SEMA News - February 2010
Activist, Hobbyist, Enthusiastic Supporter of the Industry
Doug Evans of Source Interlink Media is the 2009 SEMA Person of the Year. The award recognizes the honoree’s contributions to the industry.
“Doug often operates behind the scenes, doing great work for the association without seeking the spotlight—which is exactly what being a SEMA volunteer is all about,” said Mitch Williams, COO of Pilot Automotive Inc. and former chairman of the SEMA Board of Directors. “He’s been a go-to guy whenever the Board needed leadership on a project. There is no better example of investing in our industry than Source Interlink Media, and that culture of investment was created by Doug.”
Evans got his start as an enthusiast by repairing the cars his older brother thrashed. Before he could even get a driver’s license, Evans had begun to acquire tools and learn the mechanical skills that would stick with him throughout his life. That hobby made him a fan of Robert E. Petersen’s Hot Rod magazine, which turned out to be a very fortuitous choice of reading materials.
After interrupting his college years for a hitch in the U.S. Marines during the late ’70s, Evans began to develop his trademark activism. His first stint on the political scene was as the president of the student body at Valparaiso University in Indiana. After graduation, he went to work as a media planner at Young & Rubicam, which was the largest advertising firm in the world at the time. It didn’t take him long to realize that he could do a better job of sales and publishing than the magazine guys he was dealing with at the agency, and he also knew that Petersen Publishing Company was the place he wanted to be. As his career developed, becoming involved with SEMA was a natural adjunct to his interests and his passions.
“There are issues that need to be addressed on virtually every level of the industry,” he said. “From the closure of public lands to noise regulations and bumper-height legislation, even well-meaning politicians have a tendency to not recognize the end result of their actions. If every one of those restrictive bills were passed, we could be legislated right out of existence.”
As he became more involved with the association, Evans was elected to three terms on the Select Committee of the Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO), a SEMA council. While serving there, he came to recognize that helping to shape industry policies and programs was both beneficial to his professional work and to the hobby he loved. The next logical step, he reasoned, was to run for a seat on the Board of Directors, where he is now in his third term, and he served on the SEMA Executive Committee.
Evans’ career also progressed as he moved into sales positions and management jobs within Petersen. He stayed with the company through a series of ownership changes and by the time Source Interlink Media acquired the business, he had become senior vice president and group publisher, the title he holds today as he oversees the print and digital publication of more than 46 titles, two television shows and 35 events. In that capacity, he was the prime mover in convincing Source Interlink Media executives to grant SEMA access to the publishing icon’s priceless photographic archives.
“The holdings go back to the late ’40s when Robert E. Petersen started the company along with Wally Parks,” he said, “and there are about 5.5 million images just in the Los Angeles archive. Obviously, Source Interlink Media maintains the commercial rights to them, but allowing SEMA access so that the association can digitize the images and use them on the SEMA website allows people to get excited about the industry and its history. And the photos educate people about what we do. It’s beneficial to SEMA, but it’s also beneficial to Source Interlink Media. The more enthusiasts there are, the better it is for our circulation growth and for the future of our readers.”
The Person of the Year award was presented to Evans (left) by the first chairman of SEMA’s Political Action Committee, Pat Judge. Evans succeeded Judge in the chairmanship and has worked tirelessly on behalf of the association.
“We’ve cooperated with lawmakers for the benefit of all,” he said. “For instance, we worked with the legislature in California to get the GreenRod project established. That’s one example of how our industry’s lobby and SEMA staff can benefit hobbyists and keep hot rods alive. Our ability to influence legislators to be friendly to a $33 billion industry that employs millions of people is critical. It helps more than 7,000 SEMA-member businesses thrive. It fuels the passions of millions of enthusiasts all over the world and allows us to fund charity work and other worthwhile projects.”
Gratified by his career and his role at SEMA, Evans is also optimistic about the future.
“With so much change occurring, it’s a fascinating time to be in the media,” he said. “I lived through the launch of cable television, through the launch of satellite-printed newspapers with USA Today, through the launch of 24-hour news channels. Few people believed that any of those would work, and now we’re seeing how the Internet and magazines play off one another. Twenty years from now, I hope that I’m still publishing great magazines, producing great TV shows and building great websites.”
It would benefit SEMA if he’s also still the activist and leader that he is today.