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We are in an age of opportunity for unknown entertainers to find an audience and celebrity status. With access to countless platforms and devices to create content of all kinds, this session features a panel of artists who understand the momentum of online entertainment and how to stand out in a world bombarded by cats, personal opinion and easy sharable content.
How do you stand out in our digital world? It’s never been easier to access so many exciting platforms in the digital community. There are a lot more options for distributing your content, and a lot of different platforms, like YouTube or Vine, and many others following their lead. But how do you get discovered in the mass of content? After all, how can your content compare with cute cat videos? In this video, digital producers – Justin Lynch of Epic Mealtime, Steve Anderson of Open Media, and Mama and Papa Bee – share their secrets of building a digital audience. These content creators and producers explain how they’ve built a digital community of fans, and grown their business from their original unique concept. They discuss factors like creativity, pushing the envelope, focus on a niche, media as conversation, and how to capitalize instantly on that first small success. And they all agree that at the end of the day, it’s ultimately about the quality of the content.
Multimedia Producer at Entertainment Tonight Canada
Head of Business Development and Operations, NextTime Productions
Founder and Senior Strategist Open Media
Broadcaster, podcaster and community media specialist
The Eh Bee Family
“Here’s the question: ‘How do you stand out? How do you stand out in a sea of abundance? Well, This panel’s going to feature some talented artists who understand that momentum in digital entertainment, and they know how to be discovered in an online world filled with cats, and personal opinion, and shareable contents.”
“I think that one of the big changes is [that] now it’s quite a bit easier to build a community, so that you’re not just broadcasting out, but you’re kind of having a conversation, bringing people into your media project. In that way, people are really broadcasting it for you. That, in a way, building that community, is probably your best asset as a media organization now. I think that’s a huge difference from 10 years ago.”
“I think that the quality is getting better. Back in 2005, when I first started doing podcasts with the Rabble Podcast Network, we were one of the first ones out of the gate. iTunes didn’t even exist at that point. What I was hearing with podcasts was this whole thing about, ‘Wow, we can do this ourselves,’ but [they had] no idea about the craft. I would put on my community media hat, which is, ‘This is so good, and people are getting access to the tools,’ but then I would also put on my public broadcasting hat and go, ‘Can’t they learn to edit?’.”
“That day Harley, who’s the host of Epic Mealtime, long hair, looks like a wrestler, he quit his job. He was a teacher, he was like, ‘I’m done! I’m going to do YouTube videos.’ Every person said, ‘You’re stupid,’ [but] he realized, ‘This is an opportunity to get my message out there and build my own thing without having to go to the traditional route.’ ”
“We never meant to do this to be rich and famous. We really just wanted to put our videos out and make people laugh, and people really loved it. We’re really thankful for that… but I will try to reply to at least a few dozen kids so that they see, ‘Wow, they’re normal people just like me. I can do what they do.’ ”
“People thinking, ‘Hey, I can change the world!’.”
“We are in an age of opportunity for unknown entertainers to find an audience and celebrity status. With access to countless platforms and devices to create content of all kinds, this session features a panel of artists who understand the momentum of online entertainment and how to stand out in a world bombarded by cats, personal opinion and easy sharable content.”
Jeremy: Check one-two, one-two. We’re good to go? Okay. Hi everybody, how’s it going? Good morning. Happy Wednesday.
Welcome, my name is Jeremy Singer. I’m a digital producers at Entertainment Tonight Canada, and we’re about to begin the Discoverability Summit panel titled Content Creation for Everyone: The Ease of Personal Programming. In 2016 we really couldn’t be in a better position to create our own content. As many of you know, we have access to so many exciting platforms today, not to mention so many new devices. As a result, it’s never been easier for unknown entertainers to find that audience online. But here’s the question: How do you stand out? How do you stand out in a sea of abundance? Well, This panel’s going to feature some talented artists who understand that momentum in digital entertainment, and they know how to be discovered in an online world filled with cats, and personal opinion, and shareable contents.
Joining us, we have Justin Lynch, he is the head of business development and operations at NextTime Productions. They are the producers behind the mega YouTube franchise Epic Mealtime, which completely revolutionized the YouTube landscape, partially thanks to Bacon Strips, if you don’t know that.
We have Steve Anderson, Steve is the founder and senior strategist of the award winning digital rights and civic engagement organization, Open Media. Open Media has led the largest online civic engagement campaigns in Canada, engaging over half a million Canadians.
And We also have Victoria Fenner. Victoria is a radio broadcaster turned podcaster. She is the executive producer of the Rabble Podcast Network. That is a division of therabble.ca, where she continues to explore ways that broadcasting and podcasting can basically work together.
Guys, thank you so much for being here today and lending your authoritative voices. I’d like to begin by talking about the state of personal program today. When you look back, let’s say five to 10 years, compared to now, what are some of the immediate differences that you see? Justin, you want to start off?
Justin: Yeah. I’ll say there’s definitely a lot more options to distribute your content. We’ve noticed … Obviously we started in 2010, there was relatively few channels with millions of subscribers back then, and now there seems to be lots of places you could put your content. Different platforms, whether it be YouTube or Vine. Amazon just announced they’re doing a video direct service where they’re sort of, I think competing directly with YouTube. There’s other platforms like Vessel, you can do video content on Facebook, so I think everyone’s sort of getting into the video game now. And Much more opportunity to put your content out there. As well as better was to monetize it.
Steve: I think that one of the big changes is, now it’s quite a bit easier to build a community, so that you’re not just broadcasting out, but you’re kind of having a conversation, bringing people into your media project. In that way, people are really broadcasting it for you. That, in a way, building that community, is probably your best asset as a media organization now. I think that’s a huge difference from 10 years ago.
Victoria: I think that the quality is getting better. Back in 2005, when I first started doing podcasts with the Rabble Podcast Network, we were one of the first ones out of the gate. iTunes didn’t even exist at that point. What I was hearing with podcasts were this whole thing about, “Wow, we can do this ourselves,” but no idea about the craft and I would put on my community media hat, which is, “This is so good, and people are getting access to the tools,” but then I would also put on my public broadcasting hat and go, “Can’t they learn to edit?” It’s good to see the quality coming up, but yet at the same time that also means a whole bunch of other things for people who are entering the game as well.
Jeremy: Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to just introduce these two individuals that just decided to jump on stage. This is the Eh Bee Family. They focus on hilarious family-friendly entertainment to an online audience of millions, not to mention across a variety of platforms from Vine to YouTube. For myself, I’m going to address you as Papa Bee and Mama Bee. Is that correct, or would you like to …
Papa Bee: Oh no, that’s great. Hi guys, sorry for being late. We’re suburban-
Mama Bee: We live in the burbs.
Papa Bee: Yeah, we’re in the burbs, and [inaudible 00:05:10] was horrible, and we don’t really come down here too often.
Jeremy: It’s all good. Wednesday morning, that happens. We were just staring off by asking about the state of personal programming over the past five to 10 years. Think about as far back as what you can remember it beginning as, compared to today. What are some of the differences that come to mind?
Papa Bee: Back in the days you had to wait for 8 o’clock for your favorite show to come on, and now that’s just a ridiculous thing to think about. You actually had to get together this TV and wait for the show, and now you Netflix it, you go on Apple TV, you can search it on YouTube, and there’s no waiting. It’s that demand, that time, to just pick whatever you want to watch, whenever you want to watch it. That’s the big difference for us now.
Papa Bee: I used to be the channel changer too, when I was a kid.
Steve: Can I jump in out of order here?
Jeremy: Absolutely, yeah.
Steve: One thing I missed before is just the lower barrier to entry. For me, I first got into my work in making media, kind of broadly defined as, I saw an issue that was really important to me. The issue was net neutrality and the future of the internet. I thought, okay, well I know a little bit, I know how to use Windows Movie Maker, and so I made this remix documentary video. I’m not going to tell you the name of it because no one should ever look at it, but it was good enough, and hit at the right moment, that it went viral, and then an organization, quite quickly after, picked me up. They taught them how to make media, and I made more professional media, and then things went from there. That’s the kind of low barrier to entry, where almost anyone can pick something up and get started. Maybe it won’t be good at the start, but the open internet is sort of the best training ground we could have, and that’s really crucial for future of the industry.
Papa Bee: Yeah, now it’s really just about the content. If you have the content you can push it out there, and if one day, one piece of content doesn’t work, your viewers will forgive you as long as your next piece of content is okay. That’s what we do with our channel. We don’t really focus on one piece of content, we don’t do just daily vlogs. One day we’ll do a funny skit, another day we’ll do a vlog, or we’ll do a cooking video, and sometimes our vlogs don’t do well, but the next day a cooking video will do really well. That’s the thing for us, is as long as you have content, you don’t have to worry about anything else.
Jeremy: On that notion of viral videos, I think it’s a good transition to talk about viral videos as a topic. The list of stories on, let’s say, YouTube, they go on from the double rainbow guy to David after the dentist. If you guys don’t know what I’m talking about that, Google that after this panel. What do you think the key is to creating this viral content? Do you guys think that there’s a recipe by now, or is it still, in 2016, just, is it a right-place, right-time, trial and error?
Justin: I wish there was a recipe, because we’d do it for every video. We’ve often made content we thought, “Oh this is going to be great. No, this is going to blow up, amazing, this is so cool.” We put it up, and just lackluster response. Then we’ll do another video and sort of not even think about how many views it will get, and we’ll just get shared like crazy, and it will pick up all this steam. Picked up by the media sites. I think there’s a lot of luck involved.
The one thing I will say is that, if you do make something that becomes viral, whether it’s topical or something like that, you need to capitalize right away. We were ready in 2010 when our video, we made a pizza with a burger, and a couple friends. If you watch that video now, and you see what our videos look like now, it’s changed so much in terms of the quality, like you mentioned, but that day Harley, who’s the host of Epic Mealtime, long hair, looks like a wrestler, he quit his job. He was a teacher, he was like, “I’m done, I’m going to do YouTube videos.” Every person said, “You’re stupid,” and he realized, “This is an opportunity to get my message out there and build my own thing without having to go to the traditional route,” which I think is something we talked about before. You can do whatever you want, he had control over all of it, but you’ve got to seize that opportunity.
Victoria: I think there are some things that the methodologies can tell us now about what people like. Obviously things like faces in posts get a lot more engagement than even landscapes and that kind of thing. Cats, as we know, get a lot of engagement, animals. Yet at the same time, when videos go viral, sometimes I can see, “Yeah, I can see why that worked.” Other times I can see, “I just don’t get it.” I think that in a lot of ways, it’s like computer dating. You can look at the profile, you can say, “That person should be perfect for me,” and then you meet them and it’s like, “No …” But it should work. Why didn’t it work? In a lot of ways I think that going viral is like falling in love. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it’s just like, “What’s that about?
Papa Bee: That’s the thing, there’s a lot of factors, and that’s clickbait on YouTube. If you put a woman in a bikini with this engaging title, and you click on it, and it’s not exactly what you expected, the video will tank, because at the end of the day the content has to be good. I don’t think we’ve ever come up with some content saying, “That’s going to be huge, that’s going to be viral, everyone’s going to want to watch that.” We did a New Years video a couple years ago where our daughter smashed a bowl on the ground-
Jeremy: We actually have that ready to play right now.
Papa Bee: Oh, you want to play it?
Jeremy: Yeah, absolutely.
Papa Bee: Okay yeah, that’s awesome.
Jeremy: I did my homework, I made sure to set that up.
Papa Bee: Sweet! It’s my …
Jeremy: Let’s just wait a hot second.
Papa Bee: There she is, bam!
Jeremy: Hold on, it’s so much funnier with audio.
Papa Bee: Go with the sound, yeah, you’ve got to get sound in there too.
Video: … for New Years! Who wants to get crazy for New Years!
Papa Bee: Let’s watch it 12 more times. Do you have the new one? Do you have the last January one, where she smashes a bottle over my head?
Jeremy: The black and white?
Papa Bee: Every year we have to step it up. I don’t know what we’re going to do this year. This time around she smashed a bottle over my head and I was like, “Hey kids, this is a fake bottle. I will hit the ground and I will not move, but don’t be concerned, I’m not dead. I just don’t want to get back into the frame if it was a great shot.” A video like that, I thought, no one has ever seen a kid do that, so why don’t we just do that? That was it, there was no, “This is going to be huge, shared on Vine.” It got like 500,000 likes, I don’t know how many millions of views it has now. We never expected it.
Mama Bee: I think for us it’s been a combination of creativity, pushing the envelope, right to that line, where we try not to cross the line where people will question us as human beings, as parents, whether or not there’s something mentally wrong with us. And not offending people. Right so We think about things so much, “Can this offend someone? Can this offend someone in Russia? Can this offend someone in China?” We take all of that into account, but it’s never, “How can we make this go viral?” This is, “How can we make people laugh? How can we make people feel like we’re their parents?” We get a lot of that comment, it’s like, “Those are the parents I want to be when I’m a parent.” And not offending people, which in this day and age, you can sneeze and offend someone. That is very difficult to do.
Papa Bee: If you say “bless you” too.
Mama Bee: If you say, “Bless you.” “I don’t believe in God, so please don’t say that,” right?
Jeremy: “Don’t say bless you to me.”
Papa Bee: The other thing is … There are some things that you want to have in a video that will be shared. The message has to be really simple. It has to be funny without sound, especially on Facebook, because it’s coming down your feed and people aren’t really listening to the video, it’s just not going to be that intrusive. It has to be hilarious without sound. That way everyone all over the world can share it because they don’t have to listen to it. The topic has to be somewhat relatable, but if it’s not relatable it has to be completely just ridiculous. Like Casey Neistat, snowboarding in New York City. That’s ridiculous, it’s crazy, there’s nothing relatable about that video, yet it was huge.
Justin: Great video by the way.
Papa Bee: Amazing video.
Justin: I was just going to add to that, saying that our focus really is making good content. If we’re happy with what we’ve done, you know hopefully it does well. We know we have our fan base now, so it helps that we know some people are going to see it, but we want to make sure we’re proud of the content we’re making, and what we’re making makes us laugh. Hopefully it’ll make our fans laugh.
Jeremy: When we’re talking about viral content, do you think that is enough to build a substantial career? If so, how do you go about leveraging that, if that happens?
Papa Bee: It’s like being a DJ. Everybody wants to be a DJ, but 99% never leave their house. If you’ve seen Viners these days, a lot of them never leave their house but there’s only 1% that actually make a career out of it. That’s basically what it is. Everyone loves to do it, it would be the greatest thing to have all these fans, but in all actuality it’s only 1% that actually make it.
