It’s Halloween and my daughter is dressed up as a Youtube star.
Superwoman is her inspiration, a Youtuber who posts a 6-9 minute video every Monday and Thursday about, well, about nothing. Nothing in the sense that she’s not teaching or making anything but she is funny. Very funny. And she has over 4,300,000 subscribers. Let that sink in: over 4.3 million subscribers. Some of her videos have been viewed several million times with her most popular at almost 8.3 million views. She has some merchandise sales and a mobile app and I’m sure this is only the beginning for her.
Michelle Phan, another one of my daughter’s Youtube heroes with a series of makeup tutorial videos, was interviewed at Re/Code’s conference this week about her new startup. Her makeup tutorial videos have garnered over seven million subscribers and she has translated that success into makeup lines, a book and an e-commerce startup, Ipsy, which sends out four to five full-size makeup products per month to 700,000 subscribers. Each subscriber pays $10 per month and as Ms. Phan described it: “you’re not just getting products, you’re getting substantial content — videos from myself and other beauty stylists who are using the products who are showing and demoing how to use every single product. Not only are the users happy, but the brands are ecstatic because these videos are getting hundreds of thousands, sometimes even millions of views, and we’re getting tastemakers using the products.”
The success enjoyed by Lilly Singh (Superwoman) and Michelle Phan drives home the change in media consumption that tweens and teens are leading. They are on-demand viewers and watch videos when they want to and view them not on a TV screen but on phones and tablets. They don’t gravitate towards what a network executive has picked out and marketed to them but rather videos that their friends recommend. They crown their own heroes and these new heroes are learning how to take that popularity and turn it into profits.
This change in how cultural heroes are crowned affects more than co-branded sales these stars may do. They also affect sales of other products such as clothing, accessories, beauty products, school supplies, and, well, costumes. My daughter couldn’t find a Superwoman costume at the Halloween superstore. She bought part of it from Superwoman’s store and from non-costume outlets. If the superstores even realized they missed a trend this year, they will have realized it too late.
This shift in viewing affects the big studios and TV networks as well. Will there come a time where viewing audiences are so small for a single show that it will no longer make sense to broadcast it on a network? More shows targeting smaller audiences might become the norm. Also, is a big-screen TV in the living room still necessary when every family member has their own tablet? Let’s check in again in a year or two, shall we?
In the meantime, Happy Halloween!