PewDiePie is the top creator on YouTube, with over 107M subscribers and 26B views. Now he’s coming to Facebook, and we’re chatting with the cofounder of the company making it happen.
Jellysmack is an influencer platform whose creators have a combined 10 billion monthly video views and reaches 125M unique viewers just in the United States. In this latest TechFirst with John Koetsier, co-founder Michael Philippe chats with us about bringing PewDiePie to the platform: why, how, what content, what’s changing, what’s not, and who he thinks PewDiePie’s fans will be on Facebook.
We also chat about the changing media/creator/influencer landscape, and what this is growing into.
And … scroll down for the full video, the podcast (subscribe!), and of course a full transcript.
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(This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.)
John Koetsier: PewDiePie is the top creator on YouTube. He’s massive — 107 million subscribers, 26 billion views — and now he’s coming to Facebook. And we’re chatting with the co-founder of the company making it happen. Welcome to TechFirst with John Koetsier.
So, I mean, 107 million subscribers, 26 billion views … PewDiePie is huge. Of course he’s not without controversy as well, and we’ll get into that. But now he’s coming to Facebook, with the third-largest social media content company out there. You may not have heard of them — they’re just behind Disney and Viacom — it’s called Jellysmack. And to unpack what’s happening, what it means, how it’s working, we’re chatting with the co-founder Michael Philippe. Welcome, Michael!
Michael Philippe: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me.
John Koetsier: Hey, it is a real pleasure to have you. And let’s just start with the big, big news: PewDiePie is coming to Facebook. How significant is it? How big of a deal is this?
Michael Philippe: I think it’s a huge deal, personally, obviously as you said, he’s the biggest YouTube creator. He’s part of, you know, internet culture at this point.
And the fact that he’s now going to Facebook is a huge deal, because for me, it means that we are really now in a multi-platform ecosystem, which was really not the case like a few years ago. I mean, five years ago, as a video creator you really had to be successful on YouTube — that was the main platform. But fast forward today, like, creators have the opportunity really to start growing their audiences and monetize, and make revenue across all these new platforms including obviously, Facebook, but also Snapchat, and TikTok and IGTV, Twitch, and all the other platforms.
And so for me, it really means that we’re getting into this new world where creators become the most important thing for a platform to have, and really like we’re embracing this new multi-platform video world.
John Koetsier: That is really critical, right? Because people follow creators. People follow influencers. They’ll go to a different platform with them; they may abandon a platform if it doesn’t have them.
I want to get into all that stuff. I want to get into how you’re doing this with PewDiePie — it’s a little different than what he’s doing on YouTube and maybe some other channels. I want to talk about the value for him and his fans.
But first, let’s start with Jellysmack. You’re huge — you’ve got 10 billion monthly video views, you’ve got 125 million unique U.S. viewers — but you’re kind of in the background, right? Not everybody knows your name; maybe very few know your name. What is Jellysmack, and what do you do?
Michael Philippe: Yeah, sure. So, Jellysmack, what we do basically, is we’re a technology company, and what we do is we detect and develop creators across all these platforms. Our goal, and the reason why we exist, is basically to make sure creators can unlock their full potential and create those huge communities on all these platforms. So that’s really what we’re doing.
And so, we are now working with over a hundred creators, as you said, reaching 45% of Americans every month across platforms. And again, we’re really embracing this new world where a creator should be really successful on not only YouTube, but also Facebook, Snap, Instagram, and all these other platforms.
So that’s really what we do. And originally, we started by being creators ourselves; that’s how the company started five years ago. That’s when we wanted to basically build a tech platform that would allow us to scale and create our own creators, and that’s what we did very successfully. We launched channels and categories like beauty, and sports, and entertainment, and gaming. And those channels became very large channels, you know, generating billions of views across the platform, and until the point where our technology was sophisticated enough that we could actually use it for creators and now help creators also grow on platforms.
And really we’re working, we’ve — I would say two types of creators. The one that we detect very early and that we know are going to be very successful, and we’re able to do that through our platform. And the second category of creators is, you know, the creators that are actually already very successful on a single platform but have the opportunity to expand their business, but don’t always have the skill, the time, the resources, and even sometimes the money to actually grow on all these new platforms. So that’s really what we do. And we really started as creators ourselves, and I believe that is what makes us unique.
