Another year has gone by at our tiny motorcycle blog here, as Asphalt & Rubber turns five years old today. The thing is though, the site isn’t that tiny anymore — one million visitors will come to A&R in October alone.
In the past four years, when I have written these birthday posts, I write the same thing about how I look back on the past 365 days with a bit of astonishment, and then list all the great things that we have done in that time.
At the five-year mark though, I find myself looking all the way back to the beginning of A&R, a time when this site wasn’t really anything at all. With that retrospect, I see how Asphalt & Rubber has come into what it is now — if I had to go back, and try to decipher today from the fog of time, it would all feel like an impossible reality, if I am honest.
Many have asked me how this site came to be, and so here it is. The not-so-quick genesis story of Asphalt & Rubber is that I stared this website while in the middle of a second-year corporate finance class in business school. It was October 2008, the job market was non-existent for soon-to-be newly minted MBA’s, and though I didn’t know it yet, the Great Recession had officially started.
If I had been smart and safe, by graduation I would have copied what my fellow classmates had done, and latched onto the first available paying gig that came along. Instead, I decided to take a risk, and try to start something of my own.
You see, the idea of being a corporate controller at ExxonMobil for the rest of my life was unappealing when it was pitched to me in a job interview that year. Similarly, I laughed far too loud when a Dell recruiter told me to work for them, as they were going to be the next Apple, according to him.
And then there was the prospect of working for a regional mid-Atlantic bank, the very prospect of which had me already reaching for my shoelaces and looking for a good load-bearing beam in the rafters. If I had been smart and keen to play it safe though, I would have taken any one of those jobs, and life would have been much easier.
Instead I moved back to California, moved in with my mom, and started Asphalt & Rubber in her freezing cold basement. It sucked.
Post-graduation and full recession, I was a quarter-million dollars in debt from my nearly decade long tenure in school (I did three years of law school, in addition to the two years of business school). In my late-20’s, living with my mom, and “blogging” for paychecks, what I was doing was looking more like charity than a living.
This wasn’t what I had planned for myself during that last year of college…you know, when I had figured everything out, but the world had changed on me. Motorcycling had even changed in that period of time, as we saw sales in the United States and Europe just completely disappear.
Journalism had changed also, though things were already changing in the industry as the internet constantly encroached upon the readership of print publications. Not helping matters, print budgets were slashed in the recession. So, not only was the readership leaving print magazines, but now so too were the dollar signs.
I don’t have any illusions that those two factors are probably what got me through the lean years and why Asphalt & Rubber exists today. With all of that now more of a distant memory, the site now flourishes, despite my dyslexic attempts at mashing words together.
While many things come easily to me, writing has never been one of them. I look back through the archives and see some of my ahem, rough, articles and cringe a bit — if you have been a long-time reader of Asphalt & Rubber, you surely are a patient person. Another thing that strikes me looking back at old articles is that this site has matured into something of its own.
Truth be told, this isn’t my site anymore. It’s your site, really.
When I finally put my mind towards Asphalt & Rubber actually being something more than my own outlet of thoughts, I knew that I wanted to create a publication that I would want to read as an enthusiast.
I wanted to create a publication that didn’t shy away from asking the tough questions, and didn’t mind losing advertisers because of the stories that it had published. I wanted to run a publication that completely held its readers as its ultimate stakeholders. These are the same tenets others always seem to promise, but also always seem to fail to deliver.
I look at the response we have had from our readers these past five years, and see them as confirmation that this is something that others are looking for as well; and as such, that standard goes beyond being just my own. It is ours.
I have learned that it is easier to draw those lines in the sand when you are a small publication, and no one pays attention to you, but that the task becomes much more difficult once you get bigger in size, readership, influence, etc.
What keeps me up at night is how Asphalt & Rubber will maintain those same standards going forward, as this seemingly slippery slope is something I think only the most unscrupulous of people undertake willingly. Thankfully, I have good people around me to keep me accountable.
I continue to be deeply grateful to have David Emmett publishing his work here at Asphalt & Rubber, as he continues to be one of the most insightful writers in motorcycle racing, in both the print and online mediums.
Beyond the words of his, that many of you read, David is often the sounding board I go to for my big picture ideas, mindless rants, and rare crises of conscience. His friendship makes up for the moments where he talks on the phone in Dutch to his lovely wife. Seriously, it sounds like Chewbacca.
I can’t talk about David without talking about Scott Jones too. His photos are a huge factor in what makes this site look so visually appealing, and I don’t nearly do them justice by coupling them to my written postings. Scott’s work behind the lens is surely apparent to anyone who reads this site on a regular basis, but he too does so much for Asphalt & Rubber behind the scenes.
He has endured my unique style of “planning” trips abroad, my snoring at night, and of course my constant reminders of how I was born when he graduated high school. A true friend, I look forward to our regular lunch meetings where we plot to takeover the two-wheeled world. I love this guy so much, I would even go vegetarian for him.
Readers are likely not too familiar with Daniel Lloyd though, Asphalt & Rubber‘s server administrator. Dan has been a part of this crazy adventure since the very first day…the poor bastard.
As each day passed on, Dan become more and more the literal reason that A&R continued forth, as he built, tweaked, rebuilt, and retweaked our now four (or is it five?) servers into submission for the roughly gigabyte of traffic our little blog now produces…each hour.
Looking back too over the past five years with Dan, we have had some late nights, some stressful mornings, and sometimes combinations of the two. I am immensely grateful for all the hard work he has put into Asphalt & Rubber. Any other sane and rational person would have told me to take a hike long ago.
I am even more grateful for the patience of Dan’s wife, because rarely has a call at 2am woken up only Dan. Since starting A&R, I have had the fortunate opportunity to watch Dan find the love of his life, Sara. They got married this year, and I was deeply honored to get to witness their union. That day had to be the top moment for Asphalt & Rubber this year.
I am exceedingly proud of what we have all created here, and of course none of this would be possible without the hard work, encouragement, and support of a very loyal group of people. Many thanks to all of you that have been there these past five years — you really have no idea how much your support has meant. You too Mom.
Lastly and most importantly, thank you to all our readers who make all the work worthwhile. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to follow us on Twitter, friend us on Facebook, or just leave a comment below. Until next year.
Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved