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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
6/26/20 9:15 a.m.
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Automotive media conglomerate Hearst Autos (owners of assets that include Car and Driver, Autoweek and Road & Track) has acquired digital auction platform Bring a Trailer.

The 415,000-user strong site is reported to continue to run as an independent business under co-founder Randy Nonnenberg. As well, the release points out that "no personnel changes are planned, and operations will continue from the existing San Francisco, CA, headquarters."

The plan, then, is to use Hearst's resources to "expand and support" what Bring a Trailer offers through new products, features and technology. There is also the potential for new content for the auction site that would include "editorial content and insights as well as business and sponsorship opportunities" by collaborating with the many automotive brands in the Hearst portfolio.

 

Learn more about Bring a Trailer via a recent in-depth feature on the Classic Motorsports site or read the full press release below:

 

NEW YORK, NY (June 25, 2020)Hearst Autos today announced the acquisition of Bring a Trailer, a digital auction platform and auto enthusiast community. The announcement was made by Hearst Magazines President Troy Young, Hearst Autos CEO Matt Sanchez, and Bring a Trailer Co-founders Randy Nonnenberg and Gentry Underwood.

Bring a Trailer curates classic, collector, and enthusiast vehicles submitted by its audience for auction. This knowledgeable community of more than 415,000 users and more than 175,000 registered bidders vets each vehicle, giving confidence to potential buyers. The name of the platform is a reference to the familiar shorthand in classified listings urging buyers to “Bring a trailer!” for non-operational projects, race cars and Concours show vehicles.

“Bring a Trailer represents another step in the evolution of Hearst Magazines, one that connects passion points to content and now, marketplaces,” Young said. “At its core, Bring a Trailer is about curation, which is what our brands have always been about.”

“Bring a Trailer has set the bar for building a community around a passion point,” Sanchez said. “What Randy and Gentry have developed is truly special, and what they deliver to their audience is so much more than transactional. They’ve built a family, developed trust, and have become an invaluable part of the automotive landscape. We’re excited to welcome Bring a Trailer into Hearst Autos and develop the resources, tools, technology, and partnerships to support and grow this iconic business.”

Bring a Trailer will continue to run as an independent business, led by Nonnenberg and his team. No personnel changes are planned, and operations will continue from the existing San Francisco, CA, headquarters.

“I’m very excited to continue to lead Bring a Trailer as we partner with Hearst Autos,” Nonnenberg said. “We can now keep all of the best parts of the business intact while enhancing our capabilities to address our huge product demand and user traffic growth. I had Road & Track magazine pages hung on my walls as a kid and they helped shape my automotive passion. This is really an amazing next step in the Bring a Trailer journey, and it will allow us to solidify our tech foundation so that we can add new features and better serve the automotive enthusiast community.”

Hearst Autos will expand and support Bring a Trailer’s offerings, community and transactions through investments in robust technology and new products and features. In addition, Hearst Autos’ iconic brands Car and Driver, Road & Track and Autoweek will add collaborative benefits to Bring a Trailer, including editorial content and insights as well as business and sponsorship opportunities.

 

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captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
6/26/20 10:13 a.m.

Sigh, a conglomerate struggling to reach their target market, who is engaging with smaller more focused organic outlets, purchases one of the smaller successful outlets with visions of growing it's success, brand and capitalizing on it. 

 

Delusions of grandeur. They want to turn it into what the market and audience has already expressed that it doesn't want. Don't try to turn vanilla into Rocky Road and tell people it's better when vanilla is the number one selling flavor and the people knew what it was when they put it into their cart. 

 

One of the things that I love about GRM, is that the challenge is 1/3 drag race, and it is due the fact it's a measure of making power and putting it to the ground effectively. But the fine folks at GRM cognitive to the fact that we don't want to read articles about dialing in our 60-foot times and drag racing tech. They're aware of the fact that the market, even though drag racing is a major component of the competition within one of the biggest events of the year, isn't interested in consuming that content. 

