See the First Videos of Some Prominent YouTube Stars

Even want to see the first videos posted by some of YouTube’s most famous creators? What was Fred’s first video? It wasn’t on his Fred channel. How about the first Ray William Johnson, Annoying Orange, Shane Dawson and Smosh vieos?

I made a Delicious Stack that takes you right to them. The first videos of famous YouTubers. Enjoy.

Don’t forget the FIRST YouTube video, where 5 million people learned that “pretty much all there is to say” about elephants is that they “have really long and cool trunks.” That stuff hasn’t even begun to viralinate.

 

Do YOU Have What It Takes to Become (and Stay) a YouTube Star?

I’ve written plenty about how to become a YouTube star (see free eBook v2 and “Beyond Viral“), but today’s post is the first of a series about the persistence of some top YouTube talent. It’s one thing to break through the clutter and develop a following, but quite another thing to maintain it… the latter takes consistency, adaptability, time, ability to spot trends, endurance, patience, loads of work, and thick skin.

You don't become a top YouTube star for talent and charisma alone. And you don't stay there long without some mysterious skills and character. So what's the common thread?

Yesterday I sent a note to about 20 top YouTube stars… focusing mostly on the independent acts who didn’t have a large fan base until YouTube (that excluded offline “real” stars, musicians, and production companies). If you’re interested in my e-mail to them, select “more” below.

The key question I asked them is simply, “what keeps you going.”

Now I’d like to share 3 of the early responses (part 1 of a series), and ask you WillVideoForFood readers the same question in a different way. What do YOU think separates the leading YouTube creators from the rest of us? Is it talent, consistency, interaction with fan base, variety, adaptability, omni-presence? Or is the underlying currency, as Producer Fred Seibert observed to me, “narcissism”? I don’t think Fred meant that word to carry the negative baggage, rather he presented it as a base characteristic of enduring entertainers… it’s what allows them to overcome the many barriers and exert uncompromising effort.

Thanks to Brittani, Rhett and Charles for giving us some insights into how passion, teamwork and community serve them. Stay tuned for more from WheezyWaiter, Michael Buckley, VenetianPrincess, Hank Green, KipKay, Edbassmaster, and others. Their responses may surprise you!

1) BrittaniLouiseTaylor: Passion

“What keeps me going?  Simple, passion!! I am an actress, and I get to cast myself and play whatever role I want.  My creativity is not dependent on knowing the right person, being at the right place at the right time, I am in control of my destiny. You have to stay positive and keep the passion that you had when you first started making videos.  Being on Youtube is like being in a relationship, you have to put work into maintaining it and keeping your interest. You hit patches where you are like “Uhhhh what video should I do next.”  Most of the time I have some crazy idea, but if I have to do something last minute because I have had a busy week, I do it last minute.  I am determined to have a new video every Saturday and Sunday, if it means me staying up all night that is what I’ll do! Numbers shouldn’t matter, Youtube is always changing and things will go up and down.  You have to do it foryou.  At the end of the day, did you like the video?  Are you happy with it?  That is all that matters!

HUGS, BLT 😀

2) RhettandLink: Power of Two

RhettAndLink's Rhett were determined to support themselves from their passion, and attribute their persistence, in part, to the partnership
Thanks for asking! I think the reason is three-fold, and in no particular order.  The first reason is that once web video became our primary source of income (and I’m talking almost ALL of our income from 2007-2010), we developed a business model based on fairly consistent content.  So our time and energy were all focused on making videos.

The second reason is that we keep having new ideas.  We keep coming up with stuff that we want to create.  A related reason is that our success isn’t based on one genre.  We’ve tried a lot, and a fair amount has worked. The last reason is the fact that there are two of us. We are much less likely to quit because we can motivate one another. Thanks! -Rhett

3) CharlesTrippy: Community

Hey man!! Hows it going on your end?! Ive been watching your unclenalts videos and I am like “dude, when did the kids get so old!!” insane! (your fam is the original tards! haha). What keeps me going? Yah, you kind of nailed it with your points but I think there are a few reasons that keep me motivated.

I’d say the community plays a HUGE part – just when I get discouraged or frustrated I go back and read the comments and it seems to pop me back in place, you know? I also think about the future and I love the fact that i’ll have these videos/days documented. We’ve been lucky enough to pretty much film Alli and I’s entire relationship (we started like 5 monthsor less after dating) so to have that means a lot to us. Also, I don’t want to say it’s really motivation but the fact that Youtube/Google pays it’s creators keeps me motivated because I can invest all of my time in it and still make a life for myself and my family 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy I know you posted daily (sometimes twice) for a very long time so I know you can relate. I think above all the community is the #1 source of encouragement and motivation for me…. -Charles Trippy

CharlesTrippy had a large following, and grew it to a new level when he joined his fiance Alli in the daily "Internet Killed TV" series

Coming soon: Responses I’ve already received from YouTube’s most-subscribed: WheezyWaiter, Michael Buckley, VenetianPrincess, Hank Green, KipKay, Edbassmaster.

