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...because before there was YouTube, let alone YouTube stars, Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla (aka Smosh) were just two buddies posting their LOL-inducing webcam videos on their MySpace page. Once the transition to YouTube began earning them wider following and actual revenue, the duo partnered with Barry Blumberg and Defy Media to spread their suddenly valuable brand beyond YouTube’s reach. While you can certainly make the case that Smosh was in the right place at the right time, they weren’t just sitting in their rooms and messing around…they were filming it too! More importantly, their comedy sketches have continued to win them online fans and even a feature film.



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When you can gain a wide audience by lip-syncing the theme song to a popular 90’s kids show, pretty much anything goes. Hecox and Padilla were among the first to realize the creative opportunities allowed by YouTube and the internet. Even content restrictions like the copyright infringement on a Pokemon theme song parody aren’t actually a problem if enough people see and spread the video before the censors take it down. While the lack of rules has given Smosh both complete creative control and the freedom to experiment with raunchier material, this has caused issues as the duo attempts to transition to more traditional media. When making "Smosh: The Movie," the MPAA forced them to remove jokes in order to get a PG-13 rating.

Smosh is a good example of how to manage success. As the group gained a large following through their YouTube videos, they realized they were in uncharted territory. Instead of stumbling around in the dark, they hired former Disney executive Barry Blumberg as a partner with experience in the business of media. Blumberg imposed a more professional business structure and production output schedule onto the group, which increased Smosh’s value as a YouTube channel. Blumberg also realized that the new media stars could expand their brand outside the ad revenue stream from YouTube into merchandising, spin-offs and mobile apps. With Blumberg’s guidance, Smosh has remained among the most watched YouTube channels with a diverse range of content.

By making "Smosh: The Movie," Hecox and Padilla inched closer to the boundary between old Hollywood and new media. While YouTube stars have created a cottage industry, it’s been relegated to digital domains. The film’s producers even opted for more of a digital and video on-demand distribution strategy than a traditional theatrical release. The film’s plot also revolved around removing an embarrassing internet video and a road trip to YouTube headquarters, with other new media stars like Grace Helbig and Jenna Marbles making cameo appearances. Yet the fact that Smosh was able to secure $1 million in financing to make their film shows that there is some crossover potential from YouTube into the world of features. At the same time, a decade ago Hollwood tried to cast reality stars like Paris Hilton and Kristin Cavallari in films, a trend that never really took off once people saw – or didn’t see – their work.

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