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CNW: Last Gasp for Print Ads?

March 7, 2013

BANDON, Ore. — In its February newsletter, CNW Research shed some light on the impact traditional advertising is having on car buyers vs. new-age advertising mediums. And according to the firm’s findings, print advertising is in trouble.

According to CNW’s latest purchase path findings, only 3.5 percent of new-car intenders used general interest print magazines to assist in the selection of a new car or truck, which is down 60 percent from a year ago and represents only a fraction of what it was before the recession took hold in late 2007.

“With a few rare exceptions, new-car shoppers have turned their backs on print versions of consumer general interest magazines in large and perhaps fatal numbers,” wrote CNW’s Art Spinella.

The news gets worse for print magazines. Of those who did use a print edition of a consumer magazine as their primary source of auto info, the vast majority (better than 80 percent) said the information gleaned from print advertising was only moderately helpful.

“While a large percentage of magazine readers are now visiting consumer mag websites, the large increase over 2011 was not enough to offset the decline,” Spinella noted. “Overall, consumer magazine ads slipped 21 percent.”

The only bright spot for print are niche publications like Classic Boats and Woodworking, Spinella noted. They continue to see strong advertising support among new-car intenders, but even those are slipping, according to CNW.

Consumer Reports is another media outlet that’s bucking the trend. It had a 4 percent overall gain in primary source readers, but CNW noted that the publication is shifting more and more from print to online.

“Showing the way of successfully switching readers from print to online are automotive magazines,” Spinella wrote. “While print auto mag ads were down 28 percent as a primary source, the online variant was up 57.4 percent for an overall increase of nearly 11 percent. More interactive online articles, along with online-directed promotions, are working.”

Also taking a hit as a primary source of information for car shoppers was TV advertising, which fell 45 percent from 2011. And although cable networks like the History Channel realized a significant 47 percent increase, it was enough to prevent overall TV ad numbers from dipping 13.6 percent.

The story is different when it comes to automaker websites. “Going straight to the horse’s mouth seems to be an adage new-vehicle shoppers are heeding,” Spinella wrote.

Automaker website were up 4.8 percent as a primary source of information for car shoppers. Dealer sites were up 3.75 percent, and third-party sites like Edmunds.com were up 8.7 percent. Driving those increases, Spinella noted, were mobile devices, which consumers are using more and more to collect new-car data.

“Of those consumers who used a manufacturer website as a primary source of information, a full third did so using a mobile device,” Spinella said.

Despite the data, Spinella said all is not lost for print advertising.

“At different stages in the purchase funnel, print is still a viable way to go,” wrote Spinella. “For example, newspaper ads remain the go-to source of local pricing information among consumers. Depending on budget and message, print magazine have a role in the buying process. But that role is diminishing.

“Print versions of general interest consumer magazines are near death,” he added. “TV ads are struggling to hold on and an increasing share of auto info is being sought on a mobile device. While those have been the predictions for a number of years, this is complete validation of the theory. In effect, 2012 was the actual turning point in buyer attitudes.”

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