How Adventures Group’s revamp of ‘run down’ Trade-A-Boat attracted new partners

It's been almost 10 months since Adventures Group Holdings took over Trade-A-Boat magazine. Unsurprisingly, the change in ownership has led to a revamp. Mumbrella's Zoe Samios chats with editor Tim van Duyl about the changes, and why building trust will be key to the survival of the brand.

When Melbourne-based content marketing business Adventures Group Holdings took over Trade-A-Boat magazine in October, it had a difficult task on its hands.

Just five years earlier, Trade-A-Boat, which was owned by German publisher Bauer Media, and had been merged with a title called Trailer Boat.

Trade-A-Boat was acquired by Adventures Group Holdings last year

And although merging of some titles can prove effective to both readers and advertiser, the fusion of Trade-A-Boat and Trailer Boat caused some issues.

With completely different demographics for both titles, Trailer Boat struggled from a commercial perspective. The brand lost its purpose and place in market.

But now, 10 months on, Adventures Group Holdings – which also owns Caravan World, Camper and Outdoor – is revamping the product, effectively dropping the Trailer Boat audience from its print product.

Senior editor Tim van Duyl is now leading the title with a focus on its content direction and positioning, with plans to build out an events strategy.

He explains how prior to the merger of Trade-A-Boat and Trailer Boat, both had a clear place in market.

“Trade-A-Boat was effectively the big book of boating, or the boating bible, where it focused on leisure craft that was typically over 30 feet and the people who were buying it and using it were quite affluent, liked to spend time in the water, had a lot of free time and a high disposable income,” van Duyl says.

“Trailer Boat was more targeted at the everyday man who was most likely still employed, smaller income, smaller asset base, more of a sort of recreational fisher. In Bauer’s ownership of both those titles, there was a bit of floundering on the Trailer Boat side, so the decision was made to create one magazine under the masthead of Trade-A-Boat.

“That happened about five years ago and ever since then there hasn’t been a defined market position for the title. What the guys here have done is gone back to five years ago and looked at what the market liked and respected from what Trade-A-Boat was and effectively removed what Trailer Boat was in the merger.”

Van Duyl says earning trust again will be key

Van Duyl says by hitting the road and talking to locals and former advertising partners, something became clear: bridges had been burnt. An understanding of local content was going to be important to re-establish the brand.

But that brand needed to be different in both print and online. The print product will now become more premium, focused on high value boats and products which drive them, as well as the destinations where the can be used.

Other topics will include boat, engine and product tests, new product lines, the context of a boat in experiences, DIY and how tos as well as safety tips.

Meanwhile, the Trade-A-Boat website will focus on all boats, both big and small, with a content strategy aiming to drive traffic. That website – tradeboats.com.au – will be up in December, and will feature video and SEO-based content.

Van Duyl says there’s a large difference in volume of traffic on the website.

“There are a lot more small boats or trailer boat owners than there are big boat owners. The way they use their boats and the way they try and use their boats in a cost effective way means there is a lot more search volume and traffic around upgrades and DIY and how tos.

“We will always maintain that because we do have a strong website for classifieds. We will maintain content for that but in magazine what we are looking for is long reads, DIYs, how tos and destinations for the cruising market and the sale market, the big boat market. That content will still go online in long and short form, but there is sort of a differentiation between clickbait, the search targeted content, and the long form content that the magazine will provide.”

And from a revenue perspective, van Duyl is looking to build out new streams, to establish business models similar to Caravan World and Camper Trailer.

“There are companies in the market – the business to business companies – that are looking to strengthen their brand from a business to consumer point of view. We are hoping to partner with those people to produce content for the readers on boats generally speaking. We think there is a big opportunity there,” he says.

But, he admits. some partners are still skeptical of the changes.

“To be honest, it’s a mixed bag. Relationships were burnt a bit in the past, so there’s a little bit of trust that we need to regain and that’s been part of the conversation we’ve been having,” he says.

“There is some skepticism in the marketplace and that’s partially because Trade-A-Boat had been run down for about four to five years, but we are regaining our trust. A number of key partners that do still work with us are very excited about the opportunities, and the people who have recently stopped working with us are listening to us.”

However he’s confident there is still a strong place for the Trade-A-Boat brand in market.

“One [reason] is just the legacy – it’s been running since 1979 and it is still easily the most recognised brands from a print point of view, digital we are strong, we are not as strong as boat sales but we are up there in terms of traffic volume,” van Duyl says.

“But on a marine side, marine or boating is a leisure activity. It’s not like ducking down to the movies to quickly get your Avengers fix. You have to plan to go out in the water. It’s a slow process and we want to offer quality editorial to go with that process and also help people understand what they are doing and hopefully influence their buying decisions.”


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