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CFC Media Lab

Want to Know How BOOSTer Day Went?

Friday, February 01, 2013


January 19 2013 was our first ideaBOOST BOOSTer day held at the amazing Spoke Club. A special congratulations goes out to all the participants and lead guides who spent the day chatting with BOOSTers about their project’s progress to date. We also want to thank all of the amazing BOOSTers who came and shared their thoughts and opinions on the progress of the projects. Want to see more?  Watch this video:

Be sure to check out the flickr page to see some great photos of the event:

As always follow along with the conversation: @cfcmedialab #ideaBOOST


Shaycarl Raises $200K For Documentary About Vlogging

Friday, February 01, 2013



When he first discovered YouTube, Shay Butler was nothing more than a granite countertop salesman from Idaho. Now, four years later, he is more than 100 pounds lighter, a successful creator with more than one million subscribers and a founding member of one of the largest multi-channel networks on the internet.

Butler wants to tell his remarkable story. He has completed a successful Indiegogo campaign for I’m Vlogging Here, a documentary that will bring viewers into the world of vloggers. “This documentary will delve into what vlogging is, the rise of YouTube creators, and how vlogging has forever changed the lives of the vloggers, the viewers, and the industry itself,” explained Butler on the Indiegogo page. “We want to tell the story of how being a ‘YouTuber has changed the lives of thousands through the eyes of one family that has realized a dream come true of a dream they never knew they even had.”

Butler’s story could be an entire story in itself, but he plans to expand I’m Vlogging Here to include a host of notable YouTubers. Shay has confirmed PrankVsPrankCTFxC, the Vlogbrothers, and CharlieIsSoCoolLike will be among the creators in his documentary. In addition, he’s offered an invitation to any enterprising creator: make a two-minute response to his Indiegogo launch video, and it could be featured in the documentary. “This is a documentary about vloggers,” he said, “and we want as many YouTube vloggers to be in this documentary as we can get!”

Unsurprisingly, the funding campaign had no trouble raising more than $200,000. With enough money secured, Butler is now set to begin filming, with director Corey Vidal and production team ApprenticeA in support.

When Butler’s film is completed, it will be available for free on YouTube. With its impressive collection of subjects, I’m Vlogging Here has a chance to be the most interesting YouTube documentary this side of Life in a Day. 



ShayCarl And Corey Vidal Exclusive “I’m Vlogging Here” Documentary Announcements And Fan Chat

Thursday, January 24, 2013


The documentary “I’m Vlogging Here” tells the personal stories of some of YouTube’s top vloggers, including Wheezy Waiter, CharlieIsSoCoolLike, Prank vs. Prank, Chris Pirillo, Hank and John Green and others. The filmmakers – Shay Carl and Corey Vidal – stopped by What’s Trending to talk about their goals for the project and the ongoing Indiegogo funding campaign. They also make some special exclusive announcements on the show, including fascinating news for anyone who has already invested or plans to invest in the project as well as insight into some of the crew coming on board to work on the film.

Jackson Harris, What’s Trending co-host for the week and Associate Producer of “I’m Vlogging Here,” is also on hand taking fan questions for Shay and Corey. And YouTuber Ava (Halt! I Am Ava) joins us over Google+ Hangout to share her take on the project as an up-and-coming vlogger.

Last year, after vlogging every day on YouTube for a full three years, ShayCarl felt that it was time to shake things up with a new project – a documentary about the hard work that goes into making a career on YouTube. “This is a new viable option for a lot of people that are going to school right now to come up and to be in the new media space,” he says. “I wanted to tell that stories.”

And Shay would know – as he was a key part of the creation of Maker Studios, which now employs over 350 people and recently announced the acquisition of a huge $36 million from Time Warner.

“This documentary is the story of how this became not only our life, but the lives of others,” YouTube’s most famous dad – the patriarch of The Shaytards – says. “There’s so much good that’s happening,” citing the VlogBrothers having raised over $500,000 dollars for charity.

In that vein, Corey says that he makes YouTube videos “to influence positive change,” and that’s also what this documentary hopes to inspire.

Even though ShayCarl’s received criticism over trying to raise money for the project instead of funding it based on his own means, he explains that he didn’t want to  ”I wanted this to be a personal project. I want this to be something that I have 100% control over,” he notes. By collaborating with a studio, he’d be letter an upper hand have creative control. “This is an idea that I am passionate about and a story that I want to tell more than anything, so I need to make sure as few hands are in the decision pot as possible.”

Of course it would be cheaper to have all of the YouTubers come to L.A., but Shay and Corey decided it would be more powerful if they filmed these creators in their natural environments.

Despite having vlogged every day for over three years, there’s still a lot for Shay to open up and be honest about, and he knows his fellow YouTubers have similar stories to expose. “There’s this fear that if you say the wrong thing or if you come across the wrong way, that suddenly you fear that you’re going to lose this dream,” he says. It’s a brutal jungle, that YouTube comments section. But the truth is, a ton of work goes into all of these videos that real people take the risk to share with the world.

Shay quips that RockTard, his son, is “like the real life Truman baby.” He was on YouTube when he was still in Katilette’s stomach!

Now, for the EXCLUSIVE announcement! ShayCarl reveals that if the movie does make money, they will refund all of their donors at double the amount that they donated!

One of the immediate perks will be weekly news updates about the progress of the film, with the teaser set to fully be unveiled at VidCon. By the end of the year, the team plans to tour the documentary in theaters throughout the country, with the end goal being for the movie to be free on YouTube for everyone to see. After all, Shay says, “It has to go back to where all this originated.”

The Huffington Post

The Canadian Program Giving Creative Startups a Boost

Friday, November 09, 2012


Last week, the Canadian Film Centre’s CFC Media Lab launched a fantastic new program calledideaBOOST, designed to assist artists and companies exploring the frontier in digital entertainment.

For those that aren’t familiar with the term, “digital entertainment” refers to entertainment that takes place in or around an online community and on mobile devices. It’s gaming-, web television-, tablet-, app- and smartphone-based multi-platform entertainment that will soon include augmented reality and other new technologies.

IdeaBOOST is a “business development lab” but it’s much more exciting than that. It’s a very cool career-accelerator program for Canadian innovation companies working in the digital sphere.

I’m a big supporter of programs that help Canadian artists, but I’m a bit wary of government grants that can be overly relied upon, and don’t necessarily foster excellence. IdeaBOOST brings industry into the equation, and I think that’s what makes it such an impressive concept.

Developed by CFC MediaLab founder and CFC Chief Digital Officer Ana Serrano (who describes it as a “four month intensive boot camp for digital content entrepreneurs”) and sponsored by Shaw, Corus and Google, the program will help teams raise financing, but just as importantly, it pairs winning applicants with Executive Mentors offering advice on everything from product development to business strategy and audience engagement.

“We believe that audiences play an integral role in digital entertainment strategy development,” says Serrano. “So it’s important that the companies that come through the program understand that the…products that they’re building are an ‘engaged’ form of entertainment. We think that 'engaged entertainment’ is the future of our business.”

Thirty-nine projects were submitted to a kind of Kickstarter-style social media campaign, 332,000 votes were cast, 850,000 likes, 89,000 tweets and 15 companies were shortlisted. The projects were then judged by a group of industry experts and eight companies were selected as the winners.

Here are several that sounded particularly exciting:

The Buffer Film Festival will be a Canadian-based, internationally recognized annual online video film festival that will “launch, promote and advance videomakers in the online community,” according to founder (and full-time YouTuber) Corey Vidal.

The Ghost Town Project is a trans-media project by Intuitive Pictures that will bring the world’s abandoned towns back to life, starting with one landmark building in each location. Led by producer Ina Fichman, it will uncover the hows and whys of abandoned sites with a restoration team including historians, architects and conservationists.

The Path, presented by Smokebomb Entertainment, is an eight-part digital fantasy series about a highschool girl who accidentally opens a door into a world of dark, sexy, 21st century fairies. The series is available online, on tablets and phones and allows fans to interact with content, join social groups that compete against each other. What’s intriguing is that the community can also participate in scripting, casting, design and story creation. They want to bring the fans and the community right into the show itself.

Loud on Planet X is a platform of rhythm tap games to be incorporated into mobile gaming. Starting with a silent premise where your band is transported onto a strange, silent planet, you must defend yourself by creating your own sounds, including playlists of your own music or newly discovered bands. Team leader is Alex Jansen, owner of Pop Sandbox a production and publishing company that released KENK: A Graphic Portrait.

Ramen Party is an interactive storybook app that introduces children aged 0 - 4 about food, by making each element in a Japanese ramen a fun character who is invited to a party. The child learns about each separate ingredient, and when they finally all come together, you have the complete dish.

Toronto Life

Jesse Brown: How fame seekers finally figured out how to make a living on YouTube

Friday, October 19, 2012


Across the GTA, a new breed of entertainer is making a living and playing to audiences in the tens of millions. Welcome to the era of the professional amateur

Blame it on the Biebs. As everyone knows by now, Justin was just a poor tween from Stratford when he uploaded his first homemade videos to YouTube. The clips went viral, and soon Usher and Justin Timberlake were fighting to sign him to their labels. International superstardom, of course, soon followed.

It’s the classic talent discovery story, upgraded for millennials. Forget music lessons, forget auditions—forget even leaving your bedroom. Just upload your god-given talent and wait for the fame. YouTube is rife with baby-faced crooners, convinced perhaps that Timberlake, still sore about losing Bieber to Usher, spends his days clicking around for the Next Big Thing.

For a growing number of Canadian talents, posting videos to YouTube is not merely a way to get discovered, promote CD sales or get booked on professional stages. YouTube is their stage. They are registered YouTube “partners” who get a share of the advertising revenue their content generates. When the Partner Program launched in 2007, YouTube cherry-picked a handful of Toronto participants, basing their invitations on existing online popularity. This past spring, the doors opened to anyone, and there are now hundreds of YouTube partners in Canada. When you click play, they get paid.

They don’t get paid much—not much per view, anyhow. YouTube won’t disclose the average amount partners receive, and there are complex algorithms involved in determining fees, but sources estimate it’s about a seventh of a penny every time someone watches their video. For someone like Corey Vidal, a 25-year-old performer from Oakville who has made his living posting dance instruction videos, lip-sync videos, comedy sketch videos and video diaries to YouTube, it would take approximately 700 views to earn $1. That means Vidal would need about a million views to earn a couple thousand dollars. Since he began posting six years ago, his videos have been viewed over 64 million times, bringing in revenues of

around $130,000.

But Vidal isn’t making money from the partnership program alone. Once his videos started taking off, major brands began approaching him, offering decent money if he’d feature their products in his videos, and serious money if he’d custom-make videos specifically to spotlight their wares. Today Vidal lives in a house he bought in Burlington, where he and 10 full-time employees make their livings solely by making YouTube videos.

There are others. Vidal can count 11 or so YouTubers in the GTA who make a living exclusively through the partnership program, but dozens have built hybrid careers around their popular YouTube channels. There’s D-Pryde, an 18-year-old rapper from Brampton with 53 million views. There’s Walk off the Earth, a rootsy pop band from Burlington with 248 million views. There’s Shimmy, a funny Korean guy from Waterloo who just sort of talks, and who has 26 million views. And there’s BodyRock, a massively popular YouTube channel of hardcore fitness videos created by a former soft-core porn model in Kingston, Ontario, and her videographer husband (Zuzana and Freddy split up sometime after they hit 400 million views, but their lucrative BodyRock brand lives on). These Internet celebrities are outliers who live on the fringe of Canada’s media capital. Had they approached success through the front door of Toronto’s established channels, it’s difficult to imagine any of them achieving the same level of fame. In the U.S., no matter how big you get on the Internet, Hollywood could get you so much bigger. The opposite is true here. If you’ve made it on YouTube, your audience is almost certainly larger than if you were on Canadian TV or signed with a Canadian label.

Professionalism and YouTube might seem mutually exclusive. Despite hosting bits of Hollywood content from all the major TV networks and movie studios, the site still struggles to shake its image as the home of randomness—a massive trove of frenetic, ever-changing non-sequiturs and geek memes, most of them asinine, forgettable, amateurish, cat-related and unrepeatable. Sure, that kid in the car who was high on dental anaesthetic was a riot, but would anyone tune in to see him get stoned again? Making steady money off YouTube videos means somehow creating viral video after viral video, which is like trying to generate regular electricity on the expectation of multiple lighting bolts striking the same rod. And yet, it is done.

Google executive Jeremy Butteriss, who directs the YouTube Partner Program in Canada, assures me that “there is a recipe for creating a viral video.” He goes on to lay down a three-point strategy. First, aspiring stars must borrow some fame. Nothing launches a YouTuber better than an endorsement or cameo appearance from a celebrity. (Many people break through by simply covering or remixing a famous piece of pop culture. This can get views, but it won’t make m0ney, because ad revenue generated from cover songs goes to the copyright holder.) Butteriss’s second step is to “tent-pole” videos to hot topics. Partners’ content must always be topical, forever related to news events or pop culture. YouTube is the Internet’s second-biggest search engine (its parent company, Google, being the first). So when people search for a trending topic, You­Tubers want their clips to come up in the results. That means a lot of songs and skits about elections and Kardashians. Finally, Butteriss tells me, a professional YouTuber must interact with the audience. They must chat with their fans, they must take on their haters. A Hollywood star’s image relies on being unreachable and inaccessible, but Internet celebrities are expected to have a common touch.

Talent, you may have noticed, is not an ingredient in Butteriss’s recipe. It’s true: none of the GTA’s highest-earning YouTube partners could be described as extraordinarily gifted musicians, dancers or comics. Yet most of them are capable at two out of three of the above. Additionally, they all have video production skills, pop culture acumen, tech savvy and a touch of charisma. They are whatever they need to be in order to get views, and that which gets views is forever changing. The extended list of money­making Toronto YouTubers includes instructional hairstylists, Caucasian aficionados of Korean pop who are big in Japan, and a “Machinima” creator who turns video game footage into short narrative films. Internet fame can seem unpredictable, idiosyncratic and just plain weird. But really, it’s nothing new.

All of the randomness hearkens back to a bygone era of novelty entertainment. The YouTubers are vaudeville variety acts, digital buskers performing for spare change on the busiest corner of the Internet, where millions of pennies rapidly add up to thousands of dollars. To get noticed, they must be loud and tacky. Nobody would confuse what they do with art. Like comic books and music videos in their early days, the form they are pioneering is brazenly commercial, completely unpretentious and beneath any serious cultural consideration. It’s all terribly exciting.


Contiki using YouTube celebrities to make holidays to go viral

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


It was in the middle of a tour in South America last November that Contiki’s global marketing director first realised the celebrity power of YouTube stars.

For the first time ever the travel company had invited two YouTube celebrities, Corey Vidal and Nadine Sykora, to experience one of their tours — something previously only offered to journalists and travel writers.

“You don’t realise until you get involved in the community how many passionate fans there are,” says Alexis Sitaropoulos.

“They’re not TV stars or Hollywood stars but they have the same sort of passionate following.”

When Mr Sitaropoulos saw Mr Vidal, a 25-year-old Canadian, talking to his South American fans on Twitter he quickly realised how large his fan base was.

Now just one year later Contiki is taking YouTube celebrities seriously — launching a new marketing initiative called “The RoadTrip” that will see 13 of the world’s most famous “YouTubers” go on a 10-day journey across Europe, starting on October 5.

The stars — Corey Vidal, Charles and Alli Trippy, Charlie McDonnell, Kate Elliott, Jesse & Jeana, Nadine Sykora, Jack Douglass, Jimmy Wong, Meghan Camarena, Michael Aranda and Bryarly Bishop — will produce YouTube videos as they take in the sights tourist-style in Germany, Austria, Italy, Paris and London.

“We’re not asking them to produce specific content or giving them ground rules, we want to keep it real and organic — we don’t want to turn it into some slick, produced marketing video, that’s not what their audience want,” Mr Sitaropoulos said.

The celebrities will also compete to make videos as part of challenges set throughout the tour and participate in fan meet-and-greet sessions — Contiki is using a Canadian production company ApprenticeA to make its own behind-the-scenes videos to document their antics.

Asked what the fan gatherings will be like, Mr Sitaropoulos admits: “We’re not quite sure what to expect.”

“There are a handful of YouTube events in the US, like Videocon, but there’s nothing like that anywhere else in the world.

"We really wanted to get a lot of these guys who are big stars out so they can meet their audiences worldwide — we want to build something with longevity, do this year-on-year.”

YouTube is an ‘untapped’ market

According to Mr Sitrapoulos, YouTube — which first launched as a video content sharing website in 2005 — is still “surprisingly” underutilised by marketers.

“Every time they post a video they get two, three, four million [views]— those are television numbers but with nowhere near the same level of commerialisation. It’s a really untapped market.

"There are no travel companies and not a huge lot of other companies that are very deeply involved [in YouTube],” he said.

Publicis Mojo social media manager Carl Burgmann agrees, saying companies are only just starting to turn to YouTube “influencers” for marketing and promotion.

“It’s underutilised because there is a lower understanding and knowledge from marketers about how to take advantage of the different opportunities,” Mr Burgmann says.

“Brands will throw out a two minute or three minute video but there’s no continuous story being told.”

Mr Burgmann said YouTube celebrities had niche audiences that enabled marketers to target the specific group they wanted.

"These celebrity bloggers have quite a lot of influence over their followers.

"And because it’s coming from an independent voice that they trust, they wouldn’t be expecting this to be a marketing message.”

But Mr Sitrapoulos said Contiki had to be careful in how it tried to tap into the YouTube audience.

“It can’t just be viewed as commercial,” he said.

“The guys are very protective of their integrity — they have audiences that buy into them because they are real and genuine.”

NewsTalk 610 CKTB

The Larry Fedoruk Show: How To Make It On YouTube-Interview

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Larry Fedoruk talks with Corey Vidal of Niagara Falls on his YouTube successes.


How an Ontario YouTube Fan Turned His Passion Into A Career

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I grew up in a family with ten kids and one TV. We couldn’t have imagined the entertainment choices young people have today, thanks to the Internet. Now, on any given night, there are movies-on-demand, online rentals in full HD, and a wide array of videos on YouTube. But the Internet has also meant more choices when it comes to a career.

