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Will Casey Neistat lose his rebellious authenticity as CNN snags his startup?

(BUSINESS NEWS) What will CNN’s recent acquisition of marginally successful app Beme mean for beloved co-founder Casey Neistat?

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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.

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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.

Unclear future

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.

#neistatnews

Brian is a staff writer at The American Genius who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, and majored in American Culture Studies and Writing. Originally from California, Brian has a podcast, “Revolves Around Me,” and enjoys public transportation, bicycles, the beach.

Opinion Editorials

If Reddit goes IPO, will it have to shed its soul?

(EDITORIAL) Reddit is known as a firebrand, a bastion of free speech, but if they go public, will they be able to remain as they are now?

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Reddit, the eighth-most popular website on the Internet, is reportedly considering an IPO. As a site valued at over 1.8 billion dollars, this is great news for the company itself – but how much of Reddit will remain if the IPO goes through?

Reddit’s history is steeped in controversy, from minor incidents such as invasion of privacy and a few creepily quirky community members to allegations of child pornography and egregious hate speech. While Reddit’s policy has allowed it to tighten posting restrictions regarding the latter two, the fact remains that Reddit – for all its usefulness – is viewed by many as a ticking time bomb.

An IPO would certainly lend back to Reddit a degree of credibility not seen since its inception, but the problem is that Reddit itself (the haven of free speech and original content that made it so popular in the first place) might not survive the offering. Given the platform’s controversial past, many believe it likely that stakeholders would move to tighten further the restrictions on the platform, ultimately ending a significant era in Reddit’s history.

Admittedly, Reddit has come a long way since its early days of supporting user-created content regardless of persuasion: this past year saw entire subreddits shut down for violating the terms of use regarding hate speech, and the platform certainly has cracked down on illegal and abusive content. Unfortunately, the history might be too much to shake off going forward, which is why we think that Reddit’s branding won’t be a part of the final IPO.

The platform’s developers’ dedication to free speech and truth-seeking is what makes Reddit so fantastic, and that’s not liable to change – it’s the most marketable aspect of the site, after all – but perhaps the rationale behind going public lies in a sense of duty rather than routine. 2017 has seen some of the most reprehensible instances of false reporting and deliberate misguidance in recent history; maybe Reddit’s team feels that they can provide a stable news platform at the cost of some personality.

At any rate, the IPO itself isn’t set in stone, and is unlikely to take place for quite some time. As the situation develops, it will be interesting to see if Reddit embraces its past, or sheds it altogether.

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Opinion Editorials

‘Follow your passion and the money will follow’ is bulls**t advice

(EDITORIAL) Following your passion can create success, though it may not be financial. So should you really just “do what you love” and hope for the best?

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follow your passion

If you asked anyone who knows me, they would tell you that I’m a strong advocate for people following their passion. However, when I encourage people to pursue their dreams, this comes with a big asterisk.

I recently heard someone use a phrase along the lines of, “if you do what you love, the money will follow.” Um… no.

While it’s great that you’ve found something you’re passionate about, that’s only a trillionth of the battle. You need to be willing to work your ass off and be willing to sacrifice everything in order to make that enthusiasm into a success.

Most people that have started their own business will tell you that it took a while into the process to begin paying themselves. Again, if it truly is your passion, this is all worth it in the end. But if you like food and shelter, it might not be.

Say, for example, your passion is acting and your goal in life is to become a famous movie star. Now, you can’t pull a Tobias Funke and simply say, “I’m an actor” and then expect everything to miraculously fall into place.

Like any other passion, you need to invest in yourself. You’ll need to get headshots, take acting classes, and find a flexible day job that allows you to go on auditions. Cutting corners on any of this in order to expedite the process or save a few bucks will end up hurting you in the long run.

For the sake of this article, let’s define “passion” as loving something so much you couldn’t imagine doing anything else… you would even do it for free. And, as there is no correlation between having passion for something and money, you just might.

While doing what you love is admirable, be aware that it may take an incredibly long time to see results in the form of numbers. Because of this, it’s wise to always have a back up plan to support yourself financially and pursue passion with a strong business plan in tact.

It is never wrong to want to follow your passion. I personally think that everyone should give it at least something of a shot during the course of their career so that you never ask “what if?” But following passion because you read a cliche statement can lead to major financial and emotional losses, so put on your business hat before blindly chasing dreams.

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Opinion Editorials

Tech CEO tweet ruins years of a young designer’s hard work

(EDITORIAL) With a tweet here and there, thoughtless questions have potentially bullied a young Asian woman in tech out of her career.

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naomi wu tweet

It’s hard enough for women, particularly women of color, to make it in the world of tech, without rude jerks questioning if you literally exist.

Sadly, that’s what happened to Naomi Wu, also known as “SexyCyborg,” a 23-year old cyberpunk superstar from Shenzhen, China who has amassed a huge following for her 3D printing experiments and other techie pursuits. Wu has 140,000 followers and millions of views for her YouTube channel, where she shows off her experiments and provides educational tutorials.

Unfortunately, some rude dudes from America can’t seem to imagine that a young Asian woman is capable of the feats that Wu has accomplished.

Dale Dougherty, CEO of the DIY magazine Maker (and an official schmuck), has cyberbullied Wu so badly that it is said to have damaged her career. He tweeted, “I am questioning who she really is. Naomi is a persona, not a real person. She is several or many people.”

This despite the fact that Wu says that she has actually spoken to Dougherty, and that he knows she is real. “For Westerners who don’t understand the important of reputation in China it seems like a very minor thing,” says Wu, “it is everything here and there’s no repairing this.”

Wu has even lost a sponsorship deal from a 3D printer company over the accusations that she isn’t who she says she is.

Dougherty eventually apologized, but Wu says that “the damage had been done” at that point, and that Dougherty knew the accusations would be “devastating” to her “reputation and professional prospects.”

Wu says that the attack is motivated by white male entitlement to tech spaces.

She says that she can’t imagine Dougherty attacking “a white lady from San Francisco.” Wu has been an advocate for diversity in tech and maker spaces. “I kept pushing for more inclusion – not just me, other underrepresented people,” she says. “They didn’t like being pushed. This is payback.”

We stand behind Wu as she continues to push the edge in tech spaces, and say shame on you to bullies who won’t make space for women and racial minorities. Sorry you’re not as cool as SexyCyborg, but that’s on you and you need to get over it.

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