Deals on Wheels Issue 300 special

By: Randolph Covich

The Ed hunts through the archives and traces the past of Deals on Wheels.

While we do a pretty good job here at DOW HQ of recording the history of people and businesses we feature, I’ve recently found out that we haven’t done a good job at recording our own past. So, as we prepared to produce the 300th issue of Deals on Wheels, I dusted off some archived issues to see what could be found about our own iconic brand’s past.

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The beginning

Back in 1994, Deals on Wheels first hit New Zealand magazine shelves. It was a Kiwi spinoff from its Australian namesake and part of the Tradergroup stable of brands, being a division of the Kerry Packer-owned ACP (Australia Consolidated Press) group.

In 2012, the entire group was purchased by the German-based Bauer family and integrated into their Bauer Media Group of more than 600 magazines, along with 400 digital products and 50 radio and TV stations located in 17 countries around the globe.

But, back in 1994, following in the footsteps of iconic petrol must-read car buy/sell mag Autotrader, Deals on Wheels was soon joined by other New Zealand titles: Farm Trader, Trade a Boat, Motorcycle Trader, Motorhomes, Caravans and Destinations, and NZ Lifestyle Block. A couple of these titles now reside in the hands of other publishers.

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With the exception of Autotrader, which was purchased by ACP from its New Zealand owner, most of Tradergroup’s New Zealand magazines had been previously introduced in Australia and followed similar formats.

Something I only found out recently was that Deals on Wheels was originally started in Australia by a gentleman called Shayne Hunter in the 1980s. Sometime, I surmise, later that decade, Tradergroup’s management caught wind of the popular magazine, and along with Unique Cars (and possibly some other brands) purchased Deals on Wheels from Shayne’s company.

Deals on Wheels Australia was then published in the country for a few years before being exported across the Ditch. If you have seen a recent copy of our trans-Tasman stablemate at 300 pages of primarily ads, you will see it is still a serious player in the Aussie trucks marketplace.

Deals on Wheels NZ edition

Come 1994, the publisher recognised a gap in the New Zealand market and exported the Deals on Wheels brand name here, kicking off what has been a successful and long venture.

Originally, printed on newsprint with a few pages of gloss colour, the Kiwi version of Deals on Wheels, like its Australian counterpart, primarily featured classified trucks for sale with a scattering of machinery ads, along with a Farm Trader section at the back of the mag.

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Farm Trader was split away into its own publication around three years later, and funnily enough, in late 2016, we saw fit to reinvent the wheel and combine it again with Deals on Wheels.

It wasn’t until mid-2002 that the construction machinery market was really seized and sometime between June and September 2002, we produced the now well-known flipped magazine, with Trucks on one side and Construction on the other. This formula seemed to work well, with each issue containing around 220 pages give or take a few depending on ad content.

Looking back to when I started as editor in 2011, people would sometimes tell me that the mag had gotten smaller in size over the years, but for the most part, the number of pages hadn’t changed—just the weight of the paper the mag was printed on, and, of course, the number of classifieds, thanks to the advent of the internet.

Digital footprints

Speaking of the internet, by 2006, Deals on Wheels had established itself on the World Wide Web with a dedicated site offering buyers and sellers a host of goods, which included property, building supplies, and office equipment no less.

By 2008, the office equipment was gone, but somehow the powers that be thought it was ok to feature caravans for sale on a truck and machinery website. Thankfully, those were moved to a more appropriate website shortly after.

On the magazine front, as more people became accustomed to buying and selling online, the classified ads gradually diminished from print. This left room to include additional editorial content, enabling buyers to learn more about the businesses associated with the trucking and construction industries—a formula that continues to be popular.

Consequently, by 2012, the website had turned into something of a beast with a large audience engagement and the site itself sported a new look. At this stage, digital advertising was contributing significant revenue to Deals on Wheels bottom line.

New concepts, new layouts…

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Magazine-wise, in 2012, I had been in the hot seat for a few months, having started in August 2011. We began experimenting with different layout concepts and also a different style of article. Gone were the lengthy spreadsheets of machine comparisons as were writers who had little understanding of the audience they were writing for.

The year 2012 also saw us creating video content, although a few tentative videos had been created a couple of years earlier. We played around with styles that allowed us to capture both the story in print and a video that showed trucks and machinery to our online audience.

Fair to say, most of our video efforts back then were amateurish, but we were still able to tell a decent story. This is something, which by 2017, was well and truly addressed, and we now are regularly producing slick video content to go along with articles as well as one-off videos highlighting advertiser’s equipment.

Around 2012, social media also raised its head, and we kicked off the Deals on Wheels Facebook page, along with the accompanying YouTube channel.

…and new additions

The intervening years from issue 215 (my first in 2011) to this issue 300 have seen us continually work on tweaking the magazine in a number of different ways. As mentioned earlier, we reintroduced Farm Trader into the Deals on Wheels (issue 280 Dec 2016) magazine to provide not only a physically larger product but also to also reach a larger crossover audience.

While this has proved popular both with our rural and construction audiences, it is fair to say I got a few phone calls from truckies lamenting the loss of trucks from the front cover. Unfortunately, we haven’t quite worked out how to make a three-front cover magazine yet.

So, as we celebrate the 300th issue, we’re pretty happy with how things are playing out. Every month, we have a dedicated team who travel the country seeking out interesting stories. We profile advertisers’ products often and provide what I maintain is quality buying information in an engaging format.

Online, we’re uploading some great video content and have gathered a targeted audience that we will work with in the future as we develop further web-based products. Showing that we are considering our audience as much as possible, you will also notice from this issue onwards, we will be running NZ Trucking’s Truck Trader magazine.

At almost 50 pages of classified trucks for sale, this is one of a number of partnerships we run with competitors to help assist each brand in reaching new audiences and is  what I see as being the future of online and print publishing.

Moving forward into 2019, there will be further changes afoot as we continue to develop and tweak the Deals on Wheels brand, for if there’s one thing that’s I’m certain of, is that we will continue to produce the very best we can for you—our audience.

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