2015 March Film and Interactive


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3 0 S X S W o r l d | F I L M / I A M A R C H 2 0 1 5 | S X S W. C O M ouTube turned 10 years old last month, and in that decade, the Google-owned video sharing ser vice has thoroughly dominated the online video space, boasting viewership num- bers that would make the most cynical television network executive weep. And while cat videos and celebrity "gotcha" moments continue to yield staggering numbers of views, there are also indi- viduals and organizations who are finding ways to create viral success not by luck, but through an emerging alchemy of talent, perseverance, cross-channel collaboration and brand synergy. The advent of Multi-Channel Networks (MCNs) on YouTube in recent years has changed the path that many would-be YouTube stars take to online video stardom. These networks partner with YouTube talent and channels, and offer a range of support in exchange for a cut of the ad revenue that is generated by the content. "We primarily help talent build their brand with production sup- port, distribution support and audience development support," says Kelly Day, Chief Digital Officer at AwesomenessT V, an MCN that is a subsidiar y of Dreamworks Animation and that, according to Day, boasts 2.2 mil- lion subscribers. Day says AwesomenessTV pri- marily caters to teens, tweens and millennials when it comes to both viewers and creators: "These are people who are watching on YouTube and creating content on YouTube," she says, describing the network as a "talent feeder." "Often it's comedians or musi- cians, writers, directors," she adds. "We identify talent across different genres." Oliver Luckett, CEO of the- Audience, an entertainment content publishing network focused on social media, describes the social video landscape as "a raw petri dish of creativity." Luckett says it is difficult to create a YouTube star from scratch, and that authenticity is key: "These kids' relationships with their fans are extremely personal." "There's a reverse-engineered formula to what makes a YouTube personality successful," Luckett continues. "Brands look at authen- ticity of the content, raw numbers of actual engagement and sentiment around the artist." He adds that collaborating with and tagging other content creators can multiply audience engagement. "Building audi- ence clusters is very powerful from an algorithmic standpoint," he says. When it comes to connecting brands with successful YouTube talent, keeping the content authentic can be a challenge. Casey Neistat (who gave a keynote address at SXSW Film 2014) has been making YouTube videos since 2010, which makes him a relative veteran in the online video space. He says that he is surprised by how often he is approached by companies asking him to make videos that appear to be his authentic voice but that are actually scripted commercials. "Just yesterday a fast-food company asked if I could be 'casually eating' their food in my videos," he says, and adds that he has never done that and never will. "Being super in-your-face honest about branded content is the only way I can do work for clients and maintain my trust with the audience." Luckett agrees, and points out that the Federal Trade Commission has specific guidelines regarding how branded content is disclosed. "A lot of people don't follow that rule and brands get in trouble that way," he explains, adding that some brands think that disclosing the commercial relationship will somehow hurt the authenticity of the content. "Bullshit, it enhances it," he counters. "Being honest and transparent is very important." Day suggests that there is another ingredient to the secret sauce of YouTube success—reliability. "The best thing is to be good about cre- ating regular content," she says, and suggests that uploading new content on a weekly basis, more or less, is an important habit to form. She also encourages YouTubers to publish across multiple platforms: "T w itter, Instag ram, Facebook, Vine—all platforms are helpful in building your value to brands and advertisers." Partnering with a MCN may not always be the smartest path to suc- cess, however. Joe Nation, whose hit YouTube show, "The YouTube Assassin," is being turned into a feature film called Bob Thunder: Inte r net A ssa ss in by Relativ it y Media, says that success with a MCN depends on a few things. "If you have a small audience and are not generating a lot of views or content and a network is trying to sign you, they will not do much for you," he says, pointing out that many MCNs will sign thousands of channels that they can't afford to manage. But, he says, YouTubers with large and loyal audiences can benefit from the connections to brands and sponsors that networks can offer. Ultimately though, Nation says that success is in the hands of the content creators. "You can't sign to a network and expect success; you are responsible for your channel and your ow n success," he says. "Your channel lives and dies with you." O l i ve r Lu cke t t w il l joi n t h e SX s p o r t s s es s io n: "At hle tes a n d M u s ici a n s D i - re c t-To - C o n s u m e r M e d i a ," to d ay (Su n d ay , M a rch 1 5) a t 1 1 a m in B a l l ro o m CD of t h e F ou r S e a s o n s H otel (9 8 S a n J a cin to). Kel ly D ay w il l b e p a r t of t h e Fu ture of T V p a n el : " Th e N ew T V Sta r : H ow to B u ild a n A u d ie n ce O n - l in e," h a p p e nin g o n Tu es d ay , M a rch 17 a t 1 1 a m in B a l l ro o m A B of t h e F ou r S e a s o n s H otel . F o r i nfo rm a t io n a b ou t ot h e r C o nve r g e n ce p ro g r a m m i n g a t SX S W 20 1 5, v i s i t : s x s m /co nve r g e n ce. For Emerging YouTube Stars, Viral Fame is No Accident by bill Simmon Y O l i ve r Lu cke t t C O U R T E S Y O F T H E A U D I E N C E

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