Corey Vidal from Burlington, Ontario has used his talents to create a job for himself, and about 18 others. They spend their days producing original content for Corey’s popular YouTube channel, ApprenticeA Productions. You may know him from his first viral success, “Star Wars A Cappella.” Since that 2008 video, Lucasfilm, Intel, Skittles, Pepsi and Coke have all hired Corey and ApprenticeA’s services.

Corey’s business is part of our successful film, TV and digital media production sector. Did you know, since 2003, employment in Ontario’s entertainment and creative industries has grown faster than employment in the broader economy? The sector employed approximately 30,000 Ontarians last year.

Watch more of Corey’s story below. With Ontario college and university attainment rates among the highest anywhere, more young people than ever can turn their passion into a career.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not

Download The Weird

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Corey Vidal appears in the 2012 edition of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not entitled, “Download The Weird” by Geoff Tibballs.

Financial Post

How to get your YouTube video to go viral

Monday, September 10, 2012


Viral videos can make dreams come true: Witness Justin Bieber’s meteoric rise to super stardom from Stratford, Ont. But it’s not just performers who are using YouTube to create careers. Increasingly, entrepreneurs are launching successful businesses because of well-timed, well-designed videos that are helping them gain followers, subscribers and ultimately customers.

Corey Vidal of Niagara Falls, Ont., has been creating content for YouTube since 2007. He started accidentally, in his parent’s basement, where he filmed himself dancing. This led to a series of instructional dance videos that gained huge traction.

He hit it big with an a cappella parody of the Star Wars theme song and has gone on to use his YouTube appeal to launch ApprenticeA Productions, a business with a staff of 15, which now has about 206,000 subscribers and more than 63 million video views.

Mr. Vidal describes himself as a full-time YouTube video maker and Jedi Knight.

But YouTube isn’t just for video makers, either. It can be a powerful branding tool.

YouTube is the second largest search engine. Its videos are amassing audiences in the hundreds of millions and changing the face of marketing and brand-building in the process.

“Almost one billion people visit YouTube each month,” says Andres Palmiter, the company’s New York-based audience development strategist. “Everyone is on YouTube.”

He notes he is seeing more entrepreneurs creating YouTube channels as part of their social media strategy to showcase products and services. Think how-to videos, for example. “It’s a cost-effective marketing tool.”

Of course, going viral is always the goal — the question is how?

Having wrapped up his first season as an angel investor on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, David Chilton says where many pitchers fall short is with their marketing strategy. “When we asked about how they were going to raise awareness, 20 times we must have heard, we’re going to get it to go viral. That’s not much of a plan.”

It’s a reality not lost on the powers that be at YouTube. This year the social media giant launched the Canadian partner program, which allows YouTube content creators to monetize viral videos with advertising. It followed this up by hosting a YouTube Partner workshop in Toronto where Mr. Palmiter shared best practices on how to attract eyeballs to content with the prime marketing goal of building loyalty.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

Give your audience what they want Create content that is concise, relevant and compelling for your target audience. The first 15 seconds are critical. You want people to play and stay. You also want them to subscribe and come back. The tone, feel and look should be consistent. Think of your content as programming. Consider building a series and set a schedule to ensure you are uploading fresh content regularly.

Don’t oversell Branding should be minimal. Or, make the branding the compelling content, in which case the focus should be on entertaining the viewer.

Create a rapport with viewers Talk to them, ask a question. You want to hook them early and at the same time create a personality they want to connect to.

“Make your audience a core part of your content,” Mr. Palmiter says. “Involve them. Give them a call to action. And thank them. Acknowledge your subscribers.” “The first 1,000 subscribers are the hardest,” Mr. Vidal says. “You have to get them to care.”

Take a page from Discovery Channel Create an event and people will come. Think Shark Week. Tent-pole programming can lead to advertising campaigns and build a buzz. Promo it, talk about it, tie it to what’s trending. It’s another way to stay fresh and keep your audience coming back.

Collaborate and crosspromote This takes time and is about building relationships but it can help drive people to your channel. Pair up with channels that share an audience match. Start the conversation, give each other “shout outs” and cross-promote content across channels. You never know who’s watching.

Befriend bloggers They are always looking for content and can help drive traffic to your channel. Create a comprehensive blog roll and reach out. Business is all about relationship building and these relationships can help get you noticed. Track where your content is being embedded. What gets measured gets managed.

For more detailed information, go to YouTube Playbook.

For Mr. Vidal, success on YouTube has been nothing short of life changing. He went from being homeless in 2008 to YouTube star (a status he maintains), a title that directly led to his working with Lucasfilm, which sponsors his channels.

“While no video I’ve created since the Star Wars parody has done as well, I have been able to build a business doing what I love.”

CityNews Toronto

St. Catharines man turns viral videos into 6-figure salary

Sunday, September 02, 2012


CityNews reporter Peter Kim explains how the once-homeless 25 year-old became an internet sensation.

Business 2 Community

How To Become A YouTube Superstar

Sunday, August 19, 2012


At Third Tuesday in late June, I was standing in front of my social media friend Eric Buchegger and (of course) looking at Twitter on my phone when I saw him tweet out something about a YouTube workshop the next night. I turned around, pointed to the tweet and asked him about it when he mentioned that our mutual friend in social media, Roberto Faria was involved with organizing it. A few tweets the next day and thanks to Roberto I was on my way to OCAD University to attend this invite-only workshop, presentation and networking cocktails. I didn’t know at the time, that the event was being organized as part of a cross-Canada tour through Achilles Media…


YouTube Workshop Provides a Rare Glimpse at a Human Googler

Thursday, June 28, 2012


For a company that vowed one year ago to reinvent the wheel of social networkingGoogle has generally remained an abstract force to even the most loyal users, who cooled on the idea of using G+ to share with their circles — even if enhancements suggest that the courtship is still in progress.

So, it was a surprise to learn of a YouTube Workshop being held in Toronto on Tuesday at OCAD — just one stop on a cross-Canada tour — with the promise of insights on how to go viral, reach the right audience and profit from the creation of original online videos. Could this be the beginning of more outreach in the city where its presence — at least outside of advertising sales — has been a long-distance shadow cast from Silicon Valley?

“I don’t have all the answers,” cautioned audience development strategist Andres Palmiter — who is neither a YouTube creator nor engineer but an erstwhile employee of producer Next New Networks, which Google bought last year. “I’m just giving you the ingredients and you make the recipe yourself.”

The examples of potential inspiration are not hard to find, including from within Canada. Epic Meal Time was proudly cited as among the stories of recent fame and fortune by figuring out how to feed subscribers what they wanted to watch. “Shit Girls Say” was noted as the kind of phenomenon that spawned any number of niche knock-offs and a book deal and overall fortune-booster for the two guys behind it.

“If you don’t have that first great idea,” said Palmiter, “being the second person to the party is still pretty good.”

The presentation of details that help a video go viral would be illuminating to any broadcast executive — even if the event was specifically geared to a crowd without corporate media ties. For example, having the right kind of thumbnail showing up in the sidebar can be more important than the title or content.

And despite all the anecdotes about people who now make an independent living from a YouTube channel there is a repeated insinuation that success if not validated without the approval of one of the legacy Hollywood players.

Certainly, corporate recognition helped vault Corey Vidal from being homeless in Hamilton four years ago after he did a one-man multi-part lip-synch to an a cappella Star Wars tribute songon a webcam. Vidal had previously dabbled in a series of How to Dance videos, in response to serendipitous attention for showing off his own footwork, although it was Lucasfilm’s recognition of a product endorsement that helped him reach 15 million views, a red carpet appearance and a TV commercial in Italy that paid an easy $50,000.

The evangelism espoused by Vidal comes off as refreshingly uncynical, as he has now transcended all the trappings of Canadian media to reach a supportive audience via YouTube, while admitting that he still has no idea of what kind of concept will click: “Yes, you can throw money at something,” he said, “but to this day the most popular video I made I made when I was homeless.”

Perhaps he is just being humble, though. Palmiter sloughed off a question about demographics by saying that the platform reaches everyone. While this might be technically true, animated personalities in their 20s who can speak to the teenage demographic remains the closest thing to a viewership slam dunk, as reflected in the type of YouTubers that have broken through. Better still if it is the kind of young guy that younger girls want to watch. (No wonder a former MuchMusicVJ, Tim Deegan, is now apparently part of Vidal’s 15-person crew — which says something about the current Canadian industry pecking order.)

While not everything about YouTube could be covered in two hours, it provided a reminder of how many more details about YouTube remain elusive, whether it is for producers, consumers or those who regard themselves as a little bit of both. Companies based in Canada seem to be excluded from theoriginal channels being unveiled over the course of the year with financial backing from Google. And, while attendees were encouraged to sign up with the partner program, no detail was provided about what needed to be done to benefit from other proactive efforts designed to encourage mediamakers to quit their day jobs.

The cultural impact of these initiatives was discussed during the first half of the year over the course of our first 10 sessions ofYouTube School at the Academy of the Impossible. Many of the ways in which YouTube has evolved, even just for the sake of curating videos uploaded by other people, remain strangely elusive.

Still, it will be interesting to see if Google is interested in expanding these outreach efforts, rather than assuming that the dominance of its platform absolves it from being nurtured. YouTube will no doubt keep supplying material to talk about. Yet this workshop suggested that the discussion benefits from a personal catalyst, too.


10 Canadian viral sensations

Thursday, June 21, 2012


1. Star Wars Kid

In 2002, Ghyslain Raza of Trois-Rivières, Que., made Internet history by leaping around with a makeshift light saber. He needed psychiatric care for all the subsequent bullying, and his parents sued the families of the classmates who leaked the video. It’s been viewed an estimated one billion times.

2. Walk off the Earth

The indie band from Burlington, Ont., who covered Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know—with all five band members playing one guitar—earned a record deal, and inspired a parody song during the Vancouver Canucks brief 2012 playoff run. YouTube views: 113 million.

3. Ultimate Dog Tease

Halifax comedian Andrew Grantham gave voice to a German shepherd being teased with meat, and it became Canada’s second-most-watched YouTube video of 2011 (Rebecca Black’s Friday was No. 1). YouTube views: 108 million.

4. Lady Gaga Girl

With just a piano and her powerful voice, 10-year-old Maria Aragon recorded herself singing Lady Gaga’s Born this Way last year and got a flood of online attention, including from Gaga herself. A chain of Philippine malls later hired Aragon as their holiday season spokesperson. YouTube views: 51 million.

5. Emerson Baby

Under the title “Emerson—Mommy’s nose is scary!” five-month-old Baby Emerson from London, Ont., is both endlessly terrified and delighted by the sound of his mother blowing her nose. YouTube views: 36 million.

6. S–t Girls Say

When Toronto-based artists Kyle Humphrey and Graydon Sheppard spliced together stereotypical girl-talk banalities, it was the meme that launched a thousand social analyses—and a book deal with Harlequin. YouTube views: 29 million.

7. Corey Vidal

In 2008, Corey Vidal made a video of himself singing a four-part harmony for Star Wars (John Williams is the Man), a compilation of Star Wars-inspired lyrics sung to the composer’s most famous film scores. YouTube views: 17 million.

8. United Breaks Guitars

After a flight aboard United Airways in 2008, Dave Carroll of the band Sons of Maxwell discovered his $3,500 guitar had been broken. When the airline refused compensation, he wrote a song about his ordeal that drew worldwide attention and a book deal. YouTube views: 12 million.

9. Hélène Campbell

When 21-year-old Campbell found out she was ill, she created @alungstory while awaiting a double lung transplant, garnering thousands of followers, including Justin Bieber and a surprise video call from Ellen DeGeneres. She received her transplant in April.

10. Arrested Drunk Guy

In November 2011, Robert Wilkinson of Edson, Alta., was arrested by RCMP for allegedly driving drunk. Proclaiming himself sober from the back seat of a squad car, he launched into a passionate, and remarkably accurate, a cappella rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody—all six minutes of it. YouTube views: 8 million.

Social Wisdom

#NXNEi 2012 – Recap of “How to win at YouTube”

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Today’s session on “How to win on YouTube” at #NXNEi 2012, was moderated by entrepreneurial @GuyGal -  one of the classiest video know-it-alls, with a kicking panel including @CoreyVidal – the guy that Guy describes as a video know-it-all, @epicmealtime‘s @Harleyplays [who can cook up a mean turkducken filled with bacon as sampled from 2011 1MM subscriber party] [I’m the invitee that brought the TUMs] and @AlexIkonn – who has designed a life of 4 hr work weeks with

Below are my really, really quick highlights:

  • Chance – I think this was Harley who recognized that part of his success was chance.
  • Get over not liking twitter. All the social media platforms are connected and help you share your content. @harleyplays #nxnei #ljp #youtube *
  • “It’s your job as a creator to create what’s next.” @coreyvidal at the youtube @nxnei panel #ljp *
  • @nxnefest:  “Figure out who you are as a person and how you want to be portrayed.” -@coreyvidal #nxnei #ljp #youtube
  • @nxnefest: Get over not liking twitter. All the social media platforms are connected and help you share your content. @harleyplays #nxnei #ljp #youtube
  • @sarahbalta:  Do what’s authentic to your brand. “There is nothing epic about a mini.” Response from @HarleyPlays when asked to sponsor Mini Cooper #NXNEi  [this authencity and consistency message was also discussed by @alexikonn]

Also noted:

  • this idea that everything is connected and that the use of other social networks aids the distribution of videos. e.g.  @epicmealtime used their personal networks to vote up their digg, buzzfeed and other submissions.
  • that consistency is key in the delivery & development of a youtube channel.  E.g. epicmealtime is out every Tuesday – reliably.
  • that critical to the success of a channel is maintaining content focus that suits the audience you’ve built.
  • that the first video posts done by those who have had tremendous success – were sticklers for the details – the title, the description, tags chosen, etc.

Post session, I asked a panelist, @alexikonn of fame,
about the value of YouTube comments.  I often find the commentary on YouTube rather garbage-y given the often anonymous nature of users.  He said – you have to direct a question to the audience at the tail end of the video.  With no direction, the commentary will be useless but once directed, you will have valuable comments.  Great pointer there.  (the same can be said for adding context sensitive URLs ) (a.k.a. clickable URL links).  This made me think of all the brands that slap up a 30s spot on YouTube with absolutely no catering to the channel experience..

A few more thoughts on YouTube success ideas:
- if you use music, give attribution to the artist.  You will see this well done by fan made movie stories.

*Note:  its not always clear who the tweet originator is by the tool I am using.  apologies.

The Huffington Post

'Star Wars' Day: May The Fourth Be With You; Celebrate Holiday With 14 'Star Wars' Videos

Friday, May 04, 2012


“Star Wars” Day is here.

For the uninitiated, “Star Wars” Day – an unofficial and fan-created “holiday” – occurs every year on May 4, because “Star Wars” fans love their puns: “May the Fourth be with you.” (Get it? Instead of “May the Force be with you.”)

“Star Wars” Day isn’t sanctioned by Lucasfilm (though the company is all for it) or the U.S. government, but that doesn’t stop millions of “Star Wars” fans from celebrating the holiday by – well, by at least remembering its existence and perhaps sending an earnest e-mail to their “Star Wars” buddy about why the original trilogy is so great. (Just me?)

Ironically, there actually is a “Star Wars” Day on the official record: the Los Angeles City Council declared May 25 to be “Star Wars” Day because that was the day “Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope” was released in 1977. The George Lucas classic has its 35th anniversary later this month.

So! To enjoy “Star Wars” Day, you have a few options: you can watch “Star Wars” (just the O.G. trilogy; we’re not monsters); you can make a few bad “Star Wars” jokes at work (“These are not the memos you’re looking for…”); you can check out Casey Pugh’s “Star Wars” Uncut (highly recommended), a fan crowdsourced recreation of “Star Wars”; or, you can watch 14 funny “Star Wars” videos below.

Insert pithy “Star Wars” reference here and happy viewing! OK, and fine: May the Force be with you.

Toronto Standard

Making Money On YouTube

Thursday, May 03, 2012


I sit cross-legged on a dark-coloured couch in a well-lit living room in Burlington, Ontario. Burlington is your average suburban town, with classic suburban accoutrements: large plazas are filled with Boston Pizzas, First Choice Hair Cutters, Curves Gyms. That’s it, really. If someone were trying to divulge my momentary setting at first glance, they would assume I was in the living room of a pack of average nerds in their early-twenties: Star Wars and Google paraphernalia lines the walls; a group of six or so young people play Rock Band raucously in front of me; dirty plates with scraps of chicken nuggets and ketchup remnants sit, forgotten, upon the coffee table.

But then there are clues that point towards the atypical. Someone is filming the Rock Band action on an expensive-looking HD camera, and from my perch on the couch I can see a mounted flatscreen in the kitchen that flashes as Twitter interactions are constantly refreshed. I’m in a YouTube house, a house comprising of 17 or so talented, coming-and-going individuals who specialize in everything from graphic design to SEO to music, dedicated to the production of videos that they graciously share with their 200,000+ subscribers on their YouTube channel,ApprenticeA. They’re a production team who’ve let a bit of Big Brother-style voyeurism into their lives; ApprenticeA’s fans not only like the original videos they make (such as Zelda: The Musical), but their daily vlogs, an edited compilation of, well, things they did that day, offers a glimpse into the lives of a group of young and eager, but utterly normal, if slightly unusually charming, people. 

ApprenticeA was spearheaded almost two years ago by Corey Vidal, a tall, boyishly handsome young Star Wars nerd with a vivacious personality and infectious enthusiasm. Vidal is the face of his company–if you Google his name, “corey vidal girlfriend” comes up as the first hit (but maybe that’s only on my crush-y computer). Vidal’s most popular video, the one that inspired his YouTube mindedness, he posted in late-October, 2008, and is a lip-synced four-part a cappella Star Wars medley song. It has well-over 16.5 million views. For those with no concept of YouTube popularity, M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” video (which was posted in June, 2009) has just over 25 million views, while Justin Bieber’s “U Smile” video has over 62 million.

