Seven’s stake in CarExpert more than just a traffic play, says Alborz Fallah

Independent automotive website CarExpert today began its 2022 upfront presentation with the announcement that Seven West Media has made a multi-million dollar investment in Car Expert, and has appointed the platform to be its primary automotive partner. This follows Seven announcing at its upfronts a data and content deal with CarExpert.

CarExpert publisher, Alborz Fallah, said: “The opportunity for CarExpert being part-owned by the third-largest media company in Australia, beyond just an increase in our website traffic, is profound.”

“We have already expanded our content into newspapers that reach over four million readers a year, and look forward to further expanding that with TV segments, and a better integration into Seven’s enormously powerful digital assets,” he said.

Fallah was previously co-founder of Car Advice, with fellow CarExpert founder Anthony Crawford. The pair, along with presenter Paul Maric,  sold the business to Nine Entertainment Co in 2018 for a reported $62 million, before leaving in 2019. Soon after the media company announced it would be merging Car Advice and Drive, shortly before CEO Andrew Beecher said he would be stepping down.

Beecher has gone on to head up the Are Media (formerly Bauer Media) automotive division. It features assets from the former Pacific Magazines stable of publications, that was once owned by Seven West Media. Seven sold the publishing arm to Bauer shortly before Bauer was sold to private equity and rebranded Are Media.

After the presentation, Mumbrella asked Fallah how the outlet will ensure its independence, and how this “new” model is any different to affiliate links that can be seen on multiple fashion, consumer tech, and foodie websites.

“We don’t monitise every single page on the site. The biggest thing for us is we have to build an audience, and we have to get the audience to trust us. If you don’t have that trust, you lose the audience, and I think for us the audience always comes first for us.”

CarExpert YouTube subscribers

CarExpert commercial director Benn Sykes’ response was much like Fallah’s, who told Mumbrella: “We have a strict church and state approach to things here at CarExpert. Strictly no sponsored content and content comes before our native links (post publishing). It means that from time-to-time we have had to turn down investment. Our audience can smell a rat and the moment we sacrifice the trust of our audience it means commercially my product is worthless.”

Sykes added: “The difference in these links is how they’re positioned within content and within which content. When talking about a car’s pricing we invite users to price their own version of the car and link back to the Car Companies website to do just that. It’s a very manual process but one that’s led to CTR’s of 10%+ and a Click to Conversion rate of 30%+.”

On top of this, Mumbrella asked what proof the outlet has that the standard display model is not working and did they think of any other ways in which they could support the business?

Sykes admitted: “I’ve been working in the automotive publisher space for ten plus years now and each and every year automotive manufacturers are held to ransom by publishers. To own the positions around your hard earned media you also have to surround the click bait news pieces that are now all too common. Buying on a CPM and Keyword basis means that just getting users to the article becomes the goal. At CarExpert we emphasise the type of content [relevant news, reviews and comparisons] and focus on engagement.”

CarExpert engagement

Fallah also weighed in: “We’ve got three pillars to the business. We took 15 years of experience from Car Advice, where we saw display go through a really good growth period, which were actually delivering results, however towards the end before I left it really wasn’t.

“The click-through rate (CTR) was really low, and from what we could gather, a fair bit of that click-through was accidental on mobiles as you were scrolling, and it wasn’t leading to any outcomes or conversions on th either end. We have nothing against display ads. We’ve just shown over the last year, that doing it the way that we do it, tends to have better results at a more efficient cost for the manufacturers.”

In addition, when asked whether CarExpert deals directly with manufacturers or are media agencies their main targets, Sykes said: “Both are our clients and our partners.”

Fallah added: “Most of the time it’s media agencies, some manufacturers deal with us directly, but the majority goes through agencies.”

During the presentation, CarExpert said it YouTube channel has more than 140,000 subscribers, and gets 1.5 million views per month.

Furthermore, CarExpert attracted 1.329 million Australian users in September, and that October looks to push up over the 1.4 million mark.

Earlier this year, the online outlet had a trial of its CarExpert Experience Centre, where the platform brought 40 cars to Westfield’s, Warringah Mall, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. With over 30,000 visitors, and hundreds of test drives, CarExpert announced it will resume the rollout of the Experience Centres in the first-half of 2022, launching in Melbourne.


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