 

Media conglomerates that lose viewership then obtain smaller upstart outlets, who have gained market share, then change said outlet to be more like "their vision" (and what viewers and readers left in the first place) are the definition of an abusive relationship. I can't wait to be told the Top 10 quirky French hatchbacks that I need to but today upon opening up Bring a Trailer one day in the near future. 

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa Dork
6/26/20 10:23 a.m.

In reply to captdownshift (Forum Supporter) :

Well said

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
6/26/20 10:27 a.m.

Good on BAT for selling. They put in a lot of work to create an interesting market and they're getting paid for it. My gut feeling is that they lost their original demographic in the last year or so anyway, so it will be interesting to see if this accelerates or reverses this. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/26/20 11:00 a.m.

BAT has changed dramatically since the inception. It used to be a site that reported on interesting cars up for auction found around the web. Every single writeup mentioned the stance of the car :) See Daily Turismo for a very similar site that's aimed a little lower down in terms of price point.

Then they turned into an auction site and managed to nail the high end market nicely by curating the offerings and insisting on quality photography. They also rewrite the ads with a very skeptical tone ("seller claims...") that is almost the exact opposite of the enthusiasm they showed at the beginning. It is nothing like the site that it once was, but it's been a successful transition.

I don't believe that having a parent company is the kiss of death. It'll bring more awareness to the auctions. It'll give a bit of stability and access to more resources than BAT may have had on their own. I don't subscribe to the knee-jerk "big companies are bad" mindset, because there are a lot of very bad small companies out there.

CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter)
CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter) Reader
6/26/20 11:34 a.m.

Am I crazy or is BAT making money hand over fist? Companies like Hearst need to have digital strategies and BAT is probably a good fit. 

RossD
RossD MegaDork
6/26/20 11:41 a.m.

Meh. I lost interest when they started doing the auction bit. I like junk, what can I say. Good for the folks that got the big check from Hearst. 

Saron81
Saron81 Reader
6/26/20 11:46 a.m.
CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter) said:

Am I crazy or is BAT making money hand over fist? Companies like Hearst need to have digital strategies and BAT is probably a good fit. 

Don't they only charge $100 to list a car? Do they get a cut of the final sale?

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
6/26/20 11:47 a.m.

I don't think that big companies are bad, but I'm yet to personally observe an instance where an automotive media company acquiring an outlet had been benefitual for the outlet or the consumer. I also don't fault BaT for selling. In brewing there's a saying that's used, that's been borrowed from boat owners, that is the 2 happiest days of your life is the day that you open your brewery and the day that you sell it. Depending upon non-compete agreements and clauses, I feel that it's likely the same in many fields. Most successful people learn from the process and would do some things differently if given the chance for a mulligan. I'm a big proponent of 20 groups, established firms learn from smaller newly successful upstarts what's working for them in the market in attracting a customer base, and upstarts get guidance on upcoming challenges associated with growth. They learn from each other and make each other better and more competitive. But within automotive media, I feel that the big boys are, for the most part, either really dense to their shortcomings or really ignorant to the market and feel that upstarts have merely "found a new niche or trend" instead of realizing that they've been missing their mark. In turn they try to make the assets that they acquire fit their mold and formula, content deteriorates and the brand suffers. 

A touch of irony (and hope) is the R&T under Lieberman has mostly avoided this trap and been successful. He allows people to specialize, keep their voice and doesn't push them to be seen and contribute across every format and avenue. Other than having a lot available under a single umbrella and channel though, I'm not sure as to what the real benefit is to the consumer. 

 

 

CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter)
CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter) Reader
6/26/20 12:01 p.m.
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) said:

 I'm a big proponent of 20 groups, established firms learn from smaller newly successful upstarts what's working for them in the market in attracting a customer base, and upstarts get guidance on upcoming challenges associated with growth. They learn from each other and make each other better and more competitive.

