I could be all dramatic here and start with a statement like (puts on evangelic James Brown-as-the preacher-in-The-Blues-Brothers voice) ‘ I have SEEN the future of motorsport media…….’ But I won’t because I’m not altogether sure I have.
What I am (or at least I think I am) fairly sure of is that Vlogs posted regularly on YouTube are ‘a’ future of motorsport media. And I feel that it is my duty as a journalist and now media commentator to alert you to them so you can take a look yourself, and make up your own mind about whether they are here to stay, a passing fad, or nothing more or less than a bit of harmless fun.
But first, some background.
Vlogs are produced by Vloggers (that’s pronounced ‘vlog’ as in blog and vlogger as in blogger NOT V-log and V-logger as I initially referred to them, until my – suitably mortified – teenage daughter pointed out the error of my ways). You access them via the internet by Googling YouTube and typing either a subject name (like, say, ‘drifting’ or a Vlog name like Adam LZ or TJ Hunt) into the Search box.
In a lot of ways, I guess, Vlogs are a sort of organic offshoot of reality TV and recent advances (you can make great Vlog content, for instance, on an iPhone) in consumer electronics. And I’m fairly certain they’re a generational thing.
Oh how my generation (Gen X) guffawed, chortled and generally took the mickey out of the first proper ‘reality TV show’ to screen here. Called Sylvania Waters, it was shot, ‘fly-on-the-wall-style’ and was about the daily life of a blended family of upwardly mobile blue collar types in (far) western Sydney.
I only know anything about it (OK this is my story and I’m sticking to it) because there was a Bathurst connection – via one the sons who raced a Walkinshaw Commodore and according to a storyline was a sort of ‘heart-of-gold, blue-colour Aussie battler’ who just needed a break….
Fast forward to today and what I suppose you could call ‘the ultimate’ Reality TV show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians (which I would describe as a kind of ‘Brady Bunch by and for Zombies’) is not only the E! (US Entertainment) network’s most popular show with a regular viewing audiences of over 4 million per episode, the current generation (Millenials) take inspiration – rather than the piss – out of anything the (utterly vacuous and celebrity and bauble-obsessed) family members say and do.
Viewing numbers, I see, are falling, but 4 million ‘sets of eyeballs’ on a busy Sunday night in the ‘home of television,’ the US isn’t bad. It has certainly made all the many and varied members of the ‘family’ very rich, be it via talent fees negotiated by producer Ryan (US X-Factor compare) Seacrest, or any one or all of the sisters charging companies huge sums to endorse products on the ‘show’ or via one, or all, of their social media channels (Instagram, Facebook etc).
Back in the day this was called Payola (defined as ‘the practice of bribing someone in return for the unofficial promotion of a product in the media’ and if – as a journalist or radio/TV presenter – you were caught doing it you not only faced instant dismissal, your case would also be reported to the police who could – and often did – prosecute.
Today this sort of insidious ‘promotion by association’ is done with absolute impunity, however, and given rise to a whole new genre of blogging blagger, the ‘Social Media Influencer.’
The ones I have met through my work in the ‘car’ media are (how can I put this nicely, and without sounding like I’m spitting out the pips from a bunch of particularly sour grapes as I write….?) ah, ‘vacuous and utterly unscrupulous wannabees who care only for themselves and their ‘Insta profiles and would much rather vlog about the food served at a launch than the car itself.’
Fortunately, not all Vloggers are tarred with this sort of brush. Particularly the ones who now derive a (substantial) direct income from YouTube (via ad revenue) and no longer feel the need to sell their souls to the companies who hand out clothes, sunnies, watches etc.
So what makes a good Vlog?
- At its simplest – and arguably most effective – a Vlog on YouTube is a broadcast diary of what the Vlogger gets up to. Because none – that I have been exposed to anyway – are produced by trained ‘journalists; the subject matter tends to be ‘about’ the Vlogger, rather than about the subject. But if the Vlogger leads an interesting enough life they can be – and many are – both informative and entertaining.
My favourite, at the moment at least, is Adam LZ, a You Tube channel with over 2.2 million subscribers worldwide, put together by former stunt BMX rider and fanboy Adam Lizotte-Zeisler (hence the LZ).
Adam is a personably young guy with an infectious enthusiasm for whatever he gets into, which at the moment, is drifting and owning and modifying cool JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) cars.
He gets around too; though now based in Orlando, Florida, he keeps a car (a JZX100 Toyota Cresta) at the spiritual home of drifting in Japan, Ebisu, and heads there – from what I can gather – three times a year for the Spring, Summer and Autumn Matsuris (grass roots competitions).
Because so many Aussies (and more and more Kiwis) fly in for these events as well there’s now a real sort if cross-pollination amongst the various drift communities spotted around the world, thanks in large part to the growth of subject-specific Vlogs like Adam LZ’s.
Others I regularly check out because of my interest in drifting include San Diego-based – but a regular visitor to our shore thanks to his unhealthy obsession with rotaries – TJ Hunt, (1.1 million subscribers), Lone Star Drift from Texas (48,000 subscribers) and Japan-based Noriyaro (360,000 subscribers).
Kiwis being the general early adapters they are, there are a couple of local channels I also follow, arguably the best being Mayhem Inc (which has just ticked over 26,000 subscribers), a channel master-minded and largely MCed by a young Gisborne-based car guy, Jared Faber.
Faber and a rag-tag bunch of Gizzy mates also get around, as far as Ebisu and Tokyo this year, with the 4 or 5 hour drive from their home town to Auckland and/or Taupo regularly making it into their Vlogs as they complete missions to track down cars and parts or simply provide more epic tales of daring do, near misses etc.
Drifting and building and modding cars to go drifting is what makes up most of the content, though of late they have taken to some light (and often hilarious) ‘bush-bashing’ in the 4x4s they originally bought with towing their drifters to the track in mind.
Another local channel run and largely fronted by a hard case blue collar kind of bloke is Rollincoal Downunder. The subject matter is cars, 4x4s and the fun you can have – without spending a lot of money – prepping them for missions as many and varied as Drifting an R31 Skyline (hence my initial interest), riverbank bashing in various 4x4s, and building and running end-of-life cars in his local (Hawke’s Bay) Demolition Derby.
Journalism – as in reporting from a third-party perspective – they are not. Which, sometimes, when I want to find out something specific like – say – who actually won the latest GI GP at Ebisu last month, frustrates the crap out of me. It’s rare that I’ll stay mad for long though, mainly because something the host says or does will make me laugh.
So! If this is all absolutely new to you, I encourage you to sit down in front of your computer (or better still, your internet-connected ‘Smart’ TV) and check out some of the Vlogs and Vloggers I’ve mentioned here. You might even like to out together your own searches and see what you come up with.
If nothing else you will be entertained. And if you’re anything like me you will find yourself checking back in on a favourite Vlog every couple of days.
As I said at the start of this little opinion piece I don’t think that Vlogs are necessarily going to replace existing media channels. They certainly add something kind of raw and ‘grassrootsy’ to the current landscape though, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!