In 2004 Russell Datz, Fred Seibert and Emil Rensing produced a one-minute car news show starring Danica Patrick for the newly-launched Spike TV. Now called Fast Lane Daily, at 1000 episodes today, it's the second longest-running YouTube show ever.
Today is the 1,000th episode of Fast Lane Daily, the longest-running, highest-viewed YouTube show you've probably never heard of. Today's episode, featured below, sends the show's long-time host, Derek "D" DeAngelis on a $1,000 trip to Germany's famous Nürburgring. There he rents a minivan to take around the public road course to run alongside the high-powered super cars normally piloting the track that launched a seemingly-endless game of automaker phallus-measuring. The episode's epic. In fact, it's probably one of the closest things I've ever seen to a real documentary of the public track — taken from the enthusiast's perspective.
It's also a departure from their usual format of regurgitating the day's car news in quick, funny and chewable bites. But it's because of its topic area that — unless you're a 14-year-old on YouTube with dreams of a driver's license or a commenter here on Jalopnik — likely means you may not have heard of the show. Which is a shame as Fast Lane Daily is a show that is not just the longest-running, highest-viewed car show ever, but, behind the long-running Rocketboom, is the longest-running show in YouTube's entire history.
It's hard to believe a show I once joked was being watched by "countless dozens" of viewers — is now regularly viewed by tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of YouTube viewers each day.
So, how'd they get here?
Here, in the words of Emil Rensing, one of the three founders and Fast Lane Daily's current owner and executive producer, is the story that spans the past six years of Internet and TV history — and shows how you don't need a big network to aggregate big audiences if the content's good:
In 2004 Russell Datz, Fred Seibert and I produced an interstitial car news minute for the newly launched Spike TV called "Zero to Sixty". Albie Hecht, the then president of Spike introduced us to Danica Patrick — and I learned my first lesson about producing TV: Place your bets early and invest boldly in talent. Alan Goodman, who directed our first shoots and crafted our first scripts taught me my second lesson about producing TV: Always wear a sport-coat so no one on the crew asks you to lift anything heavy.
Rory Camangian sold 3 sponsors in the first 2 weeks: Valvoline, Castrol and Electronic Arts, but sadly we didn't last long on Spike. The concept of short-form programming didn't work well on the television, even though it was very slowly becoming all the rage with us nerds on the Internet... But that was just a fad, right?
About a year later, Fred and I were hot-to-trot on video podcasting and launched Channel Frederator and VOD Cars in the iTunes Podcast Directory — before iTunes supported video podcasting or Apple had an iPod that played video. I put up the first episode of VOD Cars late one night in August of 2005. I cut together the episode on a stolen copy of FinalCut Pro with some footage shot by Rob Ferretti. (That cop may be yelling at me. His name was Dave, by the way and he was a very nice man.) I even put a commercial in there — to teach my audience from day 1 that this was television-like and about making money. (God bless you, Trunk Monkey!)
Fred did similarly with Channel Frederator — and even David Karp wanted to follow-suit with a Kung-Fu podcast but he was too busy with something called Tumblr.
About a week later, I looked at my download numbers from pair.com who was hosting vodcars.com and, well, by the time the month was over, I owed them almost $25,000.00 in bandwidth charges. I recall having a great conversation with my then-wife explaining why we couldn't take a trip that fall: "You raced around like an lunatic with your friends in a Ferrari you can't afford, video taped it, put it on the Internet and then paid more money than you have to let people watch it?" When you say it that way...
For a brief time, vodcars.com was a directory of car videos on the Internet. Mike Glenn assembled a TON of those links from places like StreetFire.net, CarVids.com, RacingFlix.com and helped me build those pages. Traffic soared — proportional to the bills that caused more things to be "cancelled" in the Rensing household.
Then YouTube came along and killed it all slowly but surely.
But that was ok: It meant that someone else believed in what we believed in.
Fred, and I wrangled a team together: Tim Shey, Herb Scannell, and Jed Simmons. We somehow convinced Spark, Saban, and Balderton to believe that television on the Internet was the next big thing of the moment — even after I told Dennis Miller from Spark, in our very first meeting, "Fuck you and your million dollars". (What? At least I'm consistent!) Next New Networks was born from our collective vision as creative, venture, development, and management professionals and we started down the car road, among several other categories we still believe in to this day. "If you want to own a category, you want to own the news." Herb's words ring in my ears constantly.
A daily car news show, shot in a studio every day, fashioned after Zero to Sixty... It made a lot of sense. We couldn't and didn't want to compete with Autoblog, World Car Fans or Jalopnik. How could we do something new, unique, and very different? How could we be the low cost provider of a great video news program? How could we be quality without being expensive?
Fast Lane Daily was born and became the cornerstone of our internet-tv-automotive-video-media-empire. Garage 419, Global Motor Spies, VOD Cars, Bikini Model Driving School, Shakedown, FLDetours... Great programming with folks like Derek D., Matt Farah, Gene Sanchez, Alex Gizela, Tina Beth Pina, Ji Young Min, Carrie Millbank... (I've even hosted a few times. — Ed.) We had lots of traffic, lots of audience, lots of fun for the next 3 years. We brought our audiences places they never saw before. All that cool stuff car companies shoot that you didn't get to see? We brought you there. All those cool videos from races, events, and tracks? We had them. Videos shot by the community of cool stuff caught on camera they wanted to share with the world? They gave it to us. Slowly but surely theindustry saw what we could do for them.
I remember the launch of the Ford Mustang Bullitt in San Francisco. Ford staged an impressive "reveal" and posted the video on YouTube. Overnight they did almost 500 views and they were stoked! Mike Spinelli filed a report on the road during the drive and our version did about 25,000 in the same period. The consistency of delivery and the relationship with our audience made our channel valuable — and folks began to see that and understand and seek out our help in getting their message out with powerful video as opposed to just a press release, photo, and a few words.
It was working!
The one thing we didn't have was a lot of ads... and with the down turn in Detroit things got even worse and automotive media fell by the way side across the board.
In November of 2009, Fast Lane Daily and Next New Networks changed their relationship. Fast Lane Daily joined the "Next New Creators Program" and I began funding the production of Fast Lane Daily, Shakedown, and FLDetours and shuttering Garage 419, VOD Cars, and most tragically Bikini Model Driving School. The economic mess is a temporary condition. I worked very hard to get us where we were. I worked hard to get folks like JF Musial, Leo Parente, Alan Kaufman, Mike Spinelli (Yes, our very own Mike Spinelli — Ed.), Ian Jenkins, Tom Albrecht, Donny Nordlicht, Matt Farah and Derek D. on the team and I wasn't going to let them go without a fight. While some folks went their own way, some of the shows went "off the air", and some folks went to work for me in other capacities, JF, Leo, and Derek never gave up hope and basically forced me to keep making Fast Lane Daily because none of them wanted to get full-time day jobs.
And now, today, it's that spirited desire to never get a full-time day job that's created the longest-running car show ever. Congratulations.