I’d like to address all of the hoopla surrounding TrueCar. But before I do, I want you to know that I, as a journalist, hate the Internet. I’ll admit that I’m on it all the time — at work, at home and on my phone — but I would love nothing more than for the world to boycott the web. Why, you ask? Because I still hold a grudge against the Internet for what it did to an industry I’ve wanted to be a part of since I was a kid: the newspaper business.

Recently, a colleague of mine sent me a link to “Paper Cuts,” a blog the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s social media editor uses to list U.S. newspaper layoffs and buyouts. According to the site, at least 3,755 newspaper jobs were eliminated last year. And that’s a good year compared to 2009, when the site says 14,825 of my brethren were handed a pink slip. Now, the blogger doesn’t blame the Internet, but I do.

See, online news turned my industry into a volume business. You lose if you can’t keep up — even if it means sacrificing quality reporting. That’s why I can appreciate the fight some of you out there have put forth to stop TrueCar in its tracks. That’s not to say I agree or disagree with your calls to action, but I can’t help but recognize you for doing something my industry failed to do when the Internet imposed its will.

And I have to say, calling on states to investigate TrueCar and the dealers using its service was genius. But you didn’t stop there, did you? Now you’re calling for a federal investigation of data aggregators. I don’t think TrueCar saw that coming, but I’m not sure the rest of us did either.

See, you’ve created a nice storyline for me to follow, but I’m an industry journalist. My job is to advocate for you, so the story I’d tell wouldn’t be critical of the industry and dealers. I can’t say the same for my buddies in the newspaper business. That’s why I just want to say, be careful how you defend the showroom, because voluntarily calling on regulators to investigate our industry could really backfire on us.

And hey, it only takes one article to bring about new regulations. That’s what’s happening in California after a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times spurred two lawmakers to introduce two separate bills aimed at imposing new regulations on the buy here, pay here business. I wrote about the articles, the first of which was published on Oct. 30, last month, and it took less than two months for lawmakers to react.

And that’s why I can’t help but get nervous when I read claims that TrueCar dealers are scamming customers through bait-and-switch tactics and other questionable practices. I mean, if I was a regulator, I would be wondering why dealers have so much control. I’m not saying your claims aren’t true; I’m just saying be careful what we’re putting out there and where.

But I get why you’re angry. You’re already being pressured to improve the customer experience, and doing so requires major investments in training and technology. You also have manufacturers asking you to upgrade facilities and add customer amenities. And how are you supposed to do all that when your margins are under attack?

But how many TrueCars are you guys willing to fight, and at what cost? Because my sources say there are copycat sites getting set to launch. Look, the Internet is here, and, as the music industry, car audio and bookstore industries found out, there’s no way to stop it.

So, let me repeat: I’m a reforming hater of the Internet. I didn’t go quietly and I don’t expect you to either. But I am learning to live with the Internet. I do have to think differently, do what I do differently and, most of all, I have to continue to learn new strategies for winning on the Internet. It’s difficult, but it’s doable.

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Gregory Arroyo
Gregory Arroyo

Gregory Arroyo

Gregory Arroyo is the former editorial director of Bobit Business Media's Dealer Group.

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Gregory Arroyo is the former editorial director of Bobit Business Media's Dealer Group.

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