Interview with Jim Louderback
Lori: Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Tech Cat Show. It’s so great to be here. Tech trends impacting your business. And as always I’m bringing you fabulous guests who give you insights about what’s happening our world, and today is no different. We have the fabulous Jim Louderback, who I’m calling The Curator, and Jim is a well- respected media executive and has his hands in some of the hottest growing areas in the media and entertainment space, and, in fact, he’s currently running partnerships for an online video-creation platform called Wochit and is also a venture partner at Social Starts and is doing so much more. So, we’re going to get schooled today in what’s happening in the world of online video, from multi-channel networks, YouTube, and all the fabulous things that are happening in what is the future of television, as many people are calling it. So, let’s have a big hand for Jim Louderback. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it!
Lori: Hi, Jim. How’s it going?
Jim: It’s going great. It’s great to be here with you, Lori.
Lori: Well, I want to hear a little bit about your background, because you launched a whole network, sold it, and had a really exciting history that sort of sets the stage for where you’re going with everything today. So, can you give us a little sense of your background?
Jim: Yeah, and I’ll start even before that. I sort of fell into media. I was a programmer and a developer and answered an ad in the New York Times to run a test lab at a magazine—the magazine’s no longer with us. It was called PC Week—and I was, like, yeah, it sounds like fun. I’ll go do that. And that started my sort of experiences with media. So I worked in magazines, at this company Ziff Davis, helped start a cable network, the first cable network about technology, which was called ZDTV; it then became TechTV. We built it, sold it to Paul Allen. That was all well and good. And then I got bored, so I went off to go, ended up being editor-in-chief of PC Magazine. And this was in 2004, 2005, 2006; and magazines were very much in a transition at that time. We started launching a bunch of online video stuff to go along with what we were doing on the technology side. And through
that I connected up with some guys that worked for me at TechTV, and they had just launched an online video network called Revision3— it came out at about the time that the iPod first started supporting video—and they were, like, we’re raising money. You want to come be CEO? And I said, sure, why not; that sounds like fun. So, yeah. So I did that. We went from being very iTunes focused to being focused on YouTube, to being a multi-channel network, or an MCN, seeing some great success there, selling it off to Discovery Communications, Discovery Channel, and those guys, where I stayed for a few years and launched a whole bunch more networks for them.
Lori: So when you say, just in case some of our audience doesn’t really understand this world, what is a multi-channel network?
Jim: Sure. A multi-channel network is a type of company that’s kind of built up around YouTube as YouTube became bigger. They’re companies that may or may not create their own video and their own programs and run their own channels on YouTube, but what they really do is go out to lots of other independent creators and bring them in under the corporate structure and the corporate umbrella of that company. So, for example, at Revision3 we made a bunch of programs on our own—Diggnation and Tekzilla and other wildly popular programs—but because we were more focused on the technology and the video-game space and the young-men space, we went out and found independent creators who were also making great shows—TechnoBuffalo, Soldier Knows Best, and a whole bunch of others—and we didn’t hire them or acquire them, but they became part of Revision3, and they all bubbled up to our overall view count.
We ended up selling all of them together to various different brands. And so a multi-channel network, at its core, is a network that manages multiple different channels on YouTube and now on lots of other online video sources, but it doesn’t necessarily own any or many of them.
Lori: So, if I were to go onto YouTube and type “Revision3,” is that how I would find all of these different shows?
Jim: Not really. I mean, it exists at a level where—and everyone’s different—but you have some MCNs that have hundreds of thousands, or maybe not hundreds, maybe ten thousand, twenty thousand different independent creators inside their umbrella, and it’s really hard to put all ten thousand channels in one place. So Revision3 existed as a company, and we did, I think we did have a channel on YouTube for a while, we may still, but it’s really going out to the individual creators. That’s what’s important.
Lori: So, it’s a network in concept and in organization and in digital data but not, like, a destination, per se.
Jim: Yeah. Think of it like Viacom. I mean, you’re not going to go on to your cable box and tune in Viacom, but you will go look at MTV or Nickelodeon. And in this particular case, you’re not going to go to YouTube and necessarily look up Revision3 or Maker or Fullscreen, which are other multi-channel networks. Instead, you’ll look for TechnoBuffalo or Diggnation or Tekzilla or Soldier Knows Best or any of those other channels.
Lori: So you’ll go to the show, right.
Jim: Yeah. Well, it’s more of a channel because—it’s interesting. It’s a little confusing, but if you think about it, multi-channel network has a bunch of YouTube channels underneath it at its purest YouTube form—it’s much broader now—and then each of those YouTube channels may have one or more shows associated with the channel.
