Ross Siegel, Director of Development at Maker Studios, provided an extensive introduction to Multi Channel Merchants, companies like Maker Studios that assist up and coming YouTube stars with their brand and assist major brands understand the heavily saturated landscape that is YouTube.
Ross started out by defining that every song, video clip, short film, and 30 second cat video has a defined outlet and an audience. He explained YouTube was a virgin platform in which thousands of creators around the world produced millions of content each day from their bedrooms and living rooms at the time he came to work for FullScreen. 300 hours of content was uploaded every minute. And he was set to find opportunities for YouTube in the brand marketplace, and assist other brands in navigating the world of YouTube. His early days at YouTube, found him immersed watching thousands of YouTube videos, learning about YouTube's best practices, how to reach an audience through collaboration, and how data tells a story about how an audience behaves to teach creators about reaching their audience and working out what content they like.
Working in this new digital media became about working with the authenticity of the creator. He devoured a tonne of YouTube videos to work out what makes videos viral, then several months into his new job, there came the Harlem Shake. Thousands of Harlem Shake videos were being made and shared via YouTube every day. Hundreds of YouTube channels were creating hundreds of these videos every day during this phase. Their clients delivered funny, odd and hilarious takes of this new format. His company helped brands to get on the trend and make their own versions of the Harlem Shake. Pretty soon, celebrities started to get on this too. They had weird and interesting takes on this cult that started going all over the world. At the time, he flipped for the contagious virality of this movement and how the song and its format was inspiring creativity in groups both large and small - he started thinking - what if this Harlem Shake was a plot point that could be used to promote a series, or a new movie. The thought process had began.
At this point, his job was to link up some of the top YouTube creators of the world known as "influencers", with major entertainment brands. Huge conglomerates were now turning to major content creators to help reach audiences they couldn't reach themselves. He began to see the influence these digital YouTube creators were having in drawing loyal audience members. These people are huge stars across a variety of channels including Vine, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The Janoskians, for example, a Melbourne group of 6 pranksters, were mobbed in LA and landed a movie deal with Lionsgate - this is the potential of being a YouTube star.
Whilst at Fullscreen Inc, Ross teamed up with AT&T to produce "Summer Break", a new type of reality show taking place entirely on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. 9 southern Californians were picked to chronicle their last summer before going off to college. The drama happened in real time, the storytelling structure embraced the normal social habits of these kids, and capitalised on the rapid ingestion of information by their audience. The only produced aspect was the 60 second daily wrap ups of the show. At the time, it was inventive storytelling that garnered 18m views. It generated millions of mentions on social media, gained a second season commitment, and clinched the belief for Ross that millennial stories could be reach beyond the millennial core base with the right creative structure.
Maker Studios help their creators find outlets for their content outside of YouTube. They're looking closer at these platforms to determine where the best fit is for different content created by their clients. Learning how Facebook video behaves different to YouTube. Channelling SnapChat and Vine to reach an audience in a different way to releasing a video on YouTube. MCMs are much like a talent agency for YouTube stars. They reach out for them and ask them to be a part of their network. In exchange, they'll give the stars the tools and technologies to help them grow and monetize their videos. The MCM model works by giving a % of this revenue based on the time and energy that goes into supporting that star. These days, technology makes it easy to get your content online. The flipside is its getting harder and harder to find this content. Today's audiences don't really care what the platform is but they will and always care about the content on them. Its more important than ever for storytellers to thin about what stories they want to tell but how they want them to be seen and where they are seen. Its is better to release your film in a costly theatrical release or a niche release to a targeted audience? What would a potentially viral video promoting your TV or film look like?
More and more TV executives now ask how shows will be marketed. How they will break through. As storytellers, we all need to adapt and be aware of new content distribution methods. Coming from a traditional Hollywood background, it wasn't easy for Ross to understand the revolution. But Hollywood is catching up. This year's Oscar winner, Birdman, in a lot of ways is about this sea change. In the movie, it featured a relationship between Michael Caton and Emma Stone where she is obsessed in the digital world and he is a traditional film actor. It is a combative relationship and one of the film's peak emotional moments she says "he is irrelevant" and he replies that the play he is putting on "is important to me". She stately replies "you don't matter. You're not important. Get used to it." This directly outlines the change between the traditional and digital worlds.
Ross concluded by sharing a quote from Kevin Spacey who said "our stories become richer and are becoming far more interesting when they go against the subtle order of things to achieve the unexpected". New mediums are emerging - we need to break out beyond what's comfortable for us to get our stories to reach our audiences. Somewhere there is a writer out there figuring out how to tell a story via Instagram. Ross finished in saying he hopes everyone finds power in embracing these technologies to tell their story as the opportunities are endless.