The day has finally come. CarAdvice is no more and Australia’s largest new car editorial website is dead.
It’s a decision that remains elusive and confusing for car fans in Australia almost a year after Nine announced it would shut down CarAdvice and move its automotive resources to Drive in October 2020.
For those of you new to Carfan, you should know that many of us are from CarAdvice. In fact, I, and later Anthony and Paul, were the original founders of CarAdvice and watched it grow to be the best automotive editorial website in Australia.
After we left at the end of 2019 and started Carfan at the beginning of 2020, the reasons for our departure now seem obvious. For some of you it would be interesting to know that when Nine took over completely, not a single manager was left with CarAdvice.
This is not an article that denounces the power of companies to make decisions – even if they defy all logic, the desires of their target audience, and the demands of the marketplace. Instead, this is an article to recall some of CarAdvice’s most amazing memories.
First of all, thank you very much for joining Carfan. We are the real new underdogs in the Australian automotive media landscape. Even though we’ve been around for a while, we don’t take your patronage for granted.
Our traffic growth since our inception in April 2020 has been so astronomical that sometimes we cannot comprehend how we got here in such a short time. We still have a long way to go, however, and we will continue to bring you the best content from the best people without intrusive display ads for as long as possible.
CarAdvice started in May 2006 and the sale to Nine took place in September 2016, with the earn-out being processed until September 2018. In the 10 years that led to sales, enough hijinks took place to fill a book.
In fact, there is a book by Anthony, Paul, and me called Fast Cars & F * # k ups – The Untold Story of CarAdvice later in 2021.
But first let’s look back at the five most important moments that we felt defined as our memories of CarAdvice.
Against all odds, do what we love
The only thing that the three of us and all of the early employees at CarAdvice (now at Carfan) had in common was that we all love what we do. We talk all the time about cars and we do endless crap about how wrong we are with certain cars. The laughter that arises when you make fun of each other has led to many tears of joy.
It’s the ultimate cheesy term for doing what you love because we really do it. We all work extremely hard (sometimes Tony even) but we have a lot of fun doing it and if it weren’t for that we would have collapsed with us (and continue to do Carfan) in the face of industry challenges and competing major publications.
Trust us, there are still many challenges. Running a website with more than 20 full-time employees isn’t cheap. Raising the money to do this when a global pandemic broke out and markets declined was an accomplishment in itself.
Ironically, we at CarAdvice received unsubstantiated legal letters from the likes of Drive on numerous occasions when the ‘masterminds’ at Fairfax (now Nine) finally realized we were a serious threat to their auto publishing business, but it was too late.
There is a great book called Killing Fairfax that you should read if you are interested.
The support (and lack of support) from auto companies
When we founded CarAdvice, the internet wasn’t what it is today. 2006 was a long time ago – Facebook was only two years old, Instagram was four years away, and most people saw the internet as a beautiful thing … but nowhere near as important as it is today.
It was a different time in the media landscape, and newspapers and magazines were still the order of the day. People like the drive section in the Sydney Morning Herald were highly regarded.
This created an interesting dynamic for us as the old school car company public relations managers treated internet publishers like some sort of new plague with no authority (or respect for the subject).
For some of them we were a plague that had to go. In some cases it took us years to get cars from certain brands. A PR manager (who remains anonymous until the book is published) even said: “At CarAdvice, people learn how to steal cars, not how to buy them,” so little understanding of the importance of the web.
There were also many early supporters who saw our potential and realized that “this internet thing” was not going away. After all, over a long period of time, they all got around. Not before we have been banned by some car companies or cars have been canceled for political reasons.
Ultimately, the auto companies were all wooed when their own customers Googled their car, CarAdvice (and now Carfan) came up and formed their opinion.
Our first supercar / full throttle rides
It would be a lie to say that we didn’t dream of testing supercars when we launched CarAdvice. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
Unfortunately, it’s a trap many fall into in this game; desperate to test Aston Martins, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, forgetting that people buy normal cars, and those buying these exotic cars don’t care what an auto journalist thinks.
We fell into that trap too, but if you lose your passion for cars, you might as well work for a media company. We finally managed to find a good balance.