So why all this hulaballoo about some guy and his friends who live in a house in Burlington and tape their lives to put out as daily vlogs? Vidal himself even said to me when I suggested that their lives were surprisingly insular-seeming, despite immense YouTube popularity that they were kind of like a “cult.” But it seems that by allowing the open-ended YouTube community a look into his and his friends lives, he is using a tactic that reaches an audience whose lives are comprised much more fully of time spent on the internet: the dreaded 13-18 year old demographic. The demographic that attempts to explain vlogging to their parents and are met with blank stares. The demographic who, armed with unlimited empirical resources, consume to find their individuality, and find community in virtual spaces

Vidal and co.’s story is not uncommon. These invisible odysseys of success exist in abundance in the hour of video that is uploaded to YouTube every second. Toronto's GregoryGORGEOUS is another good example of this. Offering his fans one of YouTube’s most popular video types, beauty and fashion advice, he, realizing the importance of voyeurism to the interests of young fans, also produced a YouTube-based reality show called The Avenue about his move from a Toronto suburb to Yorkville. When I spoke to him on the phone from New York, he was refreshingly modest, and well-mannered, a trans kid with a good head on his shoulders. But does he live off of his YouTube fame? “I do quite well,” he responded, meekly. His manager interjects when I ask him the question later: “Gregory makes more than his Dad.” I am baffled. So if I start regularly uploading videos of myself doing things that I’m naturally inclined towards, whether makeup or Star Wars, will I become famous?

The future only will tell. YouTube is a viable business endeavour, it seems, monetizing more than 3 billion video views per week, with 98 of AdAge’s Top 100 advertisers having connected with the service for advertising opportunities. Having been purchased by Google in 2006 (for $1.65 billion, no less), they’re clearly in good hands, with no real threats from other services (like Vimeo), and vosiferous support from one of the biggest tech companies ever created. There are 800 million unique visitors per month on the site, and with the more popular channels, YouTube offers partnership opportunities. The top 500 on YouTube earn over $100,000 per year. 

In the end, it seems that if you’re young and willing to be a smart investor and open your world up a bit with a camera, good things can happen.  

The Star

You ought to be in videos

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Corey Vidal is watched by millions, yet has never been broadcast on television. He is a star, yet has no connection to the medium that, until now, has been the star vehicle of choice.

Welcome to the post-television world of YouTube, where ratings are measured in clicks rather than in hours spent reclining with TV remote in hand.

Owned by Internet powerhouse Google since 2006, YouTube has become its own social media-based star ladder – a news, entertainment and education ecosystem sustained by corporate advertising and hundreds of millions of daily viewers.

Every day, people around the world watch 3 billion videos on YouTube, where 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute.

According to YouTube spokesperson Aaron Brindle, “More video is uploaded to YouTube in 60 days than the three major U.S. networks created in 60 years.”

And patriots need not worry. Operating completely outside the jurisdiction of the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission, Canadians are equal, if not prominent, contributors to this global phenomenon.

“I don’t think anybody could imagine what it would become,” says Vidal, a charismatic, 25-year-old Oakville resident whose YouTube channel is called ApprenticeA.

He introduced himself to YouTube as a hip hop choreographer in 2006, with a series of homemade videos on how to dance like Michael Jackson and the stars of So You Think You Can Dance.

Something about him clicked with web surfers as his amateur videos began to get passed around by friends.

Five years later, Vidal is one of the pillars of YouTube’s growing professional talent pool. Currently he is No. 2 among YouTube’s top “gurus,” boasting 222,716 subscribers for his channel.

He now owns his own film production company, boasting 10 full-time employees.

Growing up in suburban Toronto, Vidal dreamed of becoming a filmmaker. Through YouTube, he realized his dream, entirely outside a traditional career path.

“Ten years ago, I’d be at CityTV, Global or MuchMusic, working my way up the chain and hoping somebody would notice,” says Vidal. He points out that he has reached out to a global audience without having to head to Hollywood or New York City.

“The brain drain doesn’t need to happen with YouTube,” Vidal explains. “The Internet is interested in Canada, in fact it helps if we intentionally make it part of the content. It makes us more interesting to watch.”

Vidal credits support from Google for giving him a big boost.

YouTube, seeing that Vidal’s videos were gaining a wide audience, added the young artist to its “partner” program four years ago, providing him a share of ad revenues from his YouTube clips.

“In December 2007, I made $3,” Vidal recalls. “By January, it was $15 or $20.”

At the end of 2008, he recorded himself singing four-part harmony in a video titled “Star Wars A Cappella,” that went viral.

It took him four hours to make and post the video online.

To date, it has garnered nearly 15.7 million views. That could be more exposure than any Canadian TV programming has received, apart from Paul Henderson’s infamous winning goal in the 1972 Canada-USSR hockey showdown.

“It was getting comments faster than anyone could possibly read,” says Vidal of his Star Wars escapade.

“It was like winning the lottery,” he remembers. “My phone was ringing off the hook the next day – MTV, Microsoft …” he trails off.

Vidal quit his job making corporate and wedding videos that week, and used his YouTube revenue to start his own production company. (He does not share what his current income from YouTube is.)

Another Canadian making his way up the YouTube star ladder is Edmontonian Jay del Corro, who makes cooking videos as Mr. Jingjong, or The Aimless Cook.

Viewership results released by earlier this month showed how-to videos produced for the massive eHow franchise drew more sustained traffic than social media darlings Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.

YouTube is keen to capitalize on this interest, and has been investing in developing more DIY video talent.

Google has invited del Corro, and a select group of fellow up-and-comers to participate in Next Chef, a YouTube boot camp that coaches videography skills as well as the best way to promote oneself online.

Vidal is a graduate of an earlier wave of Google-organized training programs.

Also like Vidal, del Corro has no interest in old-school media.

“I don’t want to go on to movies or TV or the Food Network,” says del Corro. “I’m making more money on YouTube, and I get way more creative control.”

He also likes that YouTube is far more interactive.

“What makes us unique is that it’s an engaging experience,” says del Corro. “I can’t watch a TV show and then ask Jamie Oliver what ingredient he just used.”

While del Corro perfects the production and business sides of his art, Vidal is one step ahead, pushing the video experience itself forward.

He promises his subscribers a new video every Monday, and these shorts are as slick as anything to be found on TV or in movie theatres.

It helps that Vidal has the corporate backing to make it happen.

“The Editor,” a self-referential piece starring two kittens and a Lamborghini sports car, was sponsored by Intel. The Toshiba laptop Vidal holds in his hands throughout the story is a product placement.

“It was a three-day shoot and everybody got paid,” says Vidal.

“It evens the playing field,” says Vidal of YouTube’s instant, global reach. “Me and George Lucas, we’re operating on the same level on the Internet.”

In reality, though, Lucas and Vidal are not competing on the same playing field.

“The internet is a lifestyle,” the Oakville man says. “It’s a different way of communicating.”

Vidal explains how he always has three or four computers within arm’s reach, responding to individual emails, tweets and Facebook updates, among a long list of full-time social media connections.

“It may sound ridiculous, but there are thousands of people who know what we’re up to,” says Vidal.

For him, the biggest difference between YouTube and old-school TV and film is that the online video service is “showing people who are exactly like myself.”

A steady stream of social media conversations about those videos builds and reinforces the bonds of virtual friendship.

Unlike earlier generations of film-struck kids with big dreams, Vidal has no interest in Hollywood.

“It’s show business, not show art,” he declares. “It’s all about money, but YouTube doesn’t feel like that. It’s about community.”

YouTube tries for teacher’s pet

YouTube has announced a new venture called YouTube for Schools.

Developers spent time working with teachers as well as 600 public-minded organizations, including TED, in the United States, to curate more than 400 age- and grade-specific playlists that can be used in classroom and homework instruction.

“We’ve been hearing from teachers that they want to use the vast array of educational videos on YouTube in their classrooms, but are concerned that students will be distracted by the latest music video or cute cat, or a video that wasn’t appropriate for students,” writs Angela Lin, head of YouTube EDU on the company’s blog.

Schools can register to use the content on YouTube fore Schools, and teachers can create custom playlists for their students.

John Terauds

Wired Magazine

The YouTube Laugh Factory: A Studio System for Viral Video

Friday, December 16, 2011


Unless you were living off the grid in the summer of 2007, you likely marveled for a moment or two at the unadulterated weirdness that is Tay Zonday. Back then, he was just Adam Bahner, a graduate student in American studies at the University of Minnesota. But a music video he had uploaded to YouTube months before suddenly experienced a burst of renown. His “Chocolate Rain” quickly racked up 4 million views. In short order, John Mayer covered the song and there was a Darth Vader version, a parody called “Vanilla Snow,” and a profusion of other send-ups. Soon he was invited onto Jimmy Kimmel(twice) and featured on Opie & Anthony,right after a segment about whale sperm. “I inadvertently became an icon of viral video success,” Zonday says.

Face-to-face, he comes across a bit like a facsimile of a person, as if a robot or alien has not quite nailed its impersonation of a human being—the eyes excessively round and unblinking, the neck and shoulders too stiff, a grin as broad as the Cheshire cat’s. And then there’s the impossible voice, the Paul Robeson bass emerging from the Emmanuel Lewis face, which Zonday uses to say things like: “Mutatis mutandis, look at Nielsen ratings, a lot of these top YouTubers are getting results that are numerically higher than television and movies.” He’s well aware of his oddities, what he calls his “distinct brand.” But where Hollywood is “eugenic” in its relentless pursuit of a specific type or look, Zonday says, YouTube allows unique artists to find their audience.

Until now, the trajectory of viral stardom has generally involved a spike of fame followed by a plunge into near-total anonymity. And from one perspective, Zonday fits that pattern: You haven’t seen him onKimmel lately, after all. But under the radar, he has figured out how to make his semi-celebrity pay, earning more money each successive year from the scores of videos he continues to post on YouTube. Like many of the other 20,000 content creators who have been invited to join the site’s Partner Program, he has essentially become a full-time YouTuber, a Google company man. Although partners are contractually prohibited from revealing how much they earn from the ads running on their YouTube channels, independent estimates put Zonday’s take at between $24,000 and $72,000 a year, based on a Google ad rate of $1 to $3 per thousand views (his videos are seen roughly 2 million times a month). And beyond that, Zonday says, he is able to match what he receives from Google by promoting products in his videos and by uploading advertisements himself, a capability enabled in 2009. Without anyone noticing, so-called “Internet fame” has started adding up to real money.

Perhaps inevitably, the nucleus of YouTube fame-seekers has migrated to Los Angeles. Hundreds of top-tier partners have left high-speed Internet connections in hometowns everywhere and settled here, on the periphery of the traditional entertainment industry. But for these viral stars, many of whom already pull in six figures a year from their channels, this move isn’t about getting their faces seen by studio heads or their voices heard by A&R reps. Instead, they come to work with one another. They room together, appear in one another’s videos, lend each other equipment and skills: camera work for special effects, say, or video editing for a song. Several have pooled resources to create mini networks, and an ancillary advertising business has materialized whereby YouTube luminaries are matched with companies scrambling to reach a young audience and build a presence online.

Zonday himself now lives in the Hollywood Hills, in a 700-square-foot bungalow that’s nearly empty but for the converted bedroom crammed with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of electric keyboards, computers, video cameras, and sound recording equipment. (With the higher-end gear, he no longer has to “move away from the mic to breathe in.”) He collaborates as much as possible with neighboring YouTubers, appearing in a Katy Perry parody with Shane Dawson—a 23-year-old whose comedy channel has 2.9 million subscribers—in an ensemble episode of JoeNationTV’s “YouTube Assassin.” Because he can’t write and record songs fast enough, Zonday has created a second channel on YouTube for casual videoblogging. It started awkwardly, with some pontificating about public restrooms and farting barbers, but now he’s settled into a steadier rhythm, taking viewer requests to put his basso profondo to use reading Miley Cyrus tweets or the ingredients on a box of Corn Flakes.

Most people move to Hollywood with the hope of making it big, but Zonday is helping show the way to something strange and new: making it small. He says he does recognize that (borrowing a line from Chris Rock) “you aren’t really famous until someone’s mama knows who you are.” But a narrow, lucrative fame is the path that has opened up for him and for the thousands of others like him. After going viral, they’ve figured out how—against all expectation—to stay viral.

The most dramatic place to witness this digital fame machine in action is in Culver City, a mile from the ocean, at the offices of Maker Studios. An independent media company led by several prominent YouTubers, Maker oversees a large stable of partner channels. Starting out two and a half years ago with a handful of content creators and three or four people working production, the studio has since swelled to more than 200 partners and a full-time support staff of 140, with plans to ramp up to 1,000 partners in the next few months. Their offices sprawl into several buildings, as well as to two nearby rented apartments where staff and talent live and work. Maker is on the lookout for 50,000 square feet elsewhere—understandably so, since it’s hard to move about the current space without having to sidestep someone lugging equipment or rushing to a set.

Maker’s business model is simple. It takes a cut of the partners’ share of ad revenue; in exchange, it provides emerging talents with directors, editors, extras, costumes, technical support, studio space, equipment, and help with websites and brand deals. Maker’s founders see this model as comparable to United Artists, the revolutionary studio formed in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and other budding stars who wanted to control their work and its distribution. And visiting the Maker offices, you feel the same sort of anarchic energy that defined Hollywood during that wild, pre-corporate era. In what was once a piano store, executive producer Nikki Fancy, an intern just two years ago, describes the “pod” of nine channels and eight to 10 weekly videos she oversees. One building over, a few dozen people stare into computers, working on postproduction and web management. A woman there posts celebrity news items to the website of Ray William Johnson, Maker’s and YouTube’s biggest star—his videos have been viewed 1.3 billion times and counting. While I interview Maker’s three founders in a makeshift conference room, we overhear repeated cries of “Fuck! Fuck!” through the thin walls. The profaner, I find in the studio next door, is a pasty-skinned man in green tights brandishing a sword and shield. He is portraying a Legend of Zelda character, shooting a video for one of Maker’s gaming channels. The director asks for another take, and the actor raises his sword in readiness.

One of the founders, Lisa Donovan—LisaNova on her channel—is also one of the few early YouTubers to have crossed over (briefly) into traditional entertainment, joining MADtv as a featured player in 2007. After her YouTube experiences, though, she found the process maddeningly inefficient: 30 people would work over a single sketch, with a producer approving every small change. So she left the offline talent mill and launched Maker with her brother, Ben, who had been helping to write her skits, and her boyfriend, Danny Zappin, a director and producer.

YouTube is the anti-Hollywood, the anti-TV, Zappin declares, because there are no decisions by committee, no casting calls, no gatekeepers to pass just to get started. Distribution is global, instantaneous, and free, and shows can’t be canceled. He emphasizes that it isn’t just partners benefiting from the new entertainment industry that Maker is helping to build. YouTube is bringing about a creative renaissance that is also cultivating talented directors and editors and techs who are struggling to find work in Los Angeles.

Will all of these people get rich on YouTube? Not a chance. But unlike previous waves of aspirants hitting LA’s shores, Zappin insists, they aren’t wasting their time waiting tables or watching someone’s kids. They’re working on their craft, doing what they love, and making some decent money in the bargain. In an economy without much opportunity, they’re trying to join an uncharted and expanding demographic: the YouTube middle class.

As inviting as it sounds, a billion YouTube accounts still earn zilch. With an astounding 48 hours of video now uploaded to YouTube every single minute, and with real money at stake, the barrier to entry has risen significantly. The days of happy accidents like “Chocolate Rain” are largely over. To get noticed today, you need to understand the inner workings of this competitive market; that is, you need to know the YouTube rules. These can be broken down into five maxims, and all around greater LA you can find YouTube partners who are busily putting them into practice.

Rule 1:

Make a lot of content. A lot.

“By making a ton of videos, I plant a forest that I can harvest forever,” says Corey Vidal, a Toronto YouTuber who travels to Los Angeles every other month or so to work with his peers. Vidal established his YouTube following with a song about Star Wars set to John Williams’ instrumental score, and he points out that each of his more than 200 videos is seen thousands of times daily by the website’s global audience. Every YouTuber says it’s vital to post on a set schedule, and YouTube itself encourages creators to turn their viral videos into viral series, something episodic—a distinctly branded show with story lines, recurring characters, and a TV-like feel. Evidence shows that viewers of these series not only tune in more often but are also more likely to watch the high-paying skippable ads.

One of the most successfully prolific YouTubers is Shay Butler, who each week posts (as Shaycarl) a short action-adventure-fantasy video studded with hilariously low-budget special effects. On his second channel, he uploads a video a day, mostly by turning the camera on his life with his wife and four children—first as they lived in Idaho and now in LA. The Shaytards, as these videos are known, often run for 15 or 20 minutes—an eternity in YouTube time—and each is watched tens or hundreds of thousands of times, the ensuing comments often numbering 10,000 and more. At Maker, I sit down with Butler and KassemG, another prominent YouTube partner. A guileless and charming everyman, in the mold of a Kevin James, Butler wears mirrored sunglasses perched atop a backward baseball cap and sports a plunging beard that hangs down like a bib. Because of the intimacy of his videos, his fans are especially loyal, if not rabid.

“If my mom tells me on camera that I’m looking a little fat,” Butler says, “my fans will be like, ‘Shut up, bitch,’ in the comments. I mean, come on, guys. That’s my mom!”

“His mom is a huge bitch, though,” KassemG interjects.

Before he created the 16th-most-subscribed channel on YouTube, with 1.8 million fans, Kassem Gharaibeh was working at Best Buy in Thousand Oaks and struggling as a stand-up comic, performing at Chinese restaurants where the three customers were annoyed that someone was interrupting their meal. In the past couple of years, though, he has uploaded 350 videos. His “AsKassem” series has him riffing off of fans’ sexually sophomoric questions. In a recurring show called “Going Deep,” he interviews porn stars with the pomposity of James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio. Before the first episode, he reached out to a hundred porn actresses before one finally agreed to appear in a YouTube show. That video has received 4 million views. Now porn stars and their managers proposition him—Ron Jeremy did a recent episode. “They’re banging down our door,” Gharaibeh says, mugging into an imagined camera for an extra beat.

Rule 2:

Target a niche.