To see my note to these peeps, click more. And don’t forget to comment yourself: what do YOU think it takes?

Famous YouTube Star’s First Videos

It’s fun to look at the early videos of some of the best-known YouTube personalities of today (and previous years). Unfortunately many have groomed their channel to eliminate some early embarrassments. Still, I’ve done my best to find some old and awkward videos from some of the top creators/channels. Please feel free to add some in the comments, because I’m too exhausted from digging these up (I haven’t figured out an easier way than scrolling page after page). Anyone want to dig up a vintage clip from their favorite creator? Find that first Shaycarl video or LisaNova?

Here’s a video I did in October 2007 where I asked some of my favorite YouTubers to send their childhood photos. It’s funny how some have vanished, and some have gone on to great heights.

Today’s Stars in Pre-Fame Television Commercials

A slightly younger and thinner Jack Black pitches Pitfal (the 10-pixel video game)

It’s hard for stars to hide from cheesy pre-fame television commercials when there’s YouTube, right?

Let’s enjoy a few of their early advertisements, which I’ve spent most of New Year’s Eve compiling for you (winner that I am)

  1. Jack Black doing Pitfall! (best ever)
  2. Lindsay Lohan in a Jello commercial in around 1996
  3. Keanu Reeves doing Kellogs Corn Flakes in 1980s.
  4. Seth Green doing a Nurf ad in 1992 (my favorite)
  5. Dick Van Dyke for Kodak film
  6. Greg Benson’s montage before Mediocrefilms/RetardedPoliceman fame
  7. Ronald Reagan Chesterfield cigarettes (photo not video)
  8. Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly) in Burger King ad
  9. Tom Selleck sponsoring Right Guard
  10. Brad Pitt in Pringles ad (shirtless of course)
  11. Dave Spade and Chris Farley doing DirectTV (not exactly pre-fame)
  12. Jack Benny doing Texaco (too early of a reference for ya?)
  13. Leonardo DiCaprio doing Bubble Gum ad in 1988
  14. Ben Affleck doing Burger King delivery
  15. John Travolta doing a Safeguard soap commercial and promoting Tokyo Drink in this 1980s commercial (obviously he had already established some fame by then)

And two bonuses. Some actors better known for their television commercials than film or television careers. And David Letterman as a pre-talk-show weatherman.

Sources: Commercial Breaks (AOL), LiquidGenerationTube,

Best Video Bloggers (Vloggers) on YouTube

Who are the best daily video bloggers (vloggers) on YouTube? Where can you find the most interesting video creators? I have no idea, but check these folks out.
  • The only daily vlogger who hunts GHOSTS
  • Someone who is making multiple sclerosis “her bitch
  • A dude who apparently drinks a lot of Red Bull and says he can kick Shaycarl and CharlesTrippy’s asses
  • Cooks, book reviews, psychology, philosophy, dogs, mystics, mind-reading midgets (okay the last one was a stretch)
  • Someone who glues paper to his head
  • Even a few of these people may be weirder than me
For context, last week I posted a video on my “UncleNalts” account, inviting daily vloggers to send a clip to promote their channel. Below is the collage/collection, and you can subscribe to them through links below.