So a lot of them just have one show on the channel, one thing, but over time we see more and more of these channels have multiple shows and run multiple shows inside that channel.
Lori: I always thought it was really fascinating that people—the discovery aspect of finding this, because there is so much content online now. So, you know, search and all that is so key to all of this, right, and finding these great shows and then they bubble up, and it’s always blown my mind that they do bubble up, because there’s so much going on out there.
Jim: Yeah. You know, what we tried to do at Revision3 was to really have Revision3 stand for something or sort of intelligent, interesting, informative, funny content about technology and video games and culture. So in every show we’d run the bug. We’d have a little bit of— we’d have a closing little Revision3 thing, a little two-second thing at the end; and in our mind at least, I don’t think we did a good job at this, there was a certain quality level, a certain type of content, certain thing you would expect, and if you went to Revision3.com you would see those shows. We would promote other shows within Revision3.
And that’s another thing that an MCN does really well is it allows you to promote new shows out of your existing shows and your bigger shows to help with that discovery problem, because it’s so hard to find things on the Internet, on YouTube, etc., but if you’re a fan of, say, the Fine Brothers, and they have a new show coming out or they’re
working with somebody else, that’s a good way to discover it and find new things.
Lori: And then the purchase of Revision3 by Discovery was similar to, say, Disney buying Maker, and a lot of these other big, well-known content media companies buying multi-channel networks; and what was that really about? Why did they do that?
Jim: They did it for a couple different reasons. One is to learn. I mean, this is a space that grew really rapidly. Suddenly, a lot of these networks, these traditional media companies, started seeing more and more of their audience going and spending time on these new distribution mechanisms—on YouTube, on tablets, on their phones— and they saw an erosion in many cases of their existing media properties, particularly among thirteen-to-thirty-year-olds. And so it was to learn, it was to build new audiences, and it was to get a head start in this new video world that was very different from the world that they’d been playing in.
Lori: So, was it a big change for you to go from sort of building out Revision3 into a big multi-channel network and then going to work for a more traditional media company like Discovery?
Jim: You know, I’d already worked at big media companies, so I kind of knew what to expect. I mean, certainly, it was a change. Once anything that happens like that is a change. I mean, you know, one change, we didn’t have to worry if we’d have enough money to make payroll.
Jim: Let’s face it: Discovery is a big, great company, and they were a wonderful company to work with, and there were a lot of things that were just great about it. Of course, other things as well. You know, suddenly, you have more sort of corporate structure that tends to revolve around particularly in the finance and the accounting and the reporting and those areas. So, I think if I look at it overall, as a small company, as a startup, you probably spend eighty, ninety percent of your time out, looking outwards, looking at your customers, looking at your creators, trying to find new people, trying to see what your competitors are doing, but spending most of your time looking outside the doors of your company. As your company gets bigger and bigger—and I’ve seen this happen, whether it’s startup or not startup—bigger and bigger, you tend to spend more and more time
internally, on internal processes and procedures, working together internally with different parts of the company. And part of my job, once Discovery acquired us, was really to be the ambassador for Revision3 to the rest of Discovery. So I found, personally, I was spending a lot more time on internal discovery issues and less on the external facing, hey, what’s our competitors doing, what are we doing, what’s going on here. So that’s a change, but it’s a natural change. I mean, I expected it and it happened.
Lori: Because this is really a whole new culture for a lot of the traditional media broadcasters who have never really played in this space, so you were really helping them to understand what the opportunities were for them to also make revenue with brands in this space, correct?
Jim: Exactly, and how we could work together and how we could leverage some of what each of us had to make the acquisition just as successful as it could be and the continual drive forward the company overall.
Lori: And were the creators okay about this change? Were they impacted by being part of Discovery?
Jim: You know, almost completely yes. I’ll tell you an interesting story. One of our creators internally—so I was working one of our internal shows, a video-game show—when it happened, and then we had the CEO of Discovery, David Zaslav, come in, and he was practically tearing up when we announced it. And I remember asking him, I was, like, well, what’s wrong; and he was, like, You can’t believe it, I can finally tell my dad I work for a real company. He’ll be so proud. So, there was this— I mean, Discovery was absolutely the right company for what we were building. It’s funny, you know. We compared our—we had our strategic planning, and we came up with words that described us and our culture and there are six or seven words that really described who we were. When we looked at Discovery and started talking about merging with them and started putting our sort of those corporate mission statements against each other, like, six of the seven words were the same. So it was a real cultural fit, which was good.
