ClevverTV YouTube Hosts Dana Ward and Joslyn Davis on Reaching 1 Billion Views [INTERVIEW]

The one billion club is currently one of the most exclusive clubs in YouTube. NMR friends Smosh broke the barrier back in 2010, and now, their Alloy Digital counterparts, ClevverTV, have earned their membership as well.

ClevverTV hosts a wide variety of videos from movie trailers to music videos with Dana Ward and Joslyn Davis as the faces of the YouTube channel. The duo report on entertainment news tailored to the teen audience. They recently talked to NMR about how their brand made it to the one billion club and what celebrities are like behind the camera.

Congratulations on your channel getting 1 billion views. What’s been your reaction?

Dana Ward: Oh my goodness, when we got the news we were so excited. We had noticed that the viewer numbers were slowly creeping up, but we were waiting to hit a billion. We finally did, and it’s such an amazing accomplishment. We’ve been here since day one, since zero video views. You couldn’t ask for a better situation.

Joslyn DavisYeah, it’s pretty incredible. I think when you first start out, hitting a billion views seems like an impossible marker. And as we crept slower and slower, you know, closer and closer, I should say, to that one billionth view, I kept sort of questioning myself, like, is this really going to happen? And then when it did, it was almost unbelievable. But, it’s so exciting.

DW: And it’s a milestone that not very many outlets out there have hit. I mean, I know we’re really proud of our partners in crime also under the Alloy Digital umbrella, Smosh, because they’ve already hit a billion views, and we are happy to join the club.

JD: Exactly. Good company to be in.

How long have you been part of the Alloy family?

DW: About two months, right?

JD: Yeah, the company acquired us in June, but we had actually been working with Alloy already as part of their ad network, so we already had a great working relationship. We were already pitching campaigns back and forth. Now we’ve seen such an increase in ad campaigns because we have so much support all around us with [Teen.com] and [Gurl.com] and Smosh, and I mean, all together we have 8 million subscribers, which again, is a great, great feat that we’ve accomplished as a group.

But you’ve been around since Clevver began, right?

DW: Four years. We started in 2008. And that was the first channel under the Clevver umbrella to launch, and then after that came Clevver Movies, Clevver Music, Clevver Games. And then, as part of the pro initiative that YouTube did about a year ago, we got three new channels from that initiative, which was really exciting and still is for us. So, we launch ClevverTeVe, which is in Spanish; Clevver News, which is sort of if you graduate from Clevver TV — it’s still entertainment news but for a little bit of an older demo; and then Clevver Style, which is beauty, fashion, style, everything that is encompassed in that world.

What’s the secret to your success? It took you only four years to get a billion.

DW: Well, I think it’s been a labor of love. Like we mentioned, Joslyn and I have been working with the founders of Clevver Media, George Maldonado and Mike Palmer, since day one of original content, over four years ago, and it’s been an experimental process seeing what our viewers want. And we’ve definitely been developing our content as things have been changing in the digital space, and I feel like now we’ve kind of figured out a formula, if you will, that works. We have daily news segments, we have longer format series, we have a ton of different shows that we know that our viewers want to see, and that’s what we’re busy producing, and we’re continuing to evolve our content as the platform changes.

JD: And that’s really just the beauty of YouTube and new media in general, is that it really is just the Wild West of media. Now, we’ve seen it change so much just in the last four years, but it’s all about evolving and changing. You can never really get used to something because there is always going to be something different or something better that you can do for your audience. YouTube is such a social platform that even though we are a news outlet, we really do like to incorporate and involve our viewers in all the videos that we do. So you can never really sit tight and be like, “We’ve got it figured out,” because just when you do that, it’s time to change things up or something new comes about.

How do you go outside the box when you think of ideas and think of projects and campaigns to encourage more viewership?

DWWell, I think, like Dana mentioned, it really is a labor of love, and it really is a collaborative effort here. And sometimes, say for example there is someone new coming onto the entertainment scene that we have kind of heard buzz about but we don’t know whether or not our audience will respond, we might do one video or one posting on our website ClevverTV.com to sort of gauge our viewers’ interest. And if they react well to it, then we know we need to start providing content within this topic of discussion or about this specific celebrity, so we really do gauge interest before we dive head-in or you know, head first into a topic or a specific celeb. But we use our team, our small team, which is Dana and I and one other person, and we are really willing to sort of experiment and see what works and have fun with it. It is fun; it’s entertainment.

JD: And I think part of just being in the digital space, creativity is number one. You can’t work in the space if you aren’t able to think outside of the box, so we’re constantly challenging ourselves. Our entire team is really challenging itself to really think of new ways of covering entertainment news and beyond.

I think one of your top videos revolves around Rebecca Black and YouTube celebrities. I’m sure you had a lot of fun when “Friday” went viral.

DW: You know, I will never forget that day. We were sitting in our office, and one of our coworkers was like, “Hey, I just saw this video. It has about 70,000 views; you’ve got to watch it.” I don’t know if this is a parody or this is a real video, and I cannot tell you how we became immediately obsessed. We did a news story on it right away; our story, I don’t know, at least 3 million views. I think you might know better because you’ve seen it recently, and that was the beginning of a crazy Rebecca Black whirlwind, and since then, we’ve talked to her multiple times and had her in the studio, and that’s just one example of what YouTube can do, and its so fun. That was such a fun experience.

