How Source Interlink Media Revved Up Audiences
Source Interlink Media, which publishes 70 titles and 90 websites for enthusiast markets including technology, sports, marine and automotive, embarked on an ambitious effort this fall to educate automobile collectors about public policy affecting their market. Themed issues across all titles in the company's performance automotive group explored equipment, safety and emissions standards currently under consideration on the state and federal level, how they will affect specific niche hobbies and what readers can do to influence them.
"The people who love muscle cars, hot rods, street rods, tuners, replicas, off road trucks, and many other varieties of automotive pursuits are as diverse as the country in which we live. We must work to protect our automotive passions from unnecessary, unfair, or well-intentioned but poorly written laws and regulations," Rick Rollins, board chairman of trade association SEMA (which is working in partnership with Source Media on a lobbying initiative, "Lobby For the Hobby," through the SEMA Action Network), says in a Source Media press release.
For Source Interlink Media, the effort provides another way to connect with its loyal readership base and promote the value of its brands. Publishing Executive Inbox interviewed Doug Evans, senior vice president of Source Interlink Media, on the publisher's decision to pursue the project.
INBOX: How does this themed issue project fit into Source Media's efforts to serve enthusiast audiences?
DOUG EVANS: Source is the largest special interest publisher in the world for automotive enthusiasts. The Lobby for the Hobby theme serves the most vital interests of our readership because there is legislation being drafted daily that threatens enthusiasts ability to enjoy their vehicles and their hobby. From bills closing millions of acres public lands to off road use, to laws that would allow authorities to tow away and crush a vintage vehicle being restored, the threats are real and happening in every state and on a Federal basis.
INBOX: Do you think it cultivates a higher level of audience engagement and brand loyalty? If so, how?
EVANS: Yes, I absolutely think it cultivates brand loyalty and engagement. Many of our brands are the Holy Grail to automotive enthusiasts. In many niches, we have the top two up to even four brands in a particular specialty. Hot Rod for example, really started the entire car hobby back in 1948 and today it reaches millions on a monthly basis with a magazine, radio show, website, TV show and various events. It is not uncommon for us to have three or even four generations of a family attend one of our events and enjoy all aspects of Hot Rod. If Hot Rod is telling a loyal consumer that their hobby is being threatened, they will trust it, react to it and appreciate the fact that their favorite brand is helping them help themselves by getting involved.
INBOX: Are you selling any special sponsorships related to the project?
EVANS: We sold a simple inexpensive sponsorship of a spread featuring sponsoring companies logos within the edit well of the Lobby for the Hobby sections in about 20 of the 50 magazines participating to partially offset our costs.
INBOX: What sort of marketing efforts are made possible by this initiative? Are you able to promote the value of your magazines in new ways and through new channels?
EVANS: I think this effort demonstrates our importance to an enthusiast industry that represents millions of domestic jobs and approximately 33 billion dollars generated into the US economy annually. The 50 million plus consumers of Source Interlink's enthusiast magazines buy a lot of those parts and help create and keep those jobs. I think seeing all those magazines on the newsstands at the same time with a big red circle and slash through the main image is certainly going to get a newsstand buyers attention. So far, the reaction has been very positive. It is also getting our advertisers' attention in that we are putting our money where our mouth is and recognizing that we must promote the hobby and make it healthy to survive collectively.
INBOX: Will the themed issues be linked to social networking sites, blogs or other means of furthering the conversation?
EVANS: Yes. There are several blogs in progress and readers are being urged to sign up to carinitiative.com and semasan.com. Both of these sites will remain active with updates on legislation that impact the industry. In addition, all websites for all 50 plus magazines will have a button taking people to a place they can register to vote.
INBOX: Is this is the first time you've run a campaign like this in your magazines? If so, why is now an especially critical time for automotive hobbyists to be aware of what's happening on the state and federal level?
EVANS: We ran a cover in Hot Rod back in 1984 featuring a similar theme, but we have never done anything like this in terms of scale. Now is a critical time for our audience to get involved on a state and federal level because the government has become increasingly regulatory minded. Often times, even a well intended bill can have unintended consequences that can be damaging to the car hobby. Today, there are hundreds of these bills being floated daily and the hobby and the enthusiast aftermarket industry needs to pay attention or risk losing it all, and that includes enthusiast media.