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Launching a Major Automotive Media Site Requires a Good Strategy
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Launching a Major Automotive Media Site Requires a Good Strategy



In 2010 AutoTrader decided to challenge the entrenched leaders in automotive content. To be successful we knew we needed to think outside the box. We eschewed the traditional print-based approach ...

In 2010 AutoTrader decided to challenge the entrenched leaders in automotive content. To be successful we knew we needed to think outside the box. We eschewed the traditional print-based approach followed by most of our competitors, and instead adopted the tenets of the emerging content strategy field. Rather than going after the same enthusiast audience everyone else focuses on, we would tailor are content to our existing audience of 16 million car shoppers per month. And instead of a large in-house editorial team we would build a small support team and mostly outsource content creation to experienced freelance journalists. We would also look for tools and processes that would allow us to maximize efficiency and productivity with minimal resources. Our efforts have paid off already: in 2010 we produced 748 original content items, grew our audience by 64% and nearly quadrupled page views. We also helped bring in more than $2 million in additional ad revenue -- more than paying for ourselves. In 2011 we plan to triple our content output and focus on improving its exposure on our site and beyond. In this session you will learn how AutoTrader is successfully employed the principles of content strategy to gain a foothold in the crowded automotive media space, and how you can apply some of the same ideas to your own efforts.



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    Launching a Major Automotive Media Site Requires a Good Strategy Launching a Major Automotive Media Site Requires a Good Strategy Presentation Transcript