Before the 2010 launch of freddiew, a YouTube channel of live-action first-person-shooter videos that reached a million subscribers in the shortest time ever, Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch determined that they needed to identify an underserved niche. Wong and Laatsch run the channel together, and I meet them, along with Wong’s 24-year-old younger brother, Jimmy, at their warehouse workspace just east of downtown LA. When I arrive, three employees—guys who moved to Los Angeles to follow their own YouTube dreams—are riding a zip line from a second-floor landing down past a bank of computers and all the way across the room. They slip on black gloves and arm themselves with replica handguns and assault rifles, kneeling behind computer boxes as they take aim at enemy targets only they can see.

Wong and Laatsch love playing videogames, they tell me, and when they looked on YouTube they saw that videos of people acting out the gaming experience all had poorly produced special effects and badly choreographed stunts. They knew they could do better. Laatsch says, “We asked, are there are a lot of people on the Internet with tastes similar to ours?” The two often finish one another’s sentences, and Wong adds, “Yeah, male and nerdy.”

But before going after that niche, Laatsch spent two years studying every YouTube video that had found a substantial audience, watching hours of lonelygirl15, Smosh, Fred, AtheneWins, and Shane Dawson. He and Wong figured there was a pattern to viral success, and they could deduce and replicate it. Laatsch says the secret to a YouTube hit for them turned out to be getting the delicate balance of comedy and spectacle just right. They would create action comedy. “You meet expectations and then constantly exceed them,” Wong chimes in. They now have 2.5 million subscribers on their main channel and 450 million total video views. “We knew from our research that viewership would eventually snowball,” Laatsch says.

Jimmy Wong, the younger brother, engineered his own YouTube hit. After a busty, blond UCLA student ranted on YouTube about the “hordes of Asians” that didn’t use “American manners” in the library, Jimmy responded with “Ching Chong! Asians in the Library Song,” in which he reveals to the coed the hidden messages in his chattering—”Ching Chong [It means I love you] / Ling Long [I really want you].” Jimmy appealed to what he calls a “politically conscious comic-music niche,” as well as to pissed-off Asians. He says he was also one of the first and the best to react to a trend, thus jumping in front of its search traffic. “Every train needs a caboose, and that’s Jimmy Wong,” Laatsch teases. More like a sidecar, Jimmy corrects. Plus, he insists that he’s done the same cool stuff as his brother and Laatsch. “As soon as I bust into song,” he says, “I create two things simultaneously: one, the surprise that this meek Asian guy is singing, and, two, that the voice doesn’t match the face. That exceeds expectation. It’s partly comedic and partly spectacle.” It was a deliberate and distinctly Asian take on what worked in “Chocolate Rain.” Jimmy says, “I consciously planned what Tay accidentally did.”

Rule 3:

Connect with your fans.

It’s a truism that the Internet is about conversation, but the daily life of Olga Kay shows just how consuming it can be in practice. An effervescent former Russian circus performer, Kay now lives in the San Fernando Valley with two other YouTube partners, Joe Nation and Jessica Lizama, both of whom appear often in her videos. She runs five different YouTube channels, the first of which she started in 2006. Kay calls her followers the Moosh Army, after her cat, Mushka—a suggestion from one of the hundreds of logged-in fans who watched the live webcam shows she used to do two or three times a week. At the end of every skit, she speaks to her Moosh Army directly, offering advice as well as prizes and displaying pencil and ink drawings viewers have sent her.

Kay always closes by asking some sort of question (“Do you feel embarrassed to dance in public?”) and by prompting viewers to leave a comment or a video response. (Also, of course, she asks them to subscribe if they haven’t already.) On her second channel, she speaks to the audience as herself, seemingly without a filter, as the camera shows Kay moving about her house or hanging with friends. On her iPhone channel, she appears three to five times a week solely to offer advice. Her cat channel, meanwhile, has been on hiatus, but she plans soon to have Mushka teach one Russian word a day.

When I meet Kay in Beverly Hills, she is preparing to shoot a show, a weekly rundown of the best of YouTube, for the website of Relativity Media. She tells me she is halfway through the Herculean task of sending a personal note to all 450,000 people who have subscribed to her channels. She can do 250 an hour, as many as 3,000 in a week. The audience engagement isn’t just virtual either. Kay has traveled around the US and to Canada for meet-and-greets with fans. Dave Days, a young musician with 1.6 million subscribers, sometimes tweets where and when he’ll be shooting a video, and people come out to appear as extras. In fall 2010, Wong and Laatsch rented an RV for 30 days, driving 10,000 miles to personally interact with their fans across the country.

Rule 4:


Collaboration is where the Maker Studios model really pays off. An established star features an unknown in a video, sending legions of devoted followers to check out this unfamiliar talent. The newbie still needs skill and pluck to retain the audience, but they’ve already cleared the imposing threshold of discovery. One recent beneficiary of this phenomenon is Pete Shukoff, who was a struggling singer in Chicago for nine years, at times living out of his car, before he answered a craigslist ad that Maker had placed seeking a part-time songwriter. He did some funny improv street singing on KassemG’s channel and had a song featured in a Shaycarl video. Now, as Nice Peter, he has one of the most subscribed channels on YouTube. His best-known videos are the seductively forwardable “Epic Rap Battles of History,” a collection of lyrical donnybrooks that pit the likes of Hitler against Darth Vader, or Einstein against Stephen Hawking. (Einstein: “When I apply my battle theory, minds are relatively blown. So take a seat, Steve. Oop, I see you brought your own.”)

Even for top partners, collaborations are essential, not only to cross-promote but to feed the constant demand for content. I got to witness two other leading YouTubers team up at the West Hollywood studio of Joe Penna, otherwise known as MysteryGuitarMan, whose first viral hit, in 2009, was a stop-motion short of him in signature sunglasses and emergent beard strumming a couple of chords, the images cascading, the sound looped to form a fully orchestrated piece of music. Penna puts out a new clip every Tuesday and Thursday, each one viewed around a million times. At his studio, a list of ideas for upcoming shows is scrawled on a dry-erase board: “Booty Bounce Office Walk,” “1 Finger Symphony,” “Beat Box Alberto.” Today his guest is DeStorm Power, a recent transplant from Brooklyn who himself uploads multiple videos a week to his 1.1 million subscribers. Power is a lyric-writing savant, never committing anything to paper. On his channel, he regularly performs songs in response to challenges posed by his fans—do an anagram rap, say, or a song about how to solve the Rubik’s Cube.

Power sits at a computer and opens a file of a beat he has created for the musical challenge he and Penna are going to tackle together—a song about the comments posted by their viewers, thousands of which will flash on screen during the video. They will each show a slightly different version of the video on their respective channels, prompting fans to check out the other take. Penna will handle the actual production of the video. Power takes on the lyrics. He sings a few lines, filling in gaps with placeholder phrases to get the rhythm right. He makes a second pass through, fleshing it out, and then settles into the hook. “All these haters call me fake, they call me lame. / These comments get stuck up in my brain,” he begins to rap. Penna grabs his guitar and plays along.

Rule 5:

Optimize for the algorithms.

Last summer, YouTube ran a six-week Creator Institute at USC, inviting 10 novices judged to have impressive partner potential. On the day I sit in, Margaret Healy—employee 81 at Google and now a manager of the Partner Program—has flown in from San Francisco to conduct a tutorial on how to build an audience and maximize earnings. “Success depends on how hard you work and how you work the platform,” she explains to the group. Healy shows them a way to assess the effectiveness of their content, displaying a chart of “attention scores” that YouTube makes available to all partners for tracking exactly when viewers stop watching their videos. She encourages them not only to respond to fans but also to reach out to bloggers and journalists who link to their clips.

One of Healy’s main themes is the importance of optimizing for YouTube search: the benefits that come from tagging, titling, explaining, and annotating videos with as many specific and general descriptors as possible. By adding this metadata, she says, creators’ work will appear more readily in search results, and more ads will reach their videos. To inject a bit of fun into this math lesson, Healy’s PowerPoint presentation turns the search algorithms into a character with a human name. “Text is food for Al,” Healy says, as “Al”—an animated robot with a boom-box head—appears on the screen. “Al can’t watch a video. Al can read the words around your video.”

Since this is USC, the program isn’t all about search engine optimization and brand-building; it’s also about filmmaking. Pablo Frasconi, the professor in charge of the summer curriculum, says it’s important to think of YouTube as part of a long arc of cinematic democratization. He cites the Super 8 explosion of the ’60s, the improvisational style of Jean-Luc Godard, the neglected American master Monte Hellman. Some of the guest speakers USC brings in for the Creator Institute are decidedly mass-market entertainers, like the director McG (Charlie’s AngelsTerminator Salvation) and Avatar producer Jon Landau, who tells his audience that YouTube videos could launch movie careers just as music videos gave a start to directors like David Fincher.

Nevertheless, Kaitlyn Pendleton, a senior at William and Mary, says the institute has convinced her that YouTube is her future. In front of USC’s Douglas Fairbanks Fountain, she grants that she has just 40 subscribers to her sketch-comedy channel, but she is raring to build on that. “New media is about to erupt,” she says, “and I’m going to ride the eruption.”

YouTube believes we are poised at another transitional moment in the history of broadcast. Its service, as the company sees it, will provide a nearly limitless number of personalities to speak to any audience, to reach every niche. Cable television took us from a few channels to a few hundred, but the selection offered by YouTube will be in the hundreds of thousands or millions. YouTube’s challenge now is to convert its audience of casual users—27 million unique visitors every day—into real, devoted fans. When I visit YouTube headquarters, the executives there are excited about a three-person-wide slide that’s being built from the third floor down to the second and about gnomes that have been surreptitiously placed in clusters throughout the building, each accompanied by a printed-out pun (“Oh gnome you didn’t!”). They are also eager to present their vision of a future in which YouTube is viewed on all devices, all the time.

This future will begin with a new look: what the company calls “lean back,” a site design that has been fashioned for streaming to a television. Actually leaning back on a couch beside a Chuck Norris poster is Shiva Rajaraman, the engineer in charge of the site’s redesign, who shows me a continuously running set of ogre cartoons on a large flat-panel television. Basic website functions—Like, Dislike, Subscribe—can be accessed with the remote control. YouTube may already rival cable in terms of total audience size, with nearly as many people watching Maker Studio’s videos each day as tune into ESPN. But YouTube viewers spend on average just 15 minutes a day on the site, compared to the five hours daily that people watch television. Part of the reason for that is formatting. YouTube’s current design encourages its viewers to watch a video, and when it ends they must actively choose to watch another, or the session is over.

To remedy this problem, YouTube needs to replicate some of the passivity of TV-watching, with its long, lucrative viewing sessions. On the Test Tube section of its website, you can already opt for a new layout where content is presented as an uninterrupted playlist of related videos. Go to MysteryGuitarMan’s channel, for example, and you can choose between sets of all his looping videos or stop-motion clips. Type in “James Brown” and you get a 20-video package starting with the Godfather of Soul performing “It’s a Man’s World” with Luciano Pavarotti.

YouTube is also refining the algorithms that match its video suggestions to your taste, by adding in your viewing and subscription history, how long you watch, what you tagged in the past, who your friends are, and which of their recommendations you click on. Someone watching “Great Depression Cooking” on YouTube, I am told, should be led to episodes of “My Drunk Kitchen,” in which the host drinks a couple of bottles of wine and fails miserably and comically in her culinary efforts. Or a video of James Brown dancing in 1964 might eventually lead you to a surprisingly large stock of “tutting” videos, a dance that involves bodies contorting to look like hieroglyphs. “Our goal is not just to increase the amount of time you’re watching but also to broaden the interests you have,” says Cristos Goodrow, an engineering director. “We’ve got to incorporate that into the algorithms, otherwise you’ll never get to tutting.”

And better matching isn’t the only improvement. In late October, YouTube announced that a hundred celebrities and media companies had signed deals to launch premium channels on the site. As these channels roll out over the next year, each will produce a few hours of original, often regularly scheduled content every week. The programming will have more of a cable feel, even as YouTube goes way more niche than cable ever could. There will be Deepak Chopra’s “The Chopra Well,” Madonna’s “DanceOn,” Shaquille O’Neal’s “The Comedy Shaq Network,” and more. Maker Studios will offer three premium channels—one for Hispanic viewers, another geared to mothers, and a third dedicated to musical content. Dozens of other top partners are involved as well, including Michelle Phan, Phil DeFranco, Ryan Higa, and the Vlogbrothers. Also, YouTube plans to enlist more partners as curators of a different kind: They’ll put together playlists of videos they like, send their vast audiences to check them out, and get paid for the resulting views. “If I have 10 channels on YouTube that reflect niches I’m passionate about,” Rajaraman says, “and they’re constantly updated and increasingly curated by people I trust, then I know I’m not going to waste time. Every curator will be a new television channel in a living room.”

It’s a truly peer-to-peer vision for TV, a future in which individual creators cultivate their own audience and are compensated for it. Many partners actually feel a bit spooked by their outrageously good fortune, wondering whether YouTube is a bubble that might burst. A year or two or three ago they were posting videos for fun, just fooling around on the computer, and now Google is sending them checks that cover the grocery bills, the rent, and in some cases much more. So they build out their brands, ensuring that their real capital, their fans, will still be able to find them elsewhere if the site somehow falls apart. “YouTube provides a service,” Brandon Laatsch says. “That service is the uploading and distributing of video, and for a select few the monetization of it. Any one site might go away overnight—but the service won’t.”

More important, what won’t go away is this demand for an unmediated connection with performers. YouTube might host Tay Zonday’s channels, but there’s no question about who the fans are coming to see. In this micro-fragmented entertainment world, it’s faces and voices like his—jarringly oddball but ultimately likable and utterly unique—that become brands. At Zonday’s house in the Hollywood Hills, he shows me a preview of a video he plans to upload later in the week. It’s an original song called “This Is You.” As the clip begins, disco lights set up around us start to flash blue, red, and white, activated by the pulsating club beat. “Don’t ever let the world forget that this is you,” he sings onscreen, dancing jerkily in his shower, then in his bedroom studio, and, finally, atop a nearby bluff overlooking Los Angeles, his arms raised in dominion.

Ben Austen (bausten@gmail.comis a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine. He wrote about caricatures in issue 19.08.

Search Engine Watch

YouTube Promoted Videos Program Tops 1 Billion Views

Monday, August 08, 2011


More than 1 billion video views have been delivered to advertisers via the YouTube Promoted Videos program. In addition to sharing news that the video-sharing site recently hit the billion-views milestone, YouTube today announced some changes to Promoted Video Ads. Let’s review the Promoted Videos program, look at the latest changes, and hear what a couple of advertisers think about it.

Promoted Videos

YouTube announced “Sponsored Videos” back on Nov. 12, 2008. The first campaign was “Penny Pranks” by Office Max. At SES New York 2009, I interviewed YouTube Product Manager Matthew Liu about Sponsored Videos, which was later renamed Promoted Videos. He called the program “AdWords for YouTube.”

Promoted Videos allows you to promote your video against search results on YouTube, against related videos on YouTube, or against content across the Google Display Network. You can set up Promoted Videos campaigns using your Google AdWords account. Similar to what you do with pay-per-click (PPC) search engine marketing, you can determine how much you would pay for a video view and set a maximum budget.

Thousands of advertisers have taken advantage of this ad format to entice likely customers with videos about everything from the Mighty Wallet to a cure for bad breath. Large and small companies this ad format to reach wide audiences with movie trailers, recipes, and ideas for Halloween. And politicians and political activists used Promoted Videos to argue for a proposition or against an issue. YouTube served its 500 millionth Promoted Video view on Oct. 28, 2010.

Latest Changes

Today, YouTube rolled out three changes to Promoted Videos:

  • Placement on Google Video search results: YouTube Promoted Video ads will appear in Google’s Video search results pages in the U.S. Advertisers can add this to their campaign by opting into “Search partners.”
  • Introduction on YouTube Mobile: YouTube promoted videos will appear on on any mobile or tablet device starting in the next few weeks. “All devices” is the default option for all new AdWords campaigns, but you can opt your ads out of showing on mobile devices by visiting the Campaigns tab, under “Settings”. Existing campaigns can verify device settings to include or exclude mobile.
  • Inclusion in TrueView video ads: Promoted Videos are now part of the “TrueView family of ad formats,” meaning advertisers are only charged when a viewer chooses to watch a video ad, on a cost-per-view basis. Originally, Promoted Videos were available at cost-per-click pricing.

Comments by Advertisers

I interviewed Troy Olson, the Digital Advertising Manager for, which owns and operates a family of web stores with a wide selection of products, from barbecue grills and accessories to patio sets. One of those web stores is

The BBQGuys channel on YouTube features Tony Matassa, the BBQGuys chef and their grill/product tester. Check out his “Homemade Pizza Dough” video below.

Here are the questions that I emailed Olson and the answers that he emailed me back:

Greg Jarboe: sells everything from home furniture and fireplaces to kitchen cookware. How did you come up with the idea for BBQGuys YouTube Videos?

Troy Olson: “We are a very customer-focused company. Our founder was originally a retail store owner, so he was really sensitive to the gap that customers experienced as they tried to shop online and make a decision. So much of the shopping experience is lost, and not necessarily the tactile experience, but the human experience. We genuinely want our customers to get the best grill for them, and remarkably we believe that is captured by the camera.”

GJ: You started with instructional videos to address customer service. When your CEO was on a business trip 1,000 miles away from home and was recognized as the “Barbecue Guy,” how did your attitude toward video morph?

TO: “Actually our owner was recognized twice within a matter of days, (the second time closer to home). That is a complete validation of our efforts, not because this person has bought a grill from us, but that the right message has been received. I was at a conference in Baltimore, by chance showing someone our YouTube channel and he immediately recognized our chef. He told me the story of how a friend had invited him over for a BBQ and was using one of our video recipes. He said that the friend was not that good of a cook, but the food tasted great. Now the key word here is ‘story’. Through video we are able to share our story, which we have learned is a seed for our customers to grow their own stories.”

GJ: In a post on the YouTube Blog last October, you said that Promoted Videos had generated almost 100,000 views on your YouTube channel and more than 15 million impressions of your brand name – all at “the most competitive cost-per-click you will find anywhere online.” You had driven over 2,200 visitors to your site from YouTube and you’d also seen a significant increase in subscribers across all your social media channels since you’d started using YouTube. Can you share the latest figures?