I've heard these described as "Groups of 12" or similar. Pretty sure you can trace them back to Ben Franklin's Junto. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junto_(club)

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia Dork
6/26/20 12:09 p.m.

it will be interesting to see what they change ,  

free auction if you subscribe to R+T ?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/26/20 12:18 p.m.

Given the relative values, I would expect it to be the other way around :)

BAT charges $100 or $150 as a listing fee and also takes a cut of the total.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) UberDork
6/26/20 12:27 p.m.

BAT has a buyer's fee of 5% up to a maximum of $5K, which is significantly lower than most traditional auction companies.

I think they do 30 cars a day, and I'd guess the average auction price is around $30K.  That's like $16M/year in revenue, plus another $1M from the $99/car.

spitfirebill
spitfirebill MegaDork
6/26/20 12:51 p.m.

Ka chinnnnggggg

xflowgolf (Forum Supporter)
xflowgolf (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
6/26/20 12:59 p.m.
mazdeuce - Seth said:

Good on BAT for selling. They put in a lot of work to create an interesting market and they're getting paid for it. My gut feeling is that they lost their original demographic in the last year or so anyway, so it will be interesting to see if this accelerates or reverses this. 

I've thought the same thing observing BAT over the years. 

T.J.
T.J. MegaDork
6/26/20 1:10 p.m.

Yes, congrats to those two guys who created something, built it up to its present state, then sold it off. They should be set for life. I wonder if they agreed to stay on for any particular amount of time.

I haven't regularly looked at BAT for years since they started shifting upmarket, but obviously other people have.

fanfoy
fanfoy SuperDork
6/26/20 1:42 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Thanks for pointing out Daily Turismo! I had left Bring a Trailer since they moved upmarket and I missed it. Daily Turismo replaced that well.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise SuperDork
6/26/20 2:23 p.m.

Great news for us sellers. Hopefully more exposure . I have 2 more coming up in the next few weeks. The 3 I sold last year, I received 35-45% more what I would have gotten in the open local market.

 

LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE BAT BUYERS!!

Snowdoggie
Snowdoggie Reader
6/26/20 2:32 p.m.

Right now they are running auctions for a $3,000 Spitfire project car and a Lamborghini Miura. Seems like they are covering a wide market. 

What's not to like here?

 

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
6/26/20 3:40 p.m.

I don’t think Roadkill ever actually improved after going to MT and behind a paywall.  In fact I think it got worse.  A lot worse.

 

Hearst probably took one look at how BAT used an ‘85 K20 to separate some fool from $85k and said “we gotta have this...”

bumpsteer
bumpsteer New Reader
6/26/20 3:49 p.m.

In reply to A 401 CJ :

TEN is a different giant automotive media machine though...

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
6/26/20 4:00 p.m.
bumpsteer said:

In reply to A 401 CJ :

TEN is a different giant automotive media machine though...

Considering they shuttered nearly all their magazines, I don't know if 'giant' is the proper word to use.

Good on them and their success. I'd argue that BaT is still a helpful barometer on just what's going on with cars, especially rad ones once thought to be expendable. 

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/26/20 10:23 p.m.

One of the many reasons I like BaT a lot less than I used to is that it vastly outgrew my attention span and available time.I know i'm falling off but i'm among the top-posting users here and have been top-posting user of a 10k+ user forum in the past. I think i still spend an 'adequate' amount of time on the internet doing car stuff.  I can't keep up with the sheer amount of auctions going through while spending what I consider a reasonable amount of time on the site.  

 

accordionfolder
accordionfolder Dork
6/27/20 8:05 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

The acquisition market IS a terrifying thing for medium to small businesses and for market diversity. I've worked in it my entire career, tech is known for it. And while it doesn't necessarily spell death for the acquired, it nearly always does for their internal company culture and image - which in turn usually expels the employees (in my experience purposefully) that came with the acquisition.

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