Social Spotlight with Parker Kligerman

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community about their social media usage. Up next: Parker Kligerman, the driver and NBC Sports pit reporter who won last week’s Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. (Note: This interview was conducted before the race.)

You have a pretty nice hauler here. (Sarcasm)

That stain over there that’s growing? We call it “The Stain” in the ceiling. If people could see this hauler, it’s pretty incredible we’re the team that finished one spot behind Kyle Busch at Kentucky. Here’s the thing: We spend our money on the race truck, and we’ve got a fast race truck this weekend. So this hauler doesn’t say much about our team.

Maybe The Stain needs its own parody account on Twitter.

No. No more parody accounts. I can’t. No, no.

You’ve reached your limit on NASCAR parody accounts?

By far. I think the parody account thing was cool, what, five years ago? And it’s kind of run its course. Sorry, @TheOrangeCone — maybe everyone knows who you are, so just put your name on there.

You try to stay up on the cutting edge. Like you know that parody accounts are out of style. But something that is in style more and more is YouTube and being a YouTuber. So one thing I just saw you launched this week is this channel called…Parker’s Parking Lot?

That’s what I do great is branding, because obviously that rolled right off the tongue. (Smiles) My sister always makes fun of me because whenever I come up with a new idea like, “I’m gonna brand it this!” It’ll be like seven words, and she’s like, “No one is gonna say that. It needs to be catchier.” So I’ve never been good at that.

But yeah, YouTube. My girlfriend (Shannon) has always been into YouTube and she had her vlogging channel and still does. But that’s not my thing. No offense to that kind of thing, but I kind of find that repulsive. It’s like a reality show, just filmed yourself. (Shannon) does a great job with them — I love watching hers — but it’s not like I would ever go on the Internet to watch someone else’s vlog.

Repulsive is a strong word.

Well, I just don’t like reality TV. I find it the lowest common denominator form of anything on the planet. At times I’d rather just drill my left toe out than watch reality TV.

And vlogging, it’s cool, but then it’s always the dubstep music and this thing and…I don’t know. It’s not my thing. But I do love car stuff and I’ve been trying forever to get into more and more car stuff, and I’ve done a lot of work for Jalopnik, which is an automotive website. They just launched a TV show. I’ve been trying to do more and more of that stuff, breaking into that world. And finally, I just said not many people are giving me that opportunity, so I’ve got time, I’ve got the ability to do this financially, so let’s just go do it and see what happens and have some fun.

It’s terrible — I say it’s aggressively average or massively underwhelming, and that’s basically how I’ve done everything in my life. I’ll always stay incredibly ambitious but aggressively average, and this YouTube channel is no different. So it’s my parking lot because everyone always talks about garages and things but no one gives love to parking lots. So I had to give love to the parking lot.

So Parker’s Parking Lot, which is an aggressively average YouTube channel, massively underwhelming, the video I saw is you’re talking about your Porsche and why it’s different than other ones and why it’s cheaper and it’s working and things like that. That’s your car, so what else is in your parking lot that you’re gonna be able to talk about to keep this YouTube channel going beyond this one video?

Oh, so you wanna know! We’ve got all sorts of things. We’ve got my girlfriend’s 2009 Jetta — nah, I’m kidding. (Laughs)

I got some of my friends that have high-end, nice sports cars that they’ve agreed to let me do some things with, which is cool. So like Car YouTube is kind of funny because it’s essentially a start up — friends and family, that’s how you get funding — but that’s how you get your cars, right? And then eventually if you get enough of a following, you eventually get press cars (for car reviews).

So I’ve done a little bit of press car stuff with Jalopnik, and seeing how that all works is pretty cool, but you’ve got to get to a solid following to be able to do that sort of car reviewing. My hope with it — although as I say, it’s never gonna reach this because I’m not really good at anything — is that it would be a different form of car reviewing and car understanding, something you’ve never seen from a race car driver. I think there’s a small void, a small niche maybe, that I’ve noticed that involved someone that can drive but also understand the greater understanding of what’s actually happening in the world.

How do you even go about building a YouTube channel? That seems pretty difficult to me. Unless something goes viral or takes off somehow, how do you build the subscriber thing? What’s your plan?

If you go to my bio on YouTube, it says, “Don’t call me a YouTuber; I have a job.” So that gives you an idea of my understanding of YouTube. I have no idea. If you figure it out, I’d like to know. I don’t know. (Laughs)

So my thing is, I think you just need to have content. With anything, content is king. So if you wanna be on TV, content is king. That’s why TV channels exist. Why NASCAR’s on TV, you need content, right? So you just gotta create great content and continually push it and hope that you’re making something that’s unique enough to interest people and from there, to interest them for two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes. You just have to create something that hopefully people like. Or, on the flip side, you just do it for fun and if no one likes it, then screw them. (Laughs) It’s for you.

