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SXSW Report: Maker Studios Creates the Future on YouTube

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How will viewers watch their favorite programs in the future? And what will it take for advertisers to see online video as equal in value to television? The future of online video is still being decided, and Maker Studios is leading the charge. In a South by Southwest panel entitled "The Future of Video; The Post YouTube Apocalypse" (SXSW titles often over-promise), three Maker founders, Danny Zappin, KassemG, and ShayCarl, explained how they created their company and what it takes to succeed in online video.

A frustrated actor, Zappin turned to online video since he wanted to get his work in front of viewers directly. He didn't have to audition or pitch; he simply uploaded his work and enjoyed being able to reach a global audience. When YouTube came along, he jumped on board and became one of the first YouTube partners. Because having to do everything on set is a grind, Zappin and some YouTube friends created Maker in the summer of 2009 as the infrastructure to support several channels.

"A1 steak sauce, baby; that's what started it all," said ShayCarl, talking about the brand promotion that gave them the money they needed to launch Maker.

For aspiring YouTube stars, KassemG said that work had to be organic and come from within to succeed. "I see a lot of people getting in the space just because everyone's getting in the space," he said. "Don't do it just because everyone else is doing it. There's a lot of sh*t out there."

The team has much experience working with brands, but finds that some brands are easier to work with than others. Micromanaging can be a problem, said ShayCarl. He prefers incorporating brands in videos he would have made anyway, rather than making videos under brand control. "It's a win-win," he said, since the brands often give him products to give away to the audience.

Maker Studios PanelAt the moment, advertisers put value on the size of the screen, said ShayCarl, seeing TV and movie advertising as more valuable than computer or mobile. He hopes they'll begin to realize that eyeballs are all the same size. He sees online video advertising as far more valuable, since interested viewers can immediately click for more information.

Mobile viewing is exploding, noted Zappin, but advertising is even farther behind here. "It's growing faster than we ever could have imagined," he said, counting for over 50 percent of all views for some Maker channels. But since advertisers so far haven't warmed up to mobile, that means that those channels are making less money than they would with all desktop views.

ShayCarl predicted that devices would continue to get smaller and more personal: "Any moment we're going to have chips in our brains where we can watch things in our eyeballs." More realistically, he predicted the rise of a la carte viewing, where viewers could plug in with any screen they like and pull content from any source.

Despite Maker's size, Zappin said it was still trying to meet the challenge of providing targeted demographics at scale. Advertisers want to create an impact by hitting one type of viewer in one region all at the same time. Providing that means offering significant verticals with millions of targeted viewers. Maker is now working to grow its audience and its sales channels.

But what about that post-YouTube apocalypse?, one audience member demanded to know. What would Maker do if YouTube went away? YouTube isn't likely to disappear anytime in the near future, Zappin said. Even though Maker is dependent on it, that's not something they're going to worry about.

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