I first said it was poker. I’d go, “It’s like being a poker player,” but then it’s like, that’s not a really good analogy, so let’s change it to DJ’s.
Justin: I think it looks really great from the outside, it’s a lot of work to get content every day, I know you guys can relate to this, daily content, which is what everything’s shifted to now. We do a weekly show, or two shows that are on Tuesday and Saturday, but we’ve started doing daily vlogs, and we’re looking to do more daily programming, because people are hungry for content.
It’s very I think one of the number one things we’ve talked to other creators about is how difficult it is. A lot of them do work just for themselves. They don’t have a big team. They’re editing their own videos, and they may get hundreds of millions of views. It’s like, you’re filming yourself all day, you go home, you edit, it could be 3, 4 in the morning, you get up, do it again. It can be exhausting. I think it looks really great from the outside, it seems simple, but it’s actually a lot of hard work. That’s something that, in anything it requires hard work, and it’s not so easy just to be successful on YouTube, or be successful on Vine. It’s hard.
Six second videos, I have a lot of respect. That is a very difficult place to be funny, because you have six seconds. You think it’s easy, it’s hard. I can tell you right now. We try and make funny six-second videos and it’s just not that easy.
Victoria: At rabble.ca we have 13 part-time staff, and we probably have 50 to 100 contributors, and even then it’s a constant grind, especially since we’re tied in with the news cycle, so we’re creating news content. It’s still hard, even when you have a large team, so I don’t know how you people with your one, two, and three people shop do it. Especially since you’re doing video, which is really cumbersome.
Mama Bee: That’s why we love it when we get comments, like on Facebook, saying, “That wasn’t funny, you have to do better.” We’re like, “You know we’re only four people, right? We don’t have writers, I don’t have makeup people to make me look like Kim Kardashian …”
Mama Bee: We have children “I don’t have special tutors in the back.” Literally, it’s the four of us. We’re doing the filming, he’s doing the editing, it’s us, and we have managed to reach almost 10 million people on Facebook, and we’re super proud of that because we’ve never paid a penny to Facebook to do that. And so We’re proud of that.
It’s just the four of us, we don’t have these amazing super cool cameras and stuff, this is really a home thing that we’ve done. It was never meant to be viral, and that’s why we’re known as the Eh Bee Family, and the Monkeys, and no one knows, really, where we are, or where we’re from. We’ll go to the airport in Toronto and they’ll say, “How was your stay in Toronto?” “It was lovely, thank you.”
Papa Bee: [inaudible 00:17:15] the Canadian passport.
Mama Bee: Yeah, and then we give them our Canadian passport. We like it like that, because we never meant to do this to be rich and famous. We really just wanted to put our videos out and make people laugh, and people really loved it. We’re really thankful for that.
Justin: I don’t do it to become rich and famous, that’s not the right reason to get into making content. That’s the biggest thing we talk about. If you’re doing that, you’re starting at the wrong place. Try to make content you want to make, because you might get stuck making it for years and years and years.
Victoria: People in news will never become rich, unless you’re the owners.
Jeremy: I’d like to touch upon just the editing factor, if you could start off with Papa and Mama Bee. For just producing and editing Vine videos, let’s say that one over there, how long do you think that took to shoot and then edit? Just so people get an understanding of what that platform is about. Approximate.
Mama Bee: We have business meetings just like any other company. We will sit down at the kitchen table for a couple of hours on a Monday and drink our coffee, and kind of go through some ideas. He’ll get some ideas, I’ll have some ideas, and usually-
Papa Bee: [inaudible 00:18:21].
Mama Bee: Yeah, I veto because as a woman I think that we are very sensitive as to, “That might offend someone.” I’m really sensitive with that, and so I think that’s another aspect why we’ve been so successful. Especially with brands. Brands love us, like Disney, because they know that we’re not going to appear on tomorrow’s newspaper, that we messed up big-time. So I am very cautious of the language we use. Our motions cannot be deemed inappropriate.
And so From concepts to filming, you know we’re dealing with children. We’ve got 10 minutes, their attention span, and then, “Can I go play video games?” “Sure. Here’s a chocolate bar. Have some sugar. You know Can you just say this?” And we nail it. With this, literally we went to the Dollarama to get the bowl. Everyone thinks, “Was it real?” That’s the big wonder. Did she really smash it?” No, it was a plastic bowl, it bounced off the ground. There was nothing to clean.
Then there’s the editing, so that’s entirely Papa Bee, who is the editor. That can take up to … For something like that it’s really short, but for our …
Papa Bee: For Vine videos it’s more the concept, delivery, that takes longer than the actual filming. Especially, like Mama Bee says, with the actual filming, with kids, you don’t want to waste their time. You don’t want to sit there for hours filming with them. That wasn’t the point of this. The point was to have fun together as a family. Filming, it’s usually a one-taker or two-taker, just to see if we can find a better shot. I would say, total, probably six hours to do a six-second video. Six hours of thinking, and concept development, and then going to the Dollarama and getting stuff, and then setting it all up, and then boom, we shoot for 10 minutes, and then I’m upstairs with a six-second Vine editing it.
Vines usually take around, no more than half an hour to edit for me. But A YouTube video vary , some scenes take an hour, just maybe five or six seconds of a little shot could take about an hour just to edit. On average I’m taking about two hours to edit a video. The best ones are the challenge videos though. Those ones are just straight shot.
Jeremy: Justin, do you want to quickly touch upon some of the scenes that … I don’t know if any of you have seen some of the episodes of Epic Mealtime, but just the-
Justin: If you like bacon, you’ll like it.
Justin: For us, we really evolved. We’re a production house, we have about 10 employees, we actually have now dedicated editors. It used to be Harley, who was the creator of Epic Mealtime, would do everything. Now we have a team. We sit down, we brainstorm.
Our show is formatted so it’s a little different. We have to write loose scripts, plus we have to make the food, which can take forever depending on what we’re making. If it’s a giant burger, multiple burgers, it could take hours, so our chef is constantly trying new things. You know but We definitely needed more voices, because we’ve been doing it for a long time.
But Some videos can take a couple days, just because we have so much footage and we’re cutting in, we have an intro, a mid-tro … so It’s a little different than a daily vlog. Daily vlogs, I would say, are close to what you’re saying, an hour or two. You want to find the funny stuff in the edit, and so hopefully that works out. But Epic Mealtime’s kind of unique. It’s a little different than a lot of the content we see on YouTube.
Victoria: This whole conversation gets back to the point that I made earlier on in the presentation about how editing is a new thing for new content creators. It’s the kind of thing where, that’s something that takes a long time to learn. That’s why new content creators need spaces in order to learn this kind of thing. Because I mean you guys, did you learn it by yourselves in your own…?
Papa Bee: Yeah, it was self-taught, and at this point I can’t hire someone to edit our videos because I’m afraid they’re not going to capture the funny stuff. I feel better if I just do it. I just sit down, I’ll just close the door and do it for a couple hours, and then I know I got the right spot. Because when you’re filming, you kind of know that you want to use that in the edit later on. You sit the camera down and it’s like, “Okay, let’s just do this part, because it’s going to be pretty funny.” You can’t explain that to an editor. It’s easier just to do it yourself.
Victoria: Yeah, so there are people out there who are self-taught, who picked it up really quickly. More people than others, like with new content creators, really really do need a helping hand, and that’s where working with communities of creators can be really, really valuable as well.
