YouTubers Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla, co-founders of the wildly popular Smosh brand, started out doing silly videos for fun in 2005. The comedy duo has since amassed 40 million followers on social media, 38 million subscribers on YouTube and 215 million monthly views.
But whereas some YouTubers in the past have left their online audiences for the golden goose of traditional media opportunities, the Smosh guys knew not to abandon them.
We needed to go “beyond YouTube without leaving YouTube… and we needed the help of a larger company,” Defy Media chief content officer Barry Blumberg said at a Business Insider conference Tuesday. Blumberg had approached the pair 10 years ago, before he worked at Defy, recognizing that the brand could grow far beyond the two guys who started it. Smosh is now under Defy Media, a digital content company for millennials that has enabled the launch of additional YouTube channels, like the Spanish-language ElSmosh and Smosh Games. It was always important to be where everybody was, Blumberg said.
However, the trio agreed that keeping their YouTube audience fed with daily content—without minimizing the number of posts—was the way to maintain—and grow—their fan base. “Our YouTube audience is so important to us,” Padilla said, so they made sure not to falter from their online schedule despite all the new content and platforms involved. They don’t see the Internet as “a stepping off point to something bigger,” Hecox said. In fact, they live streamed their movie from this year, “Smosh: The Movie,” on their YouTube channel.
There’s also a sitcom launching on YouTube in January called “Part Timers.” Interestingly, the show will be free and not behind the pay wall of YouTube’s recently instated YouTube Red premium service. “We want to reach as much of our audience as possible,” Hecox said, and a pay wall restricts the amount of viewers. They got lucky with that one, according to Blumberg: YouTube had already created a sponsorship with Schick that required greater distribution—and hence, available to those who aren’t paying customers.
Thanks to the Defy partnership, there’s more Smosh content available, on Vine, Snapchat, and many other places. But it’s important to create unique content for each platform, Blumberg said. Another important factor: Keep the production value low. “If we got too slick, the audience would call us out on it,” he said. “To a 13-year-old, Ian and Anthony represent possibility,” in that they can envision themselves being able to create similar content.
Next up for Smosh is an album (expect “lots of autotune,” Padilla noted), a movie, comics and video games. There are also five new cast members to be introduced who are considered “Smosh” without being the boys themselves. That’s an important part of growing the brand, they agreed—though it hasn’t always been easy. It’s been challenging adding new faces to the Smosh brand, Blumberg said. The first new person they added was rejected by fans for a full year. But they learned a lesson from it: People eventually warm up to new players. And also, don’t read the comments.