To that end, the first supercar we tested and reviewed was a beautiful Lamborghini Murcielago Coupe with a manual transmission. I took a day off from my usual job at the University of Queensland (which has since made me an honorary professor and entrepreneur in residence) to fly to Sydney, where Anthony picked me up.
I have to tell you, nothing in the world can replace the memory of the Murcielago who drove into the passenger pick-up zone knowing he was there for us. They say you never forget your first real supercar – I still remember it like it was yesterday.
From there we decided to go on a ‘full throttle’ trip to Europe, where we set up the Bugatti Veyron, two Lamborghini Gallardos and an Aston Martin DBS. There they drove in Europe ‘three Muppets’ (as the industry probably called us back then) the fastest car in the world. It was really lovely.
Not only did we drive the car at well over 300 km / h, we were also the first media company to film the Bugatti plant. This video lives on YouTube today and was featured on its front page by YouTube.
It was also picked up on the Discovery Channel and ran for years on one of its shows about supercars.
I urge you to look, if not just to laugh at the oversized pants Tony was wearing.
The success of the first full throttle trip led us to plan another one with a DVD release contract and have a full series production of ours reviewing supercars (remember that bit of falling into a trap ?).
We received sponsorship from Etihad, Pirelli, Nitro Energy Drink, and Sinn Watches to support this, and headed overseas to enjoy one of the most memorable three-week trips of our lives.
Unfortunately, due to politics, the global financial crisis and a change in CEO at CarAdvice at the time, the videos never made it out of the studio. Rest assured that you will not get lost and especially our video from Koenigsegg CCX and Wiesmann live with us. We hope to be able to publish it soon just out of nostalgia.
As an aside, we lost more equity (shares) in the business on the second full throttle trip (fundraising) than it would have cost to buy most of the cars we drove together when it came to selling the company by nine .
Good lesson there.
Global financial crisis and the near death of CarAdvice
From the outside, it may look like CarAdvice has climbed the top in a natural and easy way. The reality is different. We have nearly gone bankrupt and on the verge of bankruptcy on numerous occasions.
The global financial crisis hit us hard and our advertising revenue at that time sank to a level where we were shedding endless money. Anthony, Paul and I went through a period of no salary, we worked endless hours for nothing just to keep the lights on because in the end we believed.
We believed in what we were doing.
That belief paid off because when we got out of the GFC with the best car location in the country, we saw the fruits of our labor. CarAdvice traffic has not gone backwards for almost a decade.
The sale to Nine and why we left
The sale to Nine took place in 2016 as part of a two-year earn-out. Back then it was a monumental moment for the employees and the founders of the company. Eventually, Australia’s (now) largest media company bought a company we had worked tirelessly on for over a decade.
For us it felt like the beginning of a new and very exciting chapter with Nine. We felt that with Nine’s reach and help we could take CarAdvice to the next level and become a household name. From a TV show to the radio to Nine’s imprint, the cards piled up and the plan for execution was there.
Unfortunately, for reasons that you will learn in the book (which comes out after our two year non-despicable agreement), none of these plans have materialized and the decision has apparently been made to shut down CarAdvice.
Fortunately, it made us want to go and start over. Carefree from contaminated sites and with the ability to be quick and innovative, Carfan has given us the opportunity to do what we love again, to laugh on the side and experience it thanks to our successful center.
While CarAdvice may have died a slow and lonely death, the people who started it, developed it, and made it successful are here and not going anywhere.
While CarAdvice may be dead, employees are switching to the Drive brand. We wish you all the best.
Thank you for joining us on this new journey. Although we are small, our efforts have already been recognized. Carfan has been nominated for four Mumbrella Publish Awards, the Oscar equivalent of the publishing world:
- Website of the year
- Editor of the year: Paul Maric
- Launch / relaunch of the year
- Event or virtual event of the year: Carfan Experience Center
We have some important announcements to make in the coming months that will further solidify our position in the market. As we keep growing and expanding, we want you to know that you can always contact us and provide your feedback (via comments below or via the contact form).
We absolutely take it and really appreciate the input from our audience.