Well, here it is - the tipping point for automotive enthusiasts online.
The great experiment in providing high-quality automotive video content for free appears to have failed. Advertising dollars alone can't support the kind of content that a group of niche consumers now demand. Refusing to pay for a /DRIVE subscription on principle makes you complicit in the eventual death of our beloved network. I'll be paying for a /DRIVE subscription to keep the channel alive. You should too.
First off, I felt compelled to pen this opinion piece because the stakes are high. Many of my favorite automotive magazines have been forced out of the market by online sites that can provide breaking news and great reviews faster and without up-front costs to the user. But now that production costs for great content are outstripping even the mighty advertising dollar, something has to give. Users will have to pay via subscription and advertising to maintain the type of high-quality content they've now come to enjoy. The best online content is now moving to a pay model it once destroyed. Ironic, right?
I remember when /DRIVE first got running. Like most of the people reading Jalopnik religiously, I was one of the first to subscribe to the /DRIVE network. At its outset, /DRIVE's quality was low, the editing poor and many of the hosts were having trouble finding a voice. But underneath all the awkward pauses and editing snafus, /DRIVE's shape was taking hold. Enthusiasts like myself got the idea that this content was made for them - and even yearned for more - despite the rough edges.
And my oh my, how far the network has come. What started as the mousy girl-next-door has become a blonde bombshell. We've gone from J.F. and Leo sitting awkwardly in front of a wobbly monitor to a freaking special on NBCSN before an F1 race.
But it wasn't just the show's talent and producers that effected this great metamorphosis from caterpillar to tire-shredding butterfly - it was you, dear viewer. You provided your comments, your clicks, your enthusiasm and your time to help the network grow from a dimly-lit office to what it is today (epic productions from a slightly less dimly-lit office).
Now it's time to go the extra mile to maintain what you've helped build.
I've seen the bitching online. "$3.99! That's nearly half of a Netflix subscription! And I can't even watch J.F. cook blue meth! Or watch Spinelli in an orange prison jumpsuit," they say.
And therein lies the great paradox with content across all mediums these days - people want top-notch content for free and they'll be damned if they have to sit through an ad to get it, let alone pay for it.
But that has to change for /DRIVE and other high-quality automotive outlets to survive.
The premise is largely irrational to you penny counters, but spending $3.99 a month gets you so much more than exclusive video content. That money gives you another opportunity (following the creation of /DRIVE itself) to build something great for the future. Your measly $4 per month lets you patronize fellow gearheads that create content for you: the enthusiast. They create content for us.
In closing; real enthusiasts - the kind that watch /DRIVE and read Jalopnik - are the kinds of people who will skip lunch to get another gallon of gas in the tank. They'll forego family events to AutoX on Sunday morning. They'll use tuition money to buy one last set of track tires for their Miata. This is one of those times. For the cost of one cup of shitty Starbucks coffee each month, you could enjoy the finest enthusiast video content online and help steer an entire industry in the right direction.
$4 a month is nothing but a footnote in 99% of Jalops' monthly expenditures. Just do it. For the future. For smoky burnouts in a muscle car. For mile-long drifts in exotics. For corner carving in homemade abominations. For the best damned car videos online.
(But mostly so Spinelli can finally afford a haircut).
This is the tipping point for us enthusiasts. Don't fuck it up.
Note to editors: I couldn't add any photos as they failed to upload. Feel free to throw some in.