Fleet News

Vox pop: a new look at leading figures in the industry

JEREMY Bennett edits websites for the automotive industry. One site entertains and informs company car drivers but Jeremy wants something in return.

Tell us a little bit about your job. What do you do and how long have you been doing it? I manage the editorial content and a lot of ads on a number of websites, principally Fleetnews.co.uk, am-online.com and Companycardriver.co.uk and I gather news, images and now video content and get it published.

I don’t do it all (although I used to – you can see the grey hairs), but am ably assisted by online reporter Tom Seymour.

I’ve been the editor for Emap Automotive’s B2B online portfolio for about three years.

What did you do before you took on your current role?

I used to be a local newspaper reporter, but when the last paper I worked for promised me a post at their Hinkley office I knew a change of career direction was needed. I visited the town and found the Saturday market selling pigs’ trotters alongside Hank Williams CDs too much to bear. So then I moved to Fleet News as a reporter, became news editor and then after about two years moved to websites.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

The occasional appreciative email from site users. Tom and I try to respond to their queries as fast as possible and many appreciate the answer and the speed at which we respond. I like it when a long-term project is completed too – for example, the new Fleet News online directory: it took several weeks and a number of people to complete, but I’m happy with the way it turned out.

And what’s the most frustrating? The possibilities of the web are also its biggest curse. You can do anything online, so prioritising or choosing the most effective is an ongoing challenge and/or frustration.

Tell us about this ‘big issue’ you’ve been thinking about

There is a lot of debate on the value of asking visitors to register for the sites. Modern businesses are built on information and the more we know about our customers, the better we can serve their needs. Asking visitors to register for the site gives us an opportunity to ask them one or two questions about who they are and what they want.

Building a profile of our visitors helps us to produce the right websites and fairly soon we will be able to serve information tailored to individuals – if you want to know about fuel prices, road-charging and the Ford Focus, we can send you an email with links to everything we’ve done on those topics in the last couple of weeks.

Unfortunately, asking visitors to register puts a lot of them off. It also slows down access to the site if users have to log-in each time they visit. If they always access the site from the same computer, then the site will ‘remember’ them and log them in automatically.

The most complaints I get are from people who can’t get on the site. Many of the problems relate to IT issues at the user’s office, not the website itself.

We’re keen to help them out because if we get registration right and make it work, it will be valuable to us and our customers.

What do you think needs to be done and who do you think should do it?

We need to make sure visitors to our websites understand why we want to get to know them better. This is our job. We should explain this on the website itself and in the case of Fleetnews.co.uk the newspaper can help readers to understand the value of a close relationship with the brand.

We must also reassure people who register on our sites that their information will be handled responsibly and not result in hundreds of unwanted emails raining into their email inboxes.

We also need the technology to be reliable and foolproof and we constantly challenge our developers to achieve this.

What else, maybe away from work, keeps you awake at night?

My partner stealing one half of the duvet and the cat the other? Or a song I’m trying to learn to play on the guitar running through my head, making my fingers form the chord shapes.

If your life hadn’t taken this route, what else might you have liked to have done?

My dad was in the RAF and there was much talk about aircraft when I was growing up, so if/when I’m reincarnated I would like to have a crack at pilot training. I would like the travel element to it too. I sometimes think I should have done a job where there was something physical to show at the end of the day, something you could keep for years.

My grandfather was a carpenter. One day I might decide to go and make sideboards in the Congo.

If a movie was made of your life, who would play you?

Me, dammit. Acting is easy. Telling the world (and convincing yourself) that you deserve millions of pounds to be in a movie is the hard part.

Asda, Sainsbury’s or Waitrose?

Asda for the prices, Sainsbury’s for the choice and Waitrose for any surgical procedures I need in the future. Its stores are always so clean to the point of sterility that I’d feel safe going under the knife in the bread aisle.

What will you be doing on November 30, 2009?

I have an idea for a website that will make me my millions so maybe working on that. Although copyright law means Emap could take every penny I make (then you’ll find me in Asda!).

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