Lori: Well, we’re going to take a break in a moment, but when we come back, I’d love to talk to you about how real is the business in this space, because a few weeks ago we had Rob Ciampa from Pixability talking to us about programmatic for YouTube, but you were
really on the other side of it with the creators and being an ambassador to them and inside of a large media company. So I’d love to find out from you, what are some of the trends that you’re seeing on that side, and how is this turning into a real business. So, we’ll be back soon with Jim Louderback, The Curator, on the Tech Cat Show.
Lori: And we’re back on the Tech Cat Show with the fabulous Jim Louderback, who’s really an expert in the multi-channel network space and the video space and has a long history in helping to build business inside of the YouTube space; and so, Jim, what kind of trends are you seeing in this space, because you’re really dealing with all the creators, and you’re helping match make them with brands and just really turning this into a business. So are you seeing some trends bubble up here?
Jim: Well, you know, there’s a lot of stuff happening and continuing to happen in this world. I think one of the things that—we touched on this a little bit before the break with Rob from Pixability and what he’s seeing—I think advertising in general is under a lot of pressure. Think about pre-rolls. Do you like pre-rolls?
Lori: Not really.
Jim: I don’t like pre-rolls. Think about all the ad-blocking stuff that’s going on with Apple.
Lori: Oh my god, they’re all—everybody I know in New York on the media side is in terror about the media business.
Jim: Well, and they should be. I mean, we’re shoving this stuff in front of people that is irrelevant, that is not enjoyable, that—I mean, how many times can you see the one weird way to get rid of belly fat before you feel like sticking your finger through your monitor? But with that said, that doesn’t mean that advertising is dead; what it means is that we are rethinking it. And there’s a lot of talk also about native ads and native advertising, etc., but what I think is really interesting is, and what works really well, is when you look at these creators on YouTube and now other online media platforms that have built really strong communities around themselves. The ones that are most successful are the ones that have built these great communities around them that give and take with each other, that have a sense of belonging, that use the online video star of the show as kind of a
center point but not necessarily the end all and be all; and the brands that are really intelligent are the ones that become part of that community, that come in and take a long-term desire to be part of the community and help the community do things that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. So rather than just, you know, the scattershot approach that we see in so many different branded things, where a brand comes in and fires their stuff all around and does their product placement and blah, blah, blah, and then they’re gone, you’re like, hey, what happened; that was terrible. Compare that to the brand that comes in and says—and I’m going to use Marriott as an example because—
Jim: —I think what David Beebe has done has been pretty darn good—but I saw a Snapchat star, Shonduras, talking about this a week or two ago, and he said, look, Marriott came to me and said, hey, we want to help you take your fans somewhere; and we’ll take you to any hotel in the world. And he turned around to his fans and said, here are three places that we’re going to go; why don’t you vote where do you all want me to go so we can all share this experience together.
And they did that, and Marriott helped him—I think it was Bangkok. I can’t remember where they actually ended up going—but it wasn’t just—
Lori: It’s so smart.
Jim: —you know, I’m going to do a show in Marriott. No! Marriott’s going to take this community somewhere that we couldn’t go otherwise, and we’re going to have a lot of fun doing it. And so, you know, think about the effect Marriott would have had if they had just stuck a bunch of pre-rolls instead of in front of a bunch of YouTube stars, because they’re doing this for a lot of other people as well on YouTube and other places, versus actually being an integral part of the story and the community that they build together. Purina’s done a good job of this, and Walmart’s done a good job of this and a bunch of other brands have; and that, to me, in many ways, is that future of advertising in a way that’s not intrusive; it’s valuable.
Lori: David Beebe is a really interesting case because he was someone that had a really deep understanding of this space—he had had various jobs in building out networks—and then Marriott hired him to run this. How often are you seeing a brand make an investment
like that, where they hire an industry expert and bring them inside like that?
Jim: Well, we’re seeing it more and more, and I think what you see is that some brands are going out and hiring people in the industry to do it; others are growing them up themselves and then working with people to help them. So, I’ll take Purina as an example. Rick Spiekermann over at Purina is, you know, he’s like a lifer at Purina, I think; but he’s, over time, become a real content expert, and he’s really developed great content understanding; he has a crew around him, but he works with a lot of really good folks as well that have helped him get there. So, to me, this is absolutely a trend that companies need to move to, and I think David’s kind of paving the way as a success story for many other brands to take a look at.
