With Car Throttle acquisition, Dennis builds out autos portfolio

Dennis Publishing has gone after younger car buyers with the purchase of social publisher Car Throttle.

For Dennis, which owns 10 motoring titles including Auto Express, Evo and Buyacar, 20-person Car Throttle gives it access to a much larger, younger social audience along with Car Throttle’s social content production capabilities.

According to Dennis, around 8% of the sales made on Buyacar, which made £58 million ($71 million) in car sales last year, originate from marketing on its titles Auto Express and Carbuyer. With stable print readership, the majority of readers to these titles are between 35 and 55 years old. But, with over 60% of the customers on Buyacar aged under 35, there’s ample opportunity for the younger-skewing Car Throttle to boost car sales.

“There’s a massive opportunity for Buyacar to use the audience and reach of Car Throttle to push that offering and turn into transactions on Buyacar,” said Pete Wootton, chief digital officer at Dennis. “We can use their experience in how to communicate to that audience for our normal marketing activity, and they have a huge influence and reach.”

Car Throttle has over 10 million followers across its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, according to Tubular Labs, as well a few smaller, ancillary accounts like Car Throttle News or Tuning. This social reach is roughly 20 times the size of Dennis’ existing car titles. Car Throttle’s main account had 24 million views across Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter in July, per Tubular. The audience is active, according to Crowd Tangle, monthly interaction rate on Facebook is 0.04%, equal to the industry average for interactions on media Facebook accounts, according to Rival IQ. 

“Dennis needed to double down on social and online service layers for its auto category,” said Douglas McCabe, CEO at Enders Analysis. “Car Throttle fast-tracks them to a position that organic growth would be expensive and time-consuming to achieve, for both audience engagement and expanding the opportunities with advertisers.”

Car Throttle’s existing clients include the likes of Red Bull, Nissan and Microsoft Xbox. Much of its current business is in branded content. Dennis, on the other hand, has stronger media agency contacts.

“Any big content partnership brief on motoring will probably come to Dennis, Haymarket and Bauer, Car Throttle doesn’t currently see those,” said Wootton. “They’ve worked hard to build direct conversations with clients, conversely, we’ve not built direct relationships with people like Red Bull.” Equally, Dennis has lost out on branded content briefs for not having a broad social reach, he said. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The first branded content campaign with multiple brands will launch in a few weeks.

Like other publishers, Dennis has been diversifying digital revenue streams. Advertising delivers a large chunk but isn’t where it sees growth. Growing lines include branded content partnerships, affiliate, reader revenue and selling cars, which are a higher turnover but lower margin.

There are still integration points to be thrashed out. For instance, Car Throttle has an e-commerce line through subscription boxes, but it will transition this to an affiliate and drop-shipping model that the magazine publisher has honed. Another consideration is video: The video production at Dennis is three times the size so need to decide whether to merge or keep them separate.

This acquisition also reflects a wider trend in consumer publishing of focusing on deep and narrow verticals and services to wring more value out of audiences, an approach that B2B publishers have had for years. Future is another magazine group that has honed in on consumer verticals, passion points and services.

Dennis is 11 months into its acquisition by private equity firm Exponent for £166 million ($202 million). In that time it’s completed two acquisitions, Car Throttle and financial service U.S-based publisher Kiplinger in February. There are more acquisitions to come this year, said Wootton.


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