John Koetsier: Well, I want to unpack a little bit of that actually, because one of the things you mentioned is creators who are on a single platform, and they could be on more. And that’s a really interesting point, because A, you’re creating a ton of content, why not distribute it farther, right? But B, if you’re on a single platform, you’re pretty vulnerable, really — that platform could tank.
Michael Philippe: For sure.
John Koetsier: That platform could be kicked out of a country, like India kicked out TikTok, right? Or banned from a country. Or, you could be deplatformed from that platform. It could be your own fault, it could be something that’s not your fault. So, to protect yourself and to make your brand bigger than one platform you have to be in multiple places, correct?
Michael Philippe: Correct. So that’s very true. That’s a defensive way to think about it, I would say … but that’s true. Ultimately, that’s true. The reality is that for the creators we work with, you know, we’re only focusing on entertainment and positive content. So there’s very little chance that they get deplatformed, as you said, but I really see it as an opportunity for them to build their brand and build their business.
I mean, think about it as what they, what big creators are able to do is really create IP. Think about a traditional studio, like the Universal and Sony and Paramount of the world. What they do, is they have a distribution strategy where they want to be able to distribute their content everywhere. And I think creators should do the same, and that’s what we’re doing for them.
John Koetsier: Excellent. And we’re going to get into that as well, because you’re a new kind of studio in that sense … but let’s get back to PewDiePie. You’re doing something special with PewDiePie for Facebook. So if I understand it correctly, from the details that you’ve given me, he’s not going to be live there, but you’re going to optimize what he’s doing for Facebook. What does that mean? How does that work?
Michael Philippe: So first of all, we’re very excited about this partnership, again. And, you know, he’s absolutely huge on YouTube today and we believe that he can maybe also be huge on Facebook.
And what we’re going to do is basically, using his existing library of content, detecting part of his library, what videos are going to be successful on Facebook? And that’s what our technology does: we know part of his huge library of videos, which are the videos that are going to be successful on the platform. We optimize all the videos for the platform because, as you know, YouTube likes longer videos, Facebook likes a bit shorter videos even if now we know the sweet spot is, I would say, between five and ten minutes — grow his audience over there, and then giving him insights on what has worked best, and maybe he will listen to their feedback and try to adapt his content strategy at some point.
I don’t know if he’s going to do that, but that’s what we do is we’ve created in general, is once they’ve built such a huge following base on the new platform, we tell them what has worked, and if they want to create more, you know, a certain type of content — of course, by keeping your freedom on the content, because this is what they are best at. But so basically using his existing library of content, and posting it on Facebook the right way. What’s very interesting is Tubular Labs — I don’t know if you’re familiar with this company, but it’s basically the Nielsen of social media.
John Koetsier: Yes.
Michael Philippe: They basically said that there is only 19% overlap between YouTube and Facebook Watch in terms of audience.
John Koetsier: You said 19?
Michael Philippe: 19, one nine. Yeah, sorry.
John Koetsier: Yes.
Michael Philippe: So, when you think about it, you know, a lot of people on Facebook don’t know PewDiePie’s content.
John Koetsier: Yes.
Michael Philippe: And that’s what we’re going to do, is not trying to target his existing audience — because his existing audience is highly engaged on YouTube and he’s doing such an incredible job there — but it’s basically trying to add more people to his audience and trying to look for another audience.
John Koetsier: Yes. So that talks to a little bit of the value for PewDiePie himself. Obviously, there’s a path to monetizing on YouTube. There’s a well-known path there … there’s advertising, there’s other special things that the YouTube platform offers, and there’s things that you can merchandise, other things like that.
The path on Facebook is a little less well known. I mean, they’ve developed their influencer platform and they’ve offered some things there. How does that work? What’s the monetization look like on Facebook? And how does that function?
Michael Philippe: So, it’s a very similar model, I would say. They’ve introduced, in the last few years, mid-roll monetization. So basically, you’re watching an ad, you’re getting served an ad after a minute watched of a video. And obviously, you know, Facebook is good at selling ads.
John Koetsier: Yeah, pretty good at it [crosstalk & laughter] … maybe best in the world at that.
Michael Philippe: Exactly. So without a surprise, the monetization on Facebook, especially video monetization, has become extremely interesting for creators. And from the creators we work with right now, most of them now make more money on Facebook than they make on YouTube.
