The Robb Report on Hot Cars and Luxury Buyers

1115_fullEvents and digital content are good business for the publisher, but nothing trumps print for that upscale, engaging experience.

The Robb Report has long been known as an upscale magazine, since its beginnings as a magazine covering the collectible automobile niche. Forty years on, the magazine is having somewhat of a return to its roots with its impressive Auto Show coverage in Detroit early this year.

Folio: magazine chatted with editor-in-chief Brett Anderson about the Auto Show partnership and their take on the growing affluent market and what they want in a content experience.

“Robb Report began as a magazine that covered collectible cars. From there, the magazine expanded into other types of collecting—watches, fine art, wine, and so forth—but cars have always been a huge part of the magazine’s DNA,” Anderson explained.

“We attend the show every year, but this year, because our current financial partners are based in Detroit and we spend a lot of time there, we decided to do something special and make a statement to the automotive industry that we’re very much a part of it, that it’s exciting to us, that it’s kind of at the core of our readers’ interests,” he continued.

Those readers are an upscale lot, so the focus was less about horsepower and value, and more about the artistry of automotive design. The concept, which he terms “design connoisseurship,” was a hit, both online and in person at the event, Anderson notes.

The company has certainly evolved with the times, using a lot of video, events and digital to engage audiences. Yet they recognize that print has done extremely well for them relative to the mass magazine market, only declining 2.6% in the last 10 years.

“As a consumer of content as well as a professional engaged in producing it, I think that there’s something about that physical product that just engages you,” Anderson says. “I’ve heard time and again from our audience that, as much as they love things like our iPad app, they spend all day looking at devices. At the end of the day when they come home, they just want to disconnect. Flipping through the magazine, the feel of the paper, the glossy pictures, it’s a different experience.”

Admittedly, he doesn’t believe that print channel is the strongest growth channel for the brand. Nevertheless, those print readers are well knowns as VIPs in their customer base, as other luxury retailers have found. Aside from being a top channel influencer for purchases, print promotes longer engagement over digital, and the upscale audience demands a print product.

“You’re dealing with smaller, but in my opinion, more meaningful members in terms of buying power,” he says.  “The reality of the situation is that affluent audiences are growing. If we decided to try to take the print product away and just do what we did through digital means, I think we would get some serious backlash from our audience.”