Australia’s most popular motoring website is looking to expand its audience with spin-off site Carpool.
You have to feel a little bit for the marketing teams at Australia’s car and real estate websites. These sites generate a lot of money and attract vast numbers of cashed-up audiences, all eager to consume their content. And the people who visit are in the mood to buy, and buy up big, and they’re definitely into improving their lifestyle.
This must make them an ideal target for lifestyle information and products, yes? Well, umm, that’s a maybe.
When people come in their millions to these websites, they tend to come with a single purpose – to buy (or rent) a house, or buy a new or second-hand car. They might like some expert advice on how to do this, or what options are available to them, or perhaps ways to improve them, but their interest in the subject may not stretch far beyond a narrow goal. Help me find the perfect car/home.
Publishers have been trying to further monetise large classified advertising audiences since print and magazine dinosaurs ruled the land. Fairfax Media brands Domain, Drive and the long-dead employment-oriented My Career grew out of fat broadsheet Saturday sections that featured a little bit of editorial and a lot of display and classified ads. Real estate money has propped up local newspapers for decades.
In the 2000s, as newspapers lost (and unforgivably abandoned) much of their classified advertising revenue, publishers tried to broaden the appeal of their motoring and real estate sections by adding lifestyle flourishes. Fairfax, for instance, created a separate Drive Life product, which included regulars such as “star in a car” (Q&As with celebrity owners), motoring advice and lifestyle and fashion features. News Corp had its own national cars and lifestyle print section, too.
These tactics to broaden the core motoring and property audiences, while worthy, did nothing to stop readers (and advertisers) moving to digital formats … mainly because these became the best and easiest ways for them to buy and sell cars and homes. As the lifestyle content was difficult to justify without commercial support, these standalone print sections starved to death.
Now Australia’s most popular car website, Carsales, is having a go at prodding new life into the old motoring-lifestyle formula. It has released an offshoot site, Carpool, which contains its lifestyle content and is promoted via a tab on its home page.
Carpool features some “mo-life” staples. On any given day, site visitors can guess what is in former footy star Brendan Fevola’s glovebox, debate the five best iOS apps for drivers or check out videos of Seinfeld’s nine best car moments. Or find 20 questions with F1 star Daniel Ricciardo, and sections on car-cleaning tips and “car star signs”. There’s a short feature on car boot sales, with buyers’ tips and a guide to where to find your nearest one. The stories are likeable and accessible, and written for a general (though inevitably male) audience.
To launch Carpool, Carsales created a series of videos under the banner “The best car in the world”. It shows four children describing their dream cars while automotive illustrator James Bailey, from StompShop.com, commits their charming and zany ideas to paper. “What happens when Zara’s imagination meets an automotive illustrator’s skills?” it asks. “Antioxidants.” The concept is just as cute as Zara’s idea of a car shaped like a blueberry, but it’s difficult to see where either actually takes us.
The more motoring-oriented material on the Carpool site – reviews and comparisons – simply point readers back to pages on the main Carsales site. Many of the stories, such as one with advice on how to choose the right SUV, carry a small logo at the end that says “powered by motoring.com.au”, which refers to Carpool’s older, more petrol-sniffy sister site.
Actually, it’s hard to tell how Carsales’ marketing team would prefer readers to differentiate between its two branded sites – Carpool and the harder-edged motoring.com.au. Based on the number of reader comments, it seems that motoring.com.au continues to get more traction than Carpool, though it’s early days.
By trying to find a large enough motoring lifestyle audience, Carpool is heading down a well-worn road that other publishers have found leads to a dead-end. Perhaps it can perfect a three-point turn.