John Koetsier: Wow!
Michael Philippe: And that’s a big deal. And so when you have the right tools and the right technology and the right content and everything, the reality is that you can make much, much, much more money sometimes on Facebook than you can make on YouTube. Sometimes you’re going to make the same amount of money. Sometimes you’re going to make less, but monetization is real on the platform. I think people maybe underestimate that a little bit right now.
John Koetsier: I think people do underestimate it, actually. I did a story on Forbes about two, maybe three months ago or so, and if you look at the streaming universe, you see massive numbers of people on Twitch, you see massive numbers of people on YouTube. You see far fewer on Facebook, but you see that the ones who are on Facebook have very large audiences and engagement comparatively.
And maybe that’s because there’s some cherry picking happening, maybe that’s because the most successful ones are coming there … but whatever the case may be, on a per-stream basis there’s more viewers. On a per-influencer basis there’s more followers. So it is a very interesting channel. It’s a very topical time right now.
Michael Philippe: Yeah, sure. I mean, you know, the RPMs are great. They’re getting better as they scale Facebook Watch. I mean, there are still 2 billion people connecting to Facebook, you know what I mean?
John Koetsier: Yes.
Michael Philippe: Like at the end of the day, it’s huge. And so we had a lot of creators that are making six figures per month with us, on the platform.
John Koetsier: Wow. So we have to hit this: obviously PewDiePie has a past — and you are entertainment, you focus on positivity, you focus on things that are fun and enjoyable other things like that — he does have a past, there has been some controversy in that past. What’s the status there? And what’s your position on that? And how do you go forward with that as well?
Michael Philippe: Yeah, sure. So, first of all, I have to say that … I would hate to speak on his behalf on those kinds of things, to be honest.
John Koetsier: I totally understand that.
Michael Philippe: Especially because, you know, has happened before we signed our partnership. So, I would really hate to speak on his behalf here. And we all know he has apologized for those things. So…
John Koetsier: Mm-hmm.
Michael Philippe: And as I said, he’s part of internet culture, he’s a huge creator. I think it would be a bit unfair to just, you know, see him through this lens. And again, for us and the value that Jellysmack is really about: sharing and distributing positive content and entertaining content.
As I told you, our technology detects which videos are going to be successful on each platform. So by doing that, we apply a filter based on data, on what we know is going to be successful. So we also curate the video of the creators — I’m not talking specifically about PewDiePie’s content, but in general.
So obviously we are very careful, generally, with all the creators we work with, to make sure their content is brand-safe and not being, you know, will not be demonetized, will not affect the distribution of the channel and the engagement of the channel. But again, here, you know it’s hard for me to comment on those things for him.
John Koetsier: I understand, I understand. It’s more from your perspective at Jellysmack, and I think you answered that. I want to talk about the value for his fans. So, I was mentioning last night — I’ve got two sons and a daughter; my son is 17 and my other son is 21, and they were saying, ‘Hey, young people on YouTube watch him gaming. What’s the audience going to be on Facebook?’ You’ve obviously looked very carefully at all the different platforms and you’ve looked at developing new audiences. What’s your thinking there in terms of the age of the audience on Facebook, and who will be attracted to PewDiePie’s content on Facebook?
Michael Philippe: Yeah, so, I think from his existing — I mean, you know, his existing fans are going to keep watching him on YouTube.
John Koetsier: Yep.
Michael Philippe: You know, like I don’t think it’s going to change anything. I think the goal here is attracting a new type of fans. And what we know from other examples, and the hundred creators we work with, is usually we’re able to attract older audiences on Facebook.
John Koetsier: Yes.
Michael Philippe: And when we work with creators on Snap, usually it’s even younger than YouTube. So, you know, each platform obviously is attracting a different type of people. But so, I would guess that we’re going to find maybe an older audience for him on the platform. Now, we’ve worked with many gaming creators on brand Gamology … it’s extremely successful on Facebook. So there’s no doubt that this content is going to overperform there.
John Koetsier: Yeah. And also, I mean, like you say, you’re taking the videos that are going to work best on the platform.
Michael Philippe: Yeah.
John Koetsier: You’re also excerpting them a little bit, right? So they’re going to be a little bit shorter as well. So it’s a different place, it’s got different standards and somewhat of a different audience. So it’ll be very interesting to see how that goes and what that looks like over time. I want to talk to you a little bit about the new kind of media company that you’re building.
