A Monthly Magazine -- With the Ability to Play Video

Media Morph: Winding Road

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Every week Ad Age Digital's Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week: Winding Road.

What it is: A young, monthly digital magazine about cars, offering free three-year subscriptions and counting on ad revenue to produce a profit. It's hardly the only car magazine or digital title, but its willingness to quantify revenue and project profitability make it more useful than most for understanding what platforms like this require to succeed.
Winding Road: Figuring out how to make online publishing profitable.
Winding Road: Figuring out how to make online publishing profitable.

The history: The test issue, produced internally by Absolute Multimedia, came out in December 2004. After finding some success, Absolute hired a real staff, led editorially by David E. Davis, the former editor and publisher of Car & Driver who later founded Automobile with Rupert Murdoch.

Readers: Two issues ago Winding Road got 75,000 readers from 300,000 "copies" distributed to people who signed up for it or received it through the title's partnerships with eBay Motors and the Autosport catalog. The next issue will probably get 400,000 to 500,000 readers from a distribution of 4.3 million, said Tom Martin, CEO of Absolute Multimedia (soon to rebrand as NextScreen). "That's really the first time that we're at an impression level that's really interesting to major brands." The jump in distribution resulted from the partnerships with eBay.

The money: Winding Road collected revenue of $1 million last year and probably will bring in $3 million this year. It is not profitable, but will be by 2008, according to Mr. Martin. "We're in the very early days of the large-circulation part of this," he said.

Selling ads while Detroit bleeds? "Print budgets are being cut back," Mr. Martin said. "It's harder for print people to take on a new property while they've got 20% less budget than last year." But Winding Road may have found a way to tap the automakers' TV budgets as well: It plans to roll out a platform in June that will allow advertisers to play commercials on the pages of the magazine.
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