A first look at YouTube’s new TV stars

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Philip DeFranco: A relatable guy

“It’s been kind of amazing,” Philip DeFranco said when I asked him about his participation in YouTube’s channel initiative. DeFranco is probably the best-known YouTube celebrity among the people involved in the site’s channel initiative. He’s been on the site for five years and cultivated a huge following with a kind of fast-paced, in-your-face, smart-ass commentary on everything from politics to pop culture.

His new venture for the site is called SourceFed and launched in January with a show dubbed 20 Minutes or Less. It’s kind of hard to wrap your head around the idea behind the show, which is why DeFranco and his team of co-moderators keep explaining it breathlessly almost every chance they get. Basically, SourceFed releases a handful of new videos every day, commenting on news as it happens, in a semi-real-time fashion. It’s a labor intensive endeavor, and not something DeFranco would have tried on his own. Which is where the advance YouTube is paying the creators of these new channels comes in handy. “The advance definitely does help,” DeFranco told me during a phone call this month. “It makes things a lot less stressful.”

One of the biggest goals DeFranco has for the new channel is to break with some of YouTube’s conventions. “A lot of the stuff on YouTube is really just skit-based, comedy-based” he said, adding that he wants to be more than just funny with his new endeavor: “I want it to be about information. Explaining to people why the world is so fantastic and ridiculous at the same time, and make that an enjoyable experience four to five times a day.”


This may sound vague, but it definitely works. SourceFed has clocked more than 16 million views in less than a month, and new videos regularly get 200,000 views or more. A lot of this obviously has to do with DeFranco’s loyal fans, but he told me that he’s also seeing a whole new audience. Young female viewers, for example, never really tuned into his videos, but they seem to like SourceFed, which also has female on-screen talent.

DeFranco credits much of the success to one key factor:

“I’m not necessarily the funniest guy or the most interesting guy or the smartest guy. But I think I’m relatable. And at the end of the day… everyone can spend a lot of money. What we are really focusing on is to use the advance to show how relatable and how fun we can be.”

So what’s next for SourceFed? The team, which currently consists of seven full-time employees and a few part-timers, just launched an interactive game show that makes use of YouTube’s annotation features. DeFranco now wants to take three to six months to perfect these existing shows and then launch new ones. “We see SourceFed just as the beginning of our network on YouTube,” he told me. Future shows could tackle subjects like video games, movies or nerd culture, and DeFranco believes there are big things ahead – at least for some: “2012 is gonna be the year where people really, really thrive, or they are going away,” he told me.