As a devoted YouTube connoisseur, I can’t help but be aware of “Fred” and his ever growing popularity. “Fred”, 14-year old Lucas Cruikshank, has over 200,000 subscribers and over 5 million channel views.
Lucas recently did an interview with NTV, where he confirmed that he made a total of $14,000 on YouTube for 7 million video plays (in February). The $14K included some of the Zipit money that he makes for plugging the product in his videos from time to time. Cruikshank told NTV that he came up with the idea for “Fred” two years ago after his mom bought him some new video editing software. Like many vloggers, Cruikshank is a self contained production machine – he scripts, shoots, edits and uploads all of his own videos. His ’360′ verité style, signature chipmunk voice and ongoing story threads keep his audience enraptured.
Unlike most vloggers, Fred isn’t just interwebs famous. He told NTV that when he goes for auditions in LA (he now has goals for tv/films), kids recognize him on the street, take photos with him and ask for his autograph.
I thought it was funny that some of the kids asking for his autograph are actual tv/film actors, while his resume is still technically “blank” (his words).Lucas may have started out making these videos just for fun, but they are now an enviable source of income. He has a deployment strategy as well that he shared with NTV:
Cruikshank: With JKL we used to post videos on Sundays, but May 1st, the FRED launch date, fell on a Thursday, and NBC used to have their “Must See TV” Thursday night line-up that got all that Friday water-cooler buzz, so I liked the idea of posting FRED episodes as schools were getting out Thursday afternoons. My strategy isn’t just to get the biggest audience; it’s to get a loyal audience.
Lucas is also savvy in the way that he incorporates audience comments into his videos, both from YouTube and through the Fred MySpace where he has over 87,000 friends.
Cruikshank certainly isn’t the first young american vlogger to generate income and success through a YouTube channel, here are three recent microcelebs that I can think of off the top of my head:
Chris Crocker: also starred in the Weezer video “Pork and Beans”, signed a development deal with 44 Blue Productions to create a “docusoap” reality television show called Chris Crocker’s 15 Minutes More, parodied in the South Park episode “Canada On Strike“, parodied in the 2008 feature film satire Meet The Spartans
and if we want to go really old school (pre-YouTube):
Andy Milonakis: an early internet phenomenon thanks to hilarious freestyle videos, in 2003 Jimmy Kimmel recruited him for regular appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
The Andy Milonakis Show premiered on MTV2 in 2005 and is still airing today.
These guys achieved success in their own right but aside from Milonakis, they are all in their early 20s and haven’t yet crossed over in a significant way. That may not be their goal, but judging from their blogs and interviews it’s a good bet that they wouldn’t turn down commercial success.
Lucas, on the other hand, is still only fourteen years old and appears to be consciously working towards developing community and brand loyalty for “Fred” – he isn’t jumping on every opportunity presented to him. For now, his deal with Zipit is enough while he travels to LA for more meetings and auditions. He is pursuing movies and has some TV series ideas that he is pitching as well.
What was I doing when I was fourteen?
I think the more interesting question is will “Fred” still carry the same social currency it does now once Lucas crosses over into big media territory?
We’ll have to wait and see. I am not a fan of the “Fred” channel but clearly there is an audience for it, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for any new developments.