LIKE MANY REALTORS in hard-hit markets across the country, David DeVore of Orlando, Fla., hasn’t had much luck selling homes in the last couple of years. DeVore’s Plan B? The social media career of his young son, David.
Last January, DeVore posted a video on YouTube of the then 7-year-old David’s tipsy antics after a visit to the dentist. Since then, that video dubbed “David After Dentist” has been viewed more than 61 million times — capturing the attention of Tyra Banks and NBC’s “Today” show, among others. The clip has even managed to spawn a number of parodies including “Santa After Dentist” and “David After the Divorce.”
Although DeVore has traveled the same path as countless hobby filmmakers, he has been able to extend his family’s 15 minutes of fame into a small business. “Having worked in real estate, I’ve always had entrepreneurial things going on,” says DeVore. “I saw that this might be a short opportunity to make this whole thing into a family business.”
So how does buzz become a business? In addition to collecting advertising revenue checks from Google’s (GOOG) YouTube, DeVore launched the web site DavidAfterDentist.com where fans of the video can purchase T-shirts and stickers. He also signed a licensing deal with Vizio, an electronics maker, which allowed the company to use David’s likeness in an advertisement that ran during the latest Super Bowl. And most recently, DeVore inked a deal with FoneStarz Media, a mobile content provider in the U.K., which aggregates videos for mobile phone operator Vodafone Group (VOD). All told, DeVore has collected around $150,000, which he plans to use to fund his two sons’ college costs and give to charity.
Similarly, Howard Davies-Carr, a former IT consultant in Buckinghamshire, England, managed to parlay a video of one of his sons biting the other’s finger into a lucrative advertising partnership with YouTube. That video called “Charlie Bit My Finger” has been viewed more than 200 million times since its original posting in May 2007 — landing the clip handily in the rolls of YouTube’s top 10 most viewed videos of all time. With that kind of attention, spoofs and the ad revenue followed. Davies-Carr won’t say exactly how much his family has earned from the video, but the added income made it more possible to afford a new house, he says.
The prospect of earning even a modest sum is attractive, says Kevin Yen, director of strategic partnerships at YouTube. Since YouTube’s partner program became formalized in 2008, the video portal has signed up more than 5,000 advertising partners globally. “We have individuals who do very well — generating more views and revenues than mainstream media companies,” he says. In fact, “a good handful of our biggest contributors started off as individuals posting on YouTube.”
Still, the longevity of these so-called businesses is questionable, says Alex F. DeNoble, the chairman of the management department at San Diego State University’s College of Business Administration. “While these videos do draw a lot of eyeballs to the site, for a successful business, the fundamentals have to be there,” he says. “You have to have a solid reliable product or service that people can pay for and can be delivered profitably.”