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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


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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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  • 1. Launching a Major Automotive Media SiteRequires a Good Strategy
    Scott Markle
    Webcontent 2011
  • 2. 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
  • 3. 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
  • 4. 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
  • 5. 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
  • 6. 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
  • 7. 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
  • 8. DiscussionPoints
  • 9. Make aPlan
  • 10. 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
  • 11. Site Change Cut Research Traffic
  • 12. Get Expert Help: Jeffrey MacIntyre
    @jeffmacintyre– this is his fault ;-)
    Helped with the basics
    Provided framework to follow
    Voice & Tone
    Editorial Guidelines
    Editorial Calendar
  • 13. Understand the Audience
    Most users want to find a car
    Other content is probably irrelevant
  • 14. Understand the Audience
    Most users want a late-model used car
    Should focus contentinvestment here
  • 15. Evalaluate the Competition
  • 16. 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 16
    Edmunds: 20
  • 17. Execute
  • 18. 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
  • 19. 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
  • 20. Find Ways to Differentiate
  • 21. 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
  • 22. 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
  • 23. Maintain Momentum
    Easy to get hung up on tools & planning
    Steady progress is vital
    Just do something
    Check it anditerate
  • 24. TakeMeasure
  • 25. 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)
  • 26. 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
  • 27. AutoTradervs. Car Magazines
    Consumers Reached per Month
    Unique Visitors (in millions)
  • 28. AutoTrader vs. Car Blogs
    Consumers Reached per Month
    Unique Visitors (in millions)
  • 29. 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
  • 30. 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
  • 31. 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
  • 32. Verify Executive Buy-In
  • 33. Evolve
  • 34. 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)
  • 35. 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
  • 36. 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
  • 37. Evolution Opportunities
    Bettersite integration (14 million more people to reach)
    Enhanced social media connections
    User-generated content
    Content syndication
  • 38. 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)
  • 39. 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
  • 40. AnyQuestions?