TO: “The latest figures are 450,000 views, over 42 million impressions, and 16,000 visits to the site. But this does not really show how much of a lift that it brings to all other channels. [Below is] a graph to kind of explain. The orange represents what we have done with Promoted Video. You can see that virtually all other channels also receive a lift. (Sorry to have to neutralize the info, we don’t want to give away all of our special sauce.)”

GJ: In that post last October, you said your revenue was up 48 percent. Your videos were viewed 94,000 times during a month alone. Overall traffic to was up 20 percent from the previous year. Can you share the latest results?

TO: “Unfortunately, we have had some real challenges with recent algorithm updates and having the organic rankings for our site bumped down in search. So, to get an accurate read on this would be difficult. I will say that we are confident that our video efforts have really cushioned us against the struggle we have had with our rankings. Diversifying our channels has really paid off in this case as our revenue growth is out performing 2010.”

GJ: What do you think of the latest changes to Promoted Videos? What do you think of YouTube’s move from a cost-per-click ad format to cost-per view?

TO: “I think it makes perfect sense. We really think about video differently than we do a text ad or a display ad. YouTube seems to recognize this difference and made this shift probably at a significant cost to them.”

Next, I spoke with Corey Vidal, whose production and consultation company is known as ApprenticeA Productions.

His video, “‘Star Wars (John Williams is the Man)’ a cappella tribute medley – Corey Vidal and Moosebutter” has close to 14.9 million views.

ApprenticeA’s channel on YouTube has more than 57.7 million total upload views and over 217,000 subscribers, making it the 15th “most-subscribed to” channel in Canada.

Vidal has also worked with a variety of companies and brands, including: Atlantic, Blendtec, Google, Intel, NBC Universal, Sanyo, Staples, Timberland, Toshiba, Warner Music Group, Wrigley, and YouTube.

He said, “Companies have seen successes like Old Spice, but they’ve also seen failures. And agencies want guarantees.” So, he uses Promoted Videos to help push up the views that a video gets in order to get the total views that companies and agencies expect.

Finally, I spoke by phone with Will Robinson, a founding partner of The New Media Firm, a political media consulting and advertising agency. Robinson has helped elect six governors, seven U.S. Senators, and dozens of members of the U.S. House. In addition, he has produced media for 26 referendum and initiative campaigns in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

The New Media Firm specializes in integrating traditional and new media for Democratic candidates and progressive organizations. For example, the agency produced a spot called “Respect” for the Women’s Voices, Women’s Vote Action Fund, an independent expenditure campaign in the 2010 Colorado U.S. Senate race.

The spot, which features two talking high heels, used animation to stand out in a sea of typical political ads. It recently won the Platinum “Remi” award for Best Animated TV Commercial at the WorldFest-Houston Independent International Film Festival.

Robinson said, “Getting the right message to the right voters at the lowest possible price is getting harder every year. Voters have more media choices than ever before and reaching these voters requires innovation, flexibility and ongoing assessment of what works and what doesn’t.”

He added, “I don’t believe in numbers that end in zero.” So, he appreciates the micro-targeting that YouTube’s advertising lets his boutique agency do for clients.

Robinson’s used Promoted Videos in an “iceberg buy” for campaigns in New Jersey, where the tip is a few TV ads broadcast from New York City and Philadelphia, but the bulk of the campaign uses targeted videos in specific New Jersey assembly districts.

And he said that he likes the fact that Promoted Videos will join YouTube’s TrueView family of ad formats because, “We don’t pay if a viewer doesn’t choose to watch our ad.”

Robinson concluded, “People aren’t watching the 11 o’clock news the way they were years ago. So, where else can we go to reach them?”

Social Media Solutions

If you’re going to SES San Francisco next week, I’ll be discussing Promoted Videos during theSocial Media Solutions on a Budget session. Some marketers forget that YouTube is not only a video-sharing site, but also one of the most popular social media brands.

According to Compete, Facebook had 146.2 million unique visitors in June 2011 and YouTube had 128.7 million that month. By comparison, Twitter had 31.7 million unique visitors in June 2011 and LinkedIn had 21.2 million that month.

Now, you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to be social media relevant. Getting your company or organization started with social media doesn’t have to be a pricey proposition. And YouTube Promoted Videos is one of the social media solutions that you’ll want to learn about.

CBC News

Corey's story: How to make a living on YouTube

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


“YouTube saved my life,” says Corey Vidal in My YouTube Story, a 34-minute video that explains how this Oakville, Ont., resident turned making online content into a livelihood.

You may not recognize his name, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen Vidal’s work — at least eight of his videos have topped one million views.

Corey Vidal has been part of the online video community for almost as long as YouTube has been around. Corey Vidal has been part of the online video community for almost as long as YouTube has been around. Josh Moody Photography

Vidal specializes in pop culture spoofs and lighthearted instructional videos, including ‘4 Minutes’ Hip Hop Dance (four million views) and How to Dance Like Michael Jackson (two million). His most popular clip is Star Wars (John Williams Is the Man), in which he lip-synched lyrics about the Star Wars series to a medley of movie themes by composer John Williams (who, in addition to Star Wars, wrote music for Raiders of the Lost ArkClose Encounters of the Third Kind and Superman).

Posted in October 2008, the Star Wars video was featured on the Canadian YouTube homepage on Nov. 3, 2008, and the overall YouTube homepage three days later. It has garnered more than 14 million views.

When a video producer like Vidal gains a steady fan base, he or she can join the YouTube Partnership Program. The program has a few requirements: that the videos be original; that the producer have rights to all sound and visuals contained in the video; and that he or she be a regular contributor. Once these criteria are met, advertisers can begin to place ads on YouTube videos — and web entrepreneurs can begin turning a profit.

Vidal joined the YouTube Partnership Program in December 2007. In his first month, he earned just $3. But after the Star Wars tribute went viral, he started to make a steady income.

Most of the ad money that users make comes from brokers and an auction process, says Kate Rose, a communications associate with Google.

“For instance, if you and I were competing advertisers and we both wanted a placement on Corey’s videos, then we would bid for that and whoever wins that auction gets that placement,” she says. The profit is split between YouTube and the video producer.

Vidal makes money through advertisers in one of four ways: pop-up ads; selling a pre-roll ad that runs before his clip; doing product placement in one of his videos (as in the spoof Santa vs. Santa, a Christmas-themed clip that promoted a Blu-Ray player and a Dell laptop); or producing a full-length commercial himself, like Skittles Touch: Fake Corey, an ad for the candy maker that went up last week.

According to Rose, the amount each ad is worth varies depending on the video and advertiser. Some of the ad placements are brokered by YouTube’s parent company, Google, while others are negotiated directly between the advertiser and the video producer.

With greater popularity comes greater profit. Rose gives the example of Shay Carl, an Idaho-based YouTube personality who made the video blog We’re Debt Free, about how his family regained fiscal health with the help of financial guru Dave Ramsey. According to Carl’s vlog, being part of the YouTube Partnership Program garnered him a six-figure salary, which enabled him to pay off $195,000 US in debt. (He was also featured in a scene on the television show No Ordinary Family.)

The breakthrough

Vidal has been part of the online video community for almost as long as YouTube has been around; his dedicated YouTube channel,ApprenticeA, is one of Canada’s most subscribed channels. Vidal became involved in video production as a teen, producing the parodyRing Wars Reloaded, a combination of The MatrixLord of the Rings andStar Wars, in 2004, when he was in Grade 12. (It was uploaded to YouTube in 2006.)

After high school, Vidal and his father, Steve, started Aexian Studios, a production company that produced wedding and corporate videos. On the side, Vidal posted his own clips to YouTube. One of the first was How To Dance: Sexy Love by Ne-Yo, an amateur instructional video inspired by a routine he saw on the reality series So You Think You Can Dance.

Before he became a successful YouTube entrepreneur, however, Vidal hit a rough patch. He offered very little detail in our interview, but in My YouTube Story, Vidal claims “there was an altercation, there was some problems with my family that are very personal.” As a result, Vidal left home. At one point, he even posted a video explaining his situation, asking for money through PayPal. (He received $200 to $300.)

“I was kind of stuck in an impossible situation — I had no phone, no address and I had no printer to print my resumé,” says Vidal.

Now, he’s grown so big that he’s begun to diversify. Vidal sells his ownmerchandise, which includes sweaters and T-shirts (featuring slogans like “AD/HD” and “As Seen on YT”). Another business, Coreygraph, advises companies on how to use new media more effectively. Vidal has a full-time staff of three (including himself), as well as three part-timers and two interns.

‘Like watching an old friend’

Gaining a large YouTube following often means reaching out to users.

“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that popular YouTubers really interact with their audiences, making their fans feel as if they know them personally,” says Megan O'Neill, a writer for the social media news

O'Neill cites L.A.’s Joe Penna, or MysteryGuitarMan, as an example of a user who actively talks to his fans. Penna uses YouTube to share his musical talent and animation work. In the clip Magic Paint, he uses graphics to bring his instruments to life on the screen.

“He talks to his fans at the end of each episode; he also creates the feeling that he is friends with his audience,” said O’Neill.

Vidal interacts with his audience through his Twitter and Facebookaccounts and also hosts occasional sessions on Blogtv, where viewers can talk to him through a live-chat service.

The YouTube community

In the beginning, Vidal assumed YouTube was a disparate network of people operating on their own. But now that he has been to gatherings of video makers and met like-minded social media activists, he has a different take.

“The YouTube community is like one big summer camp: you know everyone and everyone has something in common,” he says.

Still, he feels Canadian video makers have a bigger hill to climb because so many uploaders are American and, statistically, the most-viewed content has the highest probability of being featured.

The most important thing, Vidal says, is “to make videos, and to make videos that suck” — it’s the only way to get better at it.

Vanity Fair Italy

Lost: non è finita. Ecco il fan movie

Thursday, February 03, 2011


Lost è tornato. Più o meno. A un anno dal debutto della stagione finale, la nostalgia rischiava di essere davvero troppa. Così, qualcuno che non si è accontentato di riguardare fino alla nausea gli episodi delle sei stagioni ha provato a riportarlo in vita.

Tha Man Who Brought Us Here è un sorprendente fan movie girato sull'isola, negli stessi set della serie tv, da un gruppo di appassionati, molto intraprendenti e creativi, già diventati famosi sul web per un analogo tributo aGuerre Stellari.

Il film dura sei minuti, ed è una specie di spin-off della serie. Ai fan più motivati, l'operazione è piaciuta molto. Il video viaggia verso le 200 mila visualizzazioni e i giudizi sui forum sono lusinghieri.


Must Watch: Fan Shoots Alternate Ending / Continuation To LOST On Location In Hawaii!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Are you one of those people who hated the way ABC’s hit series Lost ended, and to this day wish that it could have been different? You are? Well then shame on you for being lazy and not buying yourself a HD camera, lining up a cast and crew, flying down to Hawaii, and filming your own version of “the end” using the still-standing set pieces from the show! Shame on you, because that’s exactly what Corey Vidal did when he had the urge to create an ending, or in this case, possibly even a continuation to ABC’s series that concluded in May last year.

I’ve heard of fan-fiction and I’ve heard of fan-films, but Vidal has seriously taken things to a new level. “The Man Who Brought Us Here” is a short that Vidal created utilizing the set pieces from Lostthat were left standing in Hawaii. His sense of cinematography is way past the average YouTube-filmmaker and he blends the show’s original score in all the right places. The quality of the video itself gives off a very professional vibe, and Vidal is smart enough to leave out key elements from the series to avoid copyright infringement. But, like almost every other fan-film, this one comes with its jarring flaws.

The acting (especially from “Megan”) is horrendously corny, the dialogue is delivered in the most monotonous of ways, and once your 5minutes and 55seconds is up, you’ll be left with that all-too-familiar “WTF?!” look on your face. True, that happened with the actual show itself, but it’s pretty obvious that Vidal is trying to0 hard to replicate that same ominous tone by creating “too many questions that we don’t have the answers to.” But really, I don’t wanna’ be a jerk and play Ebert with a fan-made film, so I’m going to look at this in a positive light and give the 24-year old filmmaker some serious props for his efforts. As a piece of work, this has by far surpassed the regular fan-film in terms of quality and execution. If anything, this should come off as a good piece of film-making for his portfolio.

I’ve embedded the video below for your viewing pleasure. Hey, if you spent 6-years following Lost, you’re not going to lose anything by allocating another 6-minutes of your life to the show…or parts indirectly related to it. As for me, I’m pretty happy with the way things ended. It wasn’t the perfect ending, but it was awesome nonetheless. I have the complete series in a nifty lil’ box-set sitting on my shelf to prove my adoration for what was (and still is) one of televisions most incredible shows.

The Canadian Press

Canada's YouTube Stars Talk About Web Success And Getting Attention

Friday, December 03, 2010


There’s a subculture of web users who speak reverentially about the work of RayWilliamJohnson, ShayCarl, or MysteryGuitarMan.

None are household names, but Internet famous? Definitely.

A roomful of YouTube auteurs aspiring to the same status gathered Thursday night at Google’s Toronto office to trade tips on how to hit it big on the web’s largest and most popular video site.

Corey Vidal says getting a million hits on YouTube was tough but getting 50 million, that was actually much easier.

And while the 23-year-old Oakville, Ont., native doesn’t think he’s necessarily cracked the code to YouTube fame and fortune, he has quit his job to become an online video pro.

“My advice is just keep going, don’t get lazy, don’t give up, don’t get discouraged if things aren’t working,” Vidal said during a panel discussion.

“You never log in and have less views.”

Vidal, known as ApprenticeA, first posted to YouTube to share a video with a friend, and didn’t expect anyone else would see it — a fairly common story among users who had videos go viral.

Next time he logged on, the video had amassed 500 views. Not a big number by YouTube standards, but about a hundred times more than he expected.

It took a couple years of faithfully posting videos — “not too serious, I find people go to YouTube to laugh, not to cry,” is how he describes his style — until Vidal got his big moment, and was featured on YouTube’s front page.

“It was like winning the lottery, and it was kind of like, it was this fun thing and now bam, life has completely changed forever. Everything has been different since,” he said.

“In the past two years it’s actually been enough for me to do it full time and quit my job. In the past year I’ve now started a company, hired employees and produce videos on an ongoing basis with my production crew. And I’m now working with sponsors and advertisers and brands.”

Also on the panel was user FLuffeeTalks — he prefers not to go by his real name — who has nearly half a million subscribers and almost 94 million views.

He recommended that newer users not get discouraged by the nasty cesspool that is YouTube’s comment section.

“If you have haters, that’s when you know you’re starting to get popular,” he said.

“If people care about you enough to leave hateful comments and try to make you feel bad about yourself, then obviously (you’ve made it).”

User Mugglesam — who also didn’t want to reveal her name — said commenters aren’t her problem, and she’s actually had a hard time getting family members to understand why she posts videos of her children on YouTube.

“When I first started YouTube was some scary thing, and it still is in our town, and I have to describe it as like being on TV — or better than being on TV, actually,” she said.

Her most popular post, a cute video of one of her daughters asking for a lollipop, has more than 11.5 million views. She’s hoping the ad revenue from her videos pays for her kids’ education, although it certainly hasn’t proven to be a way to get rich quick, she said.

“It’s not coming quickly at all, I can’t say that yet,” she said.

Oakville’s Corey Vidal releases latest YouTube masterpiece

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Oakville’s Corey Vidal released his newest YouTube masterpiece this Tuesday, collaborating with two online personalities by the names of Shay Carl and Wheezy Waitor.

Vidal has been pushing his own creative limits on YouTube – accumulating close to 45 million views on his own personal channel.

His newest video will be his last of the year, and is appropriately Christmas themed. Shay Carl who is from Idaho, collaborates alongside Oakville’s Vidal – while Wheezy Waiter supplies his own blend of humor from Chicago.

“They are both great and absolutely hilarious,” Vidal said. “Both of them are a little bit overweight and both of them have beards, so I decided they would be great playing Santa Claus.”

“In this new video we have them dressed up in Sanata suits. The video starts with Shay Carl breaking into a house on Christmas Eve to deliver presents. But there’s no chimney, so he goes through the window and gets stuck.”

“Wheezy Waitor is another Santa outside, and they both realize that their delivery locations got mixed up,” he said.

“They are both at the same house, and they really don’t like each other. They start arguing and fighting, and by being so loud they wake up myself.”

“It’s a really funny video, it’s over the top,” Vidal said.

The video itself took a week to shoot, and was sponsored by Intel. Vidal mentioned that since the video was sponsored he was able to hire a crew, set up lights and audio, and even rent a camera special for this video.

“I’m really excited to work with other YouTubers,” Vidal said.

“Really big ones and really small ones, size doesn’t matter. It’s more who fits into the videos or who I think is funny or who I’d love to work with.”

“I love including YouTubers in my projects. When my video goes up there are going to be some people that haven’t heard of these guys, and it’s going to promote them. And of course their fans are going to check me out,” he said.

“Our collaborations are a win on both sides because we’re introducing ourselves to each other’s audiences. That’s a big benefit of YouTube.”

Vidal is looking forward to collaborating with other online personalities, and is even open to working with various companies and musicians.

“I’d love to work with Canadian artists and people who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves actors. I wouldn’t mind working with Canadian musicians, maybe shooting a video with the Toronto Maple Leafs, or a big company in Toronto.”

Take a look for yourself and see what Vidal has been up to. Click here to view Corey’s other videos.

Prime Time 2010: Producers should exploit Canadian appetite for online videos

Friday, February 19, 2010


OTTAWA – There’s money to be made with online video content but you need to plan ahead, cut the ties with old business models, hang out where young people do, and measure your results, an audience of TV and film producers was told Thursday morning.

Canadians are among the world’s most prolific online video watchers and content producers should exploit that, said Brent Lowe-Bernie, president of comScore Media Metrix Canada, which measures online audiences.

“People are consuming video content in gobs in this country,” Lowe-Bernie said at Thursday’s opening session of the 20th anniversary Prime Time conference of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association. ComScore’s research shows that 90% of Canadians have watched a video online in the past month and there’s been a 140% growth in the past year in the number of Internet videos available on Canadian media properties (although not all of it is Canadian content). “There’s really an opportunity” to feed that appetite, he said.

