TMBA 336: Matt Farah on Breaking Through

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On today’s show Dan and Ian are digging deep into one of Bossman’s favorite things in the world: cats cars.

But, if you’re not a motorhead, have no fear. This episode is actually about the entrepreneurial journey of Matt Farah, a highly successful automotive journalist, who rose to fame through his YouTube channel, The Smoking Tire.

You’re going to hear the compelling story of how Matt started off by losing money, but then bootstrapped himself into the unique position that he’s in today.

OK … there is a little bit of car talk in there too.

Stay tuned until the very end to hear a bonus lightning round of nerdy automotive questions (including which vehicle Matt thinks has the very best sound system).


Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • How Matt became passionate about cars and what led him to the path of automotive journalism. (5:14)
  • Why the internet pays in volume, not in quality. (14:14)
  • How Matt was able to turn a profit on his YouTube channel after five straight years of losing money. (18:36)
  • The differences between producing video content for the internet and traditional television. (27:12)
  • What Matt’s personal car collection looks like. (28:26)

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Dan & Ian

Published on 05.12.16
  • This podcast is consistently causing me to run afoul of the productivity systems I’m trying to implement. In the best way. All my alerts disabled, driving to do work, listening, and Dammit! I have to comment;)

    First of all, I can’t say enough how high above the average in the business space – let alone radio writ large – the quality of this podcast is. More like a Gimlet podcast or Radiolab than it is like an average biz ‘cast. Loved Ian’s rapid-fire questions at the end. This show wouldn’t work so well if it weren’t for the low-key, self-effacing sense of humor of the hosts.

    I love Matt, and think he’s doing an ingenious thing, which plays to his strengths, allows him flexibility to do his (TV) “day job”, and gives him an audience that he can monetize later on.

    However, as a youtube content creator-cum-marketer, I wanted to set the record straight about monetization. MOST YouTube creators aren’t going to have the reach of a Matt Farah. But I fear people will listen to this podcast and think ads are the Only way, let alone the Best way, to make money from YouTube. There are, of course, many much-more-potent monetization vehicles:
    -courses (personal favorite)
    -membership sites, MVP of which could even be a private facebook community; often a great fit for people with big existing audiences who don’t want to suddenly become Derek Halpern with the hard-sell. Just imagine if you have 100k subscribers, and even 5% of them will pay you $10-a-month to participate in a private facebook community.

    When you start calculating what you can make with these other monetization vehicles, seeing YouTube as a traffic/branding arm instead of a primary income source, the “math” changes. You don’t need a million views to make $2500. You can start investing in production again.
    Not the right fit for everybody, but just another angle I thought I’d volunteer:)

  • Ryan

    I don’t think it’s necessarily charisma as much as it is nuance that makes these channels appeal to their respective audiences

    the TMBA, Empire Flippers and SPI all interview successful location independent entrepreneurs, sometimes the same entrepreneurs, but you can listen to all three and it doesn’t feel like you’re listening to the same show & and you like them for different reasons

    Shayna drove this home for me with what she said in one of her TMBA episodes

  • Fraser Wright

    Tropical MBA I think you should take a leaf out of Matt’s book and lay off the editing. The chopping and changing of conversation made this really hard to listen to as you don’t have a big $ studio and an Audio engineer adjusting the levels on the fly. But even if you did the way you have spliced this conversation together seems convoluted and artificial, something that doesn’t fit with this medium, your inserted responses also make this interview odd.

  • Disagree strongly:)

  • As a car guy I am a bit biased but I gotta stay I loved this episode! The YouTube game is a trip. My channel went from making a few bucks a month to an amount that surprised the h*ll out of me, and that was off of one single video. Not quit your day job money, but a “where the heck did that deposit come from…I must investigate?!”. One thing I think most people don’t understand about YT is that you have to really commit to the platform. A half baked approach usually doesn’t get you much. Some get lucky and get the subs within a year, others commit multiple years before they see the growth. In fact I even thought of emailing/calling in to see what your thoughts were…. Great Podcast guys, keep them coming!

  • Agreed there are tons of car, tech, beauty, business, etc. channels on youtube (whatever media format) and it all comes back to one thing…. The person in front of the camera. Especially on YouTube. For me, I can’t listen to the Empire Flippers. No disrespect what-so-ever, they are just not my style. Now the Boss~man and Dan…. They could talk about old socks and I would listen.

  • Ryan

    I get where you’re coming from. I’ve only started listening to EF recently.

    check the Dan Norris episode & you might come to like Justin’s long form no edits interviews

    I still don’t listen to startups for the rest of us (but I do fux with their MicroConf vimeo)

  • When I heard that this was going to be about cars I almost skipped it. I’m really glad I didn’t though because there was some mind blowing stuff in this episode!

    The whole part about the internet rewards quantity, not quality. It was something that immediately rang true and I could hold up to numerous things I’ve done/tried as well as seen others do. Made so much sense why trying to create “for TV” puts you behind the curve. Especially considering that expectations are not TV-level expectations; I don’t go to YouTube expecting Game of Thrones quality. I think there is a time and place for those projects that you treat as your baby, but I also think there is more to this quantity > quality idea.

    Now my brain is in 5th gear. hashtag car reference…I think.

  • haha cheers David thanks for that! wasn’t so sure of it myself when Ian pitched the ep but felt the same way when I heard the Youtube economics and Matt’s approach to his content as well, very inspiring.

  • cheers Eric thanks for that and congrats dat check! :) I’ve been following a lot of YT publishers this year and although I sorta winced when Matt said “volume over quality”but I’ve noticed that approach working for a lot of people, and my interpretation of it is that it’s more about just being there for your viewers rather then being polished

  • cheers appreciate the criticism as always but this as this was one of my favorites including the editing.

  • makes sense to me

  • old socks episode on the way!

  • haha new podcast quality heuristic “will this derail Nate?”

    Regarding production big shout to Arison Cain and Jane Baresford they’re holding down the big stuff, bossman and I have it easy just asking small questions of interesting people.

    I agree with you re: monetization, for most topics it’s probably a better front end marketing piece like how Gabby ( uses it.

  • Yeah there is a fine line with the volume over quality thing. The competition is crazy out there in YouTube land. If I were him i’d put a bit more into the videos but that’s just me. The batching of video production and regular release schedule is on point though.

    PS. Waiting for Ian’s car channel :-)

  • Fraser Wright

    So how long did you spend editing? As I said before this hasn’t added to the quality of the end product. It is similar to someone who spends hours or days trying to photoshop their mistakes out rather than spend 10 minutes taking the photo on the day. As Matt explained through his own mistakes that he was going down a rabbit hole of post production costs and couldn’t work out why? I could understand if you have had to do fit this into a 28 minute section, you need to break it down for adverts or you had a plane taking off in the background. But you don’t have that restriction in this medium so why are you imposing it on yourself artificially? Next time focus on getting this right when you are doing the interview and let us the listener hear how you got there. If you have second thoughts or ideas after the interview, then record those as a piece before you play the interview allowing the listener to focus on them naturally as it happens.

  • like I said, this was one of my favorites, so we disagree artistically. it’s not a math problem.

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