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Mike Bienstock: The Money Man Behind Your Favorite YouTubers

Our interview of Mike Bienstock for “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes, Spotify, and premier platforms everywhere.  Mike is the CEO of Semaphore, a premier business management and tax solution firm specializing in servicing digital creators.

Mike sits down with us to discuss how Semaphore evolved from a financial management firm to now serving as a one-stop-shop for creators and a leading influencer marketing agency.  He shares his thoughts about the continued transformation of YouTube personalities into premier creative talent and offers a bold prediction about how new media will ultimately replace traditional media.

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A transcript of the episode follows:

 

Jon Pfeiffer:                           I am joined today by Mike Bienstock. Welcome to the podcast.

Mike Bienstock:                 Great to be here.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And we are sitting in your conference room, are we not?

Mike Bienstock:                 Yes we are!

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And what is the name of your company?

Mike Bienstock:                 Semafore

Jon Pfeiffer:                           You are the CEO?

Mike Bienstock:                 Correct.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           The company started in 2004. We were talking off mic before we started. Tell me a little bit about how you started this.

Mike Bienstock:                 Originally I was an investment advisor and then I was a portfolio manager, Branch manager

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And actually originally--let me back you up--Originally you were a lawyer!

Mike Bienstock:                 Well luckily I escaped that trap, honestly. [Laughter] I went to law school for a year. Did not like it nearly as much as I expected. I initially thought I'd be a securities attorney--loved securities

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Didn't as much law school.

Mike Bienstock:                 Not so much law. And, uh, I just said I'm going to do what I love and left law school in the first year.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And then you and I cut you off. So then, you...

Mike Bienstock:                 No, the good news about that is it got me to California, so it was worth, it was worth every day of torturing law school.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Now, you are from where originally?

Mike Bienstock:                 Originally from New York. Brooklyn.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And where'd you go to law sch--or to undergrad?

Mike Bienstock:                 In a Long Island. Stonnybrook

Jon Pfeiffer:                           I looked it up cause I--[Laughter]--Where is Stonybrook?

Mike Bienstock:                 It's basically halfway through Long Island. The tip of Long Island is Montauk, which is uh, you know, you have the Hamptons basically. And this is kind of halfway between the city and the Hamptons.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           So then you started law school where?

Mike Bienstock:                 In California. San Diego,

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Ok so that's what brought you to California originally.

Mike Bienstock:                 Yep. And it ended up being a real eye opener because when you grow up in Brooklyn or in New York, especially, California seems very far away. And the thoughts of just like moving there. It's not like an everyday thing you think about.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Right, well I grew up in Nebraska on a farm, so my journey.

Mike Bienstock:                 [Laughter] Wow!

Jon Pfeiffer:                           LA is just, you know, a different breed.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Your LinkedIn profile says that you have been helping YouTubers grow for nearly 10 years. Now the question I have, and I'm going to ask you to explain what you do...

Mike Bienstock:                 Sure

Jon Pfeiffer:                           YouTube went public in 2005--[be]cause I looked it up last night to just verify--fourteen years ago. So you've been in it almost since the start.

New Speaker:                      Basically I, I look at it as the start because we got involved right after monetization began and it obviously existed a few years before we got involved, but there was no monetization so nobody was able to earn any revenue or make any money. So clearly it was a hundred percent hobby. And then once monetization became a thing, suddenly it created an industry, if you really think about it.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           How has that changed from the time you first saw it? (And I'm talking the monetization) To now with Google AdSense.

Mike Bienstock:                 Well that is basically when the AdSense program began, but the industry has become very different now because the world understands there's money to be made in YouTube and that people are quitting traditional jobs and moving to new media jobs. When monetization was in its early stages, what you really had was a bunch of hobbyists and a bunch of people that just really embraced the concept of it. Never even realizing they'd make a penny. They just did it for the love of what they were doing. So it's been interesting to see the shift over the years.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And when--this just occurred to me--when did they start calling them "YouTubers"?

Mike Bienstock:                 Gosh, from as far back as we started, we were that's really what they were.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Calling them "YouTubers"?

