How to become a famous online writer

Want to break into being paid for writing? Here is how one person did it, by the name of Nick Saporito. He is writing about his passion and getting paid for it. “It isn’t quite making a living yet – more on the order of a part-time college job” – which is fine, because he is a college junior and at the ripe old age of 21 has been tending to a couple of automotive enthusiast Web sites for the past several years. He writes for GMinsideNews.com and FordInsideNews.com, both of which garner hundreds of thousands of monthly page views. The sites bridge the gap between the enthusiast and the car vendors. He gets to test drive several press cars monthly and write about them. “We have a lot of information sources at GM, and often we learn about their plans before anyone else,” he told me. “We are usually better informed about GM’s product plans than most of their PR staff,” (admittedly, that isn’t such a high bar, but it is still fun to hear someone so young get to the core truths of journalism so quickly).

Part of Saporito’s attraction is his age. “The car companies are looking to get more young people involved, and GenY is a very special universe,” he told me. Obviously, someone who has grown up as part of the Facebook and Twitter generation can speak authoritatively about this perspective, and get others hooked on domestic automobiles.

With both sites owned by a large automotive blogging and publishing company, Saporito now doesn’t have to worry about site design or other technical issues – “that is the beauty of working for a larger firm, I can just email or call someone to fix a technical issue.”

He is based outside of Joplin, Missouri, which is a few hours south of Kansas City and not exactly at the crossroads of automotive journalism, or anything else for that matter. That hasn’t hurt his opportunities: GM brings test cars to him from Dallas, a long day’s drive away. And now he has staffers in other places, and he is looking to go global, aligning himself with writers on other continents.

He got his start a few years ago when the ink on his driver’s license was barely dry, with a conference call with six GM executives where they talked for more than a hour. He obviously impressed them enough with his knowledge about their cars – they invited him to fly out (at their expense) to the LA auto show later that year and since then he has been driving and writing about new cars. He started the Ford site last year and that has done very well too.

Both of his web sites are heavily into discussion forums based around original content, which is a wining combination when it comes to car nuts. “Our readers are the enthusiasts who are usually more critical about particular features and the car makers come to our sites to learn and do market research. We are anything but apologists for the car companies. Most forums and other content aggregators don’t post original content, which helps distinguish us too.”
So, some advice for aspiring young writers? “Have laser focus on your passion, find a niche that isn’t being filled, and keep at it,” he says. Obviously it is working for him, and I would expect a marketing job at a major car vendor will be in his future once he graduates.

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