Lori: Well, I was moderating an event the other day with the NAB Show about just the future of content media, you know, the stuff that we’re all just constantly talking about, what we’re talking about now; and one of the data points that came out, I think it was from the television-advertising bureau or it may have been the Video Advertising Bureau and forgive me for mixing the two up because they both do very different things, but one of them stated a factoid and they said that millennials are actually watching five times as much traditional broadcast television as they are YouTube, you know, because we’re all hearing about how they’re all watching YouTube; and this is a data point that they got to from doing real research. Do you find that believable?
Jim: I don’t know. What I do know is that we’re seeing a lot more screen time occurring across the board. I don’t that—
Lori: Seems a crazy data point, right?
Jim: Well, it’s certainly different from what I’ve observed and see, but I haven’t seen the research so it’s kind of hard to poke holes in it.
Lori: Yeah. So I guess the larger point is that there’s a lot of data points floating out there about what millennials are doing or what, at least, the younger demos are doing and how they consume media, and then I always come back to, especially with my work with some of the industry organizations, like, what are we calling television. So are you finding in your world that online content is finally being ID’d as TV?
Jim: Well, here’s the—I think we have this problem, not problem, I think we have a—we mix distribution and formats, okay? So when you think about how video is distributed from the creators and the distributors to our eyeballs, traditionally it was done over the airwaves and then it was done over a cable pipe or a satellite pipe, and those were all analog, and then they became digital. So we had digital cable and digital satellite, so there are ones and zeroes going down this proprietary digital pathway to our TVs and our set-top boxes. With the rise of the Internet, we now have a digital mechanism coming into our house separate from that that is still sets of ones and zeroes. It’s a digital pipe; it uses IP rather than the proprietary formats that came out of cable labs or some of the satellite areas and encapsulated those bits in a way that could be distributed from point A to point B. From a technology perspective, there is no real difference if Survivor is delivered from a head end at Comcast to a Comcast cable box over a proprietary digital cable infrastructure or Survivor is delivered from a head end or a box over the Internet to your Roku or your iPad and then is converted back into the video that you see. So transmission and distribution are changing, so more and more—well, first, it went from analog to digital. Now it’s going from these sort of proprietary cable mechanisms and satellite mechanisms to more of an IP-based mechanism, but it’s really no different. So when I look at it that way, is there any difference between watching Survivor via Comcast cable or watching Survivor via CBS’s All Access, six-dollar-a-month service that streams to your PC or to your Rokus, I think soon; what’s the difference?
Lori: Right, right, right. Jim: Nothing.
Jim: So the format, that hour-long format or forty-six-minute format where you have multiple acts and breaks is a traditional television format. There’s the hour format and the half-hour format. Now take a look at Netflix. Netflix is not delivered via those proprietary old distribution mechanisms, but in the main, most of the formats that they’re sending to those set-top boxes and Rokus and PCs and tablets and phones are traditional television formats. Orange is the New Black is no different in its format than Breaking Bad, right?
Lori: Right, right, right.
Jim: They’re TV formats, and, in fact, think about why we have half- hour and hour-long TV formats. It’s because before we had set-top boxes and digital and before we had computerized things, how do you know when your show came on? Seven o’clock, Wednesday night, I have to watch the Wide World of Sports, right?
Lori: Right. It was a discovery mechanism. Jim: Exactly.
Lori: Right, right, right.
Jim: So the hour and the half hour were, like, it’s on; I have to watch my show at ten o’clock on Thursday. I better be home. So, yeah. So we have these standard TV formats, and we see shows that are standard TV formats being developed by a lot of people. Hulu’s developing it and Netflix and Amazon and AOL and all those guys.
Now when YouTube—and actually it’s the video iPod before that—but as these things started to become popular, we had different formats come out. Diggnation, one of the earlier shows we did at Revision3, which was initially distributed via iTunes, could be forty-three minutes long, it could be an hour and twenty minutes, it could be thirty-five minutes; and in the end it wasn’t bound by those strictures of time, and it was a different kind of format. It was sort of a podcasting video format. YouTube pops along, and we have these new formats coming out of YouTube. We have the vlogging format, where you sit in front of your camera and just talk about the world and what’s going on.
Music videos have gone from being a television format on MTV to being in the main, a YouTube format with VEVO. And look at game streaming on Twitch is a different format. Vine, the six-second video on Vine is an entirely different format. Snapchat’s invented a brand new format in a way to tell stories.