Justin: I was going to say also, the great thing and the bad thing about the internet is, it doesn’t have to be amazing-looking content. I mean We don’t film on the best cameras. We film on good cameras, and it looks great, and luckily things have changed to the point where it’s really easy to buy good equipment at a relatively low cost, but it’s not like we’re … The editing doesn’t have to be amazing. There’s some really bad content that gets millions and millions of views. It’s about the content ultimately at the end of the day. If you’re making good content people will see it. I think quality has improved, and that’s something that we need to strive for, but by no means is that the be-all, end-all for people when they’re watching videos on YouTube.
Papa Bee: It makes the content more relatable as well when it’s produced by a mom and dad who grabbed a Cannon camera and just kind of filmed it. Because then whoever’s watching it can say, “I can do that too, I can just go in and get my own camera and start filming.” It’s true, yeah you can, as long as you have something that you want to share, that you enjoy doing. That’s great. Because when something’s way too overproduced, then you tend to get detached from what you’re watching, and now it’s become traditional media again and you’re like, “I can’t relate too much.” Because they must have all these family cameras …
Justin: [inaudible 00:24:08] RocketJump. I recommend checking that channel out. It’s amazing, they do video effects, and [quarter 00:24:14] digital.
Steve: Yeah, I can definitely relate to that piece. At Open Media sometimes we’ll spend months planning out a certain video that we think is just going to be a really important kind of PSA video. We’ll storyboard it through all the process you’re supposed to do, we’ll put it out, and then it just kind of doesn’t go anywhere. We’re like, “Ah!” Then, we’re an interactive community, so someone will be like, “Hey, I just made this thing and I think it’s a good video, and I really believe in what you guys are doing. I made it for you guys.” We’re like, “That doesn’t look that good but we’ll throw it out there.” Boom, that’s a viral video. We’re like, “Why are we even here?”
Victoria: It’s still a basic level of skills. We’re not seeing the videos any more where the camera is shooting up here and you can’t even hear the sound that’s coming out. Even those videos which look raw now do not look raw compared to what they were 10 years ago, believe me. I think There still is a basic level of skills that are needed, and skills train is also still really, really important.
Jeremy: I remember hearing something before about budgets for producing those videos, knowing how cost-effective producing digital content can be. What do you think traditional media creators can learn from those who go on to either find complete internet fame, or just develop a consistent production full-time online for almost no budget?
Papa Bee: Forget whatever you’ve learned in traditional media, just turn on the camera [inaudible 00:25:47].
Steve: I can say something to that. I think that treating yourself, just speaking for Open Media, but treating yourself as kind of a facilitator of a dialogue, and a little bit less of a broadcaster, I think is something that some people in traditional media … I think a lot of people have learned that, but some people could still learn that. I think a lot of our success is really just listening to our community. We’ll put stuff out there and then we’ll literally read all the emails that come in, some of them aren’t great, all the stuff that comes in on social media. Then we’ll go back as a team and actually break it down into themes, and look at it and say, “This didn’t work,” or, “If we made this tweak we could do better.” Then we go and put it out there again, and then it actually works. We recognize that person, that person who contributed that idea, and then that person is now our best advocate. And so I think that kind of media as a conversation is something that is different in the media world.
Justin: To add to that I’d say, fan engagement is so important. We spend so much time … The great thing about all these platforms, whether it be Facebook, any big platform, we’re on there communicating with our fans, and it sort of goes on to that point. I mean People can talk to us. We’re attainable. We’re in our Twitters, we’re in everywhere talking to our fans, good and bad. It’s not great always, going into the comment section, but generally people want to be able to have the interaction with you. That’s the great thing about these platforms. You can.
Victoria: One of the things that Steve brought up, and that you’ve just expanded upon, Justin, is, one of the words that Steve used was the word, “we.” I think we have this idea in media now like, we can produce media in our own basements and that kind of thing, but there’s a whole other way of doing media, which hearkens back to the older way, which is community-based engagement. When you’re talking about fans, we can also substitute the word … I don’t know about one word, but people in our community. Community based media is something that is just as important to me as the more, quote, professional podcasting that I do. And The thing is, there is nothing more exciting than working with someone who says, “Wow, I didn’t know that I could do that.”
It has to do with confidence-building. It’s not just about giving people a camera, it’s about helping them develop the confidence in their own voice. Often, especially when we’re talking about diverse communities, and giving voice to marginalized voices, which is something that we all need to do, then being part of a group of producers who create together is tremendously empowering. And so That’s why I’m part of a movement to help establish community media centers across the country that combines traditional community TV, community radio, online, and also gaming. It’s not just about the product. The product comes from through the process. It’s the act of working together, is a way of creating a different kind of content that is engaging because you’ve engaged with people in the production process.
And Also the whole role of local, since we’ve started working with the internet, is really, really starting to diminish. Getting back that sense of our local community, and people we see every day, is something which is really, really important to new content creation as well.
Steve: I think there’s an interesting piece there, where there’s kind of the basic digital infrastructure and the skills, but then there’s also the social infrastructure, which I think is really what you’re talking about and what we could use more in this country, which is just people being able to work together and bounce ideas off each other, and learn together. Because I don’t know about the other people on the panel, but certainly I benefited a lot from having a peer group of people who were just testing this stuff out, and trying to figure it out, and bouncing ideas off each other, whether it be online, but also in real space. Going out for a beer after a long day and being like, “Hey I just tried this, it tanked, it didn’t work. No one likes.” Then being like, “No, no, no, don’t worry, that happened to me last week.” And so That piece of social infrastructure that I think you’re trying to build would be a huge value to the industry, but also the country.
Papa Bee: That’s the thing, Mama Bee spends most of her time communicating with our, we call them family members, we don’t call them followers. They’re family members, because they’re part of our family. I don’t know if you want to add to that, but [you’ve spent 00:30:35] a ton of time commenting.
Mama Bee: Yeah, I think that’s the difference between traditional media, where a Brad Pitt or an Angelina Jolie … You would see someone like that and it would blow your mind, because you would have no idea how to contact them. They’re so far gone from you as a human being. Whereas I’m cooking, and I get a message pop up, and I’ll reply and they’re like, “Oh my god, Mama Bee just replied.” I’m like, “I’m just making pasta sauce in my kitchen. I’m not as glamorous as you think.” I think that’s what it is, is I try to reply to as many people as possible. Obviously we get in 200 messages, I reply to 20, and we get in another 200, and so it’s impossible, but I think that’s the difference, is with traditional media you don’t get those responses.
I would die if J-Lo replied to me, which she never will, but I will try to reply to at least a few dozen kids so that they see, “Wow, they’re normal people just like me. I can do what they do.” Like when Justin Bieber came out and we were like, “Wow, anybody can be famous.” We are all talented, right? Seriously though, we all have a talent. We can all be famous for something. It’s just a matter of using your creativity, putting it out there, and people will love you for something.
I really believe that it starts when we have children. Kids are developed to be creative. You look at children, and we try to make them into doctors and lawyers and, “You have to do this.” Whereas, if you actually just watch your kid and see what they’re good at, and what makes them happy, and hopefully in the future they can actually make a living from it, like that’s the gold right there. That’s what we try to do with our kids, is we don’t try to box them into being what society says. “You have to make money. Grow up and make money.” How about you grow up and be happy, right? Be creative. See what you love to do, and the world will probably love you for that, right?
