About a month ago I had the pleasure of sitting down with a very prominent YouTuber who happened to be acutely aware of his digital shelf life. “Am I Happy Days or Arrested Development?” he asked.
A tough question to answer considering Arrested Development has been given a second life (thank you, Netflix!). The question underscores a concern that weighs heavily on the minds of digital agents and managers alike: How can we ensure the longevity of the web-era celebrity? Because whether you’re in traditional or digital your fate is tied to ephemeral numbers; even Happy Days had to “jump the shark” at some point.
In order to answer that question we need to understand that we’re talking about just that, “celebrity,” and celebrity is made of two intrinsically linked things: relevance and influence. What YouTubers and their managers and agents need to begin to understand - something that traditional entertainment has known for a long time - is that the best way to ensure relevance is to use your influence while you have it to manufacture something bigger than yourself, something that will remain relevant after the personality (read: you) has faded.
AKA, you need a broadened brand. It’s the reason Snooki has a line of god awful sunglasses, Mike “The Situation” has Gym-Tan-Laundry salons (genius, btw!) and Bethenny Frankel has Skinnygirl Cocktails. Sure, the creation of this IP is partly about money, but in the long term it’s more about morphing a personality into an extended brand to build logevity.
Smosh is a great example of this dynamic. At its core it’s a fire hose of influence; Smosh has the power to point at something and make it relevant. Take for instance ShutUp! Cartoons (SUC), a Smosh property. SUC began programming just seven months ago and has already aggregated well over half a million subscribers and close to a billion views. Less than a year ago SUC was worth nothing; today it’s worth real money. It’s now run by Disney’s former president of animation, Barry Blumberg, and has expanded the Smosh brand beyond Ian and Anthony. Smosh’s only requirement was to point to SUC and say, “Hey fans, this is worth your time.”
Now take it a step further. If the top 20 YouTubers would take the Smosh model and bake it into a multichannel network (i.e. YouTube Network), then they would have an incredibly powerful digital marketing machine, a street team v2.0. As more properties and participants are “blown up” in the network, more influencers are created. The more influencers created, the more IP generated.
I think you see where I’m headed here. If done correctly, no one will ever need to worry about whether they’re a Happy Days or an Arrested Development because they will have broadened themselves in a meaningful and marketable way.
Andrew Graham currently works as Fullscreen’s Manager of Network Development, where he develops and builds Fullscreen’s owned-and-operated YouTube networks alongside brands and established online communities. Prior to joining Fullscreen, he developed and produced reality TV series with FremantleMedia North America and Bogner Entertainment, Inc. He is a Syracuse University alumni, media nerd and absolutely in love with cheese and Twitter. Feel free to hit him up @MistaGraham.