Andrew Dalton on Car Expert’s revenue model and why advertising car brands on car sites is a lose-lose

Just months after departing Car Advice, founders Alborz Fallah and Anthony Crawford, with presenter Paul Maric, started their new venture Car Expert. Now Mumbrella's Zanda Wilson speaks with CEO Andrew Dalton about the site's revenue model and plans to be mixing it with the bigger sites by the end of next year.

After departing Car Advice in 2019,  founders Alborz Fallah and Anthony Crawford, as well as presenter Paul Maric, didn’t take long to get back in the automotive publishing game.

The trio founded Car Expert late last year, a new platform billed an independent, ad-free, informative experience for buyers.

Car Expert founder Anthony Crawford & CEO Andrew Dalton

It’s certainly an interesting proposition, and the team, led by CEO Andrew Dalton (who spent seven years at Car Advice), are spruiking the model as “redefining” the digital automotive space.

“It’s no secret that in a former life we built a successful business directly on the back of display advertising, but I think car buyers and the industry have evolved. We came to the conclusion that the industry didn’t need more advertising, what it needed was more authenticity,” said Dalton.

Dalton believes that advertising cars on a car review website is a “lose-lose” proposition for consumers and manufacturers.

“Half a dozen car ads for ‘Brand X’ on a car review for ‘Brand X’ isn’t exactly a great look, and although it’s a very common strategy, I actually think it’s a lose-lose equation,” he tells Mumbrella.

“The car buyer loses confidence in the independence of the content, and the car manufacturer by contaminating their media with paid media.

“So what we’re trying to do is redefine the entire value proposition of automotive publishing; quality advocacy content shouldn’t be valued by how many ads it can serve. It should be valued by the meaningful connection it has with car buyers who trust it to shape their thoughts and decisions.”

What is the Car Expert revenue model?

Dalton explains the way Car Expert makes money as a “reverse subscription model” which shifts the focus to the content.

“Instead of charging people to read our content, we charge the car makers for each incremental car buyer who reads it.

“It shifts the value proposition away from annoying and unwanted ads, back to where it belongs; great car content from independent motoring experts.”

The team is able to remain independent, Dalton says, because the team reviews cars from all manufacturers “irrespective of who we work with commercially”. The difference with partners is that included in the article are links back to the manufacturer about build and price configurators.

“Review content and scores sit firmly with our independent motoring experts and guarded vehemently from commercial influence,” Dalton insists.

“Fact is though, there’s not a single person at this business (including the commercial team) that see any value in compromising our independence.”

While there’s no declaration of these affiliate links on each article that contains them, the about page does explain in some detail how the commercial operation works.

And though Car Expert doesn’t currently list its commercial partners on the site, Dalton says the team “would not be opposed to that in any way if it’s supported by the manufacturers.”

So is the ad-free model working?

Yes, at least according to Dalton and the Car Expert team. They recently revealed that a trial which saw them partner with Land Rover saw buyers visit the manufacturer’s website at a rate 52 times higher than display advertising.

“100% of our single car reviews are being engaged with for over four minutes. I think that’s a tremendous opportunity for automotive marketers to leverage,” Dalton says.

“People only buy a car when they find that comfortable balance between excitement and confidence, and that’s the role we play in the automotive media space.”

Nine recently announced that it was consolidating its Car Advice and Drive platforms under the latter’s name, as a singular digital automotive offering, and retiring Car Advice.

It’s a decision that Car Advice co-founder Alborz Fallah recently admitted he is struggling to understand on a commercial level.

Dalton admits he was also sad to see the end of the brand.

“While we’ve all moved on from Car Advice… It was shocking. I think Car Advice is a very trusted name in independent automotive journalism.

“I understand the equation and the textbook numerical argument of operating two brands… two tech platforms… to maintain two sets of customers. I understand how that can be a challenge.

“It’s not a decision I really expected and I imagine that they have a vision for what that plan looks like and I’m interested to see it unfold.”

While Car Expert is still in its early stages of development compared with the bigger, more established platforms, Dalton believes that it could be playing with the big boys, like Drive, in a matter of years due to the strength of its value position.

“I don’t think any of us would have started Car Expert unless we had that ambition. We’re a business that’s built to change how people discover, compare and buy new cars.

“Today is just the beginning. I think by the end of 2021 we are going to be well and truly running our own race.”


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