Why everyone is quitting big automotive Youtube Channels

Why everyone is quitting big automotive Youtube Channels

You can't click the autos section of YouTube without seeing a video of a well-known personality quitting whatever big channel they have been publishing on. Donut, Hoonigan, Car Throttle... the list is long.


While I can't speak to hosts' own personal reasons for deciding to go solo, what I can highlight here is that hardly any of them are actually quitting YouTube; they just see greener pastures being independent.

The warm embrace of an established company with established premises, corporate structure, HR department, regular weekly play is something that many people with 'regular' jobs take for granted. Myself I've only worked for someone else's business for a total of less than 2 years in my 25 years of earning income. With the exception of some casual jobs delivering pizzas or selling computers, I've been self-employed and had my own Australian Business Number since around the year 2000.

Here's insight by one of Donut Medias creatives/writers

The video above speaks to management issues inside existing established media businesses. As an early YouTube adopter, I saw the rise of these production companies who met the need of YouTube's insatiable appetite for content. This era saw rapid expansion as broadband became affordable and phones powerful enough for on-the-go consumption.

I think the underlying reasons behind these shifts are more profound than commonly discussed. These businesses are feeling squeezed, and the exodus of talent to independence is a symptom of deeper issues. Here's why:

Lots of these businesses were established when online automotive content was fertile ground, demand was outstripping supply, and advertising desperately wanted to reach a young male audience. While there was targeting and basic online ad algorithms that were getting this done - you still needed something to attract the eyeballs to your platform.

YouTube channels flooded in to fill this void. In the process, you had many solo creators (Chris Fix, Doug DeMuro, Engineering Explained), duos (Mighty Car Mods, Boosted Boiz), and then larger channels with even more creators - and that model was the one that's now gone crazy with the huge amount of reach that each individual influencer pools into the channel. These larger channels exploited this demand surge, capitalising on the massive reach individual influencers brought to their collective platforms. Many of these channels were purpose-built as profit-making social media content houses.

For a few years, views grow! Advertisers have a plethora of options to spend their money at. Many are happy to use YouTube's built-in AdSense system which places ads at the start and then eventually in the middle of videos - and the ad revenue is split roughly down the middle. It works for most people.

Then, the rise of the 'burnt-in ad' begins, where YouTube's system is essentially bypassed and creators work with brands directly to put an ad for a ball shaver, a VPN, health drink powder stuff, or a range of other products. It seems to work too! Anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars are up for grabs if you can get the eyeballs on the products. To YouTube's credit, they let it happen, being hands-off enough to have flexibility but hands-on enough with copyright issues and monetization to find a pretty good balance and most people have a good time on the platform.

Then 2018 rolls around and what happens? Everyone has a smartphone. No one wants to turn it sideways to watch a video and BAM... TikTok is upon us. Vertical video and TikTok exploded onto the scene, drastically altering how people watch. We shifted from an era of abundance with subscriptions and somewhat personalised recommendations - to a model where algorithms dictate content consumption akin to traditional TV, combined with a Tinder-like swipe model for quick content rejection.

The Robot (our term for algorithms) decides for you. In a way, we've gone full circle back to Cable or Free to Air TV where you get what you get and you don't get upset. The difference is, it's mixed with a Tinder model of being able to flick away from something that doesn't grab your interest. It's a new beginning. Some traditional YouTube creators manage to jump across or do both, some don't bother and there's also an explosion of new creators who may have never had a YouTube channel, but they have a phone with a camera, no costs, and are ready to give it a go.

I can tell you it was SUPER awkward pointing a camera at yourself in 2008 and having total strangers see it. That has completely gone away now.

That said, nearly everywhere you look people are flicking reels or TikTok’s of people they don’t know, who can do it with little to no investment, and the platforms providing the infrastructure make more money (for themselves, not the creators) than ever. Why do people want to create? Because they are creative and enjoy the outlet, maybe they want to build a brand or maybe they want clout, fame, influence or a myriad of other reasons that are way beyond the scope and psychoanalytic capability of this humble blog post.

So many of the channels you know and love exist because YouTube made a decision to cut them in. The number of TikTokers I see pushing people to go watch their stuff on YouTube is staggering. Why? Because over there it’s possible to build a small business, we are an example as are a myriad of other well-known channels that have been around for 5, 10, or even 15 years.

Now more and more, platforms are relying on user-generated content from a whole generation of people who think nothing of uploading videos of themselves doing… well stuff. To bring it back to my point about being squeezed: think of any industry that's been disrupted. The advent of the car means less horse feed is required. How about Uber? See ya later taxis. Disruption is just another word for 'we took your money elsewhere' and tech is famous for it because it can happen so swiftly.

If the big channels are being squeezed it's because of smaller advertising revenues as their viewership gets distributed to more creators doing more burnt-in ads. Or more influencers on vertical platforms doing paid partnerships (who do you think benefits the most from this?)

We've always wondered out loud if YouTube would come after channel sponsors. Companies who help fund a channel, and that channel shows and/or endorses their products or services. In a way, they have started to. The platforms have realized that the creator probably isn't going to pay for reach (some will) but you know who will? The brands. By calling it 'amplification' and offering the double carrot of more views for the creator and way more reach for the brand - it's a win-win-win. Three wins? Yep. The platform charges brands for something that they used to give away for free, the reach of influencers. And the double down is that they are now also charging influencers to reach the very people that came onto the platform in the first place, thanks to their efforts  

I could write all day on this, but reading the label from inside the bottle can sometimes be hard. The reality is it costs money to make good content.

There are some talented people who have made interesting and enlightening videos with nothing but a camera and their faces... or butts. But to be in it for the longer term you probably need to monetise your content, get some funds back into your account that you're spending out of to buy cameras, fuel, parts, other peoples time - whatever is required.

Content creators now have to navigate a future where they will need to sustain quality production with less financial support. Despite these challenges, viewers may ultimately benefit if content creation remains vibrant, albeit potentially less lucrative for creators.

Our decision (as Mighty Car Mods) to stay relatively small, pass on numerous buyout offers and work with select sponsors means we’ve been able to exist through more media landscape changes than you can poke a stick at, and now the changes are coming thick and fast... demonstrated by the squeeze and the influencers coming out the other end.

To anyone who has made the jump, strap yourself in, beware of the burnout bear and enjoy the ride!


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