Mike Bienstock:                 Yeah. And it was always tricky back in the very beginning because "Influencer" was just kind of getting started. So it was kinda like: "are they an Influencer?" And everybody, when people heard that they were doing video for money, the normal population would think porn. And that was really funny because everybody in the industry knows porn has like no CPM. There's, the money is a penny compared to YouTube.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Right

Mike Bienstock:                 So it's ironic how the world was thinking so wrong about what these people were doing.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And that's actually something that YouTube did really well is to police that to keep it, you know, if you will, G-rated, even though it's PG-rated.

Mike Bienstock:                 [Laughter] Exactly.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           So tell me more about the company. So you formed Semaphore with the idea of doing what?

Mike Bienstock:                 So originally my thought was to help small businesses because when I was doing the Portfolio Management and then when I was a Branch Manager for an independent investment firm, I, it seemed like there was a big need for the suite of services. Because when you start a business, it's very hard. Everybody has this thought that like you start a business and things get easier and that's really funny for me, having started several businesses on my own and basically working every day with clients that are starting their businesses for the first time. Basically before we even start the process and start their incorporation, I always warn them, I'm like: "I just need to be very clear with you. Nothing's going to get easier for you for a very long time. It's actually going to get quite harder in the early days as you add staff and build a team. But usually what I promise them is it'll be a lot more fun and it will be very satisfying internally to them for they're actually creating something bigger than just themselves.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Right. It's a matter of getting the systems in place.

Mike Bienstock:                 Correct.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Until the systems are in place. It's a, it's a "road" [Laughter].

Mike Bienstock:                 And a, we've been growing ourselves for a lot of years and were about to cross 50 employees across our companies. And I always tease my partner: "when's it supposed to get easy again?" And we just crack ourselves up with that thought, [be]cause it seems to just get more complicated the larger you get. But it is satisfying.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           So how did you transition. If the idea was to help, businesses, how did you transition into YouTubers?

Mike Bienstock:                 So it's kind of one of those interesting stories and I kind of joke sometimes that every good story starts with my buddy from law school. And then that's why I have to be very happy about my journey to California in law school because it turns out my roommate, while I was in law school, he had lived in New York and our law school had a little match service where they paired you up with some people in your state so you could kind of--and this was like, you know, pre-iPhone. So, you had to actually like call them.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Wait, wait, there was a time in life before the iPhone existed?

Mike Bienstock:                 [Laughter] Yes! Yeah it was, it was a very--it was the equivalent of walking five miles through the snow to get to school.

Mike Bienstock:                 Uphill both ways...

Mike Bienstock:                 In a storm!

Jon Pfeiffer:                           In a storm. Of course.

Mike Bienstock:                 So we had spoken and met up and we thought we'd be a good fit. He wanted to go to law school [be]cause he wanted to get into the entertainment industry and he thought, you know, the contracts background would be good for him. But anyway, we're in law school. I leave. He continues on. A couple of years later, he said he read about Semaphore somewhere, about how we were helping small businesses and he calls me up kind of reconnecting after a couple of years of us not being in close contact. And he says, "Hey Mike, I have this idea for this YouTube business. I met up with some guy, he has this incredible vision for what YouTube could do." And we're thinking like United Artists was when the film industry began. He said, "what if we can create a firm to help YouTube people who are just starting out? And now that there's monetization, we think we have a path here." And I'm like, "Okay, I understand what you're saying..."

Mike Bienstock:                 At that time we had some clients who were special effect firms, but like the old school ones with optical effects. And they had, I remember one of our clients literally spent like $1 million on hard drives just to get a terabyte back then. And it's like, oh my God, he needed a special room and special people just to do that.

Mike Bienstock:                 So I told Scott. I'm like, "Look, we work with production companies. We work with optical effects companies. Like, I don't see any reason we can't help you with this." So I said, “look, the first step is, you know, you've got to come up with a name. You gotta tell me a little bit about like, you have a plan, you know what you're going to do.” And when I asked him, what do you want to call this thing? He's like, "You know what, I think we're going to call it Maker Studios."

Jon Pfeiffer:                           At that point, kind of a funny name, but it turned out well for them.

Mike Bienstock:                 It did. And in hindsight, I wish we said, "you know what, that's amazing. We should partner with you on it. Cause that's sounds incredible!" But who could have dreamed that, you know him and this fellow Danny Zappin, who was the cofounder with Scott Katz, who was my roommate, at Maker would build something so amazing.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Right. Uh, so that was your, your first foray into YouTube and then now what do you? You work with three or four hundred Creators at this point?

