After creating a pointless app no one used and then selling it (and himself) to CNN for a reported $25 million, vlogger-to-the-stars and sentient pair of distressed Ray-Bans Casey Neistat became the poster boy for failing upward.
What remains unclear—for Neistat’s 6.5 million subscribers and perplexed members of the media (me)—is what shape this joint venture will take. An interview today with The Hollywood Reporter answers none of these questions, while spoon-feeding devotees of his particular brand of mundane transparency a mountain of bullshit corporate-speak and more than a few blatant contradictions.
Here, in his own dumb words, is Neistat’s explanation of the new venture alongside the questions the Reporter probably meant to ask.
OK, so what’s this partnership going to look like?
I want to build a news company. It’s going to be video exclusive. It’s going to be done in a way that penetrates the thick, strong, solid-steel bullshit shield that this generation cautiously holds up in between them and everything being thrown at them.
Working for an extant news organization and building your own don’t seem compatible, Casey. But let’s not sweat the small stuff. Are you working on anything buzzword-y and tech-focused, picking up where Beme left off?
We’re building a product right now that’s particularly exciting. It’s about delivering live newsfeeds from around the world. It’s curated by journalists. There’s 12 different newsfeeds that are live at that very moment. These are raw, unfiltered, unedited newsfeeds. Delivering that without context strips away the noise.
Twelve simultaneous newsfeeds feels like the definition of “noise.” I can’t imagine anything more grating than a dozen strangers’ newsfeeds. Can you explain how exactly something can be both curated and raw?
There’s a lot of noise, and there’s a lot of confusion about what should be paid attention to. A very simple goal is to present something that cuts through that in a digestible way.
Glad that’s cleared up. Moving on: Why sign with CNN when you have an audience of 6.5 million already at your fingertips?
The magic of technology is how quickly you can innovate with it. Traditionally, media, whether that’s print or broadcast media, has had a slow process of iteration. Look at what Twitter can do in eight years, especially in the shadow of how our current president leverages it. Look at what Facebook can do when you consider how it can contribute to a presidential election.
There are many, many online media organizations, including your new employer cnn.com—let’s just chalk that up to an accidental omission. And arguably the way Twitter and Facebook are being leveraged right now is not ideal. Twitter has been repeatedly criticized as a hub of online abuse. Facebook became a swirling morass of disinformation during the election. Neither of those things seems like a good business model. Can you maybe just tell us what it is CNN paid you $25 million to do?
When I was saying in my YouTube videos that I had no idea what we were doing, I wasn’t speaking in hyperbole. We really didn’t know what we were doing.
Is it fair to assume you’ll just be hosting a YouTube news channel, hopefully improving millennial trust towards CNN by leveraging your minor cult of online personality?
It’s all about who is delivering the content. If there’s one person you trust and relate to, then you will follow that person no matter what he or she is sharing.
But is listening to a single, charismatic personality the best way to consume news, or even the way you personally consume news?
[W]hat I try to do in consuming online is to find the same story in two different places. I’ve been trying to find a biased perspective on either side... I want to know what’s going on but I also really want to understand how and why it’s being shared the way it is, especially in the shadow of what we’re trying to build.
So that’s a no.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Neistat will be launching another YouTube channel in March under the auspices of CNN. You don’t always get what you pay for.
Read the full interview here.