Meet The Media Entrepreneur That Has Turned Viral Videos Into Big Business

Interview with the founder of Jukin Media Jonathan Skogmo

Jonathan Skogmo, founder of Jukin Media
Jonathan Skogmo, founder of Jukin Media

For past ten years, user-generated content has literally filled our days, our websites, and our servers. That’s partially thanks to the fact technology improvements has made data storage and sending faster than ever. And as a result, thousands of pages, services, and stars have emerged made famous by the likes grumpy cats and DIY video blogs.

But how has this revolution in UGC impacted our economy? And, as many entrepreneurs and CEOs have since asked, how can we harness it into a real business model?

I connected with Jonathan Skogmo, the founder of Jukin Media about how he has built a business with 175 employees worldwide from user-generated content alone. Jukin Media’s mission is to help user-generated content become the future of storytelling; and they are achieving it through a licensing model that leverages user-generated content for commercial campaigns. Each month, their content reaches more than 2 billion viewers and to date, they have paid over $15 million in royalties for people’s content.

Jukin Media’s London HQ
Jukin Media’s London HQ

Steve Mariotti: Tell me about where the idea for Jukin came from and why you founded the company

Jonathan Skogmo: Simply put, I founded Jukin because I saw a problem at my job, and I figured out a better way to solve it than anyone else in the industry had. The problem was that TV producers -- I was a freelance TV producer -- had to jump through a ridiculous set of hoops in order to use amateur video clips on TV. We had to urge viewers to send in their VHS tapes to a PO box, and then retrieve those tapes and pop them in the VCR one by one to see if they were any good. At the same time, there was an emergence of digital content creators online who were looking to further monetize their content.

This was 2009, mind you, and YouTube was well on its way by then, so it became clear that the whole process with the VHS tapes was completely outdated. It wasn't long before I quit my job to start Jukin. My idea was to leverage the internet and social media to find interesting video clips that could work well for TV productions, while also providing monetary benefit to content creators. That was the genesis of Jukin. It sounds simple in retrospect, but at the time was a pretty novel concept.

SM: What are the key factors that have contributed to Jukin's growth?

JS: One of the main factors in our sustained growth is that we've maintained our focus and stayed true to who we are, while being smart about where to expand. There are a million different directions nascent businesses can go, so knowing what your core strengths are and finding ways to grow the business within that framework are paramount. Jukin has always been laser focused on discovering compelling user-generated video content, so we've built the business around that unique ability, creating a marketplace for brands and media companies to license user-generated content quickly and easily.

Beyond that, I think entrepreneurs too often credit their own hard work in the success of their companies. I've put in as much sweat as anyone, but without the right external market forces, our company wouldn't have grown nearly as quickly. Jukin has benefited greatly from the proliferation in the last 5+ years of high-quality video capture devices, for instance. That's not something we created, but certainly, it's helped propel us forward. Think about where the world is going, and do your best to build a business that will succeed in that world.

SM: What consumer success stories can you talk about, people that have earned some serious $$$ from their content?

JS: We're approaching a total of $20 million in royalty payments to our partners -- most of them are regular people who managed to capture a special moment on camera, simply for their own entertainment or to share with friends. We're able to explain to them that they can earn real money with these videos. Many of the web's most recognizable viral videos, from the Chewbacca Mom video, to Pizza Rat and David After the Dentist, to many many others, our services have helped those folks turn their big moment into a legitimate revenue opportunity. We've paid for family vacations, new cars, and even college tuition, while helping place videos on national TV shows, in massive advertising campaigns, and on some of the most trafficked websites in the world.

SM: What tips can you share for working with major brands?

JS: When working with brands or clients it's important to be transparent and set expectations at the beginning of the business relationship. When you're just starting off it's natural to try and over-sell your capabilities and promise the world in order to win business, but that approach is more than likely to come back to bite you. Instead, be very clear about what you can offer, then over communicate, and be extremely attentive. Showing excellent attention to detail and being responsive to the client are just as important as delivering great results, and if you've set reasonable expectations from the beginning, you have a better chance of over-delivering.

SM: What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs, especially in the media/ technology space?

JS: The advice I constantly tell other entrepreneurs is to get used to failure. It's something you are going to do over and over before you succeed. Even when you do have some success, the highs never last long. When you do fail, fail fast and learn from your mistakes. If you don't learn from them you will never pick yourself up and grow as a company or as an individual. Further, don't get discouraged if the business doesn't take off right away. Most founders that look like an overnight success have actually worked for years behind the scenes.

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