Time Inc. Takes New Digital-Only Auto Publication The Drive for a Spin

It's the Debut Effort From New Brooklyn-Based Foundry Division

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Credit: Time Inc.'s theDrive

Time Inc. is taking "The Drive" out of the garage today. That is the name of the company's new auto news and culture site that is the first publication to come from a division that merges new editorial products with branded content and native advertising functions.

But even as it experiments with the new editorial model, Time does not appear ready to bust through walls that have traditionally separated reporting and ad sales. For instance, Time executives said that editorial staffs would not be called on to create the native ads.

"We plan on sharing resources," said Mark Ford, Time's exec VP-global advertising, who oversaw the creation of the new division, called the Foundry. "But we don't expect the editor of theDrive creating native programs … or even branded entertainment."

The digital-only, mobile-first site will not include native ads when it launches today, although executives said those are coming. For now, advertising will mostly comprise ads from three launch partners: Volvo, Pennzoil and the BuyPower credit card, which is issued by Capital One and includes a rewards program redeemable for purchases of General Motors auto brands. Those advertisers will sponsor different sections within the site, but will not have any editorial control, executives said. For instance, Volvo will sponsor a section that will include content about design.

The Foundry is based in Industry City in Brooklyn. When Time formally announced the division in August, the company described it as a "one-stop shop for content creation" that will encourage collaboration between writers, developers and technologists. Ultimately, the goal is to incubate new editorial products at a quick rate. It took four months to launch The Drive, executives said. Mr. Ford in an interview hinted that a couple more sites would be launched next year, although he declined to provide details.

Matt Bean, Time's senior VP-editorial innovation, said The Drive was "not a car magazine. We are a magazine about cars and the culture around them." As such, the site will blend stories targeted at car enthusiasts with lifestyle-oriented content.

"We chose automotive because we feel there is editorial whitespace here," Mr. Bean said. "Because the industry itself is undergoing a seismic shift where all of the sudden you've got companies like Apple and Google and Qualcomm and Intel interested in changing how people view transportation," he said, as well as "larger than life" personalities such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Some initial articles range from a feature on an old Mercedes-Benz concept car called the C111 that is described in a headline as the "DeLorean You Never Saw" to a BuzzFeed-like piece called the "Eight Worst Haircuts in Nascar History," according to a preview given to Ad Age on Tuesday.

Time hired an editorial staff of roughly 15 to oversee theDrive, including editors, reporters and people overseeing social media and video. The editor is Mike Guy, a former digital director of Maxim. Other employees include deputy editor Jonathan Schultz, formerly of BBC Autos; and chief auto critic Lawrence Ulrich, formerly an auto writer for The New York Times and Detroit Free Press.

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