What is The YouTube Orbit?
It’s just a name we made up to refer to daily vlogs – an attempt to do videos each day for one Earth rotation around the sun. I’ve been somewhat consistent but not perfect. Urgo6667 helped popularize the name, and even set up a channel for the YouTube Orbit (click to see).
How Can I Join the YouTube Orbit?
Ping! You’re a member. It’s not exclusive. If you tag your video YTO or “YouTube Orbit” Urgo will feature it on the YT Orbit page. I’ve got a list of some of the daily vloggers on my Unclenalts subscription page, but I’m not sure it’s up to date. Hope it goes without saying you can be a daily vlogger without using the name YouTube Orbit, it’s just something some of us are using…. to refer to a group, a mission, a rotation, a thing.
I Wanted to Be In This, and Missed It! Now What?
No worries. I’ll do another montage. Just send a 15-second clip to the e-mail address on this video, and please title your video using your youtube channel name… please please please. If I don’t post a new one within a month, tell Urgo to kick my ass.
What? You’ve written a book? Where can I get it?
Well I’m glad you asked. To learn about YouTube marketing to promote yourself, company or vlog… get “Beyond Viral” at your local Barnes & Noble or Barnes. Or order on Amazon: http://www.beyondviral.com.
The channels, by order of their appearance:
http://www.youtube.com/nalts
http://www.youtube.com/unclenalts
http://www.youtube.com/theYTOrbit
http://www.youtube.com/urgo6667
http://www.youtube.com/theSweetestVegan
http://www.youtube.com/NewAgeVideos (ghost dude)
http://www.youtube.com/NicolovsVideo
http://www.youtube.com/aikitherese
http://www.youtube.com/H3ADY1313 (making MS her bitch)
http://www.youtube.com/katinatreesee (say it 3 times fast)
http://www.youtube.com/urgo6667 (don’t sub twice)
http://www.youtube.com/olinselot (olinsalot, olinsellot)
http://www.youtube.com/vLieu24
http://www.youtube.com/ the mystery dude
http://www.youtube.com/CreativeSoulTV (spinning camera)
http://www.youtube.com/theHappyNarwhals
http://www.youtube.com/journeyoflivevlogs (shaved head)
http://www.youtube.com/BlueSpectacles
http://www.youtube.com/Tyboze (pwns Trippy and Shay)
http://www.youtube.com/buddhacharlie (MIA)

“Online Influencers” Definition: TechCrunch vs. Fast Company; 4Chan’s Moot Photo Faked.

Fast Company’s November issue takes on the subject of online influencers, with prominent features of YouTubers, iJustine and MysteryGuitarMan. The piece provided some nice insights into the “going rate” of a weblebrity/webstar… mid-high six figure incomes with $20-$50K per sponsored videos. Sustainable?

Techcrunch took objection to the piece and brought it out back for a good-times ass whooping. And to that I shout, “fight, fight, fight” (and hope nobody kicks my ass while I get some good footage). Here’s a picture of Justine Ezarik. I’m not swiping the one of Joe Penna (MGM) because I’m too lazy.

Most online publications took on the debate of "online influencers" as an excuse to use photos of iJustine to boost page views.

The real surprise of the article, beyond such trivial disputes as to “what defines online influence,” is this… who would have thought that 4Chan’s “Moot” would be fairly zit free, thin, and (dare I concede without sounding perverted) handsome? Is this an elaborate plot by “Anonymous” to give Moot a fake image, torn from some J. Crew catalog or an Asian teen porn magazine?

4Chan's "Moot" isn't as ugly as we might have expected

Yeah I’d say we’ve been punked. That aint Moot. Here’s the real Moot. But you gotta love 4Chan. I’ll bet they cleverly manipulated all of the influence data, showing that Fast Company and TechCrunch are both wrong. Fight, fight, fight!

The real Moot (4chan)

Just remember kids… I may not be in the cool crowd, but I knew them when.

One Thing You MUST Know About YouTube

The next time I speak at a conference and I ask “who’s heard of Fred?” and “who’s heard of Annoying Orange?” you’d better raise your hand. Happy Birthday to Annoying Orange, who was created by Daneboe a year ago.

In its first year of life the orange with a human mouth and face is the 10th most-subscribed YouTuber with nearly 300 million views. Can you name anyone else who was more famous at the age of one? The Lindbergh baby doesn’t count… he was 20 months when he was kidnapped.

I wonder what I'll be for Halloween?

Oh, and yeah that’s me playing the knife in my second cameo; see first knife cameo, or see my behind-the-scenes PSA about knife safety… Of course I’m not as cute as the wee wii pony or a flaming baby marshmallow with helium voice.

Online-Video Junkies on Twitter

The “who’s who” of online video… follow them on Twitter

It’s amazing how quickly Twitter has turned from an early-adopter groupies party (mostly YouTube peeps) to a viable tool to facilitate dialogue related to industry verticals and special interests.

TweepML allows you to share a group of people you follow. And in a nice example of TweepPM’s utility, Steve Garfield (a trend setter who was vlogging before your mama heard of YouTube) created an instant “follow top online video peeps” tool.

I’m now following some people I’ve tracked in other forums (video, RSS), but never thought to stalk on Twitter. For example, the Scobleizer (Robert Scoble), who needed the plug given his paltry 100K followers.

Not sure how I landed on the top of a list that includes Ryan Seacrest, but I’m flattered nonetheless. Who’s gonna tell Steve that he missed Daisy Whitney?

Steve Garfield's online-video club

Most Popular YouTube Stars: Rankings, Stats and Trends

My last post about TheStation made me revisit the most-subscribed YouTube “stars” and channels to see what’s changed.

