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 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.

Published in: Technology, Automotive, Business

Launching a Major Automotive Media Site Requires a Good Strategy

  1. 1. Launching a Major Automotive Media SiteRequires a Good Strategy<br />Scott Markle<br />Webcontent 2011<br />
  2. 2. Don’t Know Much About Content Strategy<br />Not an expert<br />Not a pundit<br />Not a professional speaker<br />Not even a professional writer<br />Probably a lot like you(and probably know less than many)<br />In right place at right time<br />
  3. 3. A Content Strategy Case Study<br />The goal: Make AutoTrader a primary resource for automotive research<br />And generate more ad revenue<br />Focus on original editorial<br />Apply Content Strategy principles<br />2 years since we started<br />What worked for us<br />
  4. 4. About Me – @smarkle<br />Planned to be a Graphic Designer<br />Web Developer since 1996 (in it for the commute)<br />At AutoTradersince 1998<br />First full-time Web Developer<br />CMS Developer<br />Technical Architect<br />R&D<br />Now Sr. Mgr. of Content Strategy<br />
  5. 5. About AutoTrader<br />Top automotive classifieds website<br />2,500 employees (25 when I started)<br />3.5 million new & used cars for sale<br />40,000 dealers& 250,000 private sellers<br />16 million unique visitors per month<br />Recent acquired Kelley Blue Book<br />$1 billion in revenue this year <br />
  6. 6. Content Strategy Qualifications<br />One semester as an English major<br />Mom is successful children’s writer<br />Saw Kristina Halvorson present once<br />Read Kristina’s book<br />Passion for content<br />
  7. 7. OtherQualifications<br />Know what I don’t know<br />10 years exp withPercussion WCM<br />Developed many large content projects<br />Architected content integration models<br />Now business owner & key end user<br />Created “Innovation Garage” with Drupal<br />Automotive enthusiast<br />
  8. 8. DiscussionPoints<br />Plan<br />Execute<br />Measure<br />Evolve<br />Questions?<br />
  9. 9. Make aPlan<br />
  10. 10. AutoTrader Editorial circa July 2009<br />Content was orphaned<br />Virtually no original content<br />$600,000 a year for syndicated content<br />No distribution or syndication rights<br />Site changes cut Research traffic by 50%<br />Sales team was worried<br />I asked for a chanceto show what editorial could do<br />
  11. 11. Site Change Cut Research Traffic<br />Old<br />New<br />
  12. 12. Get Expert Help: Jeffrey MacIntyre<br />@jeffmacintyre– this is his fault ;-)<br />Helped with the basics<br />Provided framework to follow<br />Voice & Tone<br />Editorial Guidelines<br />Editorial Calendar<br />
  13. 13. Understand the Audience<br />Most users want to find a car<br />Other content is probably irrelevant<br />
  14. 14. Understand the Audience<br />Most users want a late-model used car<br />Should focus contentinvestment here<br />
  15. 15. Evalaluate the Competition<br />
  16. 16. Evalaluate the Competition<br />Most are enthusiast biased<br />Most are new car focused<br />Most offer only editorial – not classifieds<br />Most have large internaleditorial teams<br />KBB: 7<br /> 16<br />Edmunds: 20<br />
  17. 17. Execute<br />
  18. 18. AutoTrader Editorial circa December 2009<br />Covered 3 auto shows for trial run<br />There were some… issues<br />Published 54 original articles<br />Impressions increased 233% over syndicated content from previous year<br />
  19. 19. Find Ways to Differentiate<br />Geared towards car shoppers<br />Assume don’t know or care about cars<br />Emphasize lifestyle attributes<br />Be the People Magazine of auto content<br />Connect editorial to cars for sale<br />Offer quality content about used cars<br />
  20. 20. Find Ways to Differentiate<br />
  21. 21. Find Ways to Differentiate<br />Invest in content, not staff<br />Full-time employees are expensive<br />Content workload isn’t constant<br />Freelance rates currently depressed<br />Experienced automotive journalists available<br />Lean team for strategy & support<br />
  22. 22. Get Expert Help: Joni Gray<br />Automotive journalist since 1998<br />Former Sr. Automotive Editor at LA Times<br />Launched editorial practice at KBB<br />Worked in advertising for Honda, Hyundai & Mazda<br />Knows absolutelyeverbody,got us connected<br />
  23. 23. Maintain Momentum<br />Easy to get hung up on tools & planning<br />Steady progress is vital<br />Just do something<br />Check it anditerate<br />
  24. 24. TakeMeasure<br />
  25. 25. AutoTrader Editorial circa December 2010<br />Published 748 original content items<br />Research content reached 23.8 million unique visitors – 64% increase YoY<br />Content impressions increased 239%<br />Content team grew 300% (from 1 to 4)<br />
  26. 26. Use the Right Benchmarks<br />Find Your Car gets around 80% of traffic<br />Sales disappointed in Research activity by comparison<br />But actually compares favorably against similar sites<br />
  27. 27. AutoTradervs. Car Magazines<br />Consumers Reached per Month<br />Unique Visitors (in millions)<br />
  28. 28. AutoTrader vs. Car Blogs<br />Consumers Reached per Month<br />Unique Visitors (in millions)<br />
  29. 29. Make Some Powerful Allies<br />Partnering with Sales critical to success<br />Helped Sales win $2.1 million in incremental revenue – covering budget<br />Offering editorial attention, not integrity<br />Sales became biggest supporter<br />
  30. 30. Check with Customers<br />Never invited to press events before,last year we attended 39<br />Routine access to press vehicles<br />First long-term test car: VW Jetta TDI<br />
  31. 31. Check with Customers<br />Good quotes<br />“You weren’t even on our radar before. Now you are.” – Kurt Antonius, Honda PR<br />“Thanks so much for your great review… Hope to see you more at future events.” – Jennie Ecclestone, GM Communications<br />“This is fantastic! Thank you.”-- ShamitChoksey, Suzuki PR<br />
  32. 32. Verify Executive Buy-In<br />
  33. 33. Evolve<br />
  34. 34. AutoTrader Editorial circa June 2011<br />Research traffic up 253% since start (up 74% since site change drop-off)<br />Already published 725 original items, on track to produce 2,000 this year<br />Averaging 8per work day, ramping to 10<br />Research visitors increased 17% YoY<br />Content impressions up 37%<br />Content team grew another 125% (from 4 to 9)<br />
  35. 35. AutoTraderYouTube Channel<br />Launched December 2010<br />58videos<br />112,000 views & growing 36% MoM<br />Lots of positive consumer engagement<br />Only 3% of users go directly to channel<br />35% YouTube search<br />22% related videos<br />15% mobile<br />17% embeds & links<br />
  36. 36. AutoTraderMobile<br />Primary use case: out car shopping<br />2 million unique visitors per month<br />No apparent cannibalization<br />Unique site using classifieds API<br />Advertisers are buying<br />Apps in development<br />No editorial yet<br />
  37. 37. Evolution Opportunities<br />Bettersite integration (14 million more people to reach)<br />Enhanced social media connections<br />User-generated content<br />Content syndication<br />
  38. 38. Flexibility is Key<br />Content must be portable & extensible<br />Percussion WCM is “decoupled”<br />Necessary for AutoTrader’s high demand<br />Forces responsive design to some extent<br />Content separated from presentation<br />For us, everything is search<br />(Except when it’s properties files)<br />
  39. 39. AutoTrader Needs a Good Editor<br />Seeking experienced Site Editor <br />To take Content Strategy to next level<br />Manage Editorial & Copy teams<br />Automotive experiencea plus<br />Located in Atlanta<br /><br />
  40. 40. AnyQuestions?<br />@smarkle<br /><br />