Mike Bienstock:                 Correct. Effectively, the way the business has evolved over the years is we are, we call ourselves a family of companies because we have separate lines of services for talent and creators. We don't only work with new media clients, we do have, you know what you would call a stereotypical small business

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Brick and mortar.

Mike Bienstock:                 Exactly. But we're probably like 80% new media because those are the clients that just grow so quickly.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           So you have the different segments that you work with about 80% of it are new media at this point.

Mike Bienstock:                 Right. So we, we decided to structure it along lines of business because we wanted to be able to give amazing service across several lines of business that traditionally are not known for giving amazing service. Uh, insurance is a great example. Nobody gets super excited about

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Their Insurance Agent?

Mike Bienstock:                 Exactly. However, for us,

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Sorry to my Insurance Agent... [Laughter]

Mike Bienstock:                 Yes, and sorry for me as well! [Laughter] But at the end of the day, we wanted to be able to give the level of service we give our top Creator on the media side and take care of things for him. It's really all about convenience for the client. But we also wanted to meet clients and talent independently because realistically, some people, their brother might be an insurance agent or maybe their dad's a CPA and like they don't want us to do that line of business, but they'd love us to do everything else. So we have kind of a family structure. Each company is an independent company. You could do business with any one of our family. And there's no obligation to work with others. However, what tends to happen is people come in

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And want the full...

Mike Bienstock:                 Because they get great service. We really bend over backwards for our clients. We call them "our people" because we're that dedicated to them and then they tend to work with most of the other sister companies. And kind of a funny thing is we actually have clients whose parents are CPAs and we even have clients whose parents own CPA firms and they still work with us because after the parents interviewed us, they decided that since we know this space so well, even though they have to pay to work with us relative to their family doing it for free, the parents tell the kids, it's well worth it because this, this is what we do. We know it. We'll save them more money strategically than the costs they pay us.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And it is a natural transition to go from just small mom-and-pop businesses to YouTubers because they are are business.

Mike Bienstock:                 And that's something that most people don't understand. And honestly, even the talent themselves, it really takes a while for them to appreciate. They are a business, especially with the revenue that these guys can bring in nowadays.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           I mean there's the, you have to set up the firm for them. There's the tax issues that nobody likes to think about. There's the branding issues. You have to keep reinventing yourself. So you still have the creative, but you have all these other, you know, when you start hiring employees, all the other business issues.

Mike Bienstock:                 Right. And one thing that's been really interesting that we've seen over time is like literally on the insurance side, back three, four or five years ago, no YouTuber ever got sued for anything because everybody thought they were basically kids living in their parents' basements that can't even afford a car, let alone...

Jon Pfeiffer:                           To sue them.

Mike Bienstock:                 Right. To have any hope of collection even if they won! But over the years, that's changed and YouTubers get sued now and we've had to expand our commercial insurance offerings to help these creators because it's radically important now

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Right. I mean one copyright lawsuit, it...

Mike Bienstock:                 Everybody thinks like it can never happen to them. And the truth is up until a few years ago

Jon Pfeiffer:                           It didn't

Mike Bienstock:                 Correct. That was a true statement. However, today--and what people don't understand, but of course you've spent your whole life in law--even--and this is the part that even gets me to this day as a business owner,--somebody could literally make something up. It could be fiction and you're $50,000 to $100,000 in a legal quagmire, even on something fake. And that's the part that just blows people's minds.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           All you have to do is pay a filing fee with the Superior Court and you're off and running.

Mike Bienstock:                 Right.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           You also help brands.

Mike Bienstock:                 Yes. So what happened with the brands is a couple of years ago we were seeing a lot of our clients do brand deals and they were doing them on their own for the most part. Or with maybe their personal managers. And we'd look at the contracts and they just didn't make sense with respect to how much the talent was giving up. And sometimes it would be the opposite where the contract was fine, but the rate was outrageously below market. And I thought to myself, there has to be a better way to handle this. And I wondered if we could do better for Creators. So we did a little bit of a test with a couple of clients where we acted as the Brand Manager, as we call it. And we put eyes on all the deals coming through their opportunity paths, we help negotiate them, we spoke to some brands and we realized that we could protect the talent, earn them more money, even net of our fees. And after we started doing that a while, I'm like, "Gosh, there's like a full business here!" Because this is only going to get bigger was my thought on it.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And how long ago was that, that you started that?