Who are the most-viewed, most-subscribed and most popular people on YouTube? Here are some trends, stats and sources for additional information.

First some trends:

  • We’re still seeing YouTube’s “most subscribed” list (more important than “most viewed” because it eliminates one-hit wonders) largely dominated not by professionals but individuals. In the top ten list are only 3 “professional” channels (machinima, Jonas Brothers and Universal). The rest are people like Fred, Nigahiga, ShaneDawsonTV, KevJumba, WhatTheBuckShow and VenetianPrincess. These are amateurs with recurring audiences, but only some have agents.
  • The packaged content (CollegeHumor) is not as popular as individual creators because people continue to become active on YouTube from a social context… picking their favorites as “virtual friends” as opposed to gravitating to the best content (TheOnion). I did not think this would continue to be the case in 2009, as online-video viewing moves mainstream.
  • The channels that move rapidly up this “most subscribed” list are typically spawned from already-popular channels. TheStation almost immediately reached the top 20 because the collective “web stars” promoted it. Likewise, when a popular YouTuber like ShaneDawson creates a second account (ShaneDawsonTV2) it rises quickly up the ranks. The easiest way to get noticed on YouTube quickly is by appearing in a popular creator’s video, as the top creators rarely voluntarily “shout out” (advertise) someone else’s channel.
  • As a result of the above trend, some widely known creators like Chocolate Rain singer TayZonday are falling off the top 100 list even as his views and subscribers continues to grow. Others slip because they lose touch with their fan base, or create videos less frequently. As an example, I’m happy to get about 250,000 views per day (as Nalts)… but not happy I’m always teetering at the bottom of the top 100 list.
  • The mix of most-popular is primarily “vloggers” (individuals talking to the camera), followed by musicians and comedians. Broadly speaking, your chances are higher of being a most-subscribed YouTuber if you’re Asian, sexy, funny, or gay. Toss in a few curse words and some raucous content and you’re golden.

Some resources for tracking trends and stats:

Anyone have any other sites I should add? Frankly I’m surprised there aren’t easier-to-find websites that collect and share data (WillofDC uses a website to report winners and losers, but I don’t know what it is.

Top YouTube Stars Convene “The Station”: A Modern Brat Pack & YouTube YouTopia?

YouTube Stars form a Brat Pack Collective

The Station

It’s the hottest thing on YouTube since Susan Boyle did the “Evolution of Dance.” But you won’t find it covered on television, there’s no press release, and virtually no online or print articles written about it.

A collection of YouTube “stars” have joined forces on a single channel (thestation), and it was almost instantly propelled it to one of YouTube’s most-subscribed channels… even before it had a single video posted. TheStation, now one of the 25 most-subscribed channels, was  parked in June, 2006. But the activity began in mid July 2009 (see TheStation’s Twitter account), when the individual stars began to promote the TheStation on their own channels.

TheStation’s debut video was posted July 21, 2009 (a zombie teaser). Here’s the Zombie debut (see on YouTube), and above (see video box) is a cleaner version with synched audio). Zombie’s sell, of course….

That tells us TheStation isn’t just a creative consortium but a potential online-video marketing machine. In fact, TheStation is shaping up to be an online-video version of the “brat pack.”

“Stars” include Shane Dawson (ShaneDawsonTV), PhillyD (sxephil), and DaveDays — three of the most-subscribed YouTubers. ShayCarl, one of the fastest-rising YouTube creators, moved his family to Venice Beach, California earlier in 2009… living just blocks from Donovan.

LisaNova (Lisa Donovan) and “Danny Diamond” (thediamondfactory, aka “Dan Zappin”) are the hubs at the center of the spokes (see “Zappin Productions“). The long-time duo are romantic partners or business colleagues depending on your source (although LisaNova is to DaveDays as Demi Moore to Ashton Kutcher).

Girls2Watch reports that the business behind TheStation is “Maker Studios,” with a goal to make “create quality consistent programming with their core talent which will attract both a huge online audience as well as advertisers who want to get into the Youtube space.” (via BuckNews). No sign of a Maker Studios, LLC., but Donovan’s listed as the agent for Zappin (California Secretary of State).

TheStation YouTube StarsDonovan and Diamond have loaned their apartments to various online-video weblerities, assembling what I like to call a “YouTube YouTopia” in Venice Beach. Davedays moved from Pennsylvania to California (despite my parental-like caution), and has been offering his musical talent to the motley crew. DaveDays is best known for his Barbie video, and collection of Miley Cyrus homages). Sxephil, also known as Philip DeFranco, moved from Atlanta this summer to join the gang in Venice Beach (with help from friend ShayCarl).

