Founded in 2009, Car Throttle – the social-first media brand for car enthusiasts – is anything but an overnight success. Today, however, its numbers – which include 3 million subscribers to its flagship YouTube channel, where some of its content regularly attracts more than a million views – are impressive.
Along with Auto Express, BuyaCar, EVO and other automotive brands, Car Throttle is part of Autovia, the standalone business set up by Dennis Publishing earlier this year ahead of Dennis being acquired by Future Publishing in August.
The brand has three pillars: YouTube – its largest and lead engagement platform, generating 75% of the brand’s advertising and sponsorship revenue; social media, where the brand’s presence on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok generates 15% of commercial revenue; and the carthrottle.com website.
Its content spans an array of formats powered by an approach typified by ‘2 Guys 1 Car’ – a show which charts the automotive adventures of car-obsessed Alex who lives with his non-car-guy best friend Ethan, which has fuelled an acceleration of subscribers.
In 2018, Car Throttle achieved 2.5 billion views across all these platforms. Combined, it today claims a 14 million-strong online community.
“When we hit our first million YouTube subscribers a few years ago, we did a little celebration video on the channel,” Alex Kersten, Car Throttle’s editor-in-chief, recalls.
“But you hit 1 million, then 2 million, then 3 million, then the next goal becomes 5 million, then 10, and you become desensitised to the numbers and reach. But I do think 5 million for us would be achievable, and something to celebrate.”
With its emphasis on creating video content about the car ownership experience that a millennial audience can “watch on Friday and replicate on Saturday”, relatability has plugged a lucrative niche and proven to be one of the keys to Car Throttle’s success.
“We produce a halo video a week, and we shoot and edit it then do a recut and give that to the social team,” he explains.
“They then pick the best bits they like and farm them out according to what’s most appropriate for Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, doing teaser videos and images to give people the content they want while also driving audiences to YouTube for longer form content.”
The main reason for Car Throttle’s growth was identifying a gap in the market early.
“We tried traditional car reviews, but YouTube is saturated with things like that. We wanted humour, personality, laughs, unscripted content. Our cheap car challenges are immensely popular,” says Kersten.
“All our top videos include tips and techniques. They’re all about learning something new in an easy to watch, digestible, entertaining, fast-paced video.”
You need to feed the audience – they are on their phones six, seven, eight hours a day and you need to always be top of their feed.
A personal level
“Effectively, we are our audience,” says Kersten.
Hand in hand with relatability goes a pledge to never alienate the audience.
Successful video content depends on knowing your audience and giving them what they want, which means never giving them brand content they are not into – no matter what the monetary reward, because if you lose audience, you lose revenue, too.
“We’ve got to this scale because we talk to people at a personal level,” Kersten continues.
“We’ve never tried to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. And automotive companies come to us because they know we know what we are doing, and because of this, they are happy to follow what we recommend as best practice.”
The team takes care to be selective about who they work with and, before doing so for the first time, will research a prospective partner carefully.
“Have they got a good reputation? Are they likeminded? A lot of reputations can be made or broken online because people love bad news and love to spread gossip,” he notes, adding that if you work with brands your audience won’t care about, you’ll get poor results.
Kersten adds: “Do not undervalue the service and reach you can give brands because they might take advantage of your goodwill on future projects.”
As important for social success is to post consistently and be willing to collaborate.
“You need to feed the audience – they are on their phones six, seven, eight hours a day and you need to always be top of their feed. You need to engage with them which means comments and pinning and feeding back,” he says.
But you also need to engage with other brands – even rival content creators – in ways that benefit you both.
“Too many brands just want to do their own thing and go down their own path. But if you don’t look at what other people are doing, you are limiting how far you can go,” Kersten says, explaining how mentioning, referencing and even co-creating with third parties around the world helps new audiences get to know you.
“Don’t be afraid to collaborate. Because sharing is caring, especially online.”
You need to engage with other brands – even rival content creators – in ways that benefit you both.
You can hear Alex Kersten being interviewed by James Evelegh on a recent episode of The InPublishing Podcast, which was sponsored by Air Business, a leading supplier of distribution and subscription management services.
This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.