August 14th, 2013
If your blog gets picked by TIME Magazine as one of their Top 25 you get a free trip to my donut shop. You also get to have your mind cracked open by the new world of Youtube that you probably know nothing about.
Uber-blogger Andy Revkin was in town to collect on his donuts for being picked by TIME as a Top 25 blogger. I took him on a fascinating visit to Maker Studios, one of the top 3 Youtube production companies that have cropped up in Hollywood.
THE WORLD YOU PROBABLY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT
Yesterday I hosted my favorite blogger, Andy Revkin, author of the NY Times blog, Dot Earth. In 20 years of living in L.A. I’ve never stopped by the iconic Randy’s Donuts until yesterday as we were driving past LAX. Long overdue.
But much more interesting was the tour we took of Maker Studios. If you’re over 30 you may not want to read this. You may not even want to read it if you’re 25 and not part of this strange new world of Youtube.
A couple months ago, at a USC film school industry event, I met a young guy who works for Maker Studios in Culver City. They are one of the “big three” Youtube production companies that have sprung up quickly in the last few years. There’s a million tiny “production companies” throughout Hollywood so one of my first questions was the usual, “Whadya got, like a dozen employees?”
“No,” he replied, “we have 380 people and are growing rapidly.”
Welcome to the world you probably know very little about. While all my film school classmates in their mid-40’s are riding the down elevator as the independent feature film world continues to collapse, these kids are rocketing upwards on the up elevator, making money hand over fist, having the time of their lives.
So we took the tour — Andy, his 15 year old son (who was the ONLY member of our group who seemed to understand it all because this is HIS world), and my group of 4 co-workers, all somewhat disoriented by the enormity of this entire ecosystem we’re not part of. Our host, who is 25, was incredibly relaxed and gracious. Usually when you get a tour of someone’s production house they are desperately trying to impress you and convince you that they actually are succeeding. There was none of that with this tour. These folks don’t need to impress you — they just ARE succeeding.
There was an excellent article last January in The New Yorker, “STREAMING DREAMS: Youtube Turns Pro,” by John Seabrook that forewarned of this explosion. It was fascinating to see up close what he foretold.
PEWDIEPIES AND SMUSHES
Not that their content is exactly uplifting the race or saving the planet. But just look at the sheer volume of eyeballs they are playing to. They have several tens of thousands of Youtube Channels that they either run or provide content to. So if you made videos and posted them to your own Youtube channel, what would you consider successful? Maybe 10,000 views? Maybe 100,000?
Their most successful channel is called Pewdiepie. It’s just one knucklehead kid in Sweden posting silly videos of him playing video games and providing running commentary. He gets … 170 million views a month.
Soak that in for a moment. Look at the trailers for the current hot Hollywood movie, “The Butler,” on Youtube. The most widely watched version has 384,000 views. Every video that Pewdiepie puts up gets 3-5 MILLION views within a week.
And there’s an even bigger channel that’s not part of their company called Smosh. It’s content, “is even stupider,” said one of our hosts.
But stupid or not, the mass audience IS the mass audience. Are you just going to write them off ? (the answer is yes for a lot of academics who reply, “they’re stupid and they’re young” — nice)
MOVIES ARE FOR OLD FOLKS
There’s such a huge generation gap that’s emerged in this communication stuff. At lunch with the Maker folks I asked, “Blogging is kind of passe now isn’t it?” They sheepishly nodded. “Nobody reads much any more.”
It’s about video.
So I look at all the great science communication and climate communication workshops being run (by old people) these days and wonder — do they even know about this new Youtube world?