min day Preview: "Motor Trend" Races onto Every Available Screen

By Steve Smith

The Motor Trend brand left the magazine track a while ago. Not only is the legendary auto brand among the most successful featured content channels on YouTube, but it was among the first of the traditional print entities to get "appy" and appear on smart TV devices like Google TV. As content chief Angus MacKenzie tells us, he and his crew were “screen agnostic” before the phrase came into fashion. In advance of his appearance at the June 4 min day Digital Summit on the “Honesty Breakfast” panel (With HollywoodLife’s Bonnie Fuller and The Economist’s Nick Blunden), we asked him asked Angus about some aspects of his digital strategy.

min: What share of all of your traffic is now coming from smart phones or tablets and how high do you expect it to go in terms of share? And how are these mobile users behaving differently from your website users?

MacKenzie: About 30% of our digital traffic now comes from smart phones and tablets, and I see no reason why that won’t continue to increase as devices continue to evolve their functionality, and users increasingly migrate away from the traditional desktop/laptop interface. The behavior differs by device – the smart phone format favors snackable, short-form content, while tablets allow users quality long-form experiences if they wish.

min: Which social network is most important in driving traffic and engagement for your site? And what tactic has proven most effective in driving traffic from the source?

MacKenzie: Facebook is the most important social network in terms of driving traffic and engagement, followed by Twitter and Instagram. The key to making Facebook work is not to just post links to features or videos, but to give context and to invite audience response and/or discussion. For example a link to a story on Motor Trend‘s Wide Open Throttle portal was captioned thus: "We caught the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette benchmark testing with the Audi R8 V-10, Porsche 911 and Ferrari 458 Italia. Do you think the Corvette will be better than its rivals?" 1,201 likes, 162 shares, 160 comments in less than two hours.

min: Do you have a lean-in / lean-back content strategy? Please describe it and tell us about the types of content and timing strategy you use at different points during the day.

MacKenzie: Yes, and it’s mainly driven by the platform experience. The strategy we developed on the Motor Trend brand was to treat stories as opportunities, and decide in advance what the deliverables should be in terms of the web, print, video, social, etc., and ensure the roll-out across each is phased appropriately. This "simultaneous engineering" improves efficiency and output. The way content is consumed on each platform is different, driven partly by the user interface, and partly by expectations. For example, we have found that travel/adventure features work better in print and on tablets than they do on the website, while the website is essential for news-driven and information-heavy stories and stories where speed-to-market is essential. So in general we treat print and tablets as our lean-back platforms, while the website is lean-in, and is regarded as the spearhead platform for all content deployment.

min: How important is video to your content mix? What it is it doing for your brand that text-based content does not/ has not? Are you staffing specifically for video creation or using existing staff?

MacKenzie: Video is now regarded as a core competency of Source Interlink Media. The Motor Trend Channel launched last year as one of YouTube’s 100 original content partners, and has received additional production funding from YouTube for 2013. SIM now has almost 30 dedicated video staff, and has just completed a dedicated production studio that includes green screen capability and full broadcast quality post-production capability. Editorial staff from the Motor Trend and Hot Rod brands, as well as SIM’s truck, off-road and motorcycle brands, are deeply involved in creating, scripting and hosting video. Because of our "simultaneous engineering" approach to content creation, video production is therefore able to generate content opportunities for web, tablet and print.

Angus knows the auto lovers who love his brand. At the June 4 min day Summit, he’ll provide practical insights on how magazine brands can leverage video to increase audience engagement and revenue.