The Core Audience: YouTube is King

(NOTE: This post originally appeared on OpenPaddock.net on 2/18/2014. My writing at OP will all be archived here to keep my work compiled in a single location at least one week after originally appearing at OpenPaddock.net.)

(NOTE 2: The numbers used in this article were retrieved on the afternoon of February18, 2014)

A conversation between Matt Archuleta (@Indy44 get on twitter… follow him now), Steve Jarzombek (@sejarzo) and myself about YouTube, subscribers, the NASCAR behemoth and IndyCar uncovered something interesting.

We all know that NASCAR far and away exceeds INDYCAR in popularity in all aspects of the word. But a curious little tidbit came to light when looking through social media numbers. The oft quoted social media count to determine who is watching is twitter. The official IndyCar account (@indyCar) boasts a following of 105,668, while NASCAR (@NASCAR) comes in at a respectable 1,349,455. With an order of magnitude advantage, the evidence is pretty damning concerning who talks about what more.

Over on YouTube, the story is a bit different. NASCAR has 53,219 subscribers, while IndyCar has 108,645. Considering this is a NASCAR verse IndyCar numbers comparison, the difference was quite surprising to me. The subscribership/follower numbers for indycar are very close, whereas the NASCAR twitter following dwarfs its YouTube subscriber number by over 20 times the amount.

The reasons could be simple, and probably are, but there may be more complex things at work here. Another twitter user (@JPIndycar) quickly pointed out that NASCAR has many other media outlets to distribute content through. Races, practice, qualifying, testing, hunting, cooking, magazines, news, RV pimping; the list of NASCAR themed and related properties could go on forever. IndyCar and its fans and sponsors would do nearly anything for the kind of saturation and exposure that NASCAR enjoys.

And of course, there will be an argument that NASCAR fans may not be as tech savvy as IndyCar fans. The twitter numbers and the views of NASCAR crash videos would say otherwise.

But these numbers got me thinking. Who is the core audience; the audience that will choose Verizon over Sprint because of auto racing affiliation? We all know that casual fans pay the bills and build the playgrounds, but how exactly does one determine that core audience number?

How many are left standing once all the “casual” viewers are swept away? Common knowledge states that the bulk of NASCAR consumers are also entertainment consumers; the regular stick and ball guys who also watch and odd sprinkling of other entertainment properties. The IndyCar casual audience looks to be absent.

I said crash videos earlier because the NASCAR channel itself does not have a staggering amount of views, and the content is a bit sparse considering who we are talking about. IndyCar has 2,144 videos while NASCAR has 1,835 videos. The views are pretty similar with videos getting one to five thousand views while the odd standout may have 20 thousand plus. But the crash videos posted by everyday users for each series could have over a million views each.

There are many more user posted NASCAR videos, but they are usually some kind of crash video. And the users who post these videos are usually in the business of posting various crash compilation videos. There are more NASCAR videos around simply because they crash more often and more spectacularly than other forms of racing. Again, yet another segment of the casual audience who are searching for crash videos on the whole, and the view numbers for both forms of racing crash videos are very similar.

YouTube is a fantastic place to find cool videos and is used by nearly everyone with an internet connection, but the subscription system seems to be the home of the fanatics. They are the kind of fan who is guided by brand loyalty and must consume every ounce of media that their favorite racing series releases. The fan that will support the series before supporting any singe driver or team. The fan invested in the longevity and perpetuity of their favorite kind of racing.

Could this be one area where IndyCar could leverage its advantage over NASCAR? I have no idea, and I am probably completely backwards how I interpreted these numbers. But the fact still remains; IndyCar has twice the amount of YouTube subscribers over NASCAR, which has to could mean something.

Does the number of YouTube subscribers indicate core audience size? These guys are dedicated enough to have an account and click subscribe with the intent to return for content. If you could pinpoint this core audience and find a way to speak directly to them, could you use this communication to leverage nontraditional advertisers and sponsors in a nontraditional way? I have no idea, but it is always cooler when you feel an organization is speaking directly to you because they “get you”.

