AKRON (Sept. 29, 2008) — I wish I could take credit for coming up with the idea for Tire Business, but I can't.
That honor belongs to Ernie Zielasko, the original editor and publisher of this publication and before that, of Rubber & Plastics News (RPN), a fortnightly industry newspaper that spawned Tire Business.
Ernie—current Editor/Publisher Dave Zielasko is his son—was a newsman through and through. His strong belief in that led him to leave a secure job as editor/publisher of Modern Tire Dealer in 1971 and start RPN. That gamble nearly cost him everything, but he managed to hold on long enough to make RPN a success and lay the foundation for Tire Business.
A 1993 Tire Industry Hall of Fame inductee, Ernie is no longer with us and thus we can't share this anniversary with him—or seek his insight into his ideas for Tire Business.
I recall, though, he was convinced that independent tire dealers would benefit from, embrace and enjoy—and pay for—a news-oriented publication published more regularly than the monthlies. His core belief was that information improves knowledge, and knowledge is power.
He based that belief on his 10 years in the public relations department at B.F. Goodrich Co., 13 years as editor of Modern Tire Dealer and a dozen years as editor/publisher of RPN.
I was fortunate enough at the age of 27 to have been chosen by Ernie to assist him in turning his idea into reality. Together we researched the market, familiarized ourselves with the major players, sketched out designs for the broadsheet newspaper and brainstormed story ideas. We chose green for our editorial color because we felt it conveyed a positive image and to distinguish it from RPN, which uses blue.
The budget for this ground-breaking project? “Modest” would be an understatement.
The first issue appeared April 11, 1983, to coincide with the American Retreaders Association's trade show in Louisville, Ky. The first issue featured an international-flavored front page with a surprisingly astute lead story: “Chinese may export tires to U.S. by next year.”
Little did we know at the time how that development would impact this industry.
In that first issue Ernie told readers the paper's aims were to provide “accurate, authoritative and timely news,” knowledgeable selection of stories and “objective, unbiased reporting.” These are credos Tire Business has not lost sight of through 25 years.
He also trumpeted Tire Business' connection to Crain Communications Inc., our parent company, and its heritage of business news reporting. Throughout the years you the readers have benefited from our access to and use of stories from fellow Crain publications including Automotive News, AutoWeek, Advertising Age, Business Insurance, Rubber & Plastics News, European Rubber Journal, Crain's city business newspapers in Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and New York and others from among Crain's 30+ titles.
In addition, our reporters and editors have honed their skills in friendly competition with their fellow reporters and editors at other Crain publications.
The first editorial page featured something new for tire dealers—a cartoon. At first we brainstormed our own cartoons using clip art. Some were clever but many were rather lame. Eventually we hired a real cartoonist because a good editorial page cartoon can capture a complex issue in only a few words and a compelling image. From time to time we also featured cartoons from other Crain publications.
Through the years Tire Business continued to evolve and innovate.
After being published as an eight-page newspaper for 32 issues, Tire Business started accepting advertising in July 1984, expanding to a minimum of 24 pages per issue at the same time. The expanded size made room for the Marketplace column, our often less-than-serious look at the industry's and society's foibles and quirky news, etc.
In 1986 the publication became more colorful with the first four-color advertising, but it took four more years, until January 1990, before we started using four colors regularly in the news and feature pages.
A highlight of Tire Business' first decade was the publication in August 1988 of our tribute to the centennial of the pneumatic tire.
This issue—at 118 pages our largest issue ever—was a reflection of the core strength of Tire Business: It was a full-year collaboration among the editors of Tire Business, RPN and European Rubber Journal, each of which published its own separate edition using the joint research.
1989 marked the first Market Data Book, our annual compilation of tire industry statistics, which has morphed into two issues: the “Book of Lists” published in December and the Market Data Book in February.
1994 was a key year in the newspaper's development, as we launched our Web site, www.tirebusiness.com, and created the “Tire Dealer Humanitarian Award.” Presented at the Tire Industry Association's annual membership meeting, the award recognizes a deserving North American tire dealer or retreader for his or her volunteer, charitable and humanitarian contributions to their local community.
In 1998 TB underwent a graphic redesign to allow the better use of color.
TB's evolution toward a daily news source continued in 2000 with the first daily e-mail news bulletins.
In September 2003 we published “Tires: Truth vs. Perception,” a 52-page analysis of the tire industry in the wake of the Ford Explorer/Firestone Wilderness light truck tire recall. In the special edition, we attempted to distinguish perception from reality.
The most recent evolution to TB was the addition earlier this year of our video news updates and other video news stories.
It's been a colorful, fast-paced 25 years. But as the headers on our special anniversary section say, it's not just a look at the past, but a look forward to, hopefully, the next 25.