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The Changing Face of Video: A New Creative Class

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It all started with a toy.

In the late 1980s, Fisher-Price -- a company known for children's toys -- released the PXL-2000, a handheld camcorder that retailed for roughly $100 USD. At ten years old, I managed to scrounge up enough money with my best friend and older sister to buy one of our own. The PXL-2000 actually records on a cassette tape, which meant grainy, black-and-white videos with a "hissy" sound quality. But none of that mattered -- we were now filmmakers!

I didn't know it at the time, but this was the beginning of a revolution. In the subsequent decades since the PXL-2000 debuted, the quality of low-cost video production tools -- from video-enabled mobile phones and DSLRs to powerful video editing software and file transfer systems -- has increased dramatically. These advancements in technology, coupled with the advent of YouTube, have paved the way for a new creative class of video producers to emerge.

I was fortunate enough to attend WPP's "STREAM" conference (or un-conference as they like to say) at the Cannes Lions festival last week. It's an impressive gathering of some bright minds in advertising, business, technology and creativity. While listening to various thought-leaders speak at the event, I noticed a powerful through line in several of the presentations: technology is empowering creative people to share powerful ideas on a global scale, and that is making the world a better place.

This powerful notion has shaped the majority of my career. After graduating college in 2002 and doing short stints at WIRED magazine and CNET Networks, I made my way to Google in 2005. I had the incredible chance to work on Google Video, which quickly shifted to YouTube when Google acquired the company in 2006. At YouTube, there were a number of senior executives focused on cutting deals with the major record labels, film and television studios and sports leagues. While I understood the importance of these deals, I was personally more interested in the new creators and the new media companies who would be built on this new thing called YouTube. How could we attract and nurture them at Internet scale?

In 2007, we launched what is still known as the YouTube Partner Program. The goal of this program was simple: reward video creators for their work by providing a share of the online advertising revenue. We all knew this was the right thing to do in order to attract more original content from creators around the world, but I personally never anticipated the scope of what was to follow. There are now over one million creators in YouTube's partner program, thousands of which earn over $100,000 USD per year for uploading original videos.

These creators are typically using low-cost production tools like the Canon 7D and editing software like Final Cut Pro to make videos that often rival the quality of major production companies and creative agencies. Take one look at DevinSuperTramp, FreddieWong or LindseyStirling to get a sense of what I'm talking about. This is the new creative class.

I left my post at YouTube in late 2010 with the crazy idea that I could build a media company on YouTube, in partnership with thousands of the best creators around the world. That company is called Fullscreen. Founded in January 2011, we are now generating over 2.5 billion video views each month with over 15,000 creators worldwide. Our little network is responsible for more than 6 billion minutes of watch time each month. With over 40MM unique viewers per month, we are the #1 Independent YouTube Partner for six months running, according to comScore. I like to think we're building what Viacom or NBC Universal would look like if you started today; powered by the new creative class and primarily reaching the so-called "cord-cutters" of the millennial generation. It has been a crazy couple of years for me, and I love every minute of it.

The cool thing about the new creative class is that there are essentially no barriers to entry. For aspiring creators who have yet to shoot their first video, this means nothing is stopping them from pursuing their dream. Furthermore, brands and marketers have the same opportunity. Relegated for decades as the "side dish" on TV commercial breaks and online as pre-rolls and banner ads, brands and marketers now have a level playing field to become the "main course" themselves. Some people call this content marketing or native advertising. I think it is just another form of creating. It all comes down to your ability to make compelling content that people want to watch and share.

I am constantly inspired by the new creative class. I am excited too see what happens as the next-generation of filmmakers evolves over time. What will come of the massive audiences many of them are building on YouTube and across the social web? Will brands evolve to become creators themselves? The future of video is changing rapidly, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

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