If you’ve ever searched YouTube for a review of the latest iPhone or electric car, you’ve probably come across Marquez Brownlee. Ever since he started his channel ICCD As a teenager in 2009, Brownlee amassed 15.8 million subscribers for his in-depth yet accessible tech videos. He even interviewed Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates as well as Barack Obamaand to top it off, he’s a professional frisbee player (the former president even praised his “incredible jumps”).
But perhaps Brownlee’s most impressive accomplishment is his ability to stay relevant throughout his decade-long career in online video without loses the trust of the audience. And as short video content becomes a must for any creator, Brownlee has seamlessly moved to TikTok where he has made one of the best April Fool’s Draw.
We caught up with Brownlee at VidCon where he was helping Discord push the beta testing of their server subscriptions (be careful, Patreon). In a conversation with perhaps the most famous tech columnist – sorry, the other TechCrunch writers – the 28-year-old internet star told us about the move to TikTok, her views on the metaverse, and why Google Glass deserves an arc of redemption.
This interview has been shortened for clarity.
TC: It’s not easy to make shorts for TikTok or YouTube when you’ve been successful on YouTube with 20-minute videos. How are you going to make shorter content on these new platforms?
MB: I think about it a lot. I see ways that I don’t like, like people repurposing other content and turning it into short content. I would rather make native content for every platform. When we first started making shorts, it wasn’t easy. I was like, like me Indeed cut it down to 60 seconds or less? I think my first three shorts last 59.8 seconds. We found that after specifically choosing to spend time on TikTok and then learning what worked well, it helped us improve native content for the platform.
TC: With so many new author programs across platforms, what does your income pie chart look like as an author?
MB: I’d say it’s about 50% YouTube’s built-in advertising model and 50% everything else, including our merchandise store, other deals we do, et cetera. But videos have been bread and butter for so long. It’s just a well-oiled machine. We don’t really think about overhead, we just know that video can and will work, which is…thank you YouTube!
TC: Even though short videos have become extremely popular, no one has yet figured out how to monetize them – do you have any thoughts on how this could work?
I don’t have an answer, and anyone who claims to have an answer is probably lying. It makes so much sense that the short video might explode. The numbers we see do not match the numbers elsewhere. You know, 20 million views on TikTok is very different from 20 million views on YouTube. When we talk about video monetization, YouTube monetization is about video because you made the choice. [to watch the video]. You saw the miniature, you spent time there, it was on you. This transaction is working. But shorts are different. I don’t know how to tie this together and make a nice and neat monetization solution out of it.
TC: You’ve been a significant tech writer for over a decade – how do you balance staying true to your point of view while still being approachable?
MB: I try to be as transparent as possible about what I like and don’t like. It’s subjective. But it almost doesn’t matter if someone agrees with my technology preferences. I’m trying to put myself in the viewer’s shoes and say what I would like them to know if they were going to buy this item.
TC: What technology trends are you most excited about?
MB: I think AR/VR is what we’re addicted to right now. It’s fun, because for me the most interesting beginning of new technologies is when you get a product that is actually supposed to help people or deliver a new experience, and I think that we will soon start to see products that are like killers. application as really interesting and attracting people. We’ve had Google Glass, we’ve had crazy stuff in the past, but I think we’ll be seeing a bunch of cool stuff soon.
TC: What do you think about the idea of a metaverse?
MB: I understand what people see in him. I understand why Facebook – or Meta – wants to have a big stake in this. But at the same time, he must have a purpose. We must want to do something new for a reason, and I’m still looking for that reason.
TK: Yes, playing video games in VR is one thing, but hanging out with friends in VR and working in VR is harder.
MB: Sometimes there’s something like “Ready Player One” when it comes to “what would it mean if we didn’t have to go to a meeting? But it’s also not that hard to just do what we usually do. I’m looking for a reason to really want to try this stuff. I give new things a chance because that’s my job. I give him a chance. But I think we may be on the verge of getting more interesting answers to this question.
TC: Meta VR hardware is fun to play with but I don’t want to live in that.
MB: It’s just another cool technology to play around with, and there are already a lot of cool technologies to play with. It won’t get the kind of mainstream acceptance that I’m sure the Meta is hoping for.
TC: Do you think AR will be more accessible to people than VR?
MB: That’s where it’s easiest for me to see useful use cases. I remember the days of Google Glass, and as crazy as this product was, it’s very helpful to have turn-by-turn navigation instructions right in the corner of your vision as you walk through an unfamiliar city. Little things like that I actually found really functional at their core. The hardware was old and that was 10 years ago, so it’s obvious that technology has gotten a lot better since then. But I think it’s easier for me to see AR as the future.
TC: What companies do you think are doing well with AR?
MB: Obviously iPhone and LiDAR. Functionally it’s really good, but doesn’t do anything useful. Yes, I can put a daybed in the room and see what it looks like, but I’m still looking for that “must have” thing.
TC: Is there any technology that you think was useful but not implemented?
MB: Google Glass is the perfect answer. Ten years ago, walking into a bar with a camera on your face was crazy, and now Snapchat has just made a pair of glasses with a camera right on them. It’s more acceptable that way.
TC: There is a lot of privacy debate around wearables – do you have any ethical concerns about this kind of technology?
MB: Well, you always hope it comes from a responsible company doing responsible things, which is why there is concern about Meta. That’s all I’ll say about it! But yes, it’s the same as with your phone – if you’re doing important things on your phone, there will be a lot of important data in there, so privacy will be important. We hope companies do the right thing with this data.
TC: Is there any technology that you think more people should be talking about?
MB: electric cars are not Tesla. They’re almost there.
Credit: techcrunch.com /