AutoTrader Leaves Print to Focus Online

Today AutoTrader Classics announced it will cease all print production as of the July issues and devote itself entirely to electronic distribution. Citing high print costs and a decline in traditional print-based readership, the company hopes to devote all resources to maintaining a profitable web presence.

According to AutoTrader President and CEO Chip Perry:

The continued movement of both consumers and advertisers to online forms of media makes this the right time to shift the focus of AutoTrader Classics to an online only brand and maximize the potential of this part of our business. With a strong online only brand, we believe can continue to grow while effectively serving our customers’ needs for the long-term.

I’ve been preaching the inevitability of AT’s newly announced reality for several years. Let’s hope they are able to fully regroup and give eBay and Craigslist a run for their market share.

Meanwhile, this counter strike from a young and eager Hemmings ad rep:

This announcement is surprising because the print reader is and remains a very solid prospect and buyer. As one customer put it to me today” the print readers are generally older  and less computer friendly, but seem to be more affluent and ready to write a check, in other words less “looky-lews” and more interested in making a deal.”
Last I checked affluence, age, and being computer-averse are not necessarily shared characteristics. I really would encourage Hemmings’ sales manager to come up with a better proposition for countering the AT announcement. And now that print is no longer AT Headache #1, Hemmings and other hold outs pretty much stand alone. Well, good luck.

Conjecture on my part? Just last month I listed my 1964 Galaxie on AT Classics and was urged to add a print ad to the package. I kindly advised the very courteous CSR that, in my view, any serious buyer is online in one form or another. And those without computers, voice mail, or running water simply aren’t gonna buy my dream ride. Wracked with guilt, however, I ran the same ad with Hemmings, both online and in print just for yucks. I received a surprising number of calls from the paper ad, but none proved to be “more interested in making a deal” than the various emailers. One was a librarian seeking photos (yes, 4×6 glossies), another wanted to know my car’s paint code, and the third had me convinced the check was in the mail. Truth be told, I really wanted the Hemmings ad to work its claimed magic so I could turn my Galaxie into the daughter’s college tuition money.

I say bravo AT for taking the bold and necessary step to stay competitive, shed the expense ledger of print and postage, and crank up the bandwidth. Who’s next?

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