Victoria: Whenever I hear the word “star,” or I hear the word “fame,” I get just a little bit uncomfortable because, does that mean then if some people are famous, they’re better than others? They’ve had exposure, I think it’s great that people have engaged with many people around the world, because it shows they’re doing something that people want to hear, but fame can happen in smaller contexts.
I’m thinking of when I was in Nairobi about 10 years ago working on a documentary. I was invited by a young woman from a community radio station to visit her home in the Korogocho slums. You hear about Kibera; Korogocho is the next one down. It’s almost as big and almost as horrible. She told us, “I’m going to wear my T-shirt so that people know who I am.” It was amazing. Here’s this 20-year-old woman, people are coming and approaching her from all over the place and saying, “Lea! Oh my god, it’s somebody from the radio station!” it’s like Their community is pretty amazing, 250,000 people within about six city blocks. She was famous too, but she wasn’t really, really hitting the mass numbers around the world.
I’m always wondering what the emphasis on fame in the internet age is doing to our communities, and to a person’s sense, in the smaller environment where they work and live. We’re also looking right now about, how do we preserve local news and local content, and how do we engage with the people in our communities in the traditional media? I wonder where the balance is between thinking, “I’m on the internet and so many people are listening to me, but I’m in a smaller environment, and people think I’m important here too.” So it’s like The fame thing, I’m very happy for the people who have become famous, but what’s the other part of that news?
Jeremy: It’s interesting, from what you’re saying, what you’re saying, because I remember reading yesterday something about Twitter, how social influencers there, actually fans are more connected with them, more than their own best friends. They trust them more. I thought that was kind of a shocking stat based on that.
Justin: I was going to add to what you were talking about before. The younger generation I see it, because I go to all these sort of industry events, where all these kids congregate to see you guys, us, other channels, and we look at people like J-Lo, whoever, as unattainable to talk to. This young generation, they look to YouTube or whoever, online creators, that’s their J-Lo. Those people, like Jenna Marbles, or Eh Bee Family, that’s what they’re trying to attain now. For me, I missed it, even I’m too old for that stuff, but you see when you go here how crazy they are for these creators, and they can talk to them. It’s pretty amazing, you see some really amazing things. We saw a girl, she was crying, she was like, “I can’t believe I’m seeing you guys.” We took pictures. These creators, I have to say, most of them are really great about their fans. They spend hours at meetups, it’s insane. These kids are crazy for them. That’s what’s attainable to them now. They want to become … I don’t want to use the word famous, but they want to go on YouTube and make content. I think that’s a great thing. They can go and make content if they want to. It could be good and bad, but I think ultimately it’s a great thing.
Papa Bee: We were at a show with Miranda Sings in Toronto last year, and I think security wasn’t ready for the fans. Because they’re like, “She’s famous on YouTube, and we’re just going to do a show here at the Sony Center for Performing Arts …
Mama Bee: People at Sony had no idea who Miranda Sings were, and they had no idea who we were, so you had a bunch of suits running the show and they’re like, “Whatever.” Then about 500 14-year-old girls came in.
Papa Bee: They all just rushed in [inaudible 00:36:27].
Mama Bee: And they rushed the stage, and all of a sudden …
Papa Bee: All hell broke loose. [inaudible 00:36:32].
Mama Bee: All hell broke loose and stuff got serious really fast, because they realized, “Oh my gosh. Look at how much they love them.” It was amazing to see.
Jeremy: Steve, how’s it going?
Steve: Good, great.
Jeremy: I’d like to throw this one at you and everyone else feel free to chime in after. Steve, at Open Media you see the internet as an open place that empowers people to build a more connected and collaborative world, but let’s think about democratization for a moment. How do you think democratized content creation is good for society as a whole?
Steve: I think that it empowers people, and it shows people that the world is malleable, which is a real important thing. Not just for creativity and the media industry, but also for democracy. People thinking, “Hey, I can change the world.” When they can literally just do a thing and it goes online and it works, and they can share it and connect with other people, that’s a really good daily lesson for everyone to have that they might not have had before in that practice.
I also think that it enables people to bring up issues that help advance our society. Women didn’t have a right to vote, we had slavery. Someone needed to challenge those idea. Having this kind of free expression online means that people can advance issues and advance our society. Also, like I said before, it’s also the greatest training ground for citizens, and also for media makers. I think in the 21st century we need the largest talent pool that we can have, so it’s also essential for that. It’s a good example of, it’s good for the culture industry and media industry, but it’s also really important for an open society.
I think the issue for me is, will we have government decisions that enable that? You know Because there are certain decisions that are made through the government that will enable that thing, or that will clamp it down. Will we have more permissive copyrights so that people can experiment online? So I gave my example of, I made remix media and that was my start. If that was illegal, if the copyright rules were stronger, as some would like to make them, then I would not have been able to get my start.
Having fast, affordable internet is really crucial. We can have this discussion here in a certain way, but there’s people in other areas of this country, in other maybe even areas of the city, who don’t have that level playing field. That’s also important.
Then the last thing I would say is funding. I think that it’s important that funding goes to creators in open platforms. I wish that more support was going to the people like where who are kind of upstarts, but we have a huge amount of media concentration in this country, which makes those barriers to entry much tighter than they need to be. You can throw something online, but to actually get into the industry is quite difficult.
If you look at the Canadian Media Fund, most of that money is going directly to the major telecom companies. CTV gets, I think it’s 150 million a year just handed to them. I think that those media funds should go to the people, not myself, but the other people on this panel, and the upstarts. I think that there are important policy issues, not to be the boring policy guy on the panel, but that’s what happens, sorry.
Jeremy: No, absolutely.
Steve: I think for this open internet, and the possibilities of the internet to really be embraced in Canada, and I think we really need to, we need to make these decisions as a society.
Victoria: What Steve was saying also amplifies the whole idea that, in a democratic society, empowered voices are entirely necessary for that functioning of democracy. We talk about the low voting rate, and that’s what happens when people feel like their voice doesn’t count. I used to say, and still say, in community media, it’s like the microphone is a magic wand. Providing you talk close enough to it, by the way. Anyway, I have seen so many times, people come into stations, and community TV stations, and go, “I just want to shelve CD’s because I don’t have anything to say. I don’t know what I could possibly say that the world would care about.” Two or three months later that person is on the air doing a really wonderful show, and just building confidence. That’s something that access to the internet brings, but being engaged in one’s community and saying, “Hey, I’m important too.” I think that’s really important to develop new content on the internet too, because there are a lot of voices we just don’t hear from, because they just don’t have the confidence in what they have to say. That’s why the need community.
Jeremy: Justin, this one’s for you man. Looking at Epic Mealtime, it has over 7 million subscribers on YouTube. It’s basically, right now, a cooking show monster. If you look at it in hindsight, when it first started out, what do you think really struck a chord with audiences?
Justin: You’ve got to think back to 2010. I think we offer something really unique. I think the whole food culture was changing, and food programming was changing, and what we did was just so different. We like to say it’s so dumb, it’s smart. You’re taking … I don’t want to offend anyone, but we’re taking bacon and just putting it all over everything. Everyone loves bacon I think, it’s universal. Except for my girlfriend, she’s a vegetarian, unfortunately for her. I think it was just a unique show at that point in time, and really we … It was just so different. It’s almost like, I don’t know if you remember those websites where you’d go and look at really crazy pictures of food creations, way back. I can’t remember the name of the site, I used to go to one and look. It’d be like a donut with a burger in it or something like that.
Papa Bee: [inaudible 00:42:59] like that.