Lori: Oh my god, it’s so hard to keep track.
Jim: Instagram videos. I’m just going to go on and on. But the thing that’s really interesting is these are all formats in ways to tell stories using video, and one of the things I think is really interesting is these formats are in many ways defined by the platform that they’re on. So, television, set-top box, HBO, Netflix all use that traditional TV format. YouTube owns three or four of its own formats. Vine is its own. But they’re defined by the platform, and so we have to differentiate between the format of the stories that we’re doing and telling and the
way that it’s distributed and sent to the glowing rectangles that our eyeballs are attached to.
Lori: That’s a great point to take a little break on, really setting the stage for a deeper conversation about where this whole business is going, so that was great clarity. So, we’re going to hear more from Jim Louderback on the Tech Cat Show. Join us back.
Lori: And we’re back with the fabulous Jim Louderback and just really schooling us on this crazy world and the differences between format and content and distribution, and it’s really quite fascinating. So, Jim had the great fortune of curating one of the biggest conferences—not big in size, but I think big in impact—in the online video space called VidCon, and Jim curated the industry track this year, kind of famously, because it was the first year that the show, everyone really noticed the business side of this world. So can you tell us a little bit about VidCon and what really happened this year?
Jim: Yeah. Just for background, VidCon started six years ago by two YouTube stars who are vloggers and wanted a way to get together with their audiences IRL—IRL is in real life—and so they did—
Lori: You’re so hip, by the way.
Jim: —There, that’s about as hip as I get. But so they did this conference six years ago in L.A., and there were about twelve hundred people, and at Revision3 we were sponsors and so we knew about it.
Over the subsequent five years it grew and eventually ended up in Anaheim, and they launched an industry portion of it a few years ago. It started out being just fans and creators getting together and talking and sharing and getting these communities together; and as the fan portion grew, the industry portion grew as well. So last year three tracks, Anaheim Convention Center in the summer and it was fifteen thousand fans and a lot of creators that they were fans of, five thousand creators on a creator track, and then three thousand on the industry. I put together and ran the industry track, and, really, it was a lot of interesting things happening, but the pulling together some people from traditional media, people from CBS and Headline News, and people from international, like Guillaume de Posch, who runs one of the biggest media companies in Europe who had just bought a couple of these big YouTube MCNs, to some of the folks who are changing news to a couple of brands. I mean, some of the brands I
also think are doing a great job, L’Oreal and Mountain Dew. I had the folks at those companies who are really thinking content and brand and pulling that all together, and also I brought in a bunch of technology companies doing cool things for the online video space with VR and with a bunch of other areas. And then at the same time, did a bunch of classroom sessions to help people figure out how to get more out of it. It was a great couple days. People learned a lot. And like any conference—and you know this—it’s as much about the content itself as the people who go, and people go and they want to reconnect with people and meet new people and figure out what’s going on. One of the best compliments I got around VidCon was a guy that I know, you know, it’s amazing; I came because I never thought it would happen I just ran into, like, ten people that I haven’t seen for, like, six years or eight years. We all worked together and I’m connected with all these people I haven’t seen, and I’m meeting all these new people. And these are people who’ve been in media for a long time. So that was good. We kind of brought the old world and the new world together a little bit.
Lori: Well, what blew me away about two years ago, and I go every year just as a trendmeister—I’m not really doing any business there; I’m just observing as an anthropologist—and it’s like Beatlemania, because—and I would love your definition of a creator and then we also hear the word influencer tossed around a lot—but when you had a YouTube creator walking around who had a lot of fans, they would be running, screaming. These teenagers would be running and screaming after them, and so all over Anaheim, if you stood still you could potentially get run over by screaming teenagers. It was literally like being at a Beatles concert, you know. So I’d love for you to talk about that phenomena, and also what is the difference between creator and influencer, because I hear those two expressions sort of intertwined a lot.
Jim: Yeah, it’s a good question. So VidCon, because you get a lot of fans of these online creators and it’s a lot of millennials and Gen Zs who, in many ways, define themselves through their fandoms with these folks, they come there to meet them and to meet each other— actually this past year, we did a lot of work at VidCon this past year to make it not be so dangerous.
Jim: I think the year before there were a lot of people running around, and you see, like, Tyler Oakley walking by and then all of a sudden four hundred people would be chasing him.
Lori: I know. It’s intense. I mean, it’s intense.
