16 Jul 2012

End of an era - Autotrader print edition to be axed

For those of us of a certain age Autotrader was the magazine we bought not only to look for a secondhand car but also as a window on a world of gleaming, unaffordable metal.  As a male who is interested in cars the Autotrader was my version of window shopping.

This may not be an exclusively male occupation but the human condition means that whilst we know what we can afford we still lust after those objects to which we cannot afford but still attain to.  The "what if.." and "maybe one day..." moments in life where we know a two year old BMW M3 is four times our budget but if we save enough, or a windfall comes our way, we might be able to buy one.

So we window shop.  I probably bought my first Autotrader aged 15.  Back in the early eighties I was obsessed with cars.  My paper round paid for Car magazine every month.  That gave me the facts and figures - the 0-60, top speed and bhp then, in the newsagents, I'd scan the pages of Autotrader to see how much a Lotus Esprit or Jaguar XJS would cost.  Every now and again I would buy one, take it home and circle all those cars I'd own one day.

Autotrader was the staple weekly paper.  Like the Racing Post for certain types a copy of the 'trader was often to be found rolled up and stuffed down the side of the drivers seat for those moments when a few minutes could be found to have a flick through and lust at all those acres of precious metal.

As with the rest of the population the frequency with which I bought Autotrader reduced when the internet was invented.  I'd buy it when I wanted to buy or sell a car but the window shopping was done on-line.  Yes, I'd buy a copy every now and again to keep in the bathroom for a peruse during moments of contemplation (come on admit it, we all do that!).

Then, in 2010, something happened that killed the paper version of the Autotrader stone dead.  Apple brought us the iPhone 4.  We all bought a smartphone.  Autotrader, not missing a trick, brought out a free app and that was it.  The end was in sight for the Autotrader magazine.

They've been a victim of their own success to a certain extent.  The web version of Autotrader, the iPad, iPhone and other smartphone apps are so successful that there is now no need to buy a paper version.

Autotrader still sells 87,000 copies a week but they have realised that the end is nigh and have announced the end of publication in 12-18 months.

The last time I bought the paper copy of Autotrader was at least 12 months ago and that was only to see how the ad for my own car looked on the page.  It is good to see they have moved with the times. They can see that their online revenues are increasing at a rapid rate and they can no longer afford to publish an actual magazine.

It may be the end of an era but it's also the start of another.  A 100% online Autotrader. Good luck to them.