Carbage, SEMA 2018, and 2019: A Review and Preview

Last year, Carbage took some big leaps forward starting at the 2017 SEMA Show. From there it’s been a growth full of ups and downs, but the rate remained constant. For 2018, I’m increasing my effort to continue to grow this site to become what I have dreamed it would be: a place for gearheads – for both beginners and veterans – to rely on for news, information, tech, and stories. Let’s review and look forward to 2019.

How We Got Here

Photo: SEMA

First, I’m going to be talking a bit “shop” here. I think it’s important for the subscribers to see this as well as anyone who is just curious about owning an online automotive media outlet like Carbage. SEMA Preview Coverage will start at this link.

Even though I launched Carbage as a YouTube channel in 2016, I didn’t see real growth and response until 2017 when I covered the SEMA Show and the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. SEMA still had its role, but really it was the OUSCI coverage that began the trend of growth on the site. From just tens of people grew into hundreds to where the site was hitting around 200 unique hits thanks to it. What really pushed it – and continues to do so by the numbers – was my review and photography of the Honda Racing Ridgeline Chase Truck.

Where the Growth Came From

The best part of this growth is that most of my traffic has been through organic searches. This means people have been finding the site by typing something in during a Google search. This is great considering I haven’t paid for any of that reach with Google Ads, which would put sites that paid for ad space at the top of the first page. I have tried Facebook Ads, but have found them to not be worthwhile to this point as I don’t see the conversion of a like or view towards clicking on the website. Despite that, I have been happy with the current growth and know more will be coming.

Funding: How I Started vs Now

When I started trying to find a way to fund the content and journalism here on Carbage, I started with relying on YouTube ads and Patreon. Unfortunately, I have found both to be very lacking. YouTube, obviously, isn’t doing so well when it comes to filtering “ad friendly content.” Even my videos would be flagged, and I would have to send a support ticket about it.

Suffice to say, YouTube isn’t where the money comes from for most automotive channels. It comes from outside advertising, but I do foresee a day when YouTube begins to flag that content as their own ad revenue continues to dry up.


I tried Patreon and found that they were becoming a bit like YouTube in only pushing the content creators they either agreed with or just simply were getting more hits from. When I spoke out about this to their people, it really went nowhere, and I felt that well was going to dry up eventually and quickly, too. They have had their own issues when it came to how content creators were getting funded by their fans. That’s what’s lead me to two different paths for funding Carbage.

Changing to the Subscription Model

The first is a subscription model I implemented in June. It’s basically the same as what I was offering on Patreon as far as what donators on the platform would get. It’s just now I don’t have two entities taking their piece out of the payment. With Patreon, they got their amount and PayPal would get theirs. Now, it’s just PayPal.

The Carbage Driver’s Program

This program has only just started, but I haven’t accepted any applications yet. I have had a few people send me proposals and resumes, so it’s something people are interested in. With the off season in swing, this is the time to ensure that you have somewhere your content as a driver is guaranteed to appear. I do look forward to implementing the program after SEMA and start to expand on it for 2019.

Content Creation Services

My other solution is the “Content Creation Services,” where I provide photos, videos, and any writing needed to be done for companies in the automotive sector. They aren’t paying to have an article written and posted on Carbage, which is known as Paid Content. Instead, I offer my skills and knowledge to create content on their sites or social media outlets.

Primarily, the focus is on smaller businesses that want to have the content like bigger companies do at a price they can afford. I have found the response very promising and that part of Carbage may start to expand as well. To date, I have worked with Vision Wheel during the Mint 400 for press releases, Narvaez Racing for videos, and Vicious Off-Road for their content. After SEMA, this service will potentially expand to include a few more companies under the Carbage Content brand.


I have said from the beginning that I don’t like to do ads. Unfortunately, the realization is starting to dawn on me that it may be needed if I want this site to survive and make this my career. I feel that there is a way to balance it. To create a place where information isn’t restricted by who pays for the site. I’ve been taking some notes from some of my favorite tech YouTube channels and I think I see how I can accomplish it.

I haven’t signed anyone to advertise with the site yet. I will be talking to some companies at SEMA about it, but that’s not my push for SEMA.