Justin: Yeah, stuff like that. Imagine something like that-
Papa Bee: [inaudible 00:43:04].
Justin: Yeah, it really was. We’d apply that to video.
Mama Bee: This is why I filter him.
Justin: No, that is exactly what I was thinking about, thank you.
Papa Bee: That was the actual name of the place, of the website. I didn’t come up with that website, by the way.
Justin: I know, and that’s what we based the-
Papa Bee: That’s what we used to peruse before Epic Mealtime.
Justin: Yeah, it’d be like, “That’s cool, I like donuts and burgers, I’ll eat that.” We took that and sort of gave it our voice. I have to say, Harley is a pretty unique voice, and very forceful and very funny. I know I think so.
It was just a group of guys just having a good time. It’s something I don’t think anyone had seen before. Bacon, I don’t know, we capitalized. Every week. We haven’t missed a Tuesday in five years. Now we have another show, which is Handle It, which is an instructional cooking show, which is a little more toned down. One guy in the kitchen. Still in the vein of Epic Mealtime. I’d say it’s like an extension of Epic Mealtime, but much more attainable. Our meals can cost over $1,000, depending on what we’re making it with. We’ll buy Cristal sometimes just because we’re being stupid. It’s really evolved, but it started with just the idea of having fun with your friends, eating lots of crazy food, and having a good time.
Jeremy: In your opinion, do you think that the show could’ve been as popular to begin with if it had started off on a traditional platform?
Justin: I think it could’ve been. It’s very difficult to think back to that. I do believe it could’ve. I think it was unique enough at that point in time that you could take that idea and apply it to traditional, but we’ve done traditional stuff, and obviously there’s a lot more voices involved, there’s a lot more steps involved, it requires … Creatively you have to, not give up a lot, but there’s just more people involved in the process, so just to get things done requires a lot more. Now we can just take a concept and make a video and put it up. We talk about it, like you said, we think about it, we think about the reaction, we think about our fans, but we don’t have to answer to 10 other people or get budgets approved or whatever.
Papa Bee: I think that’s what it is, is it’s the budgets and the money, and playing with scared money, “If this one doesn’t work out then we just blew $50 million, and how am I going to come up with another idea? They’re not going to have any money, they’re not going to fund me.” When we create content it’s really relaxed, because there is no budget. It’s just time for us. We just turn on the camera and we’re relaxed, so we have more time to really think about the concept and nothing else. Then we worry about filming it, and editing it, and editing after, and then whether people will like it or not. It’s really about that.
From what I understand of traditional media, there’s just so much planning, and there’s so many meetings, and there’s so much money, and there’s so much bla-bla-bla. Then, this is how much is left over for actual content creation. It’s kind of backwards on the internet, where you really need to focus only about the content and not worry about anything else, and if there’s a little bit left, then fine, you can have a meeting. We could eat that … They were fine, but that’s the thing, when you mention about $150 million for CTV, and I’m thinking …
Justin: I’ll take some of that.
Papa Bee: I’ll take some. All I need is 2 grand for a drone, that’s all I want right now. That’s serious, because what would I do with $150 million on our channel if it was given to us? I’d get really nervous and we probably wouldn’t be able to create any content, because now we have to answer to people. I think that at this point we’re like, “I want a drone, so I’m going to go get a drone.” That’s our budget. “I broke my camera, I dropped it on the kitchen, whatever, counter. I need to buy another camera.” Those are our budget talks.
Victoria: If we had $154 million we could fund community media centers in many, many, many communities across this country, so it’s all a relative kind of thing. We want that $150 million too.
Papa Bee: Yeah, that’s true.
Justin: We’ll all take it, yeah.
Mama Bee: Raise it 154.
Justin: My hand’s up, I’ll take it right now.
Papa Bee: I think that editing is probably something that should be the focus, is really teaching creators how to edit, the short cuts, how to make it right. Because I speak to creators now, I’ll text a creator who is now one of the most respected YouTubers in the world, and I won’t say his name just because of his response, is hilarious. “When you’re importing a video in final cut, should it be optimized or proxy media?” He honestly comes back and says, “Dude, I have no idea.” He’s the biggest YouTuber!
Justin: He’s like, “Go check YouTube. There’s a video that shows how to do that.”
Papa Bee: Yeah, “Dude, just YouTube it. I have no idea. What are you talking about?” If you watch this person you’re like, “Wow, this person must be incredible.” [crosstalk 00:47:28].
Victoria: That’s a little bit of self-training as well. I’m working right now on a video art project that the OAC is funding, and I do sound art. I’m working with a video producer I’m trying to do some of my own, and I’m constantly going, I’m on the phone saying, “Stefan, what does this mean?” Yeah, I could learn it myself, but it’s going to take me five times as long, so training centers are really, really important, and people not working in isolation, unless they want to do things really slow.
Justin: I will say it does cost us money to make our show, because we have to buy food, and we do employ people, so it’s a little more costly. I have to say, monetization is definitely there, you can make money … I think you have to be at a certain level in order to do that. There’s definitely lots of strategy made, and ways for creators, even smaller creators, who have maybe 250,000 or half a million subscribers, to find a way to make enough money. Because to be honest, if you have 200,000 subscribers, based on your views you really can’t make a sustainable living doing that. Maybe you can, depending on being creative or selling merchandise, but it’s not so simple. We’re getting there, and the budgets are getting bigger. With YouTube Red, I don’t know, there’s a lot more opportunity to do bigger productions, but we still have a ways to go to make sure everyone can sustain what they’re doing on there.
Papa Bee: From the business side, before we started doing stuff online, I came from a marketing background, market research, so when we first realized that we could actually make a business out of this, I SEO’d our family’s website, searchable for our content. There’s demographic data, there’s branded examples, there’s ways to contact us. I had rate cards all put together, we knew what our pricing was per video. I had all that set up. There has to be sort of a professional business side to that, that a lot of creators actually don’t have. We do have that edge when we work with brands and big agencies because we have all that to the table right now. That is probably another piece that creators should learn, is the business side, and how to market themselves properly. Because most creators, if you search for a certain person’s name, there won’t be a website that has their demographic data and their branded examples and all this stuff that an agency’s actually looking for.
Justin: Branded content’s a big part of what we do, for sure. I know that’s a big part of how we are able to make our show and bring more people in, and grow. That’s definitely part of the equation.
Steve: Yeah, we definitely didn’t have these marketing points to start with, but at this point now, I really believe in that point, and needing to have those skills. Maybe that’s part of what the community media center’s going to teach, is how to reach people, and how to connect with the audience that’s out there, that actually wants to find you but can’t.
I know now, we AV-test a lot of our materials. We got pretty sophisticated with targeting our … We have a mailing list of about half a million people, and so we’ll send out … I don’t want too much into the geekery of it, but we’ll send out an email to 10,000 people who we’ve seen before care about, let’s say, free expression issues online, then we’ll look at that and we’ll be like, “Nope, not working, forget that, try something else,” or we’ll send out three different versions to 10,000 different people. Then we’ll also learn by looking backwards, by saying, “This person reacted to these types of videos or these types of materials in the past. We don’t want to try and push this privacy video on them because we’ve tried that three times, they don’t like that. There’s a whole marketing and reaching your audience piece that’s really important.
Jeremy: This one’s for the Eh Bee Family. Your channel, your brand, has over 3 million followers just on Vine. I saw 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube. I think that people should realize that’s more of a following than Canadian TV shows get on a traditional platform. It’s amazing. When you think about your journey to reach discoverability for your brand, what was that like?
