Andrea is an author of formats dedicated to new youth trends, today CEO of Greater Fool. With him we will enter the mysterious and magical world of the web.
by Umberto Garibaldi
How is “Greater Fool” born?
Greater Fool is 6 years old, as the significant part of the 1.5 million Italian children who follow us every day, humming and playing with our young YouTube presenters. The idea of founding a network of YouTube channels arrived in 2012. I had been coming for 10 consecutive years between film sets (I started with a horror film about ghosts, distributed in Italy by Universal Pictures), radio and television studios of RAI, where I collected more than 700 hours of live broadcasts with formats dedicated to new youth trends. I designed, wrote and presented. Gradually the chronicles of digital trends increasingly took a central role in my programs.
In 2011 you created the first Italian quiz show with competitors coming only from the web.
They were YouTuber because bloggers were reluctant to appear on video. The name of show was Social King and it was broadcast on RAI2 on Saturday and Sunday morning. The competitors could look for the answers on and to receive suggestions from home in chat. It was the first time that online voting was used in real time, it was necessary to put Like on the posts of our Facebook Page to declare the winners of the episode. Mechanism exceeded by today’s standards, but for the time it was an absolute novelty that aroused a huge wave of engagement. With a share of 25% in a target of young people aged 15 to 25. The show led me to know all the best YouTubers on the Peninsula: bloggers, tutorial artists and very young comedians who were beginning to have a huge following with their short self-produced clips but they were not supported by editorial or managerial structures able to act as a bridge with the world of advertising. When some managers changed the original format of Social King, in its second edition, I decided to abandon TV and to launch me into the challenge of streaming. In Europe Netflix hadn’t arrived yet and nobody imagined live shows on Facebook and Stories on Instagram. But YouTube had already begun to make headway in half-planet media habits. So, when the first MCNs (Multi-Channel Networks, companies that manage hundreds, sometimes thousands, of different YouTube channels) were approved in America, I signed the contract with Google and I created one of the very first Italian MCNs. Six years later we exceeded 14 million subscribers on YouTube and as many followers among social and new apps like Tik Tok. Our producers generate almost 300 million views every month, 55% in Italy and 45% abroad. We have 270.000 videos on file and we publish 250 news items a day. We are the number one in kids formats (and in general contents for families), automotive and cinema news, and we fight discretely in the feminine lifestyle, on breaking politics and technology news and in classic entertainment, comedy in the lead.
Why should a talent rely on Greater Fool?
In traditional media, you are part of a codified chain. There is a publisher/client behind, for example a television broadcaster and a production company. Your role in the gear has artistic features. The entry barrier is high, and once inside you follow a very competitive career path, but, if we want, “sustainable”. On YouTube the talent is an entrepreneur of himself because he starts without external financing. He is author, screenwriter, director, actor or presenter and editor, marketing and promotion is fanned out, the community is moderated, he tries to get sponsors, he has to be careful about the legal aspects and tax, and eventually he ends up earning a few handfuls of hundreds of euros in a year, net of taxes. The legend of the solitary YouTuber that from his little room and his battered webcam becomes a millionaire is in the mythology of Internet, but apart from some international phenomenon (super good or super lucky), it is not realistic. YouTuber need resources to bring its production model closer to that of traditional media. Realities like Greater Fool are needed. In fact, in 2018 it distributed more than 1.5 million euros in advertising revenue sharing to its publishing partners. YouTube is the largest Italian square of streaming viewers. At the moment, it gathers more audiences than anyone else except the respective top channels of RAI and Mediaset in the early evening. An immense opportunity for those who know how to play it well. But it needs know-how – the algorithm that governs the platform can build empires or be deadly – and solid teams that support authorial and commercial. Often needs money, and Greater Fool is starting to finance our channels with the highest potential in the targets considered as priorities. At the beginning we were, like all American MCNs, an aggregator network, an intermediary between talent and Google, today we are a media company.
You worked a lot on tv: how has the audiovisual market changed since you started 20 years ago?
Despite the prophecies of doom, it must be recognized that television continues to be the first screen for the vast majority of Italian adults. Guys under 14 years have another rating. The first screen is the mobile, it has an average of 5 inches, is interactive, is used with an instant messaging application and is not filtered by the schedules decided on the upper floors, but by the suggestions of an artificial intelligence. This is an explosive thing because companies that need to communicate to Millennials and children (and their parents), must go and intercept those who follow YouTube (and Instagram and Tik Tok) more than TV.
And the channels for the guys are exploding…
Exactly. In two years we moved from YouTube, the symbolic place of the youth counterculture and of the conspiracists, to YouTube platform, for family-friendly content with free access. The free alternative for all mothers and fathers who don’t have Sky, Netflix or other premium services, but that they have 50GB on the phone for 6 euros to month. Greater Fool is riding a wave that some times seems like a tsunami to those accustomed to the educational programs of public TV. With the cheerful musical animations of CanzoniPerBimbi and Dolci Melodie we reach a million spectators in the pre-school bracket. With the riddles and the dolls that play hide and seek of Scarta Regali we distorted the patterns of toy unboxing, transforming the opening of each new LOL Surprise or Pinypon package into an engaging adventure, with intricately woven plots and subplots. Next to blogger of fashion cover magazine, such as the charming Nicole Husel, our brand ambassador 2019, we are thrilled to see the success of new stars between the ages of 10 and 18 grow, from week to week, with an audience of fans under 14. I’m talking about xDrake, zFenix, Una Polpetta Per Amica, Gaia Maniglio, Figh7er, l’enfant prodige Charlotte M, the best in recent months to play the Mobile Generation audience. They know they must change all the time, avoid the obsessive and boring iteration of programming and perpetually equal or cloned TV hosts, and they are not afraid to do it. Each of their new videos can never be the same as the previous one, with the risk of going from 1 million views to zero, without accepting pressure from social media like their “big brothers” in the world of classic entertainment. And this is another extraordinary novelty of the YouTube revolution, the change of protagonists and winning formats is continuous. Even stressful sometimes. But authentically fun.
What are the next Greater Fool projects?
We focus on different drivers to drive our growth at the same levels over the last three years, 100% year-on-year. The most ambitious bet is to expand and to consolidate our global position, producing kid contents in English, Spanish, French and German. At Christmas we closed a historic deal with the first channel of children’s songs in the Hispanic overseas market. They are based in Santo Domingo and they have accumulated in a short time 1 billion views between the United States, Mexico and Latin America with hits like “The Dance of the Frog” (El baile del Sapito). We are counting on making numerous partnerships and acquisitions projected in an international key throughout 2019. It will be a decidedly boundless year.