SEMA 2018

Depending on when you’re reading this, I’ll be rolling down the road with PCHRODS for my first major story of 2018 SEMA Show. It will be a behind the scenes look at traveling from their new shop in Riverside, California to the Las Vegas Convention Center and loading their cars in to the Spectre Performance booth. It’s a story that’s not told all too often, the behind the scenes story of the trek to SEMA and the people that do it. Now, if you’re reading this after 5pm PST, I’m probably finishing up the photos and writing of the article.

Last year, I was only able to knock out three videos from the show. This was because I was working for not just myself but four other outlets as well. This year, it’s all about Carbage and you’re going to get some spectacular stories from the show. I’ve been full bore with my photography and writing over doing video work, but I will be doing some Facebook Live posts (if I can get a decent signal during the show, that is). So, go to the Carbage Facebook Page, like it, and look out for posts from the SEMA Show all week long. I’m going to do my best to bring you same day coverage as well, considering that I’m working for myself this year.

The Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational

Once again, I will be bringing you coverage of the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), the final event of the Ultimate Street Car Association (USCA) series. On top of the overall event coverage last year, I brought you the best Corvettes, best cars, and the Shelby American Takeover. This year, I look to match that with better photography and even more event coverage. Much like SEMA, I’m going to try and bring you same day coverage and Facebook Live posts along with extras through the rest of the week after the OUSCI is over.

Looking at the End of 2018 and into 2019

After SEMA is done, the next big event will be the 2018 running of the Super Lap Battle. This will be the first time I haven’t been there to announce the event, so I’m going to cover it instead. After that will be the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show and AutoMobility LA. There are rumors of big announcements from GM, FCA, and Ford, so this is looking to be the most exciting LA Auto Show in recent years. After that is the SNORE McKenzie’s Rage at the River, an off-road race just off the Colorado River and the Arizona/Nevada border in Laughlin, Nevada.

Going into 2019, I’m looking to expand my off-road coverage by planning on covering the first round of the 2019 AMA Monster Energy Supercross Series in Anaheim, CA. Media registration opens during the SEMA Show and it will be my first time ever covering Supercross. That’s if I get accepted. Considering that I don’t have any prior coverage of Supercross or Motocross, I must be open to the possibility that I won’t be accepted. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to try, though.

Most of my work will continue as it has since 2017, but will be a continued expansion. I look towards covering more of the Ultra4 Series, including the 2019 running of the King of the Hammers. Project 3323 will be expanded upon through next year and I may possibly bring on a second project. I’m going to try to include more powersports related content for next year as that segment continues to explode with popularity without much slowing down. Finally, I’m looking to increase the viewership of the site with more content than last year and potentially hiring my first freelancer or two.

Want to Help?

There are two ways you can potentially help with that. One is to share the site with your friends, family, co-workers and everyone else you can. Click on the share links. Show people at work on your phone (just don’t get caught by your boss). Follow and like the Carbage social media outlets and always check here for new stories and content. The more people who visit the site, the better it is for the site overall.


The other is to subscribe subscribe. Other than offering my expertise in writing, photos, and videos, subscriptions are how I currently fund going out to events like these under the Carbage brand. If you subscribe as an Annual or Biannual Subscriber (even paying per month), you get great content two weeks earlier than free viewers and you get exclusive galleries, videos, and soon exclusive merchandise that only subscribers have a chance to buy.

SEMA Show Exclusive: a Biannual Subscription for only $10!

In celebration of the 2018 SEMA Show, I’m offering everyone a chance to get a two-year subscription to Carbage for only $10. Normally, this is $24 for monthly payers and $22 for those who pay fully upfront. From now until the end of November, you can get this Premium Subscription for over half-off. When select one of the Biannual Subscriptions, you’ll enter discount code SEMA2018 and enjoy two years of Premium Carbage Content at over 50-percent off.


I want to say thank you to everyone who has supported this effort with me since 2017 and extend that to everyone who has joined me since. I look forward to bringing you new and unique takes on the automotive world for as long as I can. I especially look forward towards 2019 because something great will be coming.

Justin Banner

Justin Banner, Lead Editor and Founder of Carbage Online, has been involved with the automotive media and industry in many capacities and now tackles publication ownership with CarbageOnline.com. Prior to that, he has freelanced for top online publications of modern media that include Speedhunters, MotoIQ, Super Street Online, Hot Rod Magazine and many others. All due to his nearly 20 years experience as a mechanic, service writer, and technical support in the automotive industry. Justin is also a Journalist Level member of the Motor Press Guild - an industry recognized entity of professional automotive journalists - since 2015.