Papa Bee: We have no idea. We basically just wanted to make funny videos that we would laugh at first. Then if one more person liked it, that was a bonus. Because nothing was on the line for us. We just wanted to have fun and laugh. We’ve always been making funny little YouTube videos, and now it’s a little series on our channel now where we go back to our old funny videos that we’ve never posed when they were babies. We never had that thought. We’re just like, “Let’s just make funny videos and laugh. Let’s just do things that we wouldn’t normally every do.” Like Kids Bop where my daughter raps to Wu Tang Clan, and smashes a bottle over my head for New Years. These are funny things that I laugh at. When the New Years video came I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, this is awesome!” That’s what it’s about for us. We enjoy our own content and that’s all it was.
Mama Bee: I think for us, what we found was there was a lack in the world for happy families, so family dynamics who have fun together and laugh together. Couples who get along. Blows your mind. Husbands and wives who love each other and are attracted to each other and have fun together, and parents who laugh with their children, and children that laugh with their parents. That’s lacking. Isn’t that crazy, that we live in a world where people watch us and they’re like, “Wow, what an awesome family.” You can have an awesome family too, who has fun and makes the world laugh. Somehow, I don’t know how, and that’s why I was like, “I have no idea,” because we kind of hit the nail on the head, where we have this dynamic that people love.
We were watching the numbers go up, like you said, 3 million on Vine. When he started on Vine it was under his real name, and he just jumped from 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, 200,000. At one point I’m in the kitchen and they’re making a video and I’m like, “Is there anything you can do with the kids that doesn’t involve 300,000 people?” And he’s like, “Actually we’re at a million now.” And That’s when I’m like, “All right, we need to go anonymous, shut this down, I don’t want anyone to know where we live,” because it kind of freaked me out how fast we were growing. I really wanted to protect the kids, as a mother I didn’t want people to know where our kids go to school and stuff like that, but I just think that for us it was a lot of luck. It was people hungry for family content that was safe, that people can allow their children to watch.
Jeremy: Absolutely. Victoria, this is for you. You’re coming from the world of podcasting, which is definitely another hot medium to produce content for, and it’s allowed content creators to develop their own programming, but how do you think that podcasting has evolved in this ever-changing digital environment?
Victoria: First of all I’m really, really delighted that now I can get on buses, and I actually hear people talk about the podcasts they’re listening to. That was not the case in 2005. I would say to people, “I’m doing a podcast,” and I’d give them the details, says, “What’s a podcast?” I would tell them, “It’s basically a radio program for the internet,” which is about as close as I could get. They’d say, “But I don’t have an iPod.” “Well you can listen to it online.” It was just so basic. Then all of a sudden it was actually the creation of Serial, the blockbuster program down in the States that really put us on the map. About two, three years ago or so, I started hearing people talk about the podcasts they’re listening to. That has really, really changed.
One thing that I’ve always felt has always held us back in podcasting is, we haven’t had that one app that everybody goes to. For video you have YouTube. For us, we started out on iTunes in 2006, 2007; anyway iTunes is this monster site where you have practically everything. It’s very, very hard to find specific things. There was one time, with one version of iTunes, which they revise every day it seems like, there was one that didn’t even have podcasts on it. Then it was like, “Where did the podcast link go? How do I find them?” it’s like that’s a discoverability issue.
Then the other thing that’s happened right now too is, people are starting to listen more on mobile apps, and so you have to have this whole proliferation of individual apps that you have to put every podcast on. Plus our main website at Rabble, we have the podcast network on our site, and we like to drive people to the site because that increases our stats and that kind of thing, but the thing is, that’s not how people are listening any more. It’s put pressure on us to develop the site and all of these other apps, and then I’m getting to the point where I’m having to go to Overcast and Soundcloud and all these places we could post them, and get aggregate stats from each individual one and add them up manually and everything. So I wish that we had a YouTube that everybody goes to, but that’s not happening, and I think that’s one of the challenges with podcasts.
In terms of the growth and development of podcasts, it’s really wonderful to read, I get a lot of my information from Pew Research in the States that does a podcasting report every year, and has since about 2005. It was great to see, in the early days we went up and up and up, plateaued, and unusually … Well I think not unusually, that was the year that YouTube was released, and Podcast listening just flattened out. But Now it’s started rising again, and we certainly don’t have as big an audience as videos do, but the thing is, the level of engagement with podcasts is really, really high.
The quality, we’re getting a lot better produced podcasts, but we still have the ones which, people can still do it from their basements. It’s just getting listeners to those podcasts now in the thousands, which is what people are needing to monetize them, and what we want for our audience members. That’s really hard because there are so many, and it’s not a different problem than video has, but it’s the discoverability for us, because that one app that pushes everything out just hasn’t been invented yet.
Jeremy: We’re running short on time right now. Justin, I know that you have to get out of here pretty soon, so I want to just wrap up very quickly by having each of you give a brief sentence about the key to online success from a personal programmer perspective. Just super brief. Victoria, you want to start off with you?
Victoria: Sure. I still think my best productions happen when I’m working with a team. I do think that community media is a way for people to develop their new emerging voices and create new content, and also too, work within a social context. I think that that’s really, really important.
Steve: Yeah, I would say try to crowdsource your content when you can, and build an engaged community, and do authentic engagements. Don’t just focus on eyeballs and data points, but actually building relationships, because those are really, really valuable in a bunch of ways that I think several of us have talked about. I guess the last thing I would say is, I think we’ve been talking a lot about what we’ve done and some of the struggles, but I think that we should really try to imagine what could be, what’s some of the stuff that you’ve been talking about. If we had these kind of community media centers across the country, imagine when you folks started your projects or when I did, that we had that. I think it’s important to focus on what we can do now, but also just imagine what could be if we had the right policies in place.
Justin: I would say be willing to fail, and try content. I mean I can tell you that we tried other things. It didn’t just happen overnight. I think there’s a misconception that it’s just going to happen for you. Be willing to fail, and make videos that may not do well, but hopefully you find something that hits, and when you do, capitalize.
Papa Bee: I’d say just be your own biggest fan of your own content, and have as much fun as possible, and take risks. Because at the end of the day you just have to shoot whatever you enjoy out into the world and see what happens.
Mama Bee: Be your authentic, creative, weird, and silly self, and don’t worry about what people think.
Jeremy: I think this is time to open up to audience Q&As. If anybody has any questions for Justin, because I don’t know if, for timing, if you want to-
Justin: I’ve got three minutes.
Jeremy: Three minutes. We’re on the clock. Anybody have any questions for Justin? Yes. No?
Kathy Edwards: Hi. Hello Justin. You said that the owner, or the creator, of your project quit his job and basically capitalized on the timing and went for it. What exactly did that entail for him, to do that and to monetize a project that seemed to be working?
Justin: He set a threshold in his mind of a certain amount of views he’d get in a week, and he said, “If this happens I’m going to quit my job.” He was a teacher, he was a substitute teacher. I have to say, he had told me a year previous that you can make a living on YouTube. I was like, “Really? Okay. I’ve never really understood that.” This is in 2010. There were some big channels then, a couple, and I think he hit his threshold and was like, “All right, screw it, I’m going to do this.” The hardest part was getting money together to do it, because it costs $500 to make some meals. That does have money that he didn’t have at that point, but he put everything into it. He was making videos already, whether it be … I shouldn’t say, he’ll get mad if I start talking about it, but making other types of videos. This one hit his threshold, and he was like that, exactly, kind of like what you said.
He just did it, and I witnessed the whole thing, it was pretty amazing. The money wasn’t necessarily there right away, but we were fortunate. We garnered a lot of attention really early, and there were ways to monetize at that time. We were getting a lot of views, a lot of people, a lot of eyeballs, a lot of sharing. I have to say that there was definitely luck. We were lucky at that point. It’s really changed now. You can definitely make a living if you reach a certain amount of people. For sure, no doubt, you can make a living making videos on YouTube. That’s a good thing now.
Kathy Edwards: I’m Kathy Edwards with the Canadian Association of Community Television. I was really interested that the session was on, because there is a perception that anyone can make it big just because we have the internet, and you’ve shown that it’s true. I started out just wanting to be a filmmaker, so it’s a great platform for me too, but I, me personally, am picking up on some of the points that Victoria had about the need for confidence for some people. People can’t necessarily grab a camera and self-publish, and often it’s about confidence.
The two things that committed me from just wanting to be a filmmaker to working in community media is, I worked with a group of 15-year-old recovering street prostitutes in Calgary a number of years ago, who came in with sort of a social worker who was looking for things for them to do. They came to the community television channel, and we trained them to use little Hi8 cameras. They didn’t want us watching what they were doing, but we taught them how to use the cameras, they disappeared and went into their street environments, and made a series of documentaries about their experiences. One of the girls, only one of them, had the focus and tenacity to be able to learn to edit, because the others had so many other problems going on in their lives. She told me that it was the first thing in her life she’d ever completed. Those series of videos went on and won awards. That group could’ve never done it without a supportive infrastructure. They could’ve posted on YouTube, maybe, but it was a confidence issue. Were people going to laugh at them, were people going to call them sluts?
For the people that are living the problems in our communities, they often don’t have the infrastructure or the education or the ability to stand up and take those hits and those risks. They need that collaborative environment to use this wonderful thing called the internet. I’m glad that there was an interesting balance on this panel between the people that are taking advantage of these opportunities, but also an awareness that sometimes you need an infrastructure to take advantage of great opportunities, and fighters to keep the platforms open like Steve.
Jeremy: Just going to interrupt for a second. Justin, I think we’ve got to get going now. We’re going to give a round of applause for Justin Lynch for being here today. Thank you very much. Great having you on the panel. Safe trip home.
Mama Bee: I just wanted to speak to that comment.
Jeremy: Go for it, absolutely.
Mama Bee: I do get a lot of messages, especially from young girls, and so I try to make it a priority to reply to, especially, young people. A lot of young women say, “Mama Bee, I can’t believe what you do. I would be so embarrassed.” I said, “You know what, if anything …” Because I believe that with great power comes great responsibility, and so when we started to become big I started to think, “What am I going to use this platform for?” I have been a feminist through and through my whole entire life, and I want to use my voice especially for young girls. What I tell them is, there are special moments in our lives where you have to take a chance, and it doesn’t matter what you look like. When you miss those moments, those moments could potentially change the path of your life. That’s what I try to really tell girls.
Especially, we have so many broken children growing up and becoming broken adults, and these broken adults are so worried about, “What are people going to think?” My own friends are like, “Rosanna, how do you do the things that you do?” I’m like, “Because I’ve never cared what people thought.” I’ve always known who I am, and I’m true to myself, and I’m secure in myself. Even from a child, I was a child, I remember, covered from head to foot in the winter, and it was a cool thing to be outside in a T-shirt. I never understood that, I wanted to be covered, and my friends were like, “You look like a grandmother.” I’m like, “Well yeah, but I’m warm.” I never understood that concept of making other people happy. I was always true to me. For young girls especially, I want to show them, take the chance, don’t worry about what people think, and you have to have the courage. You have to put yourself out there if you want to be great, you have to take the chance.
Victoria: So great, you can come work with us in community media in your spare time.
Mama Bee: Yay!
Papa Bee: She still needs to make a few videos for us though, so you have to wait.
Jeremy: Yes, back there.
Female: I stole the microphone back here. This question is for Steve. I’m developing content that’s bridging the gap from hospital to home. There’s a huge gap, and people are going into a tailspin after a diagnosis. I’m coming from a traditional background of broadcast and moving into a digital space, and my concern because it’s healthcare, and I thought you might be able to comment a little bit on, what can you put in place for the legalities of when you’re starting to ask poignant questions that are challenging policy? How can you protect yourself, or is it the wild west of open source media that we’re dealing with? I was just looking for some input.
Steve: Do you mean like challenging health policies and that sort of thing?
Female: Yeah. I think it’s in a positive tone, but it’s telling stories of people who are experiencing the gaps in healthcare, but then also reaching out to people like, how not to piss your surgeon off after surgery, don’t wreck his good work. Trying to really shine a light on the aftercare process that hospitals just don’t have time for. Because you’re bringing experts in, as opposed to broadcasting yourself like other panelists, that you’re actually bringing in people, and you’re getting into a little bit of a grey zone on the legal front.
Steve: I’m definitely not a lawyer.
Female: I won’t hold you to it. I was just wondering about the policy.
Steve: I think for us, every now and then we worry about that. Because sometimes we’re kind of on the opposite side. When I was talking about CTV, they’re owned by Bell, and sometimes we don’t agree with them, and they’re a very large company so there’s things they could do. For us, we just make it so that it would be a PR disaster for them to do that. Because there’s legal grey zones. We try to be careful, we don’t name names, we try to avoid that sort of thing, and now and then if we’re really doing something really high-profile, we’ll reach out to lawyers and say, “Listen, look at this. Is this going to be a problem?” And they’ll give us advice. I think that’s good if you’re at that level, but apart from that, what we do is just try and build as much of a community as possible, and to tell as authentic and powerful stories as possible, so that if people wanted to go after us it would just be a huge PR disaster.
For that one example for us, some people have said … I’m just going to pick that one company. “They don’t like you guys a lot. You guys might be costing them a lot of money with some of the things you’re advocating for. Talking about $150 million and taking them away from them.” The thing is, if they ever actually went after us in some sort of legal pursuit, that would be the best fundraising bonanza that ever happened to us. Because we would go out to half a million people and tell that story, and we would more than make the money up for the lawsuit. If you can set yourself up that way.
Female: That’s great insight, just because as you were saying before, so much of the budget in broadcast is often reverse engineered. So much is going toward the development before you make anything, as opposed to creating a content machine where you have this constant dialogue. That’s a great insight, thank you.
Victoria: I worked with a video company where we did a series of programs commissioned by a hospital, and it was about women’s experiences of coming into the hospital, what to expect and that kind of thing. I think the really important thing is, if you can, I mean if there’s a policy issue where you have to take issue with what the hospital does then that’s something to talk to your lawyer about. The thing is, working to make sure that the people who you’re involved with are fully consenting, and not getting any shots of people in the shot that have not consented, and also if you can work with the hospital doing this then they can help set things up. The research beforehand, and the consent, that’s what smooths the way, I think, for a good video like that.
Jeremy: I think that’s all the time we have for questions for today, but we want to thank our panelists for speaking today and this morning. Victoria, Steve, and the Eh Bee Family, thank you so much. Thank you for attending, and we hope you have a good day.
Victoria: Thank you, Jeremy.
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