So I think right now we’re in the “for me” stage. We’re not getting those crazy views, but we’ll see where it goes. And maybe as we get rolling and get to do more of the concepts I want to do, we’ll take a little more of people who understand what we’re trying to do, we’ll see if people like it or not, and we’ll just keep doing it.

You’re already on TV, but you’d love for somebody to give you the opportunity to do a car show. But if that’s not happening immediately, you have the ability to go out and do your own thing. We’re sort of living in an amazing time that way.

So it is and it isn’t. I’ve kind of lamented that a little bit. It’s funny you bring that up because having been someone who in the TV world understands the value of production and the value of doing things right, the value of having incredible, talented people that are behind the camera, that run the cameras, that write the script, that do everything that you don’t see, I get a little bit torn when I create these videos and it’s just me and a friend. (There are) those amazing cameras and stuff that they have out there, and it gets to a level where people find it acceptable, right? Which OK, that’s fine that the appetite is there for it, but I don’t think it replaces the ultimate end goal of what a real TV production is, if that makes sense.

What’s funny is that you see these big YouTubers, big Instagrammers, hashtag #influencers, they eventually go to where they have a TV show and it’s this huge thing. And it’s like well wait a second, you have 10 million subscribers and I thought that was the end all be all, but it’s not, because no one on YouTube is tuning in for the production value of what an actual TV show is.

And though it might not be coming through your cable subscription — it might be through a streaming service — that’s considered a TV show that takes real production, real effort, real writing. All those things. It’s not like walking out of the bed with a camera and being like, “Hey world, you can do it, too. Anyone can be famous. Wooo.” Hashtag #everyoneisgreat.

So we know that you don’t like parody accounts, we know that you don’t like vloggers, and we know that you—

Well except my girlfriend’s vlogging. And Brennan Poole, he does a little vlogging, he’s cool too.

So Brennan Poole is cool and your girlfriend is cool but other than that you don’t like vloggers and you also don’t like influencer,  basically.

Basically, the Internet. (Laughs)

So what about social media do you enjoy and find valuable these days as we’re here in 2017?

I was trying to think about that, since I knew going into this interview that this was the path that it was going to take, because I have some very dark views of social media at times.

So you’ve got Twitter, which is basically for the media, for you and I to go and talk to other media members about how bad the world is at times with all the crazy stuff happening. And then some NASCAR drivers to reach out to other people. But that’s basically all you have on Twitter.

So you don’t view Twitter as a mass thing for the fans, it’s just, influencers — sorry, you don’t like that term — but basically influencers talking to other influencers.

Well Twitter is for people who are actually famous to be interactive with their fans. So what I mean by that is that you see a YouTuber that has a bajillion million followers on YouTube and they have zero followers on Twitter. And no one interacts with them, right?

So I have a theory that there’s actual famous people in the world: Dale Earnhardt Jr. — actually famous. He creates an Instagram, he creates a YouTube, it’s got millions of followers instantly. But Mr. YouTuber who starts a TV show, there’s no guarantee it’s gonna survive, because he might only have his niche viewers on YouTube, that group that likes YouTube. So I think that’s what’s interesting there.

Sorry, back to Twitter. You’ve got the actual famous people and the media and we all interact, I love it. It’s the modern-day newspaper respect that you get you can use that way.

Instagram is basically Playboy on the Internet. Think about it: All any guy has on their following list is naked girls, travel places, cars and race cars and then occasionally food. So everything that was in Playboy magazine for the last 50 years is on Instagram. That’s all that is.

And then you have YouTube, which is like your video replacement sort of feeling for people who want to put their life out there in a different way, a reality show, vlogging sort of thing. So I think you have your niche markets for each of them.

The last one you have to mention is Snapchat, right? And when you did this interview with Jenna Fryer’s daughter (Sydnee), she talked about how her friends had fake Instagrams and that sort of thing, and they didn’t have Facebook. I’ve always had this theory that 20 years from now, it’s gonna be more about disconnecting than connecting.

So Facebook’s gonna be gone other than just being able to watch their content, because they’ll become a TV channel eventually. Twitter will most likely be interactions then, but things that keep you hidden and allow you to observe the world like watch a YouTube channel and not have an account, that sort of stuff is gonna be more successful. That’s my thought.