Jim: It is. But we changed that this year. We made it much more—it was much calmer and much different. But with that said, you do get a sense of that Beatlemania of people who are, like, I’m such a big fan and I’m near them and this is great. But on to sort of the influencer versus creator, I think a creator—and this is, you know, VidCon is really about the creators—it’s people who are driven to create, and I’ll say media, but driven to create video. It’s what they do. They get up in the morning and think about how they’re going to tell a great story via video to their audience. They want to create. They want to build. They just can’t stop. And those creators, whether they’re Twitch streamers and playing video games and doing commentary or they’re vloggers talking about what they’re doing or they’re doing the latest beauty tips or whatever, that’s a creator. It’s that creativity, that spark, and you just can’t stop. I don’t know if I’d say all creators are influencers, because they’re creators, there are creators that don’t, don’t have any audience or very little audience, but an influencer is somebody who has a lot of influence among an audience and might not necessarily be a creator but uses media that way. So it’s a subtle difference. There are people who are very influential who aren’t necessarily a creator. So, Hillary Clinton is influential, but she’s not a creator.
Lori: Right, right, right. Right.
Jim: So, when we think about VidCon, we think about VidCon is for the creators. Now if Hillary Clinton got up and endorsed honey-nut cereal, probably sell a lot of honey-nut cereal, right?
Jim: That probably make a lot of other people probably not buy it, but that’s another story. And Tyler Oakley, a creator, gets up and does the same thing, it’s going to sell a lot of cereal, too. So, both of them are influencers but only one’s a creator. When it comes to brands and advertising and working together, that’s where if it’s an influencer and the influencer has a big community around them and you’re a brand and you can come in and be part of that community, it can be a very, very successful partnership.
Lori: I think the craziest thing that I noticed at VidCon, and I think it was not last year but the year before, was that the actress who had been hired to be in the commercials for Poo-Pourri, which is a product that you spray on top of the toilet water to trap the scent and they had those great viral video campaigns, and she was just an actress, and she performed in them, and they were really funny and really viral, and she had a booth, and she was signing autographs, and there was a really long line, and I saw a parent with a kid, and they were all waiting in line to get her to sign their piece of paper. I was blown away by the fact that this woman was just an actress who just appeared in a viral video, and now she’s, like, a star.
Jim: But look at, you know, I’ll give you a couple of other examples as well. We see this in media. Look at Flo from the Progressive insurance commercials.
Lori: Oh my god, yes. Yes. Jim: Right?
Jim: By the way, here’s the other example I should use for influencer versus creator, if I had been smart enough on the draw. Look at Grumpy Cat. Grumpy Cat’s an influencer.
Lori: He is an influencer. You’re right. Jim: Grumpy Cat’s not creating anything. Lori: And they’re selling products, too— Jim: Right!
Lori: —because now Grumpy Cat has, like, you know, books and cartoons and all sorts of things—IP, dripping out of that brand. It’s crazyland out there!
Jim: It’s totally crazyland! But, you know, that’s the way it goes. I mean—anyway. Look at Peanuts, right?
Lori: Yes, yes.
Jim: They’re influencers. Snoopy’s selling insurance.
Lori: And Snoopy always sold insurance, but now it’s having this whole new relevance, right? Now he’s in 3-D.
Jim: Yeah, right. I’m so psyched to go see that movie, by the way. Lori: No, me, too.
Jim: I’m a big Peanuts fan.
Lori: I am, too, and we’ve been trying to show my six-year-old the stuff we grew up with, so I think she’s going to be very excited. But that brings up another point. So, there was just a big announcement that PewDiePie, who is the, I guess, the biggest YouTube star out there in the sense that he has, I guess, it’s forty million subscribers right now. How does that even happen? I mean, why is this guy so big?
Jim: Well, because he speaks to people and because he’s funny. I mean, PewDiePie, everyone’s like, PewDiePie is just a gamer; what is that gaming thing; it’s crazy. But, you know, PewDiePie is, he’s a comedian—I will put it that way. He’s a creator; he’s really good at creating video.
Lori: In-camera tricks, too, right? He does—
Jim: Right, yeah, but because he’s a great personality, and because other people liked him, and because they shared it because he did stuff that was really sharable, that’s kind of what it became. I mean, he has that mass appeal, but he’s kind of funny.
Lori: Yeah, he is really funny. I mean, I was just catching up on some of his videos and he was just talking about—this was, like, a month or two ago—and he was talking about how he was leaving Italy—I guess he’s making his way from Australia closer to us—but he left Italy because the Internet was so bad there, and he moved to the U.K.
Jim: That’s funny.