YouTube has replaced casual or couch surfing TV viewing for me, thus freeing me from the tyrannies of non-DVRed programing of which I cannot skip through commercials while watching. YouTube is possibly the best route to advertise to me while having my undivided attention outside of radio commercials during my morning drive to work dose of Bob and Tom.

Do you have a YouTube account and are you a subscription user? I am, and have found that I get huge amounts of fresh and interesting content on a daily basis. When IndyCar shows up in my feed it’s just bonus because I have already decided to watch YouTube without purposefully seeking out IndyCar specific content to watch. It has become increasingly more difficult to directly advertise to people; maybe it is time to turn up the volume for people who are already actively listening.

Eric Hall

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5 Responses to The Core Audience: YouTube is King

  1. Clifford Costley says:

    NASCAR fans like to get out and rub elbows. They are part of a club. IndyCar fans are of the new social media persuasion and would rather meet over the net while video participating.

    Polls like , POLLDADDY.com ignore reality and ask questions about the teams. However, if you follow the the races on line through venues such as ESPN you would see that drivers are far more closely followed.

    How many fans know that Haas is building a Formula 1 team for 2015 or what Formula E is?

    There really is no true fan support for the series. Don’t believe me? Check out ESPN F1 and The Official Formula 1 website both out of Europe. Or the old Speed web pages and the current Formula E sites.

    • Eric Hall says:

      That’s really not the point of this article. I know main stream media saturation for everything but NASCAR in the US is basically non-existent, hence the idea of INDYCAR leveraging one of the small media advantages they have: YouTube.

      Thanks for reading.

  2. Clifford Costley says:

    Many people subscribe to things without really ever following. How much time does the average subscriber actually spend watching the race? Sometimes when I can’t watch an F1 race on cable (by the way, I believe that the original premise of cable was content without advertising) I wait until the race is almost over and read the written commentary on ESPN so that I do not have to wait for the lap by lap updates in real time. Also reading the race blogs are fascinating.

    What I’m saying is. You have to define first YouTube fans of the sport and then find out why they watch it on YouTube. In order to do that IndyCar or an ESPN would first have to have an interest in the fans.

    If you are really familiar with the European formats, then you understand what I am saying. Their are people following teams, following drivers, following tech and following the business of F1. All appear to be catered to with no advertising.

    • Eric Hall says:

      OK, the premise of the article was to use the advertising on youtube to reach a more focused audience. This has nothing to with cable or broadcast television or even the race replays on youtube. The article clearly agrees that IndyCar is invisible, but can use their youtube channel for directed advertising to the core audience (daily youtube users who subscribe to IndyCar) either with intro ads or short pieces showcasing the series while connecting it with whatever sponsor is in question. Nothing to do with *why* they watch; only advertising.

      I can’t save IndyCar and what is contained within these pages are just random musings. Don’t take it too seriously, and if you’re going to comment, please understand the thesis of the article first. I dont know how to exactly respond to you because we are grasping at things very far away from the initial premise. Thank you for reading.

      • Clifford Costley says:

        OK. I think I get what you are professing. However, I don’t understand how that would expand the declining fan base, which I thought the ultimate goal your article was exploring.

        Other than increasing the revenue of the series and it’s sponsors how does it bring more people into the sport? My feeling is that in this era which is extremely violent IndyCar has become to tame and predictable for HDTV viewing. As you indicate it’s a bonus not a pursuit for you and other casual participants.

        Could it be that racing is going the way of baseball? Falling to the number 2 sport and possibly the
        the number 3 sport in the not to distant future.

        I subscribe to nothing and return for the content that interests me often. But I find most advertising boring and some what offensive. I would not join something to be advertised at.

        To me the core group seems relatively small for supporting a large percentage of consumers. It might require very good demographics to support your premise.

        The last paragraph of your article seems to bear this out. However if you are saying that IndyCar should mount a broad spectrum (relatively expensive) YouTube campaign I could agree with you. But in all probability that would require that the promoters and governing bodies reap tremendous rewards to pique their interest. As in Europe.

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