The Grand Tour

Clarkson, Hammond and May to partner with ‘DriveTribe’

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have partnered with technology entrepreneur Ernesto Schmitt to create ‘DriveTribe‘, a digital media platform for car enthusiasts. It is understood that Andy Wilman is also on board the venture, which has been co-funded by the five partners.

Scheduled to launch in Autumn 2016, DriveTribe is aiming to become the digital home for motoring fans worldwide, and will consist of different “tribes,” each with their own characteristics and personality. Each tribe will be hosted by stars, bloggers, writers and videographers, including Clarkson, Hammond and May, who will generate and curate their own content for fans. Users will be able to sign up to tribes which align closely to their motoring interests and preferred manufacturers, while also having the option to create new tribes of their own. “What we are looking to do is build a next-generation vertical that is dedicated to motoring, and that really combines content, social and commerce,” Schmitt said.

Speaking about DriveTribe, Richard Hammond said: “We know we can do, and are doing, and always will do the high-production value long-form TV stuff. That’ll never change, that’s us at heart. But we are doing that, of course, in a world that has now allowed a whole raft of different ways for people to consume their media, not just sitting down and watching beautiful, delicious TV but also bite-sized chunks of media in whatever form many, many times a day, and obviously given our subject being motoring, which is incredibly broad and exciting, especially right now, we figured, well, it’s time to do this, it’s not been done, let’s do it, let’s do it first and let’s do it really, really well: pull the whole subject together for a whole bunch of people all over the world. Bearing in mind that we are editorial-led people, we saw an opportunity. Because we know and love our subject, we are probably more aware than most of the breadth and the depth of it, the different passions that it ignites in different people in different ways, because we have been exposed to that for many years. And we figured now is the time when technology in the media is allowing us to pull the thing together in a whole new way, and then Ernesto came along and made all that possible.”

According to Hammond, the trio of ex-Top Gear presenters would be interacting with DriveTribe users on a daily basis. “We are very excited just to get to grips with this thing. We can’t wait to see it,” he said. “It presents an opportunity to get to a whole lot of people about a subject about which we are incredibly passionate, occasionally knowledgeable, and often quite stupid. Everything we’ve learned about it means we have the opportunity to connect with people many times and in many different ways.”

Schmitt, DriveTribe’s CEO, is a serial tech entrepreneur who is responsible for creating, one of the first online music businesses, which he sold in 2001; he created Beamly, which was a pioneer in second screen and social television, which he sold in 2015; and he was also exec chair of Invision, which was all about cutting-edge touchless, gesture-based recognition user-interface controls, which was sold to Intel in 2012. “The real thread through all of those is that they are large-scale, distribution platforms enabling both the creation of completely new forms of entertainment, but also totally new ways of connecting audiences with content,” he told Variety.

DriveTribe is building its UK based team ahead of launch, with the 20 current full-time staff members set to increase to around 60, and they’re also aiming to roll the service out into different territories and launch different language versions in rapid succession. Schmitt said: “Automotive and adventure-lifestyle are huge growth areas for content, and are presently woefully underserved digitally. Automotive is also the biggest advertising category in the world — with $45 billion media spend projected for 2016 — and we expect our content will monetize well through native advertising and social commerce.”

In a statement, Hammond said: “Gamers have got Twitch, travelers have got TripAdvisor and fashion fans have got, oh, something or other too. But people who are into cars have got nowhere. There’s no grand-scale online motoring community where people can meet and share video, comments, information and opinion. DriveTribe will change that. And then some.”

May said: “This is pure digital inclusivity. Some of the world’s most endangered tribes — Volvo enthusiasts, for example — will now have a voice as loud as everyone else’s.”

Clarkson said: “I didn’t understand DriveTribe until Richard Hammond said it was like YouPorn, only with cars.”

DriveTribe and the inevitable comparison to CarThrottle

One of the more interesting aspects of Richard Hammond’s statement was the bit about “…people who are into cars have got nowhere [to go]. There’s no grand-scale online motoring community where people can meet and share video, comments, information and opinion.” While we’ve heard precious little about DriveTribe at this stage, what we do know so far is that it sounds very similar to the established automotive community CarThrottle, which the DriveTribe team must be pretending does not exist.

CarThrottle operates as a vertically driven media platform, with users able to follow individual communities – and contrary to what Hammond said above – also share video, comments, information and opinion with other car fans from around the world. One of the differences we can spot already is the fact that CarThrottle’s communities are limited to those created by the site’s administrators, while DriveTribe will allow users to create as many new tribes (communities) as they like – so it sounds like the platform could be far less restrictive in that regard.

In the end it will be the motoring fans who stand to benefit the most from a bit of friendly competition between the two companies, and we look forward to seeing how it all pans out.

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