ComScore research also paints what could be a grim picture of traditional media consumption, as younger people are watching less television, those 18 to 34 spend more time online than any other medium, and the only medium that is growing among adults 18-plus in terms of time spent is the Internet, Lowe-Bernie said. But despite audience fragmentation, “the sky is not falling,” he said, telling the audience to look for online opportunities and instead of seeing the glass half-empty, “you’d better look at it as half-full.”

Conventional media should also be grateful for social media, which “is not a fad,” Lowe-Bernie said. For example, Facebook alone drives up to 1.5 million people to CTVglobemedia every month, he said.

A mistake some content producers make is to create a program with multiplatform distribution channels but then not monitor how each strategy is working, he said. “You must measure. Don’t start a program and not have an idea how you are going to measure it.”

The need to put videos online and the opportunity to make money from it was repeated in a session on how young people are voracious consumers on the Internet. The panelists, apparently twentysomethings, are all creating online content and some said they’re making a good living. 

Corey Vidal has posted more than 130 videos to YouTube, including one of him lip-synching a four-part a cappella of a Star Wars-inspired theme, shot in his kitchen with no lighting and an $80 webcam. It caught the attention of NBC Universal, which gave him $50,000 to use the video in an ad for its on-demand movie offering. “That’s more than my parents can make in a year,” he joked. He also earns half of all revenues from ads posted near his videos on YouTube, which get upwards of 1.5 million views a month.

Now that video streaming technology is so user-friendly and everyone is watching online, there’s no excuse not to exploit it, Vidal said. Even five years ago, “you had to be a computer nerd just to figure out how to watch them.”

The young panelists exposed their personal media habits and it doesn’t look like good news for traditional broadcasters. “I get most of my news on Twitter,” said Nadine Sykora, who has more than 100,000 subscribers to her YouTube videos in which she largely plays one character, based on her own personality. And when young people do watch television, “thinking of traditional media, we are not loyal to any brands,” said Vidal. 

Panelists also demonstrated how cross-platforms can help traditional broadcasters. For example, the CBC show Being Erica creates short webisodes to promote the program. A character that only appeared online was so popular, she was written into the TV program. The show has its own Facebook page and the characters all participate not as the actors but as the characters, and some viewers get extremely involved. That’s a way to build an audience, said Jessie Gabe, a writer on the show. 

Producers who want to increase online audiences should ask their younger colleagues how they tag their videos with the buzzwords that will drive traffic to them, said Chantal Leblanc-Everett, production and project manager with Lifeforce Entertainment Inc., which broadcasts original online content. “This stuff is really exciting to us and we like to talk about it,” she said.

Online viewing is exciting to an older generation, too, as Leblanc-Everett recalled the day she found her 50-year-old mother sitting on the couch watching TV on her laptop. She asked her dad how long it had been going on. He told her that as soon as her mother realized her laptop was wireless, she’s been watching her favourite shows all over the house.

The Wire Report

'Youtuber kids' offer advice to film and television industry

Thursday, February 18, 2010


OTTAWA—The Canadian film and television industry received an earful of advice from young video producers Thursday.

At a discussion panel, titled “Meet the kids of the brave new world,” held at the Canadian Film and Television Production Association’s Prime Time Ottawa conference, young, successful “Youtubers” urged industry producers and content providers to “get on board.”  

Corey Vidal, an online video content producer, said YouTube is changing video delivery in the same way that iTunes changed music delivery. 

At one time people bought CDs and cassettes and listened to entire albums, but iTunes has allowed consumers to download and listen to individual tracks.

“You can download one episode of The Office for $3 onto your phone and you can check it out. That’s really offensive to the creator because, ‘That’s not how you’re supposed to watch it. It’s like picking up a book and reading one chapter,’” Vidal said.

“But iTunes has taken off, whether you like it or not. You have to get on board.”

Panel members agreed that Canadian content providers should not be afraid of fans uploading clips to YouTube or social networking sites.

“You’re trying to create buzz, and spreading buzz through Youtube is sort of like word of mouth—back when we were humans,” said actor and writer Jessie Gabe, who recently worked as script coordinator on the CBC show Being Erica. 

Vidal said content owners in Canada need to start using their fans to conduct “free advertising” through social networks, the popularity of content and, ultimately, sales.

He said the major content owners and distributors in Canada should sign deals with YouTube, as some major networks and content providers have done in the United States.

Last year, Disney Media Networks reached a deal with Google-owned YouTube to make advertising-supported content from ABC and ESPN available on the Google video portal. 

“Wake up,” Vidal said to a room of policy experts and officials in the television, film and interactive media industry.

“It’s 100 per cent organic. You don’t even have to do any work. You don’t even have to create the account and upload the video. People are doing it for you. So don’t pull down the video.”

Panel member Chantal Leblanc-Everett, production and project manager at Lifeforce Entertainment Inc., noted that YouTube videos are always the top results in Google video searches—and that’s not going to change anytime soon. 

Vidal said CTV, Canada’s exclusive Olympics broadcaster, should make much more Olympic video content available on YouTube—rather than trying to drive traffic to its own website.

“They’re not going to, I’m sorry. They’re going to YouTube, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said of online viewers around the world.

In an email, CTV spokeswoman Bonnie Brownlee directed The Wire Report to CTV’s YouTube page [1], which offers short form clips, athlete interviews, and short form features of video content “on a branded channel.”

Brownlee said the objective “is to reach the large YouTube audience, show them teasers of our great content, and drive them back to for more great live and on-demand content.”

Panel member Nadine Sykora, another content creator and popular Youtuber, suggested that content providers do a better job of educating consumers about what is available on their sites.

“Most people don’t go to to watch [television]. Most people still don’t know that they can watch full episodes online,” she said.

Leblanc-Everett said one way to reach the online market is to establish interactive communications and social networking dialogues between fans and content creators and characters online.

“Although the stories are linear, it’s very much interactive on the web,” she said.

Vidal and Sykora—who earn ad revenues from the millions of hits their videos receive on YouTube—said companies and content producers can also view popular Youtubers as distributors, and work with them on projects to get access to their subscribers. 

Vidal said he has 7,000 followers on Twitter, 30,000 on Facebook, and 100,000 on YouTube.

“It’s not just me. It’s Nadine and other Canadians out there,” he said.

“Nadine has an audience of people who follow everything she does. She could talk about the winter Olympics, she could talk about her cat, and they actually care.”

At a separate Prime Time panel Thursday afternoon, titled “The specks of gold in multi-platform prospecting—Production success stories,” film and television experts agreed that multi-platform initiatives for film and television productions are no longer an afterthought.

Multi-platform initiatives now develop interactive games, iPhone applications, social networking hubs and other creative projects.

“No one will talk about cross-platform content [in 10 years],” said panel member Michael McGuigan, CFO at Breakthrough Films and Television. “Content will just be out there.”

McGuigan his production company has had success through cross-platform initiatives tied to children’s television shows like Jimmy Two Shoes.

For the show, his production company created a popular game on online and mobile platforms. The mobile component has been launched around the world, he said.

Deborah Drisdell, director general of distribution accessibility and digital enterprises with the National Film Board (NFB), noted the organization’s success with its Online Screening Room.

The Screening Room launched last year with 600 French and English films from the NFB’s extensive collection.

Visitors to the website can watch the films at no cost, and content is not “geo-blocked,” which restricts foreign viewing.

Today, the website has made 1,400 films available online, which have been viewed 4.1 million times, she said.

Last October, the NFB launched an iPhone application for free access to the site’s content. The application was a runaway success, she said, and was voted one of the best applications fromApple’s App Store. 

Drisdell said that the NFB’s next step will be to monetize the application by giving people the option to pay for a permanent download—as opposed to the current 48-hour downloads. The pay option would come in addition to the free content. 

Panel member Barbara Baillie, director of interactive development with Astral Media, said the company’s interactive content tied to television programs is now being developed at the same time as the traditional creative content.

When the Canadian Television Fund and the Canada New Media Fund merge to become the Canada Media Fund (CMF) on April 1, 2010, content producers will have more economic incentive to develop multi-platform initiatives.

“Every single television production that receives money from that fund has to have an interactive component to it,” panelist Mark Bishop, an executive producer with Marblemedia, told The Wire Report following the panel discussion.

The panelists agreed that the quality of content will continue to be key.

“At the end of the day a good story is a good story, and it doesn’t matter what platform you use,” McGuigan said. 

The Surf

Corey Vidal Interview

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Watch Corey’s interview on The Surf.

YouTube in Music Education

An Introduction To YouTube

Tuesday, December 01, 2009



Corey Vidal and the “Star Wars (John Williams is the Man) - An a Cappella Tribute” featured in this textbook entitled “YouTube in Music Education” by Thomas Rudolph and James Frankel.

The Welland Tribune

You Tube star

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Three guys in a Ford Fiesta on a road trip across the states. Their every move, every word, every breath captured live for the world to see on a mobile webcam that never turns off.

At any time of the day, people can tune in. As they visit other YouTubers. As they host mini-gatherings. Visit tourist sites. Even as they sleep.


It’s fun. Entertaining. Interactive.

And in the world of YouTube, the video sharing website owned by Google, these guys are hot commodities.

They are YouTube partners. For them, YouTube is a career. That’s how they earn a living. Simply put, they share in the revenue generated from ads that appear alongside their videos.

One of these guys is Corey Vidal, a self-described geeky 22-year-old who grew up in Pelham and St. Catharines. He goes by the username ApprenticeA (that’s short for Apprentice Anakin, the Star Wars character for whom Vidal shares a certain affinity).

He’s the guy who posted all those how-to-dance videos on YouTube, who got in a bit of trouble with Warner Music for a Madonna video (and won), and who walked down the red carpet in Los Angles this January as a People’s Choice Award nominee for a Star Wars a capella tribute video. He has about 40,000 subscribers.

The other guys riding alongside are his YouTube friends, Mystery Guitar Man from Boston, Mass., and Tobuscus, from Los Angeles.

The trio will begin their trip from New York, following 789, the annual gathering of YouTube fans which begins, as the numbers suggest, July 8, 2009. Their plan is to hit most major cities across the U. S. Along the way, they will hang out with fellow YouTubers and make public appearances where fans can see them up close and personal.

The entire trip, expected to take two or three weeks, will be broadcast live on where viewers can also talk to them via a chat room. They will also be twittering and posting videos to YouTube. In essence, a total Internet experience.

So, why would someone want to watch three guys trek across the states?

“It’s not professional video content where you remain at a distance,” says Vidal.

“It’s interactive. It’s a personal experience. It’s feeling like I’m actually somehow involved in some way.”

So, as Vidal gets ready for his all-American road trip this summer, he reflects on a different sort of journey. A journey that began in high school, and brought him to this very point in his life.

The year is 2003. Vidal begins final year, Grade 12, at E. L. Crossley Secondary School in Fonthill.

He is a geek. A nerd. A tall, skinny kid who struggled in school but had a flair for hip hop. His parents, Steve and Norine Vidal, let him try all the usual kid activities. Karate. Soccer. Bowling.

“I wasn’t good at anything,” laments Vidal, smiling.

In Grade 8, he tried dance and found his thing. Somewhere along the way, he became a Star Wars buff. He subscribed to a monthly magazine that detailed the making of the prequel trilogy episodes. He identified with Anakin Skywalker. And he secretly wanted to star in a movie with a light sabre.

So, in Grade 12, Vidal and buddies Brian Lewis and Bob Mallen embarked on what they thought would be a five-minute fan film that only their close friends would see.

“Everyone will laugh at us,” Vidal predicted. “But we’re going to have a good time.”

Their rallying cry went something like: “Yes, we’re nerds, so let’s embrace it.”

They filmed it at Crossley. A few more students joined the cast. Some teachers. And before they knew it, it was the end of the school year and they were showing their movie in the school’s lecture hall.

They called it Ring Wars Reloaded, a 45-minute film, which took characters from the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Matrix Reloaded and turned it into a nonsensical action short film.

It barely made sense. There was really no plot. They shot it with a Sony digital recorder. Hand held. Onboard mike. No extra lights. Auto everything.

“It was so bad, it worked,” says Vidal.

He was Anakin Skywalker. And, yes, there were light sabres (plastic, from Wal-Mart, but impressive all the same).

The geeky kid finally felt proud. Popular. Liked. Very, very unnerdy.

Then, that summer, Vidal was at the former SilverCity at the Pen Centre to see Anchorman, when an advertisement appeared on the screen. The theatre was available to rent.

Vidal called his movie buddy. “I’m, like, you’re not going to believe this.”

He had a plan. They’d sell custom-made tickets at $10 each to friends and family, and raise enough cash to rent the theatre for an hour and show their film.

They spent the summer reediting. Frame by frame, at times, retouching more than 60,000 of his beloved light sabres to transform them from mere plastic to a Jedi knight’s weapon of choice.

On Sept. 1, 2004, Ring Wars Reloaded made its big screen debut.

“Even now, it’s one of the greatest moments of my life,” he says.

The most exciting year of his life was followed by what began as the most unexciting. Vidal worked odd jobs. Stitches in the Seaway Mall. Tim Hortons at the corner of Highway 20 and Merrittville Highway.

Then he landed a job as a webdesigner at Electric Dreams, a Welland video company. He also shot a couple weddings.

But Vidal was bored. “I’ve always thought bigger,” he says.

In the meantime, his father bought two top-of-the-line high definition video cameras. They went into business together, shooting some corporate videos. Some weddings.

August 2006. Vidal needed to sort out the best way to take high definition footage and transfer it onto a DVD, maintaining its sharpness.

He needed to shoot some test footage, so he could compare it frame by frame. But what? The camera had to be on a tripod. The subject had to be moving.

On a whim, he went into the basement and taped about 20 seconds of himself dancing.

It was nothing special. “Nobody’s going to see anything,” he thought.

That night, he called a friend and told him what he was up to. His friend wanted to see the video. Vidal tried to send the file through MSN. But he was on dial-up, and it didn’t work. He had an idea. Why not send it to YouTube?

So, he created his first You-Tube account. Called himself ApprenticeA. And posted it.

It worked. His friend was his first hit. Mission accomplished, he went to bed, thinking nothing more of the video. Until the next morning.

He logged on to discover the video he thought no one would see had about 500 hits and a handful of comments.

Vidal was stunned.

He thought: “I need to capitalize on this. I need to turn this into something good.”

That summer, the dance reality show, So You Think You Can Dance, was on the American airwaves.

Vidal had an idea. Why not create his own how-to-dance videos based on choreography from the show, and upload them to YouTube?

And that’s what he did. He watched each dance segment over and over again, in slow motion, backwards and forwards, at times frame by frame, in order to duplicate the moves exactly.

Then he went into his basement, pressed play on the video camera and recorded his instructional video in one take.

There was no fancy lighting. No professional backdrop. Just drywall, a cement floor and Vidal.

“My goal was to teach anyone on the planet who can hit play and listen, how to dance,” he says.

He branched out. Made other videos. He taped himself learning to play the guitar. Beatboxing. Acting in short films. Solving the Rubik’s Cube

Most recently, he posted a choose-your-own-adventure video involving a Blendtec blender (the company behind the Will it Blend? series in which they demonstrate how the blender can chew up everything from a hockey puck to an iPod).

It’s a fun, interactive 33-part series that Vidal’s father and sister, Lindsey, helped him film in the kitchen of their parent’s Pelham home.

He stands behind the counter alongside his trusty Blendtec Total Blender (which the company sent to him gratis after he called their marketing department to explain his plans) and a variety of food.

Crunchy peanut butter. Jalapeno peppers. Eggs. Vodka.

Viewers click on the two ingredients that they’d like to see Vidal blend together, then drink.

A week after being posted, it had close to one million hits.

Spring 2008. The dance video to Madonna’s 4 Minutes was out.

Vidal knew it would be a summer hit, so he made a how-to video. It was posted a month. Then one day, he got an e-mail from YouTube. His 4 Minutes video has been removed due to copyright infringements.

Vidal was stunned. He filed a counter claim, requesting his video be reposted.

“What does Warner care that I did a dance video to the song and I put it on YouTube? They need to lighten up.”

“I worked really hard on that, it was my most popular video and I’m going to use it.”

Then, a few days later, a video of Madonna herself on her offi-cial YouTube channel, offering support to anyone making videos of her 4 Minutes.

“I, like, crapped myself,” says Vidal.

Was it directed to Vidal? Can’t say for sure. But at the time, his was one of only a select few 4 Minutes videos on YouTube. Coincidence? Maybe.

But the next thing he knew, his video was reposted in full.

Then there’s the Star Wars a cappella tribute. A four-part harmony written by U. S. group Moosebutter as a tribute to John Williams, the man who wrote the score to Star Wars.

Vidal had an idea. He’d lipsynch to each of the four parts, and post them in unison to YouTube.

So, Vidal called up Moosebutter (hey, their phone number was right on their website). The group liked his idea. They sent him sheet music for each of the four individual parts. Vidal memorized a track. Filmed one. Then memorized another.

He recorded himself with a regular webcam, against a white wall in his kitchen. Then he combined the videos so all four parts appear on YouTube simultaneously.

The first day, it got about 30,000 hits. Then it really took off. It got featured on YouTube Canada’s homepage. put it on its homepage. Then YouTube world.

“Getting featured is like winning the lottery,” he says.

Comments were posted from around the world. At times, faster than Vidal could read them.

Then on his 22nd birthday – Dec. 7, 2008 – he learned his video had been nominated for a People’s Choice Award in the favourite user generated video category.

In January, he flew to Los Angeles to attend the show. He walked on the red carpet (right after Teri Hatcher of Desperate Housewives).

During the show, he sent updates to Twitter.

His video didn’t win. It lost to a YouTuber video of Barack Obama singing Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. (OK, so it wasn’t really Obama singing. It had been compiled from various Obama clips.) Vidal took it all in stride.

“To lose to Barack Obama is a great honour,” says Vidal, laughing.

