The overriding insight, one that other enthusiast books may want to study, is that about 80% of the magazine's online visitors are not subscribers to the magazine. Instead of the enthusiasts that read Car and Driver regularly, these people are actively researching cars in preparation for a purchase. While an enthusiast title might struggle to broaden its print audience without losing its hard-core devotees, a website can offer all kinds of things to many kinds of people.
In a move more magazines are bound to make, some print features have been moved to CarandDriver.com, including the bar graph that compared road-test vehicles against three competitors. "We wanted more space in the magazine to be more graphically interesting," said Csaba Csere, editor in chief of Car and Driver, which is part of Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. "And we hope we can drive more people to the web. We can also put more in the bar graph on the web."
Stiff online competition
While Car and Driver competes in print with sibling Road & Track, AutoWeek (part of Crain Communications, which owns Advertising Age) and Automobile (part of Primedia), the competition online is even wider. Digital rivals for eyeballs and ads include Kelley Blue Book, which had 4.8 million uniques and 129.4 million page views in September, according to Nielsen/NetRatings; Edmunds.com, with nearly 4.8 million uniques and 104.8 million views; AOL Auto, with 4.7 million uniques and nearly 29 million views; the Primedia Automotive Network, with 3.2 million uniques and 29.9 million views; Cars.com, with 2.7 million uniques and 71.6 million views; and many others.
Caranddriver.com attracted 573,000 unique visitors and had 8.5 million page views in September, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, although the ratings service said the site did not meet minimum sample size standards. Hachette's web-server data show 1.5 million unique visitors and 27 million page views for September.
To make it easier for readers to find Car and Driver's website, the print edition has substituted "Photos, specs and more information @ caranddriver.com" for the previous pointer to the web, a simple URL.
Next month the brand will introduce an ad-supported mobile service that will be free to users but also charge for extras such as ringtones and wallpaper. "Ultimately -- this will be for next year -- we'll do ambitious functionality so you can get for example a capsule review on your phone," said Marta Wohrle, VP-director of digital media, Hachette.
Average paid circulation for Car and Driver totaled 1.3 million during the first half of the year, down 2.9% from first-half 2005, according to its statement to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Newsstand fell 8.6% while subscriptions declined 2.3%.
Ad pages in Car and Driver's print edition fell 7.7% from January through September, compared with the equivalent nine months last year, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.