Fake news! The Titanic! An audience experiment with YouTube star Casey Neistat

By Pit Gottschalk

Funke Media Group

Berlin, Germany


Last week, I saw Casey Neistat performing on stage at the Online Marketing Rockstars event in Hamburg, Germany. He wears spectacular sunglasses, combs his hair backwards with a lot of gel, and is able to transform each spoken sentence into a piece of manifesto spontaneously.

When he enters the stage, people ages 20 to 50 leave their chairs immediately and push to the front of the crowd to get a closer look and take better pictures of him.

Blogger Pit Gottschalk came up with a creative experiment to test a YouTube star’s audience loyalty.
Blogger Pit Gottschalk came up with a creative experiment to test a YouTube star’s audience loyalty.

No doubt, Neistat is a rockstar. To be more specific: He’s a YouTuber from New York.

For a better understanding of the story I’m going to write about in this blog post, it’s important to know that I admire Neistat’s work on YouTube. He’s a brilliant storyteller and creative entertainer. His YouTube channel has 6.5 million subscribers with nearly 1.5 billion views. That’s incredible.

Platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat created new stars on social media. I have written about the change in the media industry several times and appreciate the stars coming up. Casey Neistat is such a successful star, and he made millions of dollars by working hard.

He has made a deal with CNN worth US$25 million in regard to a social sharing app, and he will broadcast a daily TV show. CNN chief Jeff Zucker is reported to have approached Casey Neistat with these words: “My son says you’re the only person who matters in media.”

So, this man was on stage in Hamburg, and I saw the audience thrilled by him. My silly thought in this moment was: Is there still a healthy balance between the quality of great videos he made for companies like Nike and Samsung on the one side and the hype among fans on the other side?

Whenever media companies publish anything special — a background report on the president or secret information leaked by a whistleblower — there will be at least one guy shouting “fake news.” The crowd and readers underline this statement and confirm it more than one million times.

It’s good to have an opposite view of the things journalists and media brands are doing. But the critics are sometimes too heavy.

I thought: How would Neistat’s viewers as a community respond with an opposite view? I made an experiment. You have no idea what happened to me.

On Thursday, March 2, I tweeted: “Saw @caseyneistat on #OMR17 Stage. One Comment: overvalued @OMRockstars.”

Just a couple of hours later, Neistat himself countered on Twitter: “Hey dipshit, if you’re going to say something douchey why tag me?”

For this answer, he got 28 retweets and 285 likes within two days. A shitstorm entered my timeline on Twitter:

“Thank you for your negativity. This reminds me why I follow people like @caseyneistat and don’t even know people like you.”

“Better to be overvalued than not valued at all.”

“who the fuck is that guy.”

“fake news spreading across Atlantic as well these days.”

“and pit just stay with your shitty work in sport and let the selfmate guy enjoy Germany.”

“looks like that guys life is the pits.”

“Well, his brain is an empty Pit.”

“might be a small case of jealousy here maybe?!?”

“tabloid douches be douchin’.”

Not one of these guys asked me what I’d meant by the word “overvalued.” No one was actually interested in my point of view. Thus, I didn’t answer. But much more happened to me.

The next day, Neistat was on stage again. In front of an audience of 6,000 visitors, he explained his creative work and showed his best video made for Nike’s fuel band four years ago.

Again, he was charming and convincing, but then he turned to the little chat he had with me.

He repeated my tweet, and the roles were quickly given: I was the bad guy. I got deeper and deeper in my chair in the audience while Neistat openly showed on stage how annoyed he was about my word “overvalued.” He drew a picture to express his point of view.

He said it wasn’t all about him, but the creative people with and behind him. He said about me: “You are drinking champagne on the deck of the Titanic, and we are the iceberg.” The crowd went crazy about this sentence. Indeed, he was great.

I didn’t dare to respond on Twitter. Others did.

“Looks like @caseyneistat ripped @pitgottschalk into pieces on stage at #OMR17 about his ‘overvalued’ comment. Let’s hope he survives this,” Oliver Germer wrote.

“you just got smashed by @CaseyNeistat on #OMR17 Conference stage,” Dennis Scholar added.

“Dear Pit, your comments sincerely make me question your judgement and journalistic quality,” Geordie Traveller stated.

Remember what Jeff Zucker said about Neistat: “Only guy who matters in media.” There’s no denying the fact the YouTuber from New York has a closer relationship to his community than many legacy publishers have to their readers. Journalists often have to defend their work.

My experiment has shown where our problem in media industry is: We’ve lost this special connection with our readers and have become vulnerable for assessments like “fake news” and “failing newspaper” as Mr. Trump and his supporters use the words.

Neistat has a better defense line.

I fear he’s totally right, and we are sitting on the Titanic. But, there’s a little hope for us. Some people on the Titanic survived, mostly the ones who were drinking champagne. And the iceberg shrunk and shrunk and disappeared.

Please, do me a favour: Don’t tweet this sentence.

About Pit Gottschalk

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