Dennis Publishing, of the UK, whose auto portfolio includes Auto Express, Evo, and Car Buyer, has acquired social media company Car Throttle and its motorsport brand WTF1 which operate from London and New York, for a total consideration of £1.7m.
Car Throttle was started in 2009 after founder Adnan Ebrahim (then an economics student at London University) realised there was no online platform for people like him: young, millennial car enthusiasts. Dubbed ‘Buzzfeed for cars’, the site quickly evolved into a vibrant community serving millions of users – called CTzens – who follow the brand on apps and social media. It now claims 14m followers and its videos have been viewed 2.5bn times on YouTube. WTF1 has an audience of over 1m followers including F1 drivers and fans.
Ebrahim’s social journalism model gets 99% of its content from users and only 1% from its internal editorial team. He’s been quoted as describing Car Throttle as “Top Gear for the Facebook generation” which might just rile the former Top Gear presenters who launched DriveTribe.
Car Throttle’s UK and European funders (including Passion Capital, Vitruvian, and Redalpine) had invested some £1.5m in the business during 2013-15. It had an estimated £3m revenue last year and is said to be profitable. It makes money from branded content, video, ads – and e-commerce.
In December 2017, Digiday reported that e-commerce accounted for some 40% of Car Throttle’s total revenue, from more than 3,000 products including hats, T-shirts, keychains and pricier items like steering wheels and hydraulic handbrakes. “There’s no reason why we can’t challenge the eBays of the world to become the go-to place for petrolheads,” said Ebrahim. “Media companies have more of a competitive advantage than they think. They understand the mind of the user; they just need to shift from thinking about how they view media to buying stuff. Publishers often miss that their audiences are also buyers.”
Adnan Ebrahim will continue to manage Car Throttle, as part of Dennis.
The acquisition is a measure of Dennis’ commitment to the broad motoring market in which its Buy-a-Car e-commerce has been expanding fast, despite growing UK competition. Last year, Buy-a-Car was believed to have some £60m revenue – almost double the previous year and 50% of Dennis’ entire UK business.
The £190m-revenue company, publisher of The Week in the UK and US, was founded in 1974 by the late Felix Dennis. It was sold to Exponent private equity for £167.4m last year. Earlier this year, it acquired the Kiplinger newsletter business (for £20.5m) and also the subscription lists of Money magazine from Meredith (for £2.6m) as part of its expansion of The Week in the US.