Beme me up
For more than half a decade, Casey Neistat has been an innovator and trendsetter in the world of online video, racking up almost 6-million subscribers and 1.3-billion views on his popular YouTube channel.
Neistat is perhaps best known for his daily vlogs that redefined a genre and inspired thousands of other YouTubers, as well as a semi-successful Vine-meets-Snapchat app called Beme.
On November 19, Nesitat threw YouTube a curveball when he announced his vlogging would end, immediately sparking rumors about what his next projects might be. That answer came sooner than we expected. On Monday CNN announced its acquisition of Neistat’s video-sharing start-up Beme in a deal valued at about $25 million.
CNN will now have reach over Neistat’s large, young digital audience and perhaps more importantly, access to the man himself.
Authenticity at stake?
For most entrepreneurs, having an app acquired is a dream, and it’s hard to argue with Neistat’s logic for accepting this monster pay-out. But for Neistat, a unique voice who’s most popular video shows him blowing through funds provided by Nike to go on a wild 10-day trip around the world, it comes as a surprise that he would go such a traditional route post-vlog.
From the beginning, Neistat was a voice that rebelled against traditional methods of distributing content.
He managed to stay authentic despite numerous corporate sponsorships. He certainly may remain authentic, but it is only natural to worry his original voice may be lost in this massive media buyout.
Mining for Millenials
CNN said their objective is to launch a standalone media company led by Neistat and Beme co-founder Matt Hackett, focusing on “timely and topical video and empowering content creators to use technology to find their voice,” according to a press release.
The app, with its short-form video sent out to followers, had the goal of pushing out “authentic” video content. CNN is likely trying to replicate that and appeal to younger, more skeptical audiences. It may work, but CNN has made similar deals in the past to mixed reviews, most notably launching online publication Great Big Story a year ago to mixed reviews.
Elsewhere, competitors are trying to grab a hold of millennials. NBCUniversal is perhaps leading the pack with its recent investment of $200 million in Buzzfeed (its second investment in the millennial-focused media company), and another $200 million in Vox Media.
Hopefully a good fit
Ultimately, the Neistat-CNN deal makes logical sense for both parties, but like with all partnerships, chemistry is the real wildcard.
Neistat somehow made big moves with an app that never really had much traction, and now he has access to a new audience outside of YouTube. If he continues to make the same great content he’s known for, this could be a big win.
In the past though, Neistat had his best successes making quirky, sometimes goofy videos that are only indirectly corporate (sponsored links to Canon gear in the description, for example). Only a handful of his videos are sponsored, and when they are, it’s things like Nike-sponsored shenanigans or a similar video with Mercedes where brand awareness is present, but a true endorsement is not.
For CNN, the need to reach younger viewers is evident, and Neistat may or may not help with that. They’ve made it obvious that the acquisition is not a talent deal, and Neistat will continue to control his own social media channels and accounts. However, there doesn’t seem to be much of a plan for exactly how they’ll reach their goals, made especially clear in a video released by Neistat this morning.
In his usual cluttered apartment, Neistat explains the background of selling his company and says he had been searching for what to do next for a while.
Neistat ensures the deal won’t change his content – he’ll still continue making YouTube videos, just not a daily vlog – but follows that up with a shocker by admitting that he “has no idea” exactly what he’ll be doing at CNN.
Our fingers are crossed that somewhere in his head, beneath those curly locks, Neistat has a master plan of how to leverage this partnership to make his own content better without losing it’s original flavor. Otherwise, he may be stuck running a somewhat-useless app at a company that doesn’t know how to utilize him.