A growing segment of auto enthusiast magazines targets young urban readers. Magazines such as DUB and Rides have achieved prominence that goes beyond their relatively small circulations.
The magazines' editorial content consists largely of celebrity profiles and product reviews. DUB calls itself ``the original automotive lifestyles magazine.'' A recent issue features articles on National Football League star Jerry Rice and rapper-actor DMX, and the customized luxury vehicles they drive.
DUB said its circulation has grown to nearly 180,000 since it began publishing in Los Angeles four years ago. By contrast, the traditional buff book Car and Driver has a paid circulation of almost 1.4 million.
But DUB-which takes its name from slang for 20-inch wheels-is especially popular among young urban men. That's a niche market auto makers covet but can have difficulty targeting.
Defining what's hot
``Publications like DUB define what's hot and lead opinions within an often hard-to-reach demographic,'' said Julie Roehm, director of marketing communications for the Chrysler group. ``Any time there is a medium available that is noticed and breaks through the clutter, there is a potential for positive results.''
DUB's advertising revenue sources initially were limited to aftermarket and non-automotive businesses. But a recent issue includes large display ads for the Scion tC coupe, Nissan Altima, Chrysler 300 and Ford Escape.
DUB President Myles Kovacs, who founded the magazine with two partners, said some auto makers remain apprehensive about his publication.
``We have to spend a lot of time educating the auto manufacturers about the (urban) market because a lot of them still don't know how to approach it,'' Mr. Kovacs said. ``There is a fear of the unknown.''
DUB is building its brand with other activities. It sponsors a traveling celebrity car show. It sells accessories ranging from die-cast toy cars to limited-edition wheels. It markets customized versions of the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum and Cadillac Escalade.
The magazine produces episodes of the cable TV series ``MTV Cribs'' that deal with celebrities' cars. It co-sponsors a Las Vegas awards celebration with the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) that features celebrity guests and entertainers.
`The illest car magazine'
DUB's chief competitor is Rides, a semimonthly magazine that debuted last year. Rides, which calls itself ``the illest car magazine ever,'' claims a circulation of roughly 150,000.
A recent issue of Rides features NFL stars Michael Vick, Terrell Owens and Warren Sapp with their vehicles. It includes large ads for the Pontiac G6, Nissan Maxima, Dodge Magnum, and Mercedes-Benz and Scion brands.
Pontiac-GMC General Manager Jim Bunnell said the success of specialty magazines such as DUB and Rides reflects a growing segmentation of automotive markets.
``Traditional mass marketing doesn't work the way it has worked in the past,'' Mr. Bunnell said. ``People are getting access to media in a very targeted way. You have to become a part of what people love and not an intruder.''
Scion Vice President Jim Farley said Toyota's youth brand made advertising in DUB and Rides an essential part of its U.S. marketing strategy. ``Those kinds of readers capture the essence of the Scion brand, which is the customization of cars,'' Mr. Farley said. ``Scion is more concerned with the quality of our connection with our customers, as opposed to exposing it to a lot of people. The idea is to expose Scion to those opinion leaders so they can tell others about it.''
Nissan North America Inc. was among the earliest automotive advertisers in DUB and Rides. Terri Hines, Nissan's senior manager of public affairs and lifestyle communications, said the company is ``targeting the trendsetters, tastemakers and influencers (who) make up the dynamic urban community.''
Other urban magazines also are increasing their automotive content. Music publications such as Vibe and Source now offer vehicle reviews. So does Complex, a design magazine.
Ed Kim, an analyst for the consulting firm AutoPacific in Tustin, Calif., said urban magazines often make a stronger connection to young consumers than traditional buff books do. ``Generation Y buyers have really embraced niche publications,'' he said. ``There is the perception that smaller niche publications are more apt to keep it real.''