It’s the end of an era: after 36 years of being a mainstay of newsagents’ shelves, the print edition of Auto Trader is no more.
Since it was launched as Hurst’s Thames Valley Trader in 1977, Auto Trader has become embedded in British culture. Buying or selling, dealer or private seller – for many people, Auto Trader was the bible of car classifieds.
But all that has now changed. The advent of digital media has resulted in downward-spiralling circulation figures and a massive reinvention of the Auto Trader brand.
In January 2000, the magazine sold 368,000 copies, but by March this year, that number had dropped to 27,000.
Compare this to the Auto Trader website, which attracts 11 million unique visitors every month. Similarly, 3.5 million people use the mobile version of the site.
The writing was on the wall for Auto Trader magazine. The website has grown 13% year-on-year, the mobile site is up 67% and the tablet version a staggering 130%. Despite being loved by many, the printed Auto Trader has become a dinosaur in a digital age.
But strange as it may seem to some people, the Auto Trader magazine created a weekly ritual for car enthusiasts. Many of us would rush to the newsagents on a Thursday morning to pick out the bargains. Armed with a red marker pen and big mug of tea, potential purchases were identified and viewed.
But times change. Whereas in the past you were limited to the local paper, Auto Trader and the post office noticeboard, today, in just a few clicks of a mouse button, you can find new and used cars anywhere in the world.
This has seen Auto Trader investing hugely in a brand reinvention. You can still find a ‘bargain banger’ on the ‘pages’ of Auto Trader, but you’ll also find new car reviews, videos and features. It’s a far cry from the ‘under the arches and big mug of stewed tea’ image of yesteryear.
This is highlighted in no better way than the final issue of the magazine, which uses image-recognition technology to allow smartphone users to play video content, off the cover itself. There are also 250 limited edition covers featuring a digital screen, with content celebrating 36 years of the magazine.
As with all magazines that disappear from our shelves, the whiff of nostalgia will probably result in Auto Trader’s biggest weekly sales figure for many years. But it won’t be long until we’re reaching for our smartphones and tablets to embrace the digital age once again.
Still, future generations will never know what it’s like to flick through the small ads in the downstairs loo. Goodbye, Auto Trader, and thanks for the memories.