The Rise of Silicon Beach

Ask investors, company heads, and other influentials what makes our tech sector special and they’ll sum it up this way: creativity

February 3, 2017  Technology 0 Comments

The butterfly effect is hard at work: In the summer of 2015, a rat drags a slice of pizza down a flight of stairs into a New York City subway station, step by careful step. Somewhere in Los Angeles, a company profits. This is not gentle wings begetting hurricanes. The rat and the pizza and the subway may have been in New York, but their images—the very soul of what became the popular #PizzaRat meme—floats in the IP heaven of L.A.’s Jukin Media, right beside Chewbacca Mom, a guy getting kicked in the head by a train conductor, and other collective memories as valuable as they are shareable.

Jukin scours YouTube for feel-good clips—cat videos, baby ducks eating soup, the dramatic but minor physical calamities that have populated America’s Funniest Home Videos for a generation. Then for a fee of hundreds or thousands of dollars split between the people who filmed them and the company, Jukin licenses the material to build viral videos that it pushes to morning-TV talk shows and publishing outfits like Hearst. “We’re looking for a particular piece of content, these magic moments that people are creating,” founder Jonathan Skogmo tells me. Jukin groups thematically similar clips on its YouTube channels (its “verticals”) and puts them together as TV shows that are aired internationally. The company focuses on universal content because it’s the most likely to go viral—and to be repackageable. From licensing to talk shows or commercial producers and selling to international cable distributors, Jukin squeezes every possible dollar from each clip. “How many ways can we skin that cat video?” Skogmo says, a summation that sounds to me like something he says often, which is fine and right for a decent bit of branding.

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