Studio71 CEO on the rise of TikTok, how selling products can beat advertising for YouTubers, and what it takes to become a multi-platform star
Anna Hubbard (Studio71)
- Reza Izad is cofounder and global CEO of Studio71, a digital media company that produces and distributes influencer-focused original programming.
- Digital networks like Studio71 work with clients like Emma Chamberlain (8.5 million YouTube subscribers) to expand their brands beyond YouTube, through content production and distribution, and in building stable revenue opportunities through advertising.
- Izad spoke to Business Insider about the rise of short-form platforms like TikTok, the importance of new direct-to-consumer products influencers are selling, and what creators need to do to succeed in the multi-platform ecosystem of 2019.
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With millions of followers across platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, popular YouTube creators like Emma Chamberlain (8.5 million subscribers) aren't just creating content for YouTube anymore.
"When you start it's you, a camera, and your computer," said Reza Izad, cofounder and global CEO of Studio71. But as you expand, you have to evolve. "The audience on TikTok, YouTube, Snap, Instagram, are all radically different. If you can, it's ideal to be on all of them," he said.
Digital networks like Studio71 work with influencer clients in expanding their brands beyond YouTube, through content production and distribution, and in building more stable revenue opportunities through advertising.
Recently, Studio71 worked with Chamberlain to launch a Snapchat series, "Adulting With Emma Chamberlain," which is a part of Snapchat's new "Creator Show." But Snapchat is just one platform Studio71 works with.
In an interview with Business Insider, Izad broke down the different ways Studio71 works with creators to expand their brands, and the trends he's seen in the industry at large.
The rise of TikTok and short-form content
Off YouTube, Studio71 produces and distributes content for clients on platforms like Snapchat, Facebook, Roku, and Pluto, Izad said. This is another way for a creator to earn revenue instead of relying on YouTube.
Generally, being active on all (or most) major platforms is about relevance as well as revenue, he said. Once a creator puts in the work to pass difficult milestones (like gaining their first 1,000 subscribers on YouTube) then they should focus on content for growth on other platforms like TikTok, which aren't as crowded as YouTube or Instagram.
That sentiment has been echoed by other industry insiders.
In a previous interview with Business Insider, 16-year-old Parker Pannell detailed how he grew up with the dream of becoming an entertainer in Hollywood, but instead got his big break on TikTok. After attending acting classes, auditions, and working to grow his YouTube channel, nothing was helping Pannell get noticed in the industry - until he joined TikTok, where he now has 779,000 followers, he said.
Finding new platforms that aren't as saturated can be beneficial for growth, but your content also has to be compelling, have a clear storyline, and fit your personality, Izad said.
Here are the skills creators need to create a multi-platform brand, according to Izad:
- Learning how to navigate vertical video: Instagram Stories, IGTV, Snapchat, TikTok.
- Learning to manage each platform's algorithm.
- Understanding how different platforms monetize content.
In 2019, understanding short-form content is also a key, Izad said.
"What's shifted in the last 18 months, is you're seeing a whole bunch of short-form platforms emerging," he said. "Some of them have been there for a while, but are opening up opportunities for this native talent, so that you can monetize."
How selling consumer products can surpass anything ad supported
Direct-to-consumer products are a hot trend in the influencer industry. When a YouTube influencer creates a product with their brand in mind, their content then becomes a tool to drive product sales, rather than to attract advertising dollars.
"The business is bigger than anything that's ad supported," Izad said.
Influencers like Jeffree Star, with 16.5 million subscribers on YouTube, earn a bulk of their revenue by selling products related to their digital brands. Star's beauty and makeup related content racks up millions of views online, and after developing a name for himself in the industry, he built a DTC cosmetics and merchandise company.
"Clearly Jeffree Star is one of the leaders in doing things like that," Izad said. "Building a cosmetics brand, an ancillary merch company that's doing very well, and works with a lot of other talent. He's really diversified himself in a lot of ways, and the ad revenue that he gets is probably immaterial to the broader business he's been able to build off of his social following."
Studio71 works with around 800 YouTube channels, and because of its volume of clients, advertising and content distribution is at the core of the business, rather than product development, Izad said.
But DTC brands are important to the advertising business as well. Izad said that because influencer campaigns are outcome and data driven, DTC brands are able to see a lift in sales from an influencer campaign better than massive corporations can.
But with any type of company, the fit has to be right for an influencer campaign to succeed.
"Brands really need to align with the right talent to make it work," he said. "I think that's the art of branded content and relationships."
For more on the business of influencers, according to YouTube and Instagram stars, check out these Business Insider Prime posts:
The top 14 talent managers for YouTube creators and influencers who are shaping the future of digital media: These talent managers help their clients diversify their online brands, build lasting partnerships with companies through influencer marketing campaigns, and even develop consumer products.
Meet the company that turned YouTube's Ryan ToysReview into a business empire making tens of millions per year: The kids-entertainment company Pocket.Watch takes YouTube stars like Ryan ToysReview and turns their online brands into lucrative empires.
The YouTube metrics you should pay attention to if you want to earn money from brand sponsorships as an influencer: When deciding which influencers to work with, brands have stopped just looking for the ones with the highest subscriber counts, and are instead focusing on those with the most engaged followers.
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