New gig Chief marketing officer, DanceOn
Old gig Senior manager of digital content, Disney Interactive Entertainment
You went from working for a huge media conglomerate in a seemingly very fun space to DanceOn, a premium network on YouTube. Why make the move?
I was involved in startups for several years. Once you have that in your blood, it never leaves you. When this came up, I jumped. I get to be part of something new and at the forefront of creating a new medium.
Madonna is one of the backers. Do you guys talk every day?
Oh yeah, I have her on speed dial!
What’s working so far for DanceOn?
We’ve already got a remarkable subscriber base [as of Oct. 8, DanceOn had 155,000 subscribers and about 112 million views]. My background is in connecting audiences. These viewers are passionate and want to share that passion. So we are actually doing scheduled fan meet-ups with performers, things like that.
You were one of the creators of lonelygirl15, the famous Web series that really put the medium on the map in terms of its storytelling potential.
What made those shows different is that learning to connect to an audience is as important as great content. If you want great content, you can just watch TV. If you want to connect to a show, you go to a content-sharing ecosystem [like YouTube] where it’s all about sharing and engaging. A great tool that YouTube has integrated is Google Plus, specifically the live video hangout. We have chats between fans and [DanceOn personality] D-Trix. It lets fans know he’s a real person. On TV, you’d never be able to do that.
How is this different from working at Disney?
There is still some education on this sort of thing that big companies like that need. It’s a lot more than just posting a video. Social has to be part of conception and production. So I became this YouTube expert of sorts. We actually started doing internal workshops within the company.
What do you remember about the lonelygirl phenomenon?
It was really overwhelming. The day after I got back from my honeymoon, the first video went up. All of a sudden, viewership tripled. We eventually got 500 million views. I got to know the fans, too. I have fans in high school now going to college asking me for recommendation letters. And the fans got to know each other as well. We had these live meet-ups. I recently went to a wedding of a couple who met during a live meet-up five years ago.
Does it bum you out that the original Web video movement sort of flamed out during the recession, causing lonelygirl producer EQAL to shift gears, and now it’s back in such a big way?
It’s disappointing. After lonelygirl we did KateModern and partnered with CBS on Harper’s Globe. That was at the height. But EQAL really had to pivot. Now, you have this Google initiative [putting $100 million into YouTube]. That is what has really brought it back. What’s also changed of course is that everything we do now is social. Back then, I was on Friendster. I also remember being on my MySpace homepage, thinking, “There is nothing better than this.”
Any YouTube favorites?
Right now I am a huge fan of Philip DeFranco. They [covered] the conventions, helping bring politics to teenagers. I am so impressed. Plus, at my house, we watch a lot of Annoying Orange.