JD: And we’ve had her in the studio as a follow up. It’s amazing to see how someone can go from, you know, just making a video, putting it on YouTube, it goes viral and suddenly, a celeb is before us. Because of that video, our video was actually picked up on news outlets around the world. Someone told me they saw Clevver TV’s coverage of Rebecca Black somewhere in Eastern Europe. I mean, that’s crazy. That’s awesome.

Do you have a particular YouTube celebrity you follow?

DW: We follow a lot of YouTube celebrities. We have had a lot of them on the show, particularly a lot of the musical guests that we have. I mean, someone who comes to mind all the time is Justin Bieber because he really is the poster child for YouTube success, but there is so much talent that is untouched and that’s emerging from YouTube. I mean, we’ve had Ricky Ficarelli, all the people from the DigiTour, which is a big YouTube tour. I mean, we are constantly reaching out to people within that realm, but gosh.

JD: I mean, as a girl, I have to give major props to iJustine. She got her start early, early on in the digital space, and she totally has dominated, and she’s really taken her career to the next level just by starting out making little blogs in the Apple store.

DW: Dancing in the Apple Store.

What makes your personalities work for the channel?

JD: I don’t really think it was something that was planned right off the bat, actually. This was very serendipitous. Dana and I are very fortunate that we just so happened to be placed together, I think. We were kind of talking about this earlier, and you put it really well.

DW: Oh, it’s actually a really fun story. We heard about each other after we had already been working here at Clevver for some time. George and Mike, who we were telling you about earlier, the owners and founders of Clevver Media, went through hundreds of resumes, they said, and they only selected the two of us to come in and audition. The audition consisted of producing and writing a piece about the result at the box office, so apparently only the two of us came in, and the two of us wound up shooting day one for Clevver TV. And the rest is history, because we are still producers, writers, hosts and now executive producers of Clevver Media, so it worked! We are very thankful, and I got to say it was a really cool, unique opportunity. Obviously, the digital space is still growing and evolving, and we are so lucky to get in on this project day one.

What kind of advice would you have for somebody who wants to make it into online media either as a host or a producer or making their own blog about stuff they like?

DW: Well, the amazing thing about the digital space is anyone can just sit in front of their computer, make a video with their own thoughts, and put it out there for the world to see. So I would say just practice, practice, practice. Anyone can do this today, so why not just get started?

JD: Yeah, watch the people that you admire and you want to be like, and learn from them by really observing. We get questioned a lot, whether it’s our interns or an email we might receive from someone who wants to work specifically in the entertainment world. I always encourage people to graduate from college because I think education is really important, and it’s a great time in your life, so if possible, finish school. Intern, intern, intern; I can’t tell you how crucial that is and then just do it. The difference between people working in this field a lot of the time and people who are not is just that you’re doing it, you’re making it happen, and it’s not easy, you know, so be prepared for that. It’s a grind; it’s not always glamorous in Hollywood here.

DW: Since this world is growing so quickly, I mean, the online world, I should say, it’s that much more important to get out there and actually do it; the competition is growing exponentially.

JD: Even on YouTube, we’ve see a change so much in the past four years that the content and the premium level is just gone through the roof. We love it, we think it is great because that’s where we want to be, but it’s a competitive market, most definitely.

It helps you understand, with this growing number of YouTube channels and celebrities, helps you understand what’s trending, what works. I mean, you might get some ideas from competition.

JD: That is the beauty of YouTube is that, almost immediately, you can see what’s working and what’s not because you have the numbers right in front of you. So, if you do a video and like our numbers, if we do a video that gets maybe a thousand views, we question whether we can do better? How can we improve this? Maybe this isn’t resonating with our audience; maybe we should outsource this somewhere else, one of our other channels. But if something gets 200,000 views overnight, then it’s definitely a sure sign that we need to be on this all the time, you know? That’s the great thing about YouTube specifically.

DW: We have been able to set a lot of goals such as how many subscribers, how many followers, how many likes on Facebook, views. You can set so many goals internally, but as soon as YouTube actually launched the pro initiative, where all these premium channels were being watched, it was exciting to see the weekly rankings come out to see where our three new channels fell. We’re proud to say that two out of our three channels popped in the top 25. It’s just really neat to compare to see where we’re at; in comparison to our competition too.

Do you ever get starstruck interviewing celebrities?

JD: I can’t fully admit to what you call starstruck. I get really excited sometimes, because there’s certain people our viewers love so much and whenever we have the chance to connect our viewers with celebs like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, it’s so exciting because we can’t wait to share it with them. When you’re face to face with these people, and you’re sitting with them, they’re just friends!

DW: They’re normal people. Obviously, we’ve interviewed really big stars. I know some of our favorite interviews include talking to the “Twilight” trio. They completely dominate the entertainment industry. We’ve also got the chance to see celebrities grow and progress. Shay Mitchell from “Pretty Little Liars” is a great example. We were actually her first interview here in the States. We’ve known her since she started on the show, and now she’s a big-time celebrity.

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