As you mentioned, Sydnee Fryer was talking about how she’s trying to not put herself out there and she and her friends are deleting things they put out there and having fake accounts so people can’t track them. It’s almost like this next generation that’s coming along has seen what the first generation on social media has done and been like, “Nah.”

One hundred percent. How creepy is it if you go on the Internet and you’ve been looking at something on your phone and then you go on your computer and the first ad is all the things you’ve been looking at or a competitor to what you’ve been looking at? Like that’s gotten so creepy that you’ve got Google, who basically announced recently they’re gonna allow you to tell them if things are too creepy.

I think that as a whole, now that’s not connected to just having a Facebook, but all the data they’re collecting, I really think that in years to come, it’ll be cooler to Google yourself and see nothing.

When I was growing up in high school, people called me “dot com” because I had — because I was a race car driver — and if you Googled my name, there was tons of results. That was cool. Fast forward to now, that’s probably not cool.

That’s true. It’ll be like, “What’s up, bro? How many search results do you have about you?” “Dude, you can’t find me at all, man.”

Completely dark on the Internet. Sweet.

Before we go any further, is this the most opposite to my co-worker Rutledge Wood’s interview? I read that whole thing because that is so Rut, and I love him to death. He’s the funniest dude. But we couldn’t be more polar opposites. Like I love that he does it, that’s him, and the thing about him is that it’s so genuine that he’s about hugging people ad spreading love in the world and all that sort of thing, and he’s completely genuine about it.

But I do make fun of him constantly, like I was saying earlier with the YouTube guys and Instagram. It’s like, “You too can follow your dreams! Go get it! Wednesday, positivity!” And I’m just like, oh my gosh. I literally want to drill a hole in my left toe. Again. So I don’t know. Anyway.

I feel terrible for your left toe. Your left toe seems to be the one getting —

It’s because it’s the braking foot, so as a race car driver, I need the right one to work better.

Let’s say that all of this is happening with the next generation. NASCAR and even the media are struggling to find an audience and a foothold in the generations coming up. As a writer, what do I do? As a TV person, what do you do? Or as a race car driver, I don’t want to discount that, sorry.

That’s OK, most people do. I’m not much of one, am I?

But what does NASCAR do and what does this industry do to latch onto a very changing dynamic in social media?

It’s been the same thought for me forever, since I heard this incredible quote from this champion Cup Series driver talking to another race car driver that wanted to come try NASCAR and he said, “Stay in your niche.” And I think racing, motorsports, cars, YouTubing, everything is going to continually find its niche.

There’s more and more options. Just think about the streaming entertainment cable game, right? You have traditional cable with traditional players like NBCSN, NBC, and they put out amazingly great content. That’s what we do, we bring the sports to you. But then we have people like Twitter and Amazon and Netflix and eventually Facebook, they’re all gonna want to enter the streaming game because they believe video is the way forward, right? Someone’s gonna win that game, and it might as well be them.

The thing is, not everyone’s going to win, and secondly, it’s just gonna continually fracture the market. So there’s going to be more and more options and therefore there’s going to be less eyes on each and every product because people are going to have more choice of network. So I think as the entertainment world as a whole, you’re just going to continually have to understand your niche and you’re going to have to become more understanding of a lower number.

So I wrote a thing a couple months ago, it was about Seinfeld and how in 2004 Friends had the highest-rated scripted TV show. It was like 66 million people watched the finale. Fast forward, and the most watched show on TV right now gets like 15 million, 18 million, and that’s Big Bang Theory. That’s just scripted shows, not counting sports. Obviously, NFL is the most watched show on TV.

Nonetheless, the point was that only in the span of 12 or 13 years, you’ve lost essentially 40 million people watching because there’s that much more options, and that’s the deal. It’s just going to continue to fracture and continue to find new normals of what is acceptable and what is considered big. In 10 years, the biggest thing on TV streaming might only get 10 million people watching, which 20 years ago was unacceptable and now it might be the biggest thing there is.

That’s interesting because the general philosophy means maybe it’s best to stop chasing an audience. Make the audience you currently have the best it can be, and you can sort of build from there. Because no matter how popular it is, it’s never gonna be that Friends finale. So you have to sort of be content in some ways with what you have. Brands and everybody, whether it’s a reporter or whoever need to refocus on how they present their content that way.

Yeah, you’re doing the new Patreon thing and you’re on the cutting edge of all that. Obviously, no one has the answer. Otherwise, we’d do it. I saw a new form of idea of journalism, a buddy of mine showed me this, it’s called “Purple” where it’s kind of like Patreon, but you could be like, “I’m an expert in journalism.” And people could pay $8 a month to have you on tap through cell phone, through writing, through anything, to ask questions and therefore become more educated in journalism. Or cell phones. Or cars. Whatever is it. Car buying advice, that sort of thing. So that’s an interesting thing and it was for basically writers and journalists who are so involved in their field, they’re experts in it.