Mike Bienstock:                 That was about four years ago when we started testing on the integration side of the equation.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Now, I normally say this towards the end of the interview, but I'm going to jump ahead. What do you see on the horizon? What do you see--where do you see this in a year? Where do you see this in three years, five years?

Mike Bienstock:                 So it's interesting because I started getting a sense that when you say "this" to me, there's like two or three distinct paths

Jon Pfeiffer:                           How do you define "this"? [Laughter]

Mike Bienstock:                 So the first, "this" to me is the YouTube creator as a talent. So I'd like to kind of give some perspective on that. Starting a year or two ago, I started telling our clients, I felt like YouTube was pushing people to become more professional and to start building teams. And most creators were just solo operators. They did everything from thumbnail to edit themselves, and I felt like that was going to have to change. I didn't know quite how Google was gonna push that to change, but I just had this feeling. And now that some time has gone by, I see how they're doing it. And in fact there was some announcement last week that I was told, I didn't see the print myself, but I was told Google YouTube released some data saying that performance and production value are going to be a factor in the algorithm.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           In the algorithm, yeah.

Mike Bienstock:                 And I'm like, well there you go. And the reason to me that locks in this path of more professional content is a solo YouTube star just has not enough hours in the day to experiment with new content--like you said before, these guys need to reinvent themselves,--stay in the daily grind of doing what you know works, let alone two, three, four, five different channels.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Right.

Mike Bienstock:                 Which is what Google right now is really effectively pushing.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Well with all the YouTube studios where they give them training. I think it's coming--they're actually helping it.

Mike Bienstock:                 Yes, because look...

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And they're encouraging through the algorithms, but they're helping them create the better stuff.

Mike Bienstock:                 Absolutely. Because from them, they desire to be a full blown studio, major film studio, Netflix, Comcast, like they want to be that. They've had some missteps with Red and things like that, but, and they, I think maybe they're dialing back the level that they want to get to, but they definitely want to get above where most user generated content is today.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Right. Shifting gears a little bit.

Mike Bienstock:                 Sure

Jon Pfeiffer:                           You--Semaphore--has a partnership with YouTube, excuse me, with Tubefilter.

Mike Bienstock:                 Yes

Jon Pfeiffer:                           First, what is Tubefilter?

Mike Bienstock:                 So Tubefilter's, pretty much the go-to site for news and events on new media and they tend to focus on high-profile talent, industry news. I feel like it's kind of the go-to for people in the digital space.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And then you have a series, a "Creators Going Pro" series.

Mike Bienstock:                 So it was really interesting how that all came about because they have a series and had for many years called Youtube millionaires. And everybody thought it was like people who make $1 million, but it was really about spotlighting Creators who cross the million subscribers [mark] was the millionaire series. And I had approached Josh and Drew are the co-founders of Tubefilter. I had approached them about doing something a little different, something that could spotlight more the business element because a lot of the industry is still getting used to the fact that this is not only just a business for yourself but there's a business path here to build a company.

Mike Bienstock:                 I mean we've walked down it many, many times with a lot of creators and we felt it would be a really interesting way to hear about that. Not from somebody like myself but from an actual talent.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           That has done that.

Mike Bienstock:                 Exactly.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           About how many have they had?

Mike Bienstock:                 I believe there's been maybe 25 or 30 at this point. They basically are coming out once a week and it's a mix of clients that we have been instrumental in helping build companies with as well as talent just out in the world because we wanted to get the full gamut of perspective for everybody. Not every Creativor works with us, although many of the top creators do.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And I would highly recommend it because it's entertaining. I mean you--I was on it last night going through some of the different profiles and there is something to be learned from each person's journey, [be]cause it's a different journey.

Mike Bienstock:                 Absolutely. And that's why I personally love this industry so much. And about, I think it was five or six years ago, when my partner and I really decided to ramp up our company Semaphore and our family of companies, we joked that we're going all in on YouTube because it was so much more exciting for us to work with a Creator than a restaurant owner for instance. Because the restaurant owner, you know, it's a, he's clearly a business person and working very, very hard. But not many things change for most restaurant owners: the staff will change, but locations get added very slowly in most cases. So it's really the same. Whereas, with creators, we can know the path, but how that ride goes is

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Different for each one.

Mike Bienstock:                 So variable at the end of the day. So for us, we just really, I personally, just love the excitement of not knowing where exactly we're going to get to.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Now, the creators that you're working with, they're, most of them are on YouTube?

