Even in the hyperventilating world of online media, 1 billion views is A Very Big Number. So accordingly, the enthusiastically geeky guys behind the three Vsauce YouTube channels were in a mood to celebrate after passing that major milestone. The three producer/hosts — Michael Stevens, Kevin Lieber and Jake Roper — presided over a panel and party at the YouTube Space L.A. on Monday night, and looked forward in a separate interview to what may be possible for the sites, which collectively have accumulated more than 12 million followers and those billion views in just about four years of short, peppy and slightly off-kilter takes on science and much else. Stevens, the original channel’s founder, says what makes all three channels distinctive is “the attitude or perspective we take, whether we’re talking black holes or chocolate cake: curious, optimistic and thinking tangentially.”
That original channel, now Vsauce1, was founded in July 2010. Lieber joined about six months later with Vsauce2. Roper has been around a bit more than a year on Vsauce3. Though each produces his own channel separately, and on the stereotypical shoestring budget, they do share a certain mindset and spirit that inhabits all three channels. They have a few bits of advice for budding video entrepreneurs: “Audio is important,” perhaps even more so than high-quality visuals, given that so many YouTube fans watch the short videos on the go, on smartphones or a tablet. And being interested in just about everything in the world has helped the Vsaucers find success, “whether we’re talking about paint drying or grass growing. Actually, the way paint dries is really very interesting,” Stevens said, before launching into a bit of a colloquy on the differences between water- and oil-based paints. “If you find it fascinating, millions of other people will too.”
With success comes greater ambition, it seems. Stevens, who mostly collaborates with a London-based editor to make his pieces, is now looking to work with more animators. The budding YouTube creative economy relies a great deal on mutual back scratching, an approach that feels a bit like the rap music world, where the up-and-comer does a guest spot (often for little or no money) on a more established star’s latest work, then leverages that to build their own following. The Vsauce trio also hope to extend their brand to more traditional media such as TV, but want to retain the autonomy and interaction that their online platform allows. “Now, if we can use those other platforms to bring people back to our core, that would be great,” Stevens said.
Ex-Hulu CEO, CTO launch, sort of, Vessel.com
Jason Kilar and Richard Tom, Hulu.com‘s former CEO and CTO respectively, have resurfaced, sort of, with slightly more details of their stealth online project, now renamed as Vessel.com. As for what that Vessel may carry, well, the details are considerably more scarce. The site apparently will have a video focus, but perhaps not exclusively, according to a general letter from the two accompanying the new site’s splash page: “We’ve been busy building a service whose mission is to delight consumers and content creators alike. Though we still have more work to do at Vessel, we want to share this brief update and reach out to the creator community. If you are a content creator, particularly a video content creator, we should talk!” The letter goes on to say, “As a team, we are unusually passionate about the intersection of media and technology; we see an opportunity to improve media, particularly next generation video.”
For aficionados of tech startup financing, the list of backers for the site-to-be is a sterling one, with blue-chip VC firms Benchmark Capital and Greylock Partners, along with the personal investment fund of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Bezos Expeditions. The site promises it will have more to share before the end of the year. Given how little they’ve shared so far, they should have lots to talk about.
Ex-Sony Exec Singer joins anti-piracy company Verance as special advisor
Anti-piracy tech company Verance has named former Sony digital executive Mitch Singer as special advisor on industry affairs. Singer formerly was Sony Pictures Entertainment‘s chief digital strategy officer. He first worked with Verance technologies when Sony used its Cinavia content-protection system for its films on Blu-Ray discs. Singer, who departed SPE in March, will rep Verance as it tries to expand the Cinavia technologies and other Verance products into new digital-media distribution platforms.
Singer is president of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, the consortium behind the UltraViolet digital-media distribution technology. He formerly sat on the boards of Motion Picture Laboratories, DVD CCA, the USC Entertainment Technology Center and the HDBaseT Alliance. He also served on the copyright committee for The National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy.