Edmunds.com, Saturn Seek Citizen Journo For Promotion

Forget Oprah, a free iPod or a year's supply of Jolt. Automotive research, news and reviews Web site Edmunds.com is touting Saturn's newest car with a promotion dangling ... a chance to do what I do. Write articles.

The site is looking for the next citizen journalist to blog about the forthcoming Saturn Astra, and the Frankfurt auto show this September.

According to Sean Peoples, executive director of automaker initiatives at Edmunds, the program was the result of a brainstorm session between Saturn and Edmunds. "We went back and forth on this, and decided to go ahead with it."

The Astra is an Opel-branded vehicle coming to the U.S. market in December as a replacement for the Saturn Ion. GM, which owns Opel and Vauxhall--its European and U.K. brands, respectively--has product-development programs linking the European maker with Saturn. Saturn's Sky roadster has a doppelganger in the Opel GT, and Aura sedan and Opel Vectra cars are built on GM's global Epsilon platform.



Edmund's program, in which the winner becomes a contributor for Edmunds' Inside Line, is being promoted at Saturn's consumer Web site as well as at CarSpace.com, and at Edmunds.com and InsideLine.com. The landing page for the contest is edmunds.com/il/astracontest.html.

Contestants have to submit an essay of 500 words or fewer explaining why they should get the nod. The winner gets access to the Saturn Astra that Edmunds.com journalists are reviewing. Then he or she will be flown on Sept. 9 to cover the Frankfurt Auto Show. There, the citizen journo also gets access to GM Premier Night and invitation-only Astra launch events.

Peoples says the effort is not int ended to convince the average person shopping for a car to consider a new career as an auto scribe. Rather, the program is designed to grab the attention of those "influencers" that regular Joes and Josephines go to for advice on which car to buy. "It's for people others look to," he says, adding that Edmunds has gotten 10,000 viewings of the page describing the promotion. Edmunds' Inside Line gets around 3.2 million unique visits per month, and 70% come back daily.

"It's really designed to speak to the right audience--so, no, it's not a TV ad on the Super Bowl. The readership of Inside Line--the contributors to forums--are the people Saturn initially wants interested in this vehicle. That's the benefit; they are the people who people go to to ask questions. It is the brand ambassadors and influencers that we are trying to reach."

He says the winner will be chosen next week. "We really didn't do a full blitz campaign; we pushed it live. We put some ads out there on our own sites and on the Saturn home page. But a lot of people are finding it through the enthusiast community on our forums and other blogs and forums," says Peoples.

Edmunds will send its own staff to the show, but the winning auto buff will also get access to GM brass at press events where luminaries like GM product executive Bob Lutz will speak. The winner also gets a meet-and-greet with Saturn general manager Jill Lajdziak.

This fall, Saturn will promote Astra with a series of consumer test-drive events leading up to the launch. Peoples says Edmunds will provide access to those events for its online forum members.

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