How “Regular Car Reviews” Makes Journalism Work on YouTube

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“It tries, and that oughta be worth something. Especially now, in a culture that privileges low effort”.

This is a quote from Regular Car Reviews (RCR) with regard to a fifteen year old Toyota Celica, and I think it’s pretty representative of what they’re all about.

“So,” you may be asking, “what is Regular Car Reviews, and why should I care?”

Simply put, they’re a YouTube channel whose mission is to review “regular cars for mortals”. Unlike traditional motoring outlets, such as “Motor Trend” and “Car and Driver”, you will never see them feature a new car, and rarely will they review something that costs more than a couple grand. They look at the kind of cars that you see on a daily basis, the kind that you or someone you know likely already owns. They put into words what these cars say about the people who drive them and the culture that created them.

Recent reviews
The most recent reviews for these outlets on April 24, 2017

But that’s not all.

They also break from tradition with their vulgar taste in humor, which entertains because of how out of place it is. Take the conclusion of the Suzuki GS500e review for example.

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AGGHHHHH THIS ISN’T A CAR

The discussion over the simplicity of the bike is interrupted by ravings about fitting “a Steadicam up my urethra” and other such insanities. In fact, just watch that whole review, as it really captures this aspect of the channel. We’ll get back to this later, but it’s this off-color humor combined with the relatable subject matter that really separates RCR as its own unique entity. These guys have created something novel and entertaining.

Let’s get back to the content for a bit. They call themselves “Regular Car Reviews”, but they don’t do reviews in the typical sense. You see, a typical review will go over things like comfort, driving dynamics, and value for money; qualities that define a car as a day-to-day tool. Now that’s great if you’re in the market and considering a vehicle for purchase, but it’s quite dull for everyone else. RCR’s reviews are created for a different purpose. Rather than seeking to provide consumer advice, they seek to answer the question of a car’s significance. They approach cars as more than just the sum of their parts. Cars have a special place in western society due to their high price and visibility. As a result, your car says a lot about you and the people around you. One of the best examples of this is the Smart Car review. SmartTaken as a machine, the Smart Car is simply a small, two-seater city car that’s easy on gas and can’t carry very much. But that doesn’t explain why Americans hate the Smart. RCR tries to distill why, and part of the reason is the name. “If it’s a smart car, does that mean there’s dumb cars? Yes there is. If you drive a Smart Car, you’re saying every other car is the wrong car.” From an objective standpoint, the name of a car doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t affect how safe the car is, how comfortable it rides, or how many miles it can get per gallon. But it affects perception. And that’s what RCR is all about; understanding how cars are perceived. That’s what makes them special. Other automotive journalists will touch on this subject (Top Gear UK even had a “Cool Wall” to rank cars on a subjective scale of coolness), but RCR makes it their primary focus. Subjectivity is a huge part of car culture, and it’s one of the big reasons that RCR has almost 400,000 subscribers.

Continuing with the contrast, all of those other outlets I mentioned have official websites. They have unique domains with no other content but what they choose to put there. RCR exists almost exclusively on YouTube, a space that they share with an unending number of other channels. That unique circumstance is a large part of why they’ve turned out the way they have. Not having any sponsors or corporate ownership means they can get away with quite a lot more than your typical journalists. YouTube holds a special place as a media outlet because anyone can produce content and share it to the world with nothing more than an internet connection. No editors, network regulations, or sponsorships are necessary to get your content hosted there. YouTube tries to its content to each individual user, but the fact remains that the sea of content available is unending. So how does RCR make their content bubble float to the top? They don’t use clickbait (thumbnails or titles), they don’t have any major sponsorships, and they don’t namedrop. Part of it is luck, but the truth is that they cover stuff that other people don’t. Take the Toyota AE86 review. If you search that into YouTube you will undoubtedly receive plenty of hits that are all equally relevant. However, only one of those videos really embraces the car’s importance to car culture before the video even starts. ae86The AE86 Sprinter Trueno got popular largely due to a Japanese Anime called “Initial D”, where the car plays a starring role. “Car Throttle” has a review that mentions that legacy, but it almost dismisses it in the title, casting aside the subjective reason why people would care about this car. RCR’s review, by comparison, has a replica of the car in the show, and has “Weeaboo!” (a derogatory term for a westerner who indulges in Japanese culture) in the description. They use self-deprecating humor, but it acknowledges the reason that the car is special to car culture.

I mentioned luck earlier, and it did play a part in the channel’s success. Their most popular video got views from a successful posting to Reddit’s /r/videos, and the top comment really helps capture why people stay on the channel and don’t just forget about it. The comment reads “The slow slip into madness was a nice change of pace that I didn’t expect.”, and it goes back to that unusual humor I had discussed earlier. You come for the unique coverage, but you stay for the humor. They don’t really reuse jokes, so you end up wondering how they’ll surprise you in the next video. And so you watch another video. And then another one. And on and on it goes. And then you realize that they upload weekly. Now you’re subscribed.mx5

At some point along the way, you even realized that they have some pretty interesting things to say about cars, and now you’ve come full circle. RCR has shown to me that new ideas are always available to be explored. In an age where information is so readily available and shareable, it’s easy to think that new original content is a dying breed. However, that cynicism is largely due to many people attempting to emulate success. When your goal isn’t popularity or financial gain, original ideas spring forth. Instead of doing what you think people will flock to, you can do what you want to, and that’s the freedom that the internet has allowed us.

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