What's Trending to Offer Daily Fix of YouTube's Finest
Good news, YouTube addicts! What's Trending with Shira Lazar has increased the dosage of your favorite viral videos, news and social commentary.
The Emmy-nominated live weekly web series will air daily on YouTube, starting Monday at noon PT/3 ET. "When we aired once a week, we had to choose the biggest stuff that was out there and sacrifice the smaller things that we still loved," CEO Damon Berger told TVGuide.com. "So now, every day you're going to get literally the best of what YouTube has to offer from video in a kind of condensed way."
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Beyond spotlighting viral videos, the relaunched What's Trending will also present original content featuring celebrities from the worlds of entertainment, pop culture, music, sports, movies and YouTube itself. "What MTV did for music videos we want to do for YouTube," said Berger. "The people who use YouTube as a social network... we're giving them a better look at some of their most favorite YouTube stars, people like KaseemG or Shay Carl by having them on the show."
Host and co-founder Shira Lazar added, "In our first week, we're going to be doing a YouTube All-Star Google+ live chat with huge YouTube stars from every major country. We'll have someone from the U.K., Canada, Australia, the Midwest -- which isn't its own country. (Confirmed guests include Shay Carl, The Will of DC, Olga Kay and SkateforCows' Jose Romero.) We'll also have Stan Lee, Jace Hall, Adrianne Curry, Spike Lee, Larry King. Haley Reinhart, who was on American Idol, is going to be performing."
Actress and The Guild web series creator Felicia Day will also swing by What's Trending in the fall. "She's going to be on the day when Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog airs on The CW," Lazar said.
Check out what else to expect from What's Trending:
Beyond just keeping up with the volume out there, were there other reasons why you decided to switch from a weekly to daily format?
Damon Berger: One of the things that we've been very focused on is how to advance what's happening from a programming perspective online to mirror the styling quality that we notice on television... There's a lot going on online, but in a lot of ways the production value and the consistency of the programming hasn't necessarily caught up to what we know works on television. And what works on television is consistency. If you're looking for programming that's real time, being real time and being daily is a very important thing for us. Starting at noon every day, West Coast, allows us to be able to provide great content for that lunchtime crowd on the West [Coast] and then be able to also hit a very unique audience, which is that afterschool audience, on the East Coast.
Can you give a few examples of what part TV plays in the type of trends that you see online?
Shira Lazar: As more TV shows are getting more social, we're seeing them trend. A lot of them -- the music competition shows from The Voice, X Factor and American Idol -- have second-stream experiences, interactive live streams pre-show or post-show. We have a ton of American Idol talent and musicians that are on those shows who come and perform and do live chats because they have so much community and engagement online. We had the cast of New Girl on. A lot of those casts are on Twitter and they're so good with social media and connecting with fans. You see that also with Walking Dead and Chris Hardwick.
Berger: To further that point, when you look at what is trending online on Sunday night, it's Breaking Bad if it's during the summer. It's Mad Men if it's during the winter... What's interesting to see is how TV is evolving with these other platforms. We were nominated by the Television Academy for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Media for the Primetime Emmys this year. There is this crossover that's happening in both directions. So, it's something where we really are excited to see how YouTube factors into the idea of what television is as its own network, and how these networks are starting to use these online tools.
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Let's talk about the project you're working on with us at TVGuide.com?
Lazar: I shot a video Watchlist of all my favorite shows and am also curating a video channel for the new TVGuide.com mobile app. It's going to be somewhat interchangeable obviously. But we're going to continue to collaborate and cross-promote a lot with celebs that connect with your audience. We'll have them do a Watchlist from our studio and all that good stuff.
Let's be real here: What percentage of the videos that trend are about cats?
Berger: When you think of all the videos on YouTube, your brain immediately goes to cat videos -- whether it's some awesome laser-pointer cat video ... or the guy from London that turned his cat into a remote-control helicopter, aka cat-copter. We love them just the same as everybody else does, but I think what is really interesting are the more unknown pieces. Among all the cat videos and skateboard-fail videos is this really vibrant culture of personalities and creators out there that are starting to emerge off the platform.