Mike Bienstock:                 Correct.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Okay. What percentage of them are also big on Instagram?

Mike Bienstock:                 So you know, it's interesting. There's a lot of creators who are very big on Instagram and they, they're starting to get some monetization options nowadays through integrations and through stories and things like that. But the, the real, the big money at the end of the day

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Is YouTube

Mike Bienstock:                 Is on YouTube. And so a lot of the Instagrammers, if they don't know this, they need to really pay attention to it and figure out how to get a YouTube strategy because their earnings will explode. And for the YouTubers, Instagram is really more of like something they do for fun, and different, to be a little bit creative.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Almost marketing of their YouTube channel?

Mike Bienstock:                 For the most part. There's very little quote "real revenue" relative to what they make on YouTube. So they're clearly not doing it for the revenue. Even though some of them do make quite a bit of money. And again you have to like carve out like the Kardashians when, you know, you get $1 million a post. That's a whole different story.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Reportedly getting $1 million a post.

Mike Bienstock:                 Correct. [Laughter] Reportedly, in things I've seen and heard. We do not work with them. I don't know. [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer:                           I want to ask you a couple of personal questions now. Get to know you, you Mike.

Mike Bienstock:                 Sure.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Okay. What question would you most like to know the answer to?

Mike Bienstock:                 With respect to the industry? Or anything?

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Anything in life.

Mike Bienstock:                 Oh my gosh. Will California ever come to its senses with respect to small business? That's really... [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Spoken like a business owner.

Mike Bienstock:                 The primary questions. [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer:                           What's your guilty pleasure?

Mike Bienstock:                 I just love Las Vegas. [Laughter] I love the energy of it, the excitement of it and it doesn't even matter if it's super low stakes, like $5 table type of stuff. To me that's just as exciting as any other story, but playing craps and blackjack it's just the energy of it. I love it.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           If you had 30 minutes a day to do anything you wanted to do, what would you do?

Mike Bienstock:                 I'd be a Rock Star. [Laughter] I had played around with a guitar growing up in high school. I was pretty much borderline mediocre to terrible, and I just don't have the patience...

Jon Pfeiffer:                           We could've been in a band together cause I was borderline terrible too.

Mike Bienstock:                 Oh, reality? Perfect!

Jon Pfeiffer:                           So what's your favorite band?

Mike Bienstock:                 Bon Jovi. And it's funny because people always tease me about it being a guy and loving Bon Jovi like I do. But there's something really aspiring to me about how and what he's done over the years. I grew up in Long Island, he's from Jersey. That was kind of, so there's geographical element there, but when he broke out to his claim to fame was that Slippery When Wet tour and the Living on a Prayer, all those songs, I was probably--dating myself big time,--but I was basically in college around those years and to see how he's grown and not only kept his integrity for the most part relative to what you see in music today, but also how he's built an amazing, giant business around the band is just incredible to me.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Have you ever been starstruck?

Mike Bienstock:                 Not so much. I think partially because I don't, I don't really like have the time to like get into those type of worlds quite honestly. But it's funny, my kids, completely get star struck sometimes where like

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Over probably your clients.

Mike Bienstock:                 Yeah. So we'll be at a show or an event and I'll bring them backstage to meet clients. And there was this one time, my kids were younger then, but literally they just almost couldn't speak. And I'm like, "Uh..."--I have [two] son[s], Jeffrey and Ryan--I'm like, "Jeffrey, like say something!" And he was just like, "Uh..." And I was just like, "Oh my God." And the Talent was doing such a good job to try to engage him and connect with him. And it just was hysterical.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           I was at an event with a client a week or two ago and these little girls would come up and say, "This is the happiest day of my life!"

Mike Bienstock:                 Oh the, so one thing that's powerful that I see very frequently and it helps me explain to people that they don't understand the new media world. They don't understand the connection. When you're with a Talent and fans come up, there is an emotional connection that is very real. And people who dismiss this industry and kind of feel like it's second tier to traditional, I think they're terribly mistaken. And I think ultimately YouTube will not become like traditional; traditional will go away and you will have this new world of new media. Because could you imagine Lady Gaga standing on the side of her stage for 12 hours signing any autograph that anybody wanted to get her to sign or Taylor Swift for that matter, who I hear is, you know she tries to do things with fans here and there, but there's no world where she's going to stand on stage or next to the stage...