I think there’s all sorts of different things, but that goes back to that you have a niche. You have a niche, you have a Patreon deal for NASCAR journalism and that’s your niche. That’s how you’re funding this deal, you have a group that really identifies with your content, identifies with what you’re doing, and is therefore willing it fund it. And that’s what it comes down to: people willing to fund it. Is it gonna be advertising, is it gonna be people paying for it? That’s the two models there is. So as long as advertisers can find value in what you’re doing, you probably have a future. If they don’t, you’ll end up like Parker Kligerman. (Laughs)

You’ve talked about drilling through your left toe and the things that irritate you. So with all that said and this view of social media, why are you still on it? Why do you continue to be on it? What value do you personally see in it for yourself?

One, you have traditional advertising sponsorship race team stuff that you just gotta have a following these days. It’s your ability to rank your social value to them and your advertising value. It really is. You have that show Black Mirror which takes a really draconian view on all futuristic things, and they did one on Instagram. You’re rating people constantly, but what social media is for people who are trying to prove, “Hey, I have a following.”

And then I do enjoy a lot of aspects of it. I love Twitter, I’m on it 24/7. I love great journalism like you produce and great writing. I do love to write. I’m great at the older things maybe, sadly. But then YouTube, this kind of came about and I’ve never had more fun in my life than filming these videos and editing them and doing that sort of thing. I think there’s definitely great, positive things. It’s amazing, as you said, even when you hit a roadblock in life, you’re trying to do something, it allows you to have an avenue to pursue that in a way that didn’t exist 20 years ago. But there’s obviously the dark side to it, too.

So I don’t know what it is I enjoy when I think about this more further, like what is one thing I could point out. … I enjoy comedy. I enjoy really well thought out comedic stuff and if you’re creating that, then I’m definitely going to respect you in all ways. Like I can’t do that. I know it for a fact. So when I see that sort of thing, I’m like, “Damn, that’s cool. Well done.”

You did have your friend dress as a hot dog in your YouTube video.

No one knows who the hot dog is. That’s the point. Who knows if he’s my friend?

I just assumed he was.

No, see. “Assume” makes a what out of you and me?

I assumed that in order to get somebody to dress up as a hot dog and prance around in your YouTube video to co-star with you that it would have to be a pretty close friend.

No. Who knows who he is? He’s just a hot dog. And he has an interesting car. He’s a hot dog. That’s become apparent. I’m not exactly sure how he and I met or where, but we have. I don’t even know where he lives. I don’t even know what he does when we’re not filming. He just sort of pops up when I’m filming and then finds a way to be in the video and just disappears. So if anyone knows where he his, his number or anything, I would like to get that.

Basically the hot dog is The Stig of your YouTube video?

I don’t think he know what The Stig is. I don’t know anything about him. He doesn’t speak. He has no use of words. None whatsoever.

I’m fascinated to see where this aggressively average YouTube channel evolves, along with the hot dog. Thank for you joining us and for sharing your dark thoughts on social media future.

I know, I hate that it’s so dark. Was it too dark? (Laughs) Was it?

One good thing that we have going on is that on my Truck for Talladega, we have a sticker from Peggy Miller, who had breast cancer for 23 years, and she’s actually my crew chief’s mother-in-law. She just recently passed away, but since getting breast cancer, she started a self-help group in the Abington, Virginia area, the Bristol, Virginia area, and it rose to have 100 people that were attending at times. And so it’s a really cool thing, because we do a lot for survivors of cancer and people who are helping at times, but not for the unsung heroes who are trying to help others cope with cancer, and so we have that all over our truck this week. And that’s a positive thing, so that’s another Rutledge Wood positive story. We’re bringing light to that, and we hope to get her in victory lane because that’d be a really cool story.

I don’t think the interview was that dark.

I was being more facetious with most of my things. I think you should, as Rutledge Wood would say, chase your dream and you can do it, too. Hug the next person next to you. Love. Peace. Send love. Hashtag #love.

3 Replies to “Social Spotlight with Parker Kligerman”

  1. A Black Mirror reference on a Nascar blog?! Never expected that! Yeah, Parker, I think it’s okay to be a little apprehensive about social media. It’s brought out the best and worst in people…who knows where this internet thing will lead us in the future. And congrats on the win, bud!

  2. Parker does a fantastic job with NBC NASCAR, very impressed.

    I read and listened and that’s about all I’m going to say. I started out with my thoughts and then change my mind.

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