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YouTube Stardom 2.0: Tune Into YouTube’s Rising Stars

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Watch a few minutes of a "VintageBeef" episode and it’s clear that luck only took Daniel so far. He’s a natural on the microphone, creating narratives that even nongamers can enjoy. Prior to YouTube, he narrated his gaming sessions aloud while playing. As it turns out, that was on-the-job training.

“I always try to record when I’m in a good mood, which is quite often honestly, because I know how lucky I am to have this as work,” Daniel says. “It doesn’t take much to get me in a good mood, but I think that really comes through.”

When Daniel started making more from his YouTube channel than his photography business, he quit and became a full-time YouTuber. He joined an MCN -- Broadband TV -- but isn’t motivated by sponsorships or branding deals. So far he’s content to work with YouTube ad revenue alone. For Daniel, running his channel like a business means the freedom to do work he enjoys in his own way.

"How to Cook That"

A pinch of luck, a dollop of creativity, and a generous amount of business savvy turned Ann Reardon’s "How to Cook That" into a YouTube hit, currently with just under 600,000 subscribers.

The channel started life as a blog. After her third child was born, Reardon needed something to do at night while feeding him, so she started a cooking blog. When instructions were too complicated to write, she’d make a video and upload it to YouTube. Eventually her YouTube channel started outperforming her blog, so he devoted herself to it. Surprisingly, for someone who works with sweets and cakes, Reardon is a food scientist and dietician.

“I don’t like all of the things that say they’re healthy and they’re not, so I’d rather do things that say they’re not healthy so don’t eat a lot of them,” Reardon jokes.

A cooking channel needs novelty to stand out. Reardon achieves that with invented desserts that play off internet culture (Instagram cake), popular movies (Despicable Me minion cake), and nature (edible rock candy geodes).

“I believed what YouTube said, which is ‘content is king.’ Basically, I thought if I’m putting out the same thing as everyone else, like here is just another recipe that you already know exists and it’s in the same format, then it’s really not going to grow an audience,” Reardon says. “I was looking for unique things, things that had never been seen before.”

While her husband helps with the email, Reardon handles the filming, editing, and uploading herself. The work takes three evenings each week, and she posts a new video each Friday.

“Lots of people have asked ‘Can you upload more often?’ but I’ve got three kids and the aim was to stay home and look after them, and once a week fits in perfectly with that,” Reardon says.

Reardon is an ideal instructor, coming across as knowledgeable and patient. No matter how complicated the results, she makes the process seem easy. Her early videos sounded too low-energy, she says, so she thought of a way to improve them: “I actually try and pretend I’m speaking to my three-year-old when I’m doing the voiceovers for the videos so it sounds a bit more lively.”

While several MCNs came calling, Reardon studied what each was offering and asked for offers in writing. She signed with Kin Community because of its ad rates, product placement options, and helpful support.

“I actually waited until the channel was big enough to negotiate a good deal, because all the deals that were coming through the emails basically just want to take a percentage of earnings,” Reardon says. “I was like, why would I give them a percentage of my earnings because the only thing they were offering was advice and information which YouTube readily makes available.”

"How to Cook That" now pulls in much more than Reardon made in her previous part-time job, which is helping pay off the house. For anyone starting out on YouTube, she emphasizes the need to stand out.

“YouTube is getting very crowded now so if anyone else wants to do a channel, they need to either know more or to be able to do it in a more creative way than what already exists,” Reardon says.

"In Bed With Joan"

“I am so happy. It’s like I’ve waited 80 years to do this,” Joan Rivers says.

The legendary comedian is so happy with her YouTube show "In Bed With Joan," which is filmed in a spare bedroom in daughter Melissa’s house. While it only has about 40,000 subscribers and she’s only 60 episodes in, Joan loves the freedom of working online.

The show breaks from convention somewhat. While established entertainers often work online, they usually go for well-funded series with brand support. Joan started the show for fun and pays the $3,000 in production costs for each episode herself. She credits her grandson Cooper as the inspiration.

“I took a look at my grandson and I saw that he is never watching television the normal way and I said, ‘That’s the future and I can do it. I can do it myself. I can do it without anybody telling me what I’m allowed to say,’” she says.

With decades of entertaining behind her, Rivers now prizes creative freedom over financial returns. Is that a smart business decision? “It’s called I am very ADD and it’s called what could I do next? I’m bored,” she says.

Rather than only interviewing Hollywood entertainers, Joan often has YouTube celebs as guests. Melissa loves that the online world is embracing her mother.

“What’s really fascinating is we’re getting the traditional response of people you would assume would want to come and do the show, but the support and interest we’ve gotten from the biggest of the YouTube stars wanting to come and be a part of it is what’s really fascinating,” says Melissa. “Everyone from iJustine and Jenna Marbles and Mamrie Hart and King Bach.”

The show offers loose, unstructured interviews between Rivers and her guest.

“People get in the bed and it’s so low key and it’s so nontraditional that they laugh and say things you never would find them saying ever,” Joan says. “I can ask them anything. There are no pre-interviews. They are totally relaxed. We drink wine on the show, if they want it. They’re in Melissa’s house. It’s like they’re visiting and they sit down on the bed and we laugh and we talk.”

If doing a show from a guest bedroom sounds like a joke, that’s exactly how it started.

“My mother had just done Chris Hardwick’s show and was curious about this whole new medium,” Melissa says. “As a joke, almost facetiously I said, ‘Oh well, that’s a great idea. Why don’t we just shoot another show out of this house? We’ll shoot it in the guest bedroom and you can interview people laying in bed and we can have them enter from the closet.’ And my mom’s like, ‘That’s a really good idea.’”

While "In Bed With Joan" is enjoying a lot of buzz, Joan is content to take it slow. Melissa is in talks with a variety of MCNs and other agencies about taking the show to the next level, but Joan isn’t sure that’s the right decision. It would mean having bosses, and right now she’s too busy enjoying herself to answer to anyone.

“We’re trying to sort it all out and figure out a plan and what we see the future of it being,” Melissa says.

“But you know something?” Joan says. “I’m having so much fun, I don’t care.”

This article was originally published in the July/August 2014 issue of Streaming Media as "YouTube's Rising Stars."

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