6% Circ Drop at Old Cars Weekly

According to USPS mailing statements, Old Cars Weekly (OCW) posted a 6.2% drop in circulation between 2009 to 2010. That’s a bit over 3,800 non-renews, down from total circ of 61,852 in 2009.

In April of last year OCW shifted away from its historic tabloid format to standard mag size. This created a profound impact in the marketplace which certainly contributed to the referenced drop in paid readership. Coupled with reduced advertising, OCW is facing a tough climate where the wisdom of taking timely editorial product and wrapping in a cheapened format begs the question: Was there a better way to cut costs? Was there a more effective method to attract new paid readers? How will this change resonate with advertisers?

Certainly less paper and mailed bulk is a good thing. And a page is a page, right? Editor Angelo Van Bogart’s writing is excellent and the articles are fresh and often exciting. But gosh, while the message is pretty good, ash-gray newprint and a shrinking red-pen shopping experience just doesn’t make a convincing case that OCW has legs.

OCW one-year sub prices hover around $30 depending on offers, and the company’s Old Cars Report is priced at a wacko $199 per year, or five bucks per report. Anyone whose frequented Hershey can attest to the teaming multitudes of cheapos that inhabit the car hobby. And several consumer mag subs are practically given away at six bucks.

With auction results and price guide content all over the web, eBay the de facto  place to buy and sell, OCW needs to combine their best assets including price guide and the Reports database into a single compelling online product. But all that valuable info is made essentially sale proof thanks to the legacy costs to support a magazine fewer consumers need. Perhaps reducing frequency and upping production values would have made more sense? Afterall, print weeklies just can’t beat online sources. AutoWeek dealt with that reality earlier this year.

Herewith OCW’s Editorial Director Brian Earnest in his official statement marking the format change. I leave it up to CPI readers to interpret and comment as they see fit.

March 30, 2010

By Brian Earnest, Editorial Director, Old Cars Weekly
This week holds a bittersweet moment for some of us here at Old Cars Weekly. It will also mark a bit of a landmark occasion for us. That’s because the issue with the April 8 cover date will be the last one that comes in our old, familiar tabloid format.

As is seemingly always the case with anything that you have for a long time, the tabloid format has become comfortable for us. We’ve been using it for many years now. But like an old pair of favorite shoes, sometimes you just gotta break down and move on to something newer and better.

We think that is the case with the new standard magazine size that you will see us moving to beginning with the April 15 issue. But if you like the magazine the way it is, fear not. We’re not really changing anything other than the page size. The name is the same. The staff is the same. The writers are the same. The feature stories, columns, classified ads and everything else in new format will be very familiar to you. And we will have the same amount of room overall on our pages for stories and editorial content. In fact, we’ll probably have more.

Most importantly, our mission remains the same. It has never changed. As the first editors of Old Cars Weekly trumpeted across the top of the front page of the very first issue, our goal is simply to “provide complete nationwide coverage of the old car hobby.” We have a pretty simple mission, and we stick to it.

Why the format change? Well, it’s not just for the fun of it, that’s for sure. As editor Angelo Van Bogart mentioned in his editorial last week, most people aren’t really big fans of change — especially in our old car hobby. Heck, we like things they way they were many years ago, particularly our cars. But in the magazine business you have to rearrange the furniture every now and then to keep up with the times, and now is one of those times. The tabloid format is just not as practical as it used to be. Our friends at the U.S. Postal Service have a hard time delivering it on time and treating it with respect. (We can’t figure out why, and believe us, we’ve tried). And newsstands don’t really like large formats anymore. Take a look at the shelves next time you’re at a newsstand or magazine rack — almost everything is standard 8 ½ by 11 inches, or thereabouts.

Actually, Old Cars Weekly has changed formats a few times over the years. We went to a larger page size way back in 1973, then changed again in 1991 and 1996. We don’t change often, and don’t do so unless it’s really the best idea at the time. We’re glad our readers have always stuck with us.

So we hope you enjoy the last couple issues of the old tabloid format, and we certainly hope you like the magazine’s new look that will debut [next] week. We are working hard to make it look nice and make sure it is stuffed full of all the things our loyal readers enjoy.

It’s the same things we’ve been doing for the past 39 years.

Popularity: 1% [?]

Eric's Consulting Services for Publishers

There Are 2 Responses So Far. »

  1. More recently, auction editor Ron Kowalke was relieved of his duties, last fall, as F&W Media, decided regular auction coverage wasn’t needed; however, that coverage made Old Cars Weekly the vintage car publication of record. As a longtime auction contributor myself – since December of 1987 – I wasn’t told this by the editor, but rather by fellow auction correspondent Phil Skinner.

    Last time I looked, Ron’s blog was still listed at the OCW website; but if you look at the OCW Value Guide (on some news-stands), his name is no longer on the masthead.

    Old Cars Weekly lost auction readership to Sports Car Market, as SCM expanded its coverage to include American muscle cars of the 1960s and American iron of the 1950s; and it did so with more in-depth analysis and full color photos on glossy paper. Keith Martin, its publisher, also established himself as “the expert” on vintage cars, of all sorts, by appearing on television shows. He scooped up people who were younger and new to the hobby and business of collectible cars.

    Where Old Cars Weekly goes from here is hard to say. It seems to be the sad end for a publication that was the leader in its field in the 1980s and much of the 1990s.

  2. Need to send out renewals early and closer to the expiration date. Also watch out for companies sending out bogas subscription notices.

Post a Response