The channel has been getting positive reactions to its first 9 videos, and maintains a better view-per-subscriber ratio than the stars themselves. This ratio (recent view-counts divided by total subscribers to the channel) is a YouTube sign of health. Of course there’s a recency bias, where new channels have healthier rankings because its subscribers are active or new… as opposed to those subscribers from abandoned accounts. TubeMogul reports that the group surpassed Michael Jackson’s collection. Initial videos were designed to appeal to existing fans of the individuals (see NewTeeVee article), packed with inside jokes. iJustine’s death is a rofler… click this link to watch her get eaten by Zombies.

Where’s this going? Now we’re in speculation mode. For starters, it’s clearly a smart creative and professional move for the individuals… especially the lesser known stars who now win by association. The “combo-pack” performance model has proven to work in comedy, music and film (Oceans 11)… so why not web?

I asked Diamond/Zappin his vision for TheStation while visiting Venice Beach this summer, and he was somewhat vague or abstract. Initially, it’s about pooling creative talent and gaing efficiencies from production… a web studio approach (ala Next New Network or Revision3) but with already popular stars and shows. We’ll see TheStation lure brands (hungry for its eyeballs) to finance the operations (Diamond has helped LisaNova and others secure marketing sponsorships), which means it’s more than a creative collaboration.

The station, however, will face four non-trivial challenges:

  1. Collective YouTube channels are difficult to maintain. Shane Dawson is reportedly already backing off. When the initial honeymoon period passes,  collective efforts (from 5awesomegirls, guys and gays to 7awesomekids) struggle to keep the channels vibrant. The geographic proximity of TheStation will help, but many of its stars owe their success to being a “one-man band,” and may have difficulty adapting to an ensemble. Bambamkaboosh, a collaboration between Sxephil and Shaycarl, rocketed to most-subscribed, but has languished. Donovan lasted just four weeks on MadTV. (thought I thought she was pretty darn funny in this Ellen Degeneres MadTv skit).
  2. Some YouTube “stars” lack acting chops. Some are successful at “vlogging” to their audiences, some can sing, but not all YouTube stars can act in a sketch comedy. Sxephil had mixed reviews on his performance on HBOLab’s “Hooking Up,” but certainly carried his weight in “Porn Star.”  We’ll let you be the judge of who can act in this TheStation debut video. I’ll just say it ranges from awesome funny to awkward. Likewise, LisaNova is probably one of the best sketch comedians on YouTube (this is one of my all-time favorite video here with her as “Ashley Moorehouse” in Orange County — co-stared by Jenna Elfman, of “Accidentally on Purpose”)… but Donovan didn’t last long as a vlogger. They’re different art forms, if you don’t mind me calling them that. Check out this chair-fall by YouTube’s Daxflame (once a most-subscribed channel, but somewhat dormant of late).
  3. Money introduces conflict. As the YouTube advertising revenue and other marketing sponsorships draw potential profit to TheStation, the individuals will struggle to ensure revenue is shared appropriately (which is arbitrary at best). The bigger stars may have difficulty balancing the full-time job of maintaining their own channels (with some enjoying 6-figure incomes) and the time they contribute to TheStation, which will provide them with less direct financial return for their time. What the group lacks in business-management experience, however, it makes up for in creative talent, new-marketing prowess and energy.
  4. Holier than tho? The stars run the risk of being perceived by the community as “elitist” (see this whining vlog as example). Although to be fair, members of this team have a history of brilliantly satirizing elitist behavior on YouTube (see this satire of AsOne, where Diamond spoof Sxephil’s appearance in an SMPFilms promotion of Philadelphia “AsOne” event that never occurred). And hey- it’s all “water under the bridge,” because TheStation folks all hit SMPFilm’s wedding last week. Congratulations, Cory. This post counts as my wedding gift.

Cautions aside, the people involved with TheStation have rare knowledge on how to grow and keep an online audience. They’ll benefit by sharing each other’s audiences, and from the creative chemistry that may develop in their YouTube YouTopia. And it’s a guilty pleasure, but I’ll admit I really like some of the writing and acting in this debut video. And check out this funny DaveDays music-video with a cameo by CharlesTrippy. Good stuff. Even better: the out takes and behind the scenes… available on TheStation2.

Even with some inevitable creative and financial feuding ahead, The Station ensemble is proving that the whole is indeed bigger than the sum of (most of) its parts.

No seriously. Click here to watch iJustine get killed again. How can you not crack up at that. Hey- no bashing from iJustine fans. I’m among you.