    • Launching a Major Automotive Media SiteRequires a Good Strategy
      Scott Markle
      Webcontent 2011
    • Don’t Know Much About Content Strategy
      Not an expert
      Not a pundit
      Not a professional speaker
      Not even a professional writer
      Probably a lot like you(and probably know less than many)
      In right place at right time
    • A Content Strategy Case Study
      The goal: Make AutoTrader a primary resource for automotive research
      And generate more ad revenue
      Focus on original editorial
      Apply Content Strategy principles
      2 years since we started
      What worked for us
    • About Me – @smarkle
      Planned to be a Graphic Designer
      Web Developer since 1996 (in it for the commute)
      At AutoTradersince 1998
      First full-time Web Developer
      CMS Developer
      Technical Architect
      Now Sr. Mgr. of Content Strategy
    • About AutoTrader
      Top automotive classifieds website
      2,500 employees (25 when I started)
      3.5 million new & used cars for sale
      40,000 dealers& 250,000 private sellers
      16 million unique visitors per month
      Recent acquired Kelley Blue Book
      $1 billion in revenue this year
    • Content Strategy Qualifications
      One semester as an English major
      Mom is successful children’s writer
      Saw Kristina Halvorson present once
      Read Kristina’s book
      Passion for content
    • OtherQualifications
      Know what I don’t know
      10 years exp withPercussion WCM
      Developed many large content projects
      Architected content integration models
      Now business owner & key end user
      Created “Innovation Garage” with Drupal
      Automotive enthusiast
    • DiscussionPoints
    • Make aPlan
    • AutoTrader Editorial circa July 2009
      Content was orphaned
      Virtually no original content
      $600,000 a year for syndicated content
      No distribution or syndication rights
      Site changes cut Research traffic by 50%
      Sales team was worried
      I asked for a chanceto show what editorial could do
    • Site Change Cut Research Traffic
    • Get Expert Help: Jeffrey MacIntyre
      @jeffmacintyre– this is his fault ;-)
      Helped with the basics
      Provided framework to follow
      Voice & Tone
      Editorial Guidelines
      Editorial Calendar
    • Understand the Audience
      Most users want to find a car
      Other content is probably irrelevant
    • Understand the Audience
      Most users want a late-model used car
      Should focus contentinvestment here
    • Evalaluate the Competition
    • Evalaluate the Competition
      Most are enthusiast biased
      Most are new car focused
      Most offer only editorial – not classifieds
      Most have large internaleditorial teams
      KBB: 7
      Cars.com: 16
      Edmunds: 20
    • Execute
    • AutoTrader Editorial circa December 2009
      Covered 3 auto shows for trial run
      There were some… issues
      Published 54 original articles
      Impressions increased 233% over syndicated content from previous year
    • Find Ways to Differentiate
      Geared towards car shoppers
      Assume don’t know or care about cars
      Emphasize lifestyle attributes
      Be the People Magazine of auto content
      Connect editorial to cars for sale
      Offer quality content about used cars
    • Find Ways to Differentiate
    • Find Ways to Differentiate
      Invest in content, not staff
      Full-time employees are expensive
      Content workload isn’t constant
      Freelance rates currently depressed
      Experienced automotive journalists available
      Lean team for strategy & support
    • Get Expert Help: Joni Gray
      Automotive journalist since 1998
      Former Sr. Automotive Editor at LA Times
      Launched editorial practice at KBB
      Worked in advertising for Honda, Hyundai & Mazda
      Knows absolutelyeverbody,got us connected
    • Maintain Momentum
      Easy to get hung up on tools & planning
      Steady progress is vital
      Just do something
      Check it anditerate
    • TakeMeasure
    • AutoTrader Editorial circa December 2010
      Published 748 original content items
      Research content reached 23.8 million unique visitors – 64% increase YoY
      Content impressions increased 239%
      Content team grew 300% (from 1 to 4)
    • Use the Right Benchmarks
      Find Your Car gets around 80% of traffic
      Sales disappointed in Research activity by comparison
      But actually compares favorably against similar sites
    • AutoTradervs. Car Magazines
      Consumers Reached per Month
      Unique Visitors (in millions)
    • AutoTrader vs. Car Blogs
      Consumers Reached per Month
      Unique Visitors (in millions)
    • Make Some Powerful Allies
      Partnering with Sales critical to success
      Helped Sales win $2.1 million in incremental revenue – covering budget
      Offering editorial attention, not integrity
      Sales became biggest supporter
    • Check with Customers
      Never invited to press events before,last year we attended 39
      Routine access to press vehicles
      First long-term test car: VW Jetta TDI
    • Check with Customers
      Good quotes
      “You weren’t even on our radar before. Now you are.” – Kurt Antonius, Honda PR
      “Thanks so much for your great review… Hope to see you more at future events.” – Jennie Ecclestone, GM Communications
      “This is fantastic! Thank you.”-- ShamitChoksey, Suzuki PR
    • Verify Executive Buy-In
    • Evolve
    • AutoTrader Editorial circa June 2011
      Research traffic up 253% since start (up 74% since site change drop-off)
      Already published 725 original items, on track to produce 2,000 this year
      Averaging 8per work day, ramping to 10
      Research visitors increased 17% YoY
      Content impressions up 37%
      Content team grew another 125% (from 4 to 9)
    • AutoTraderYouTube Channel
      Launched December 2010
      112,000 views & growing 36% MoM
      Lots of positive consumer engagement
      Only 3% of users go directly to channel
      35% YouTube search
      22% related videos
      15% mobile
      17% embeds & links
    • AutoTraderMobile
      Primary use case: out car shopping
      2 million unique visitors per month
      No apparent cannibalization
      Unique site using classifieds API
      Advertisers are buying
      Apps in development
      No editorial yet
    • Evolution Opportunities
      Bettersite integration (14 million more people to reach)
      Enhanced social media connections
      User-generated content
      Content syndication
    • Flexibility is Key
      Content must be portable & extensible
      Percussion WCM is “decoupled”
      Necessary for AutoTrader’s high demand
      Forces responsive design to some extent
      Content separated from presentation
      For us, everything is search
      (Except when it’s properties files)
    • AutoTrader Needs a Good Editor
      Seeking experienced Site Editor
      To take Content Strategy to next level
      Manage Editorial & Copy teams
      Automotive experiencea plus
      Located in Atlanta
    • AnyQuestions?