YouTube is not the end all for content creators, says one of its most iconic stars Michelle Phan. The 27-year-old entrepreneur, who launched her career as a video beauty blogger on YouTube in 2007, has become the face of what the site can be for users.
Now, she’s showing other would-be YouTube stars how to build a business on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Periscope. Her new company, ICON, aspires to be a home and developer for lifestyle shows focused on beauty, fashion and wellness. Phan launched the new network with Endemol Beyond, the original content division under Endemol Shine Group. Dutch-based Endemol is the creator and distributor behind “Big Brother,” “Extreme Makeover” and other scripted and non-scripted dramas.
Phan had first struck up a partnership with the company in May 2014 to create her own multi-channel network: For All Women Network.
"We want to focus on building power brands,” Phan told the International Business Times. “YouTube is a platform. People think that YouTube is the end all. They need to look beyond."
Phan started on YouTube in 2007 with makeup and beauty tutorials made via her webcam. Along the way, YouTube made her a posterchild for their premium content investments. But in the past few years, alternatives to YouTube have proliferated, giving erstwhile YouTube "stars" other ways to reach audiences.
"It's hard to get a lot of exclusive creators. Unless YouTube is offering some amazing upfront deals, but now they're no longer the only game in town," said Jesse Redniss, cofounder of BRaVE Ventures, an advisor to top television networks.
Phan’s network ICON seeks not only to empower creators with tools for producing, such as camera equipment and assistants, but also on coordinating deals, Phan said. YouTube has started to do the same with YouTube Space, but Phan said she sees her niche on the lifestyle and mentorship focus.
Phan sees YouTube as the world's DVR, a comprehensive site for video. ICON will be a focused destination for beauty and fashion content.
Phan was the first person to reach a million views on YouTube, but she's been branching out to new distributors including Facebook which she had used to market her new book. “I’m platform agnostic. I’ve been ever since I was 16 years old. I’m focused more on content, and content can live anywhere,” Phan said.
Phan cited one newly-launched alternative, Vessel, which is attempting to lure YouTube's top creators with a claimed 20-times more revenue through ads and subscriptions. Vessel's $3 subscription allows fans to view videos three days before the creators can publish on other networks. “Vessel is bringing a new experience for content to the market,” she said.
She has not abandoned YouTube, yet. All videos on ICON now are published through YouTube, and her site currently serves as a destination page for creators' content. “We are starting on YouTube. That’s where most of the video creators are, but we’re also exploring other options,” Phan said.
ICON has already signed on some current YouTube stars and is aimed to recruit more. Phan said that she sees herself getting caught in the “YouTube blackhole” to find new partners.
Jkissa, who runs JkissaMakeup and preferred not to use her name, is one of those new recruits. A 21-year-old based in Los Angeles, she first launched her YouTube channel in 2013 and is hoping to grow her current 35,000 subscriber base. Jkissa had monetized right away with YouTube by signing onto the partner program. Since she started, she had been recruited by other networks but had chosen not to sign on for help until approached by Michelle Phan.
"I didn't feel like they fit my personality. When ICON came along, I was impressed that they really wanted to know me as a person first," Jkissa said