Huge if True

Inside Cleo Abram’s journey to 1 million subscribers

Good morning. What does the future look like for creators? ICYMI, we want to hear your predictions on what trends will take hold of the creator economy in the second half of 2023. Let us know what you think here.

Inside Cleo Abram’s Journey to 1 Million Subscribers

Cleo Abram / Kendra Siebert

After working her way up at a traditional media company for over five years, tech journalist Cleo Abram left in 2022 to start her own independent show on YouTube—and that show, Huge If True, passed 1 million subscribers this week.

We chatted with Abram about what she learned on her journey to the milestone, which she says she’s “still processing.” Here were three takeaways…

  1. As a creator, the internet becomes your colleagues. Abram has found that regularly keeping up with other creators (along with forming a talented team*) helped calm lingering worries of isolation she had after leaving a more traditional newsroom. “Everyone who’s doing this knows how hard it is, so they do everything they can to support each other,” she told us.

  2. Laying out a specific vision helps viewers buy in. Abram approaches all of the stories she tells through an optimistic, thorough lens—and focuses on how she can continue to bring value with that lens, regardless of the topic. “If you make good work consistently, the YouTube algorithm is shockingly good at finding people who like that work,” she said.

  3. The future of independent journalism is bright. Abram is bullish on the unique businesses former colleagues like Johnny Harris and Sam Ellis are building on YouTube and believes that the platform will continue to open doors for journalists who dip their toes in. “I think that the wave is just starting,” she told us.

Looking ahead: For Abram, the recent milestone represents a confirmation that other people want what she herself was looking for—a show that explored how science and technology could potentially change the world for the better.

“If a million people feel that way, and we found them in a year-and-a-half, how many more are out there?” she said.

*Abram asked that we shout-out team members Justin Poore, Logen Kershaw, and Nicole Menkart. We happily obliged.

Are Your Reaction Videos Ethical?

Jacksfilms / YouTube

Comedy creator Jacksfilms shared criticism of Lia "SSSniperwolf” Shelesh’s react channel this week, raising questions around the ethics of react videos as a genre.

Context: As the name implies, react videos involve creators watching and responding to other creators’ content. They are often made on second channels, and for big creators like Preston and MrBeast, these lower-lift channels can even boast millions of subscribers.

The genre has grown so popular that creators like Bo Burnham have parodied react videos, arguing that “self-awareness doesn’t absolve anyone of anything.” And as Jacksfilms’ points out, there are best practices that some creators are missing:

  • Creators should credit source material. In an industry where memes and sounds can get separated from their creator, it’s important for reactions (especially from those with large followings) to either credit the original source in the video’s description or not crop out their watermark.

  • Reactions should be transformative, and add something new. Not “nontent,” as Jacksflims calls it. Creators should respond in a way that enhances the experience, not just describe what is happening.

Our reaction to Jack’s reaction: React videos typically require less money and production than other videos that require scripts and sets, making them an attractive secondary option.

But according to creators like Jacksfilms (and similar to our plagiarism conversation), creators holding themselves accountable makes the genre better.

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Education Creator Exceeds Charity Expectations

Collage by Moy Zhong with photography courtesy of Morgan Demeter and Taylor Nation, LLC

Here’s a feel-good story for your Friday—space education creator Emily Calandrelli teamed up with Taylor Swift fan account ErasTourResell to raise money for charity…and fans quadrupled their goal.

The details:

  • Calandrelli initially planned to upsell her Taylor Swift concert tickets on StubHub for $5,000 and donate the proceeds to the Against Malaria Foundation.

  • After posting about the plan on TikTok, fans suggested going through a Taylor-approved reseller to sell the tickets at cost to superfans.

  • Calandrelli started working with the creator behind ErasTourResell, Courtney, who promised that fans would make up for the upsell by donating to charity via a giveaway package.

What happened next? Within an hour of Calandrelli starting the GoFundMe for the Against Malaria Foundation, she exceeded her $5,000 goal, raising a total over $20,000.

🔥 Press Worthy

  • Health creators Rob Lapham and Liam Fisher-Layton are starting a podcast debunking health misinformation.

  • TikTok creator Becca Means releases her first music single.

  • Ali Abdaal is releasing a book on productivity and joy.

  • Interested in working alongside your favorite creators? Creators Agency is hiring—apply as a talent agent here and get your foot in the door working in the creator economy.*

  • MrBeast surpasses PewDiePie in total channel views.

*This is sponsored advertising content.

📚️ Thank You For Pressing Publish

The content we’re looking forward to reading, watching, and listening to this weekend.

  • Read: After racking up 1 billion views on their YouTube channel, Racka Racka, Danny and Michael Philippou created what some critics are calling the best horror film of the year. The Ringer profiled the brothers’ journey from childhood stunts to taking on Hollywood.

  • Watch: Brooklyn-based creator Mustafa Simpson makes two-minute sketches with his friends that feel like mini “Broad City” episodes.

  • Listen: “There’s no use in crying over spilled milk.” Bloomberg Media CEO Scott Havens sits down with The Rebooting podcast to discuss the reality of how AI has disrupted media businesses—and the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.

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