This is a guest post from Social Media Week Los Angeles 2013 participant Elisabeth Aultman.

Elisabeth Aultman

If I learned anything at Social Media Week Los Angeles, it’s that now is a great time to be a multichannel network.

Awesomeness.tv, just acquired by Dreamworks for an enigmatic, but impressive $33+ million (with some media reports placing the potential payout as high as $117m), hosted a panel Sept. 25, discussing the success of their 55,000 YouTube channels and the company’s role in supporting creators. Coming from a studio background where the conversation is often focused on dwindling revenue streams, it’s fascinating to see how new production models gain audiences — and dollars.

For example, CMO Margaret Laney and Social Media Manager Jessica Irwin discussed the deal Awesomeness cut with Wet Seal (a teen-oriented fashion retailer) to feature talent, like their Teala Dunn, in Instagram-based ads. The trick there is to intersperse commercial content with ad-free content posted from the same account and, of course, ensure the content feel “authentic,” even when it has an advertising component.

The hallmarks of authenticity are somewhat amorphous and arguably de facto missing in a commercial context, but seem to be centered largely around a DIY/under-produced look and some audience sense that it is actually the talent, rather than an account manager, creating these consumable snippets of content. In any case, the aim is to have the audience experience an ad as an extension of what they want instead of a hindrance, not unlike in-camera marketing for film.

Got craft? Even better, applicable basically anywhere money is an interest.

Of course, Awesomeness is geared toward the teen and tween segment, a generation that quite literally cut their teeth on iPhones. While these kids are more than adept at finding, using and even popularizing new apps, this model may not scale well into other markets or demographics. This is not just about technical prowess; a large number of channels are using daily vlogs from talent, which, while great for fostering relationships with younger brackets, can lose appeal as audiences age and have less time to invest. It would be interesting to see how the bones of the model could be expanded to include content relevant to other demographics, so that a brand can retain its hard-earned audiences even as their tastes change.

The take-away for traditional media monetizers is actually pretty simple: If you’re going to capitalize on talent qua talent, it is imperative that they’re engaged on social media, and not just using it as glorified advertising space. Audiences are getting wiser to attempts at manipulation. Likewise for talent, independent brand-building could be the factor that takes a career from bourgeoning to booming. Awesome…ness.

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