So TechFirst, this video podcast, is about tech that’s changing the world and innovators who are shaping the future. And you sent me a very interesting chart probably a week ago or something like that, and it shows Jellysmack, and it shows many other brands — large brands, 50-year-old brands, 100-year-old brands — in terms of number of video views and reach … and you’re ranking third, as I mentioned right off the top, right? And we see Disney up at the top. We see Viacom. We see other big names of global conglomerates, right, that are below as well. Talk to me about the new kind of media company or studio that Jellysmack is, and what you represent.
Michael Philippe: Yeah. So I don’t think we’re a media company, actually, to be honest. I think it would be … it doesn’t really translate exactly what we’re doing.
I think we really see ourselves as a creator company more, you know, that is supported by the technology and the platform that we’ve built. But the reason why the number of views is so big for Jellysmack and the creator company that we are, is ultimately because in this new short-form video world, creators are the big winners. And that’s something maybe people still underestimate.
I don’t think so, but I think it’s still pretty new. But in this new short-form video social world, like creators are the ones that are driving the views, building the communities, creating engagement, money, and the more traditional players are far beyond.
And again, I’m quoting my friends from Tubular Labs, but … you can basically see that on YouTube, for example, the top 100 creators account for more watch time than the top 100 media companies.
John Koetsier: Wow.
Michael Philippe: And this is absolutely crazy, because creators usually post, you know, one to five videos per week, let’s say.
John Koetsier: Yes.
Michael Philippe: But traditional media companies, they post 10, maybe 15, 20, even more videos per day. So if you compare the time watched compared to the volume of content, it’s insane. And so for me, the success of Jellysmack ultimately is the success of creators, and their ability to create content that resonates for this new generation that is basically not watching TV anymore, but watching content on their mobile devices and social platforms. Now, if you ask me why they are winning, there are multiple reasons, but ultimately, what I think is authenticity … and engagement.
And so it’s really hard for a traditional media player, and even for new media companies, to keep up with the performance, I would say, of creators. And when you know that, you know, I heard this data that basically 30% of American kids want to become YouTube stars—
John Koetsier: Yes, yes [chuckling].
Michael Philippe: You realize that not only they are winning today, but while we’re talking right now — and that’s why we’re so happy to be part of this moment, is that the creator economy and video creators are going to shape the future of entertainment for the next 10, 15, 20 years. And so, it’s fascinating.
John Koetsier: That was an amazing stat that you mentioned, and I want to just bring it back up ’cause it kind of blew my mind a little bit. You were saying the top 100 influencers, they get more engagement than the top 100 brands. And they’re posting one to three times a week, and the top brands are posting maybe 10, maybe 15 times — they’re working harder and getting less for it. I mean, influencers work hard, don’t get me wrong, and influencer burnout is a real thing as well, right? And feeding the machine and building the content is a real challenge also, right? But…
Michael Philippe: And that’s why we exist, by the way. I can talk about it later, but that’s why we exist, and that’s why we’re here to grow creators. But yes, as you say, the traditional media players are working really hard, but you know, I always say you can’t compete against creators. You just can’t.
John Koetsier: Yes. Yes. And the interesting thing there is, if you look at the big media companies and they’re producing something, they probably have timelines of weeks or months for something to be done, and projects, and people involved and, you know, sign-offs and everything like that … whereas a creator picks up a camera, [laughing] right? And starts broadcasting and boom, there you go. And it can be really immediate. It can be really connected to what’s happening today. It can be really on target with what they care about. Very interesting.
Michael Philippe: But that goes back to authenticity, John.
And you know, when you think about something like Quibi that wanted to build like a premium short-form video platform, I think it’s very interesting what we learn from previous failure is that premium content doesn’t mean well-produced content. It’s not what it is. Premium content on short-form is authentic content and content that drives engagement. And that’s why you can’t build a platform without creators. And that’s why also TikTok is winning, because ultimately TikTok is a creators platform.
John Koetsier: Yes.
Michael Philippe: That’s what it is. And going back just to supporting creators and burnouts and everything, again, that’s really what we’re building here, because ultimately the value for creators, and what we tell them, is we’re going to grow your revenue and grow your audiences. We’re going to maximize your time, so we’re going to do everything for you. You’re going to be focusing on the creation only, and we’re going to remove the financial risk by investing our own money.
