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Autotrader to publish its last ever print version

In case you missed it Trader Media Group has completed its transition into an online digital business with the publishing of the final editions of its magazines, including Autotrader, on 28 June 2013. It truly is a sad day and I won’t know what to read in the doctor’s surgery next time I am there.

This is just the latest publisher in a recent trend to move all of its activities to digital platforms. It is no secret that the print industry has faced a turbulent recent history as they deal with new challenges in the form of print publishing and distribution costs.  In particular, many publications are struggling with falling circulation numbers and declining advertising revenues. autotrader.co.uk

The huge classified revenues that used to support this area of print journalism have now moved online and they don’t require huge editorial costs to make them work anymore. Consequently they now choose to focus on their digital editions, iPhone apps and websites. This is because digital editions are far more likely to attract higher audience numbers and remove printing and distribution costs. It really is all about digital these days. I remember when the financial publication Accountancy Age went purely digital and I saw that as a seminal moment and maybe this is another.

In the 1980’s (when I was young) Autotrader was one of the UK’s top five selling magazines. But circulation of the print edition had dropped from its peak in January 2000 of 368,000 to 27,000 in March of this year – less than 10% of what it was.

However, autotrader.co.uk is the number one digital marketplace in the UK for buying and selling new vehicles with 380,000 new and used vehicles available on the website at any one time. Motorists and dealers are now making the move online to access information and buy and sell vehicles, Autotrader now has more than 11 million monthly unique users. I have to admit I bought my new car last month after using it’s online version and watching the market develop on similar cars over a month. It has also had a significant effect on how cars are sold now as dealers can’t pretend they are giving your the best price as you can compare them for more easily.

This trend to all-digital is a move that all publications need to be making to evolve and suit the demands of the current market. Most notably, the 80-year-old US current affairs magazine Newsweek moved to an online-only magazine at the end of last year. Ironically, its final front cover headline featured a hashtag. Newsweek merged with the internet news group the Daily Beast two years ago, and its site had more than 15 million unique visitors a month pushing it towards a move to digital platforms. The online publication of Newsweek is now available worldwide and requires readers to pay a subscription fee to access the content on the site and tablets.

It is obvious that this current trend is not going to stop any time soon as more publications are likely to follow suit and move online. What is clear is that digital is where the future is and it’s not only the print industry that needs to change its practices to suit the demands of the modern consumer. Bricks and motar retail and print aren’t dead dinosaurs yet but the evolution is certainly continuing and I think it’s great.

Chris Norton

Chris is listed in the world's top 30 PR bloggers and a regular conference speaker on crisis management and social media marketing. He is also co-author of Share This Too and lectures on digital communications at Leeds Metropolitan University.

One Comment

  1. It was a sad day to be honest for everybody here when they announced this. We have fond memories of trying our best to create compelling out of the box content to stand out from our competitors in that little publication.

    Anyway! Autotrader online is still useful, not as much as great PR of course :-)

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