforms? Do you think they are a useful tool for your job, and how do you use them in your day-to-day professional life?
Yes, I use them. When you work for a well-known publication social media platforms are not essential, but they are an excellent support that allows you to stay on the crest of the wave, while for the promotion of unknown publications, they are fundamental. Anyway, it is important to be very cautious when social networks are used personally.
Do you work with PRs? What is the best way for them to contact you?
I am in contact every day with all the PRs of the Swiss automotive sector, as well as others. The easiest way to contact me is definitely by email, at the following address: email@example.com
Last question: what is your dream car?
This is a question that is often posed and that is difficult to answer. Still, I always think about which car I would like to drive at least once a week: a Porsche 911 GT3.
Benjiamin was interviewed by Gorkana’s Carlo Abbona.