And that’s our model: we invest our own capital to grow your channel on platform. And that’s how we want creators basically to be focusing only on what they do best, which is creating. And we’re in charge of the distribution and the rest.
John Koetsier: Well, when you open your news division for boring old dudes to be talking about stuff that’s happening, then let me know. I’ll sign up right then. But maybe trending [laughter] towards the end here, what does this landscape look like in five years? What change do you foresee in companies like yours, creators, and the traditional media type companies?
Michael Philippe: I think what’s going to happen is creators are going to keep growing really, really fast, and so you’re going to see more and more platforms, and more and more ways for them to monetize their audience.
So that’s what we’re seeing with Patreon and OnlyFans. A
nd it’s going to take multiple different shapes physically. It could be, you know, the Cameo of the world also. And so all basically these platforms that are here to monetize a creator’s audience.
Now, where we see ourselves in this market is everyone is focusing on actually building more ways for creators to monetize, but no one is actually solving what we believe is the biggest pain point for many creators, which is how do you grow? And how do you become successful? Because obviously it’s great to have an OnlyFans account. It’s great to have the ability to monetize on TikTok or any other platform … but if no one is following you, and if you don’t know how to build a successful audience there, then, you know, it’s worthless.
John Koetsier: Yeah.
Michael Philippe: And this is where, basically, we’re working really hard. And ultimately, what we want is obviously being— right now, we’re connected to all the major social platforms and helping the hundred creators we work with monetizing on Facebook, Snap, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram. But ultimately, what we want is to connect them to all these existing and upcoming platforms, because they’re going to have more and more ways to build their brand and monetize their audience.
John Koetsier: It’s very interesting, because as we think about the future of the creator ecosystem and monetization, as well as the platforms, we also see that platforms are busy acquiring creators, right? Signing them up, locking them up to long-term deals. Probably the biggest example is Joe Rogan with Spotify, right? A hundred million dollars, 10 years, whatever it is — five years or something like that. And we see that with Apple buying up podcasting production companies. Spotify is very active here, obviously.
But I wonder if we’ll start seeing that from the YouTubes and the Facebooks of the world, maybe locking up a big influencer like PewDiePie or somebody else, to a particular platform.
Michael Philippe: I mean, PewDiePie has an exclusive deal for his live content on YouTube. So that’s already happening. And what you’re basically saying here, and what’s really true, is that now that the platforms are here and they are really the distribution platform, the pendulum is swinging from distribution to creation, which is always the case.
And basically what’s happening is they all want to have the best creators on their platform. And so the power is slowly shifting from the platforms to those very big creators, and I think this trend is going to accelerate in the coming months, in the coming years as it becomes clear that you’re the one driving the views and engagement and ultimately the advertising dollars.
John Koetsier: Excellent. Michael, last question here, and I think you’ve kind of answered it in some way, shape, or form, because you said you were a creator-built platform, ‘we were creators and we built this platform for creators.’ What’s your personal mission here? What do you want to see? What do you want to achieve in your role with Jellysmack?
Michael Philippe: So, really the number one mission for us is to unlock the full potential of creators. Again, you have those … like unfortunately, but it’s a reality, talent is not always enough.
John Koetsier: Yes.
Michael Philippe: And so what we want to do is to make sure that—
John Koetsier: That’s what I keep telling myself, by the way. I keep telling myself [laughter]. Just joking, go ahead.
Michael Philippe: But, you know, that’s true. And so what we want to make sure is that we can unlock the full potential of all the creators we work with, and make sure they’re going to reach the audiences that their content should reach, and monetize the way their content should monetize. And that’s really what we want to do, and what we do, and what we stand for.
John Koetsier: Excellent. Excellent. Well, thank you. I do appreciate your time.
Michael Philippe: Thank you very much, John.
John Koetsier: For everybody else, thank you for joining us on TechFirst. My name is John Koetsier, I appreciate you being along for the show. You’ll be able to get a full transcript of this podcast in about a week at JohnKoetsier.com.
And in this case, the story at Forbes is going to come out very shortly — we’re talking like an hour or two, because this is breaking news. Full video is always available on my YouTube channel. Thank you for joining. Until next time … this is John Koetsier with TechFirst.
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