Lori: And I was just like, oh my god, that is so hysterical. But he makes his living uploading videos, and he said it was taking him all day to upload videos. But he’s an example of a YouTube star that’s
making millions of dollars a year, and he’s twenty-five years old, I think, something like that.
Jim: Yeah, but he’s very much—he’s sort of—I mean, it’s not a perfect analogy, but he’s like very Jerry Seinfeld-esque, right, you know?
Lori: Yeah, yep.
Jim: He’s kind of like a standup comedian except he’s kind of a gaming, YouTube-y comedian.
Lori: And do you think that he will eventually move even more mainstream like some of these YouTube stars are jumping to the big screen?
Jim: I don’t know. I think what we are seeing is when you have a big enough fan base you can make different format content for that fan base, and some of those formats are movies. So we’ve seen this with some YouTube stars who are creating movies. Supergravity Pictures, for example, is a new movie studio designed to facilitate that. You know, there are the guys who did Camp Takota and some other movies that, in many ways, I think they went straight to iTunes or something, but so I see it, but is he going to become the next matinee idol? Not so sure about that. I’m not sure PewDiePie has cross-over appeal that’s going to appeal to families and parents and grandparents, but I think the audience is huge enough that there’s a lot of stuff that you can do there.
Lori: And are advertisers flocking to him? Is that how he’s making all of his money?
Jim: That I don’t know, but if they’re not, they’re stupid.
Lori: You know, we had Kevin Beggs from Lionsgate on about a month ago and he was telling us that Lionsgate is making deals with Freddie Wong and other folks in the YouTube space, because they understand they have to play there, too. Are you seeing more and more of that happen, as well?
Jim: Totally, and, look, Freddie Wong is an amazing creator, and he’s a guy who is a great filmmaker and can make that jump big time, but, yeah, you have to. I mean, if you’re putting out a movie and you want to appeal to people in their teens and twenties, because that’s the base of people who go to a movie and when it first is released, you
better go to the places where they’re spending their time, consuming media and you better incorporate the people that they look up to and that they trust for making recommendations about things.
Lori: I think it’s going to also be interesting to see what happens with the generation under the millennials, which, I’m calling the plurals, just because my friends at Magid define them as the first pluralistic society, nonwhite-majority society, but I think it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with them, because their behaviors are already different.
Jim: Absolutely, yeah.
Lori: And are you seeing that already?
Jim: Definitely. I mean, I’ve seen people calling it Gen Z or whatever you want to call it. I think Magid calling them the plurals is fine, but, yeah, they’re very different, just like the Gen Y and Gen X were different, boomers different from Gen X. I think you’re seeing that.
So, absolutely, there’s more of a—there’s just a ton of interesting differences between the two cohorts.
Lori: Well, we’re going to take a break now, but when we come back, Jim’s going to fill us in a little bit on what he’s doing right now and where we can hear him speak and what interesting projects he has under the belt, so more with Jim Louderback and the Tech Cat when we come back.
Lori: And we’re back with Jim Louderback and having a really great discussion about VidCon, which is the annual online-video conference that is taking the world by storm. Now, Jim, what are you working on now, because I know you’re independent but you have your hands in a lot of interesting places.
Jim: Yeah, sure, well, first of all, VidCon is coming up again, last weekend in June in 2016, so get your tickets now because it will sell out. The other thing I’ve been picking up is I’ve been helping an online video-creation platform called Wochit as a company that really started out—and talking about video format—so they started out a Cloud-based video-editing program that’ll make it really easy to make news videos. So you want to make a sort of traditional news video with a voiceover and all that, they let you do it, but they’ve been
expanding out to support a lot of these different formats that we’ve been talking about earlier today, so a Facebook format that uses text on top of video without a voice overlay and a lot of other things. So having a lot of fun helping them. And then started working as an investor, working for a venture-capital fund that does seed investing, so really early, so going out, companies in the media and the mobile and the Internet of Things and the marketing and the work-platform space, as they’re starting out, as they’re looking to raise that first five hundred to thousand to a million dollars, we’re supporting them. So it’s funny. A lot of times, talking to entrepreneurs, I talk to people who have the potential to do great stuff and are building really cool companies, and so I’m having a lot of fun across the board and seeing a lot of stuff and it’s awesome.
Lori: Well, how do you keep up with all these new companies and these new trends? I mean, I often ask folks what conferences do they go to, what are they reading, like, how do you keep up, because, especially if you’re starting to look at new companies, you really have to have a sense of the pulse. So how are you doing that? Do you sleep?
