NCTA — The Internet & Television Association

New Digital Media Stars and the Phenomenon Behind Their Success

New Digital Media Stars and the Phenomenon Behind Their Success

New Digital Media Stars

Kids and their videos these days. They’re all over the place, on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook–those bite-sized pieces of entertainment that go viral and have everyone talking. Roll your eyes all you want at those kids, but the greatest “aha” moment in the Internet and television world is that there’s actually a strategy behind the creation and success of a lot of these digital media stars, said Evan Shapiro, Executive Vice President of NBCUniversal during a late afternoon session at INTX.

Shapiro kicked off an hour-long conversation with Whistle Sports Director of New Channel Partnerships Hilary Awad and comedian and Internet personality Matt Bellassai, in which they examined the ins and outs of this new rush of individuals who are making a name and following for themselves on virtually all of the social media platforms that are available to us.

Whistle Sports, which launched in 2014, is dedicated solely to sports content, and is “platform agnostic.” Awad summed up their work best when she said they basically help people, professional athletes in this case, take the “production studio” that’s in their pockets to then make and distribute their own incredible content. The athletes are the video creators. They make the content and they partner with Whistle Sports. Whistle Sports takes care of all the sales, branding, optimization, and analytics for them, and provide expertise on best practices for every platform.

Then there’s Bellassai, who is completely on his own. Bellassai is the prime example of a trend that’s hitting the marketplace, as individuals are taking it upon themselves to create their own channels as well  as handling all of the distribution and promotion work involved. A former writer for Buzzfeed, Bellassai gained fame with the comedic web series, Whine About It, in which he would get drunk at work and entertain viewers with his antics. The series took off and garnered millions of views each week. But even without the backing of Buzzfeed, Bellassai’s latest videos have each scored around a million views each. Not bad for a new venture. He also spoke of being open to expanding beyond the web, such as going to television to explore a different way of engaging with people, though he intends to remain true to his roots.

Comics and theatrics aside, the phenomenon behind the rise of these types of digital stars is likely due to the authentic, in-the-moment type content that comes out of entrepreneurial projects that start on social platforms, and where the creators can simply be themselves. “I’m not going to be compelling in some flashy studio. People are used to seeing me in my apartment,” said Bellassai. People want to see someone unrehearsed, in candid form.

As for what we can expect a year from now in the new media world, both Awad and Bellassai agreed that virtual reality and live content will soon dominate every platform we use. Only time will tell, but given the success of their ventures, it’s a pretty good prediction.