For more information on Corey

Vidal, visit his website at

Niagara News

Local YouTube artist surprised by People’s Choice nomination

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Twenty-two years ago, in a little city called St. Catharines, a YouTube star was born.
Corey Vidal, who lived in Welland for years before moving to Oakville this past summer, began uploading videos in 2006 because he “loved making videos. He started as a dancer, providing his viewers with step-by-step dance instructions for songs like Ciara’s 1, 2, Step and Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back. Since then he’s presented himself to the YouTube world as an actor and singer (who happens to dabble in beatboxing).

He made his true mark, though, when he was nominated on his birthday for a People’s Choice Award. 
Vidal didn’t win but says he was shocked when he learned of his nomination for the category of Favourite User-Generated Video for his “Star Wars A Capella Tribute to John Williams,” a video with a four-way split screen of himself lipsynching to a song written by Moosebutters, an a capella comedy troupe from Salt Lake City, Utah.
The lyrics were written by the troupe to theme song melodies of movies like E.T. and Jurassic Park. It was the first of Vidal`s videos to be featured by  the website. 
“I didn’t see it coming. They just nominated me,” said Vidal.
Since the nomination, however, Warner Music Group had the video removed from YouTube because of copyright infringements claims relating to the use of their songs melodies which were used in the video. This has displeased his fans, who have attributed to more than one million views of the video within its first few days of being uploaded. By the time Warner Music Group took it off YouTube, it had more than four million. 
One fan, most02, uploaded the a capella tribute video on his own page despite the fear a large corporation like Warner Music Group might instil. 
Vidal has contacted Warner Music Group and is waiting for a reply. If they don’t contact him by next week, they legally have to put the video back up.
Vidal already had a dispute with Warner Music Group over a posting of original choreography to Madonna’s song, Four Minutes. Google “Corey Vidal and Warner Music Group” to find past news articles and updates about the Vidal-Warner relationship.
Although Vidal uploaded his first video almost three ago, he didn’t achieve success overnight. 
“Over time it picked up. It was really slow at first.”
About a year after his initial how-to video and shortly after Google bought YouTube, Vidal jumped at the opportunity to become a partner with the internet video forum. As a partner, Vidal was paid in part by advertising linked to his videos. Because of the partnership, there are no time limits on the videos he uploads. As long as there are no copyright infringements, he is paid for a video. 
Vidal says the enjoyment of becoming popular on YouTube is “secondary to the love of making the videos.”
“[It] isn’t really work at all,” says Vidal. “I’m just lucky enough to be making money.”
Vidal’s YouTube videos have led to international opportunity. Other than travelling to California twice (once for a YouTube event and once for the People’s Choice Awards),
Vidal went to the U.K. when he was 20 after someone from a dance studio in England found his videos on YouTube.  He taught overseas for almost two months.     
After returning from the U.K., Vidal uploaded one more dance video of Four Minutes (a Madonna and Justin Timberlake hit), which he choreographed himself. 
He danced at Dance Place in Welland when he came back.
Vidal has expanded his use of Internet forums YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and most recently Blog TV. Vidal uses these websites to connect with “viewers,” as he prefers to call them rather than fans. He says, “I basically make myself very easy to contact.” 
He uses Blog TV to upload short blogs with his friend Cali.  
“It was a really cool way to take YouTube to another level — not to replace YouTube because I could never replace YouTube — but just to go live, and people can just come and talk directly to you and you can talk directly back.”
Vidal tells his viewer when his live show airs so they can join him once a week to interact with him more directly. 
“I don’t want to seem like a celebrity, I want to seem like a friend, and they just watch my videos.”
Vidal admits that because so many people have seen his videos (he has more than 600,000 channel views), some people are bound to dislike him. He says he’s aware he can’t please everyone.
“I don’t let them get me down because … I sincerely enjoy making videos.”
Vidal was reluctant to divulge any information about his personal life, saying, “I tend to try to keep a lot of my private life separate from my YouTube life.”
He did share, however, his views on breakfast preferences.
“Between the two of us, I prefer pancakes [to waffles].”
With a slow laugh, as if trying to come up with something to say, he adds he couldn’t choose between blonds, brunettes and redheads. He answered the question with a PC “All of the above.”
Vidal says he has a “YouTube persona,” which he uses to keep his videos “timeless.” If he gives too much personal information and that information happens to change, his videos can lose their timeless effect. 
If more than 25,000 subscribers isn’t an indication of celebrity, being recognized walking through a mall is.
“People will come up and say hi,” but, Vidal explains, his fans shyness happens more often than not. People will email him and admit they were too shy or embarrassed to approach him when they spotted him in public. 
“It takes very bold people to come up and say, ‘Oh, I know you!’”
He doesn’t like giving autographs.
“The thing with autographs is I don’t think I should be giving them. But if I don’t give them, that makes me an asshole,” saying it’s worse to refuse giving an autograph than the awkwardness of just giving one. 
Vidal has acted in two short films, both of which were Broadcasting — Radio, Television and Film productions at Niagara College. 
Being in Los Angeles at the People’s Choice Awards made him realize he “doesn’t want to be a Hollywood actor.” He would prefer to pursue acting by doing his own thing and promoting himself, which has been working for him. 
Vidal also has a designing opportunity. He is working out the details with a clothing company to have T-shirts from his nominated video sold in stores across North America. 
To check out his videos or to learn more about Vidal, visit his website at, or search Corey Vidal or ApprenticeA at

Ars Technica

EFF seeks mashup makers to fight YouTube filtering

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


If you’re the sort of person who reads Ars Technica regularly, there’s a good chance that at some point in the past few months, someone has forwarded you a link to Corey Vidal’s YouTube a capellatribute to film composer John Williams—a four part harmony in which the saga of the original Star Wars trilogy is recapped to a medley of Williams’ celebrated scores. If you've tried to pull it up recently, however, you’ve instead encountered YouTube’s Pink Bar of Doom, informing you that “this video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by WARNER MUSIC GROUP. ”

Vidal’s video is just one of thousands removed from the video streaming site in recent weeks, after the collapse of negotiations to renew a revenue-sharing agreement between Warner and YouTube.

And thanks to YouTube's Content ID fingerprinting and filtering software, the process of pulling offending clips no longer requires an individualized takedown notice. In a post at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s blog today, attorney Fred von Lohmann warns that such filtering threatens to squelch amateur online creativity—and he’s looking for a few good clients who are prepared to fight back.

YouTube users have not exactly been complacent about the vanishing videos. Vidal posted his own video response to the takedown, asking viewers to use the social recommendation site Digg to draw attention to news reports about the conflict. And his was just one of a slew of protest videoslambasting Warner.

EFF’s von Lohmann, however, wants to step it up a notch. He’s urging YouTube to change the way Content ID filters clips, so that only those which are perfect matches for copyrighted content on both the audio and video track are pulled. For anything but a verbatim lift, he argues, the burden should be on content owners to send out a DMCA takedown notice. But he’s also soliciting clients to push back against copyright excesses in the courts:

If Warner Music Group took down your video, ask yourself if your video is (1) noncommercial (i.e., no commercial advertisements or YouTube Partner videos) and (2) includes substantial original material contributed by you (i.e., no verbatim copies of Warner music videos). If so, and you’d like to counternotice but are afraid of getting sued, we’d like to hear from you. We can’t promise to take every case, but neither will we stand by and watch semi-automated takedowns trample fair use.

As our own Nate Anderson recently noted, the zeal of content owners to stamp out online piracy often creates difficulties for those who want to make transformative “fair use” of copyrighted content to create new works. Those difficulties are compounded by the use of automatic filtering software, because “fair use” is a nebulous legal concept not easily captured by any algorithm.

At a panel at last month's State of the Net conference, Michael Petricone of the Consumer Electronics Association stated the problem succinctly: “We are nervous about filtering because the issue is overbreadth. Show me a filter that can determine when something is being used for commentary. Show me a filter that can determine what parody is. I don’t even know what parody is!”

With legal lines blurry and amateur creators seldom disposed to challenge formidable corporate legal department, it should scarcely be surprising to see companies like YouTube erring on the side of removal. As EFF’s previous battles in this sphere have shown, however, the threat of a PR backlash fueled by high-profile litigation is often enough to get copyright holders to exercise some restraint even before the gavel bangs.


YouTube's January Fair Use Massacre

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


This is what it’s come to. Teenagers singing “Winter Wonderland” being censored off YouTube.

Fair use has always been at risk on YouTube, thanks to abusive DMCA takedown notices sent by copyright owners (sometimes carelessly, sometimes not). But in the past several weeks, two things have made things much worse for those who want to sing a song, post an a capella tribute, or set machinima to music.

First, it appears that more and more copyright owners are using YouTube’s automated copyright filtering system (known as the Content ID system), which tests all videos looking for a “match” with “fingerprints” provided by copyright owners.

Second, thanks to a recent spat between YouTube and Warner Music Group, YouTube’s Content ID tool is now being used to censor lots and lots of videos (previously, Warner just silently shared in the advertising revenue for the videos that included a “match” to its music).

EFF, along with many other public interest groups, have repeatedly expressed our concerns to both copyright owners and YouTube about the dangers of automated filtering systems like the Content ID system. These systems are still primitive and unable to distinguish a tranformative remix from copyright infringement. So unless they leave lots of breathing room for remixed content, these filters end up sideswiping lots of fair uses.

And that’s exactly what has happened these past few weeks. And while today it’s Warner Music, as more copyright owners start using the Content ID tool, it’ll only get worse. Soon it may be off limits to remix anything with snippets of our shared mass media culture – music, TV, movies, jingles, commercials. That would be a sad irony – copyright being used to stifle an exciting new wellspring of creativity, rather than encourage it.

It’s clear from the Warner Music experience that YouTube’s Content ID tool fails to separate the infringements from the arguable fair uses. And while YouTube offers users the option to dispute a removal (if it’s an automated Content ID removal) or send a formal DMCA counter-notice (if it’s an official DMCA takedown), many YouTube users, lacking legal help, are afraid to wave a red flag in front of Warner Music’s lawyers. That’s a toxic combination for amateur video creators on YouTube.

So what can we do?

First, YouTube should fix the Content ID system. Now. The system should not remove videos unless there is a match between the video and audio tracks of a submitted fingerprint. When we made this suggestion in October 2007, YouTube assured us that they were working on improving the tool. Well, it’s been more than a year. If YouTube is serious about protecting its users, the time has come to implement this fix. (Some will point out that this implies that record labels and music publishers can never use the Content ID tool to remove videos solely based on what’s in the audio track. That’s right. I think that adding a soundtrack to your home skateboarding movie is a fair use. If copyright owners feel differently, they can send a formal DMCA takedown notice, and with any luck, we’ll see each other in court.)

Second, YouTubers, EFF wants to help. If Warner Music Group took down your video, ask yourself if your video is (1) noncommercial (i.e., no commercial advertisements or YouTube Partner videos) and (2) includes substantial original material contributed by you (i.e., no verbatim copies of Warner music videos). If so, and you’d like to counternotice but are afraid of getting sued, we’d like to hear from you. We can’t promise to take every case, but neither will we stand by and watch semi-automated takedowns trample fair use.


YouTube users caught in Warner Music spat

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Corey Vidal is no pirate, but he’s been branded one as a result of the licensing spat between Warner Music Group and YouTube.

On YouTube, Vidal posted a humorous video tribute to John Williams, the man who scored the soundtracks for such blockbuster films as Indiana Jones, and Star Wars. In his clip he included some of Williams’ music. By now, everybody knows that YouTube removes videos that violate copyright law. What’s different about Vidal’s work getting pulled is that when he posted it in October, he was permitted to use Warner’s music.

Until last month, YouTube had an agreement with Warner Music–one of the four largest recording companies–that allowed video creators to include the label’s content in their clips. Last month, talks to renew the deal broke down and that means YouTube and its users no longer have access to Warner’s library. For this reason, the case is much different than YouTube’s high-profile fight with Viacom or run-of-the-mill piracy that once flourished on the site.

In 2007, Viacom and YouTube failed to come to terms on a licensing deal and Viacom requested that YouTube pull its content. In that case, there was no prior agreement. Most of the people who posted Viacom’s films or TV shows to YouTube did so without authorization. In this situation, YouTube fans used Warner Music’s songs for two years with the label’s blessing. Now, through no fault of their own, the videos that YouTube users made in good faith are being yanked.

“I don’t understand who I’m harming,” said Frank Stallone, a 41-year-old former DJ who is quick to point out that he is not the less-famous brother of the box office draw. Stallone’s video was removed for using 45 seconds from “Forget Me Nots,” a 1982 song from Patrice Rushen. “If anything, people are hearing the 45-second tease they haven’t heard in a while and they’ll want to go out and buy the song,” he said.

Warner Music declined to comment, but YouTube had this to say: “While we work with music labels and publishers to keep music on the site, sometimes our negotiations don’t pan out,” said a spokesman for the company. “In those cases, we try to give people options when they receive a copyright claim. Instead of automatically blocking videos, we give uploaders the choice to dispute the claim (in the case of Fair Use, for example), use our AudioSwap tool to replace the track with one from our library of pre-cleared music, or to replace the video with a new version with no sound.”

If nothing else, the situation serves as a warning to those who think that because YouTube obtains rights to music or films one day, the agreements will last forever. That’s just not how these deals work.

That hasn’t stopped some YouTube’s fans from posting angry videos denouncing the situation at YouTube. Most of the protest videos take aim at Warner and the other three top recording companies. While all four of the big labels are in discussions about renewing licensing agreements, Warner is the only one scuffling publicly with YouTube.

In fact, sources close to the situation say YouTube is close to finalizing a new agreement with one of Warner’s chief rivals: Sony Music.

The situation illustrates how Web services and entertainment companies are learning hard lessons as they cover uncharted ground. It’s doubtful that Warner Music or YouTube intended to alienate their customers. Presumably Warner Music wants more concessions from YouTube and the Web’s No. 1 video site wants to pay less. What they likely didn’t consider when they penned their initial contract was what would happen to users if they failed to agree on a new deal.

Vidal, a 22-year-old from the Canadian province of Ontario, is more than happy to help them understand.

Vidal makes his living by creating YouTube videos. He’s a member of the company’s YouTube Partners program. This allows him to sell some of the advertisements that accompany his clips and pocket the money. He says that his videos see about 3.4 million to 4 million views per month and YouTube is his only source of income. As for how much he makes, Vidal only will say it’s enough for him to live comfortably.

Vidal hit the jackpot with his tribute to Williams. YouTube featured it on the site’s front door. He says for a time the clip was generating a million views each day and was nominated for a “People’s Choice Award” at CBS, parent company of CNET News.

But on January 18, Vidal’s cash cow went down.

YouTube sent him a notice that said Warner Music had claimed his video had infringed on the label’s copyright. Vidal doesn’t dispute that the label owns the rights to the music he used. “I’ll share the money I made with them but I just want my video back up.”

But he has so many questions about whether his video truly violates copyright law and if so, what part of the video infringes? That’s the other problem raised by the quarrel between Warner Music and YouTube. When users are dragged into it, there’s few places to get answers. Vidal said he called Warner Music and talked to about half a dozen people in the eight days since his video was removed. He has yet to hear back why exactly the video was pulled down or whether he and the record company can strike a separate deal.

To its credit, Viacom set up a support hot line to help answer questions and address disputes when it began pulling content from YouTube.

That’s what Stallone, the former DJ, says he needs. He says he doesn’t think using 45 seconds of a song is breaking any law, but he doesn’t have anywhere to go to get legal help. Also, he said he was discouraged by some of the language in the takedown notice YouTube sent him. Specifically, this passage: “There are very few valid reasons for disputing a claim,” YouTube wrote in the notice. “Submitting an invalid dispute can result in penalties against your account.”

Stallone wants to know how he’s supposed to determine what an invalid dispute is?

YouTube users should not assume copyright holders are always correct when they accuse someone of a violation, according to Fred von Lohmann, senior attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a watchdog group that advocates for the rights of Internet users. In the Viacom case, for instance, the company acknowledged erring in a small number of cases.

In another case, a Pennsylvania woman is suing rocker Prince and Universal Music for accusing her of copyright violation for including a brief snippet of Prince’s music in a video of her baby. Universal and Prince dropped their copyright claims against the woman and her video has returned to YouTube.

I’m no lawyer, but Stallone’s case sounds very similar.

People's Choice Awards

People's Choice Awards 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009


2009 People’s Choice Awards Nominees and Winners…

San Francisco Chronicle

City insiders’ holiday greetings

Friday, December 19, 2008


It’s that time of year again. City Hall is more or less closed for the holidays and, gosh darn it, nobody’s really making any news. Now, you never know — something could surprise us this holiday season. Chris Daly and Gavin Newsom could ring in the New Year together, who knows? But for now, City Insider is taking a much-needed respite. We’ll return after the New Year with all the latest San Francisco goings-on.

In the meantime, we leave you with the best holiday card we’ve seen so far this winter.

Nobody has a more City Hall insider-ish holiday “card” than our faves at Usual Suspects, the news-gathering Web site hosted by the Barbary Coast consulting team.

Instead of sending out paper cards, the hucksters decided to hire Corey Vidal and the a cappella comedy troupe moosebutter (yes, that’s what we meant) to do a personalized holiday video. You can watch it here.

We evidently aren’t cool enough (or don’t watch enough YouTube) to appreciate how famous these singing guys are in the online world, even being nominated for a 2009 People’s Choice Award for best user-generated video. Their holiday card made especially for Usual Suspects is full of nice little San Francisco political jokes, including a riff on “Little Drummer Boy”.

But the one that brought a smile to our faces was the 12 days of Christmas, City Hall style: a dozen new supporters; 11 city supervisors; 10-page memos; nine press releases; eight speaker trainings; letters to seven commissions; six community meetings; five stories on Usual Suspects; four white papers; three french hens (maybe given by Glide?); two great ideas; and a five-minute holiday video by a somewhat obscure online singing group.

The Washington Post

College A Cappella Groups on YouTube

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Singer-dancer Corey Vidal turned himself into the latest YouTube celebrity by posting an a cappella tribute to composer John Williams. In the video, the 21-year-old Canadian appears to sing all the parts of a four-part-harmony arrangement (in separate boxes on a divided screen, “Brady Bunch”-style).