Jim: Well, yeah. No, in part, it’s I talk to a lot of companies, so the more smart people I talk to, smart entrepreneurs who’ve identified something really cool and then are going out and building a company to address a need that they see, I mean, I learn so much just from talking to them. So that’s one. I definitely, I spend a lot of time, you know, I peruse the Internet, I listen to shows like this, I have my blogroll inside of my RSS reader—yes, I still use those things—and I attend as many events here and there, but it’s really—I mean, I think in this day and age with things moving so quickly, you just have to be a sponge. You have to talk to a lot of people, can’t pretend you know what’s going on, you have to learn from everybody you meet. And I’m lucky enough to live in between Silicon Valley and San Francisco, so I get an opportunity to meet a lot of really interesting people that are in that sort of startup world, but you have to go beyond that as well.
Lori: What are your favorite things to read on a daily/weekly basis?
Jim: You know, that’s a good question. I think—I really enjoy—I mean, on the online video space particularly, I like VideoInk, I like Digiday, you know, so I look at that, but I also—you know it’s funny, I read the New York Times. I read the Boston Globe. I read the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s all digital, so I can just go back and forth, and a lot of times, those guys add sports and comic strips, but I do
that as well. And then some of the other sort of great media-oriented stuff I’m just going to go, you know, I read Daily Dot. I read Tubefilter, VideoInk, VideoNews, Digiday. I think on the tech side there are a lot of great things on the tech side. I definitely check out Re/code and Business Insider and TechCrunch and TechnoBuffalo, who I do a little bit of writing for here and there, VentureBeat, Mashable.
Lori: That’s a good list.
Jim: Anyway, there’s a lot, and you just—looking at what’s trending, looking at YouTube daily trends is really interesting as well. I subscribed to a lot of stuff; I can’t even remember the emails that come through.
Lori: So, you’re going onto YouTube and you’re looking at what’s trending on YouTube, and are you watching those videos as well, because you sort of have to be a student of that, I would think.
Jim: Yeah, I do, and the nice thing about working with the VidCon guys is they know all this stuff much more than I do. Every time I talk to them I come up with three or four different people that I need to pay attention to. Like, oh my god, who was I just looking at? I just subscribed to—I mean, I find these people on YouTube that these guys tell me about, and I’m, like, oh, yeah, I should know about this. Like, gamer stuff, like, I know SeaNanners and those guys, but I didn’t know—and Markiplier, of course, but CinnamonToastKen—I didn’t know CinnamonToastKen! Or Proton Jon; there’s some of this old- schooler stuff that I’ve missed as well. So there’s really interesting stuff all over the place.
Lori: It’s a whole world. Yeah, it’s just a whole world. And are you tweeting on a regular basis and writing? Where can folks keep up with your thinking?
Jim: You know, I’ve been tweeting and spending a lot of time—I’m tweeting and doing Facebook. I’m sort of writing off and on. I write for TechnoBuffalo about technology stuff. Social Starts, we have a great blog at Social Starts. I’ve been writing for them. I’m starting to dabble with Medium. I’m going to put my first piece on Medium next week to see how it does. I think we’re in this really interesting world where media is changing. I think the coolest thing is if you go to my blog, which is louderback.com, which I haven’t really posted a blog post for a while, but because I use RebelMouse as my front page, it then pulls in my social feeds from Instagram and Twitter and Facebook
and everywhere else and puts it together in a really nice way on the front page. So all the media that I do pulls in there, except for Snapchat. I’m also having fun with Snapchat. Anywhere you go—so this is going to be really old school and won’t make sense to anybody—but in the old days of computing, eight bits were a big deal, and so you could only have eight characters in a name; and so early mail systems and early other systems, it was all about the number of characters, so I started using jlouderb—first letter of first name, first seven letters of my last name—that’s my name everywhere.
Lori: And you’ve kept it consistent, so everyone can find you. Jim: It’s always jlouderb.
Lori: Well, we have to wrap it up on the Tech Cat Show, but it has been a very informative hour with Jim Louderback, who is an expert on all things in online video and it sounds like now in all things in the startup space as well, and you can find Jim at VidCon come June in 2016 and online on his website and in a, it sounds like, a variety of platforms, distilling great thought leadership in this space. So let’s have a big Tech Cat hand for Jim Louderback, The Curator! Thanks, again, Jim, for joining us on the Tech Cat Show, and we’ll see all of you next week for more tech trends impacting your business.