But we're also going to get the human stories ... and emotionally connect to the stories behind what's happening. For example, [there's a video] called Eric's Confession Final, which is an eight-minute-and-50-second video of a dying cancer patient who basically chronicles his struggle over the last five years with a very rare type of leukemia.
What can we expect from the more traditional celebrities on What's Trending?
Berger: People who are searching for certain types of content, and they come upon us because we will have provided a platform for somebody, like Spike Lee to talk about his movie Red Hook Summer in an organic way... We're also doing things that are going to be unexpected things that you're going to see from our talent. We did a video with filmmaker Bryan Singer last week [in a series called Playback]. We had him watch YouTube videos that were parodies of his movies. So there was the trailer that somebody recut that made The Usual Suspects look like a gay romantic comedy. He was watching it for the first time, reacting to it, laughing hilariously.
Other stuff we're going to do is like, what if we had somebody like J-Thorn, who is a big rapper on YouTube, pair with a big rapper that we've had on the show? We've had people like Common and Snoop Dogg. What if we paired them together and had them post their most favorite rap videos on YouTube?
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What's different are all the interviews with everyday people who just so happened to blow up online ...
Lazar: These are such young kids and they get this Internet fame, you could say, overnight. It's not like they were trying to get it, they were just sharing their passions of what they love doing. You create a bond and a connection because then you see them evolve and the mainstream press picks up on it. They become even bigger than when you interviewed them. You still have this connection to them. You'll be in touch with the family or the parents or you'll bump into them a year later. They'll always remember: "You were my first interview."
It goes all the way back to Antoine Dodson. I was the first to ever get that interview. And with ["Hungry Bear," aka] Double Rainbow Man. Still to this day, I have a place in my heart for all those people. I bumped into Hungry Bear recently. He goes, 'If you ever go to Yosemite, I'll give you a tour." I was the first to talk to him. Those moments are really special. It's like investigative reporting. I'm an Internet investigator... It's interesting to be able to get in touch with these people. You find out through their schools or their Facebook pages or maybe their sisters or the clubs they're part of. It's the fun part. It goes back to the old-school journalism in a way.
What are you asking some of these Internet celebrities to do on What's Trending?
Lazar: We have a YouTube star Flula who's hilarious. He's doing a series called G.O.A.T., Greatest of All Time, where we're going to be showcasing videos submitted by our community and competing to name the greatest video of all time. Every week it continues the conversation. He'll start it. It just opens it up to everyone else coming into that conversation and saying, "I think this is the greatest video." We're also going to be having a fun series called Dropping Knowledge where we have everyone from YouTube stars to other stars and directors like Spike Lee dropping knowledge for the YouTube community on how to direct yourself, how to respond to criticism and bad reviews and stuff like that.
You've mentioned traditional celebrities and the YouTube stars, but you've also interviewed people who are neither. Can you talk about the decision to talk to Mohawk Guy from the Mars Rover livestream and Guy Adams, who was kicked off of Twitter during the Olympics for posting an NBC email address on his account?
Lazar: I couldn't interview the Mars Rover. [Laughs] For me, The Mohawk Guy, is about getting the stories behind the people and the videos that are viral. We often get to the people before a lot of the morning shows and talk shows... And in that way we even create trends because of people we interview. Those videos end up themselves getting picked up by everyone else because they're trending. When we got Guy Adams, he went to CNN and he came to us.
What was one of the most fun and memorable interviews you've done?
Berger: We have a relationship with Virgin America where What's Trending is in the seatbacks on Virgin planes. So they asked us to have Richard [Branson], while we were shooting this interview, do a quick little bump at the end of it ... He proceeds to drop the microphone out of his hand and climb into the bins in First Class and shut himself in and then opened it back up and said, "Hello, I'm Richard Branson and you're watching Virgin America," and closes it back on himself. The place was rolling on the floor laughing.
Lazar: Snoop Dogg was one of the most fun ones. Him talking about how he's on YouTube and connecting with people, and his daughter also performed for the first time ever on our show too. Watching him watch her perform was just so awesome. He's like a bear. Well, a skinny bear. You just want to hug him.
What's Trending with Shira Lazar airs daily at noon PT/3 ET on What's Trending's YouTube channel.