The musical medley sets “Star Wars”-themed lyrics (including Wookiee growls!) to music from “E.T.,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Superman” and other films scored by Williams, the sci-fi soundtrack master. It is everything a cappella music should be: vocally impressive and undeniably nerdy, a tour de force performance (pardon the pun).

Of course, Vidal later clarified that he was lip-syncing (still a pretty neat trick) to a recording by Moosebutter, an a cappella quartet from Utah. But Vidal’s video continues to be a hit, garnering more than 2.2 million hits since it debuted last month.

Does this hint at a renaissance for a cappella music? One need only look to YouTube for the answer; a seemingly endless parade of college a cappella group videos are posted. Here we judge a sampling of them on these criteria: name (bonus points for puns), wardrobe (color coordination) and stage presence (a little movement goes a long way). Oh, and singing talent, too.

University of California at Berkeley: The UC Men’s Octet, “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Name: Boring. Where’s the groan factor?

Wardrobe: Matching suits and ties. Sufficiently dorky.

Stage presence: All the Queen references you’d expect and wildly over-emotive acting. Four stars!

Singing talent: Top-notch musical theater.

University of Wisconsin:

Redefined, Nintendo medley

Name: Too much like a real band’s.

Wardrobe: Black with red accents. Tasteful!

Stage presence: They jump like Super Mario. They fall like Tetris pieces. They’re geeks, but they know their audience.

Singing talent: Pretty awesome.

Harvard University:

Din & Tonics, “Copacabana”

Name: Hard to get better than that.

Wardrobe: White tie and tails. What did you expect? It’s Harvard.

Stage presence: A cheese factory (may we remind you they call themselves Din & Tonics).

Singing talent: Ham-tastic.

University of Notre Dame:

The Undertones, “She Will Be Loved”

Name: Classic.

Wardrobe: Football jerseys. What did you expect? It’s Notre Dame.

Stage presence: About as much movement as a Big Mouth Billy Bass.

Singing talent: Sweet and melodic, belying the sports uniforms.

Washington University:

The Aristocats, “A Whole New World”

Name: Appropriate. It’s an all-Disney a cappella group.

Wardrobe: Plastic top hats. These folks are not in it for the cachet.

Stage presence: They’ve got lots of street cred (as long as the street you’re talking about is the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A.).

Singing talent: Theme-park-errific.


Star Wars A Cappella Tribute

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Fan Corey Vidal splits his personality into four equal parts fan with this amazing tribute to composer John Williams and his music for Star Wars. He even has a very impressive Wookiee growl.

The Hamilton Spectator

Our YouTube wonder guy; Why millions log on just to see him dance

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Corey Vidal may have learned to dance in slow motion but his career has taken off like a rocket.

The Hamilton resident was fascinated by the reality TV series So You Think You Can Dance.

“I watched it religiously,” said Vidal, 21. “I just wanted to be a part of it.”

He taught himself the steps by watching it slowly over and over, step by step.

Since then, he has made all the right moves.

He posted videos of his how-to dance instructions on YouTube, where new converts to dance jumped at the chance

to learn. Millions of viewers later, he had a burgeoning full-time career as a video-maker, earning a rare “partnership”

in the giant video-sharing site.

“I sing, I make serious songs and funny songs, and I act in short films,” Vidal said.

He has become his own “brand.”

“I tell people, I’m a huge nerd. You don’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’m going to post videos on YouTube and I’m going to be this worldwide celebrity.’

"On top of that – as if that wasn’t good enough – I get paid to do it.”

It is a dazzling, digital world where undercurrents of data ricochet around the world like a storm surge that reshapes a shoreline. Overnight, unexpected events can transform a life.

In this bizarro world, Hamilton’s Corey Vidal, 21, is riding a massive wave.

It all started when Vidal made a dance video for fun in his basement. Expected viewing audience? One. Now, he’s one of the rising Internet stars on YouTube, drawing millions of people to his videos.

Vidal has to pinch himself sometimes, after a whirlwind two years that turned his world upside down.

That really was Madonna, sending him a message of support.

Then, it’s MTV Europe on the phone, hoping he will produce a video for one of their new shows. Microsoft calls him to review products and do a video.

“I can’t even describe … there’s not even words to tell you. This is what I do for a living.” Vidal is riding the unprecedented YouTube explosion, powered by his raw talents as an entertainer, dancer, actor, entrepreneur and video creator.

Vidal’s videos have now been viewed six million times at YouTube, the file-sharing website. His fan base of subscribers is close to 11,000.

The success of his how-to dance videos in attracting viewers prompted YouTube to offer Vidal one of the first

Canadian “partnerships” last December. It means that Vidal is now one of the privileged few who receive a portion of the revenue from the banner ads seen by viewers who watch his videos. More hits equals more revenue.

“So instead of YouTube taking all of the ad money, they give a tiny little bit to the partners … and that tiny little bit is a lot of money. It changed my life. It’s unbelievable.”

YouTube is notoriously secretive about what it pays its partners. They must sign a confidentiality agreement in their contract, which runs more than a dozen pages. Estimates of the partners’ shares range widely, from a couple of thousand dollars to several thousand dollars per month.

Vidal is coy about his earnings. “YouTube is my only job. I’m living off of it, well enough that I can live in my own house and pay all of my bills, and make YouTube videos.”

So how did Vidal transform himself into his own brand?

“I was in the right place at the right time. It was dumb luck that I happened to do the right thing.”

His star has been rising with the rapid growth of YouTube. Its mix of the sober (instructional videos), the commercial (Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane), the strange (Metallica in Lego) and the downright surreal (Fairytales in Dominoes) can be addictive. At one point, more than 50,000 new videos were being added each day. In January 2008 alone, 79 million users had made more than three billion video views on YouTube.

YouTube’s growth accelerated when it was purchased for about $1.65 billion US by Google.

In effect, YouTube offers an instant snapshot of pop culture: What’s hot, what’s not. Goofs and gaffes. A Saturday Night Live clip of Tina Fey’s satirical impersonation of Republican U.S. vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin was an overnight hit on YouTube.

Vidal’s how-to videos also coincided with the burgeoning popularity of ballroom dancing and TV series such as So You Think You Can Dance, which now has a hit Canadian version.

More on Corey:

Madonna: Vidal made a video dancing to the smash hit by Madonna and Justin Timberlake, 4 Minutes. It was a big hit – with everyone but her record company. They demanded the video be pulled for copyright reasons.

Vidal blew a fuse, feeling the popularity of his video could only be good for the song. He complained to the record company, and Madonna responded on YouTube, saying the video had her full support and “just keep doing what you are doing.”

Vidal sent the video with the singer’s comments to the record company. His video was eventually reposted on YouTube, and now has more than 300,000 hits.

Fame: “I try to have fun with it. If you take yourself too seriously, and you show up and you’re 'Look, I’m a big star, I get lots of hits, I’m so cool,’ everyone is going to hate you. I’m very grateful, and I’m very humble.”

Success: “From an art standpoint, it’s about making good videos. But when you look at it from a business standpoint, it’s about getting as many hits as possible, getting those numbers up, making a lot of money getting everything out there.”

Art: “The balance is, making something that is true to myself, something that is artistic, something that I care about, and I’m not just making videos for the sake of making videos.”

Vidal had the instinct to recognize and capitalize on an opportunity – marry the expanding, ubiquitous YouTube to the rapidly growing demand for dance instruction. His free how-to dance videos were just what the audience was thirsting for. He feels his feat would be impossible to duplicate today as he gained a foothold before YouTube exploded in popularity, dramatically increasing the competition for viewers. His fan base and solid reputation give him a big head start over more recent video posters.

The roots of his story begin when he was 12. Vidal was persuaded to take dance lessons, because his sister wanted to go into dance. “I thought, 'This is dumb,’ and some of my friends made fun of me at school. But at the end of the year, we had a big recital, and I ended up really loving it.”

He danced for five years, but quit after high school. Then, the reality TV series So You Think You Can Dance was launched. “I ended up being really, really inspired.”

At the time, more dance lessons were not an option. But technology offered a solution. “We had TIVO, and I would watch the dance over and over again. It took me a really long time to actually figure out one of these dances.”

A few weeks later, he was playing with a video camera. “I filmed a clip of me dancing. I still wasn’t expecting to show anybody at all.”

Then one of his friends asked to see the video. It was suggested he upload the video to YouTube, so his friend could watch. On Aug. 17, 2006, he created a YouTube account, and uploaded the video.

“The next day I woke up and I had all kinds of e-mails. I checked the video and it had like 500 hits.”

The growing response encouraged Vidal to develop a series of free how-to lessons so others could learn the steps.

“I have always tried to have a business mind about things. And I thought, what would really catch on is if I made a video saying how to do this dance. That’s something people will watch and will care about and will send it to their friends.

"And make it free. So I ended up making a lot of how-to dance videos, and they just exploded and went all over the Internet.” One of his videos received nearly 2.5 million hits on YouTube.

“It’s not even a dream come true because I never even dreamed it would happen. So, when people say, 'Oh, you're just wasting your time on YouTube, you need to go and work, this isn’t actually getting you anywhere …’ I’m just lucky enough that that’s not the case. YouTube is my full-time job.”

Vidal says he is humbled by his success, but has a long way to go. 

“I’m not one of the biggest. There are people who are 100 times more popular. There are people who have 100 million hits. I look up to these people.”

Sources: The Canadian Press,,, Wall Street Journal

The Canadian Press

More men drawn to dancing, inspired by TV reality competitions

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


OTTAWA - Move over ladies, men are hitting the dance floor. 

Inspired by TV shows like “Dancing With the Stars” and “America’s Best Dance Crew,” viewers are getting off the couch to learn how to strut their stuff like the pros. And a growing number of them are men. 

With the premiere Thursday of “So You Think You Can Dance Canada” on CTV, the trend seems bound to continue. 

Peter Lavictoire, a 21-year-old student from Montreal, never had any interest in taking dance lessons until he started watching reality dance shows at the behest of his girlfriend, Sagine Cave. 

She is one of the many fans of the popular show “So You Think You Can Dance,” the televised search for America’s favourite dancer. 

Cave was thrilled when Lavictoire put aside his inhibitions and surprised her with private swing dancing lessons for their anniversary. 

“She always hinted that she wanted to do swing dancing some day. And I just never really had the opportunity to, or never really wanted to before the show,” Lavictoire said. 

“Watching reality dance TV shows inspires me to be a better dancer." 

Lavictoire is not alone in his newfound love of dance. Mike Schultz, president and CEO of the Canadian branch of Fred Astaire Dance Studios, said his business is booming. 

The company has seen a 25 to 40 per cent increase in clients, particularly single men and couples, looking to emulate their favourite TV dancers. 

Schultz said the trend started in 2004 with the movie "Shall We Dance,” which stars Richard Gere as an overworked lawyer who finds happiness through ballroom dancing. 

Reality shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” soon followed, introducing a younger generation to ballroom dancing. 

The show boasts and equal number of male and female dancers. And the men have won the competition three times in the show’s four-year history. 

And when former NFL player Emmitt Smith twirled his way to No. 1 on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2006, men started to see ballroom dancing as a more masculine activity and started signing up for classes. 

“It has revolutionized our business,” Schultz said. “It’s opened the doors to the inside of our business to make it seem a little less scary." 

Some are learning the fancy footwork from the comfort of their own home. Corey Vidal, 21, was so motivated by Ivan Koumaev’s performance in a hip-hop routine during the second season of "So You Think You Can Dance” that he copied the dance and posted it on YouTube. 

Vidal taught himself the choreography by watching the dance in slow motion, learning one step at a time, and then videotaped the routine in the basement of his Hamilton home. 

“I watched it religiously. I would watch the episodes over and over,” he said. “I just wanted to be a part of it." 

The homemade video received more than 500 hits overnight, prompting him to develop a series of free "how-to” films so others could learn the steps. 

One of his instructional videos received nearly 2.5 million hits on YouTube. 

With 19-year-old Joshua Allen taking the top spot on “So You Think You Can Dance” last month and anticipation for the Canadian instalment building, it appears that male viewers will be two-stepping for years to come.

Global National News

888 YouTube Toronto Meetup

Friday, August 08, 2008



Overnight celebrity gathering in Toronto

Friday, August 08, 2008


YouTube stars, including Pelham teen, to gather at Science Centre

Those who spend time watching YouTube videos now have a chance to meet their favourite YouTubers in real life.

This weekend there will be a YouTube gathering party at the Ontario Science Centre. It is an international party that is open for everyone to attend and will bring all of YouTube’s biggest stars from Canada, America, England, Australia and beyond all into one place.

Pelham resident Corey Vidal, who has made a name for himself on the popular website, will be hosting the main event during the gathering, which includes feature interviews with the biggest YouTube stars, musical performances, skits, comedy routines, contests and merchandise giveaways, and a big question-and-answer finale where the crowd gets to ask their favourite stars questions.

Vidal has been a success over the last two years starting with his “How to Dance” instructional videos and eventually creating an online TV show with different segments featured each day.

The YouTube star makes a profit off his videos through advertisements posted on his personal page on the popular video website.

He has received over five million hits on his webpage since starting it two years ago.

“YouTube stars have skills – that’s why they’re famous online – and all these stars from all over the world are all going to be in the same place at the same time. This is a chance to meet people from YouTube and make all kinds of friends,” said Vidal.

The YouTuber said that he is looking forward to the event not only because he will get to meet his online friends from all over the world for the first time, but because many of his fans will be attending the event.

“It’s going to be awesome to meet so many people all in two days,” he said.

Tonight (Friday) is a welcoming party from 7 p.m.-10 p.m., and you must RSVP by e-mailing to attend. Registration at the door will cost $20. Saturday is the big gathering from noon to 6 p.m.

The gathering event is free to attend and no RSVP is required.

Welland Tribune

Celebrating YouTube's technology and success

Tuesday, August 05, 2008



Imagine the outrageous videos you see on, only live and in person.

That’s what fans at the 888 YouTube gathering will get to experience on Friday, Aug. 8, and Saturday, Aug. 9, at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto.

The event is expected to bring thousands of fans and video-makers alike together to celebrate the technology and success behind the Internet phenomenon.

Some of the website’s best and brightest will gather to talk with fans and meet those who inspired them to begin posting videos.

Included in the web-star-studded event is Corey Vidal, of Fonthill, who has a presence on the site, being ranked as one of the top 25 Canadians watched, with almost 30,000 hits a day.

His dance videos have caught the attention of millions of people, allowing Vidal to become a YouTube partner, receiving an undisclosed amount of money each time his videos are watched.

When he heard about the upcoming Toronto gathering, he said he quickly got involved, wanting to show fans of the popular site what YouTube’s all about.

Vidal decided to put together a short-but-sweet variety show that allowed YouTube celebrities to show just why they’re so popular.

Hosted by Vidal, the showcase will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, paying homage to the site that he said is “tying people all over the world together.”

He said his plan is to keep the entertainment “short and action packed,” so the audience can experience the quick-glance appeal found in the usually short YouTube videos.

“If YouTube was playing, this is how it would be. It’s a physical manifestation of YouTube, not static, always changing.”

The hour-long main show will include musical performances, comedy skits and interviews with well-known “vloggers” (video bloggers) from the site, but is only part of the two-day event where fans and favourites will collide.

The Friday night welcome party, held inside the Science Centre, begins at 7 p.m., costing $20 at the door for admission with a cap of 1,000 people, so RSVP to save your spot. The Saturday event is free and will be held outside the centre from noon to 6 p.m.

Vidal said the entire event is going to be an interesting experience for fans who will be able to “shake hands with people they watch religiously.”

This is the fourth major gathering held by YouTube, owned by Google Inc., but the first within Canadian borders, said Vidal.

He said attendees “don’t have to be (video) posters,” but can come to the event even if they simply like browsing the site.

According to Vidal, three of the biggest names who will be attending include video bloggers Philip Defranco (sXePhil) and DaveDays, as well as juggler OlgaKay.

More information on the YouTube 888 gathering can be found at


One million viewers

Friday, May 25, 2007


PELHAM - Corey Vidal joined an elite crowd this week. The videos he has posted on YouTube will have collectively been seen more than one million times. 

“Right now I’m getting 10,000 hits every day,” the Pelham resident said.

As the popularity of his videos grows, the number of people viewing his creations each day increases exponentially. In the last month alone Vidal’s videos, which range from instruction on popular dance routines to him solving a Rubik’s cube puzzle while beatboxing, have been viewed nearly 300,000 times.

It all started last summer when Vidal used YouTube to upload a movie for a friend to see. He said he never thought about others taking a peek.

“I didn’t bother making it good - I wasn’t expecting people to see it,” Vidal, 20, said of the short clip of himself dancing as an example of how to shrink high definition video.

“The next day I checked out of curiosity and overnight 500 people had watched it.”

He also received emails asking for more videos, so he decided to make How To Dance: ‘Sexy Love’, which had just been featured on the TV show “So you think you can dance”.

More emails flowed in, including thanks for providing free dance lessons. The he began taking requests.

Vidal, originally from St. Catharines, has 27 videos available on his YouTube channel ( and was planning to add another this week.

His most popular video - How To Dance: '1, 2 Step’ by Ciara - has been seen nearly 400,000 times since he uploaded it to the popular video sharing website.

Vidal’s interest in video began in 2004, when he and some friends created Ring Wars: Reloaded, a film combining the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Matrix movie series. He even rented the theatre at Pen Centre to show the film on the big screen.

The flick, which is highly regarded by Star Wars fans, took 12 months to film and features high quality special effects and post production.

“It was the first time I really found an interest in video,” said Vidal.

He is currently writing another movie, Unity, which he hopes to find backers for in order to do it properly.

“We want it to be an actual film production, not just me and some buddies with cameras,” he said.

The E. L. Crosley grad currently operates a production company, Aexian Studios, with his father.

And Vidal’s video career is about to spill over to television. Producers of “Best Show Ever”, an MTV Europe reality show which features the tops in categories from best cup stacker to best belcher, contacted him after seeing his Rubik’s Cube video.

It fits into one of the show’s categories and Vidal was asked to produce a broadcast quality version of it to be shown during the show’s run.

“It will be my television debut,” Vidal said.

A North American version of the show has not been announced.

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