On a hot July day in 2007, comedian Mark Malkoff set off on an impossible-sounding quest to purchase and consume something from every single Starbucks in Manhattan in 24 hours. That’s right, all 171 locations (although now there is more than 250).
The stunt attracted the attention of the media and the video became a YouTube hit. For Malkoff, it was a new outlet for his comedy. Years later, after living in an IKEA for a week, staying on an airplane for a month, and testing the limits of Apple Store rules, has made himself somewhat of an online celebrity. He now makes videos for My Damn Channel, including his own show, “The Bill Murray Show starring Mark Malkoff.”
Magnet recently had the chance to chat with Malkoff about his philosophy towards online video and how to make a video become a digital hit.
How did you originally get involved in creating video content for the web? What attracted you to YouTube as a platform?
Mark Malkoff: I was doing comedy since I was 16, but more sketch comedy and a little stand up. I started doing video before online video took off. I would show them in a theater, and was basically just doing it to amuse myself.
Within 9 months or so, I started getting national news coverage on a video project I did. It was sort of a sign that I should keep doing it. When online video started to take off, it just made sense.
I had no idea how big this thing was going to get, it just amazes me where online video has gone in the past five years. If I did it now, it wouldn’t have gotten as much. But because it was early on, there wasn’t as much over-saturation.
What’s your relationship like with My Damn Channel, and how did that get started?
Mark: I do videos for My Damn Channel, and it’s been one of the coolest things. We just get do whatever you think its funny. Whenever I wanted to do something, I’ve been able to do it. They’ve been very supportive of me, letting me take chances.
Rob Barnett [the founder and CEO of My Damn Channel] and I talked for an hour on the phone and we had the same sensibility of doing really funny, smart content. We talked for about a year off and on before we started working together. We just became friends and Rob loves comedy. We’re really just fans of comedy and old school comics, and at My Damn Channel there’s just a love of comedy and freedom of artists to do those things.
When you’re working in a medium like television, you’re more restricted creatively and you have to do longer form. If I get an idea for a two or three-minute video, it would be hard to do on television, but with YouTube it can be 30 seconds or three minutes or five minutes. You can do whatever you want.
Which videos have been your most and least successful, and what have they taught you?
Mark: “Mark lives in IKEA,” it was covered all over the world. It’s been five years and I still get interviewed all the time for it. 1.8 million views and the amount of media impressions were out of sight. It was in newspapers and on TV shows all around the world. Apple store challenge also got over a million views.
I worked with a sponsor once and the videos were episodic and I’ve never done that before. I’m better at getting views on one video.
Nobody knows what will become a hit. No body has any idea. My batting average is really good on what is going to work, but no one is going to hit a home run every day. What I’ve learned is keep it short, hook viewers early on, and take a unique point of view that has never been seen.
What has the response been from celebrities you’ve approached? Do they get anything out of it themselves?
Mark: I’ve been fortunate about approaching and working with high profile names. I do have a really good track record for getting people to do these videos. Normally I’m guessing that they Google me and see where I’ve been and that gives me credibility.
It’s good-natured, it’s family friendly, and I’m only out to have a good time. That hooks them. It’s not a crazy time commitment. The people that say yes realize that it’s going to be a good time and they see they will get some press coverage. There are some that turn it down, and those are usually the people that I don’t want to work with anyway.
They want the press coverage, and I’ve been able to get them booked on various shows. It’s been great that I have been able to help them after they have helped me.
How much do you participate in the social aspect of the Internet, like sharing the videos around and chatting with fans?
Mark: I think that anybody that’s a content creator has to put stuff on Facebook and put it on Twitter and try to share it as much as possible. When I have a project, I spend days and days thinking about how I’m going to approach media. I’m not one of those top YouTube-ers. I get more press coverage but they have those crazy numbers of subscribers that I don’t have. I kind of have to go to a lot of blogs and sites and get the videos embedded. I approach journalists and I approach blogs and that’s how I get the majority of my views.
Do you have any secret towards continually coming up with content that people want to watch and share?
Mark: I just try to come up with ideas of stuff that excites me that I would want to watch: things that are challenging and fun that have never been seen. Normally, I talk to Rob Barnett at My Damn Channel and see what makes the most sense to do. Then I just set out to do it.
What advice can you give to aspiring video creators looking to be successful on YouTube?
Mark: You want to find your voice. You want it to stand out from everything else you see. It takes doing it; doing as many videos as possible. It might take like a year or two, and you just want to think long-term.
You want to just keep showing up. The more you do the videos; you’ll find your voice and build your audience over time. Nothing happens over night. You need continuity by showing up regularly. Watch other’s people stuff as well, support other content creators, become friends and nurture those relationships.
Keep the videos short, if you can. There’s no substitute for true originality. If you can, use something that’s happening in popular culture and give a different voice to it.
Do you think you could live in IKEA for a whole week? What do you think of online channels like My Damn Channel? Let us know in the comments and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.
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