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And engage their audience like that

Mike Bienstock:                 Until the next morning. Not leaving until everybody got a chance to hug and selfie. Now I get it.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           "Hug and Selfie" [Laughter]

Mike Bienstock:                 Yeah, that's what it's all about! And obviously on a scale of like a Taylor Swift, there's obviously practical limitations to what you can do, but if she had a YouTuber mindset, she would do surprise appearances at some really small venues and allow that experience. I think future acts across all media, that's just how it's going to be.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           A Taylor Swift pup-up.

Mike Bienstock:                 Yeah. Can you imagine how amazing that would be? Fans would lose their minds.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           What is your favorite social media platform?

Mike Bienstock:                 I personally like Instagram because I've always been interested in photography and when I was in high school and college, I was actually the light assistant for wedding photographers. So I'd end up at three to four weddings a weekend. And Instagram is just very interesting to me. I really like it.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Now you are also on Twitter.

Mike Bienstock:                 A little bit.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           A little bit, because you will have one of my favorite tweets.

Mike Bienstock:                 Really? What is it?

Jon Pfeiffer:                           "A brunch without my mimosas is just a sad late breakfast." [Laughter]

Mike Bienstock:                 I owe credit to somebody for that. But um, I remember seeing that somewhere and I thought, "oh my God, this is so classic." [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer:                           And then hashtags that go with it are great too: #wisdom [Laughter] and then #marketing.

Mike Bienstock:                 Yeah, I just, I just thought it was so clever and fun. So that's, that's the other thing that I feel is very different for between traditional media and new media: Fun! Honestly, like at the end of the day, traditional media almost feels overly serious to itself. And I'm not an expert in it and I'm sure people have great stories about traditional people just having fun. But in the new media world, that's an important part of the whole recipe.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Right.

Mike Bienstock:                 So it's almost by design a little bit different.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           We talked about influence a little bit ago, but how would you define "influence" and "Influencer" in your eyes?

Mike Bienstock:                 Wow, that's an interesting question because it's been a very big topic lately and even brands are really struggling to understand and identify with this. I definitely believe it's more than the numbers and it's more than the statistics. It's really tied to the connection, to me. There's no easy way to look this up right now in the current industry stats. But to me it's the emotional connection that talent have to their audiences. I mean, it's powerful when you see talent interact with a fan to the point where I've seen fans literally collapse to the floor--tears of joy! I actually at VidCon about three years ago, I had to bring over security guad because one of my Talent had given his sweatshirt to a fan.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Oh I can only imagine!

Mike Bienstock:                 And this girl was hyperventilating literally with such excitement, she fell down and I like literally was worried. Is she okay?!

Jon Pfeiffer:                           This is this generation's Mean Joe Green throwing his jersey.

Mike Bienstock:                 Yeah, it's incredibly powerful. And that's why for me, when people are surprised at things I just look and be like, "if you were like closer to these talent, none of this would surprise you." There is incredible connection. And look, there's a flip-side to this, and honestly it's probably one of the most unspoken stories of the industry. There is a high degree of depression and psychological issues related to these creators because of the pressure that they put on themselves mostly. But you know, it's easy to understand. You go from just a normal person doing something to suddenly...

Jon Pfeiffer:                           People are recognizing you like a movie star.

Mike Bienstock:                 Yeah. And these are creative people in the first place. So they're very creative and it's a lot of responsibility on them. And I think that's something that's going to have to be figured out and there's going to have to be a little bit more attention to that in a lot of what we see.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           So two more questions.

Mike Bienstock:                 Sure.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           What's ahead for you and Semaphore?

Mike Bienstock:                 I'm like super excited for where we're at because it's really interesting. A lot of people who have startups think themselves as a startup until they get to 10 or 20 or 30 people or something. And for me, we're heading towards 50 and I'm more excited than ever that we're at day one of Semaphore because we now have these really strong internal teams to do so much and the industry is expanding so greatly. I'm looking forward to going deeper in our current lines of services and also going a little bit broader because the industry is changing and there's more opportunities.

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Last question: how can people find you on the Internet?

Mike Bienstock:                 Oh, just Semafore HQ

Jon Pfeiffer:                           s-e-m-a-p-h-o-r-e-h-q.com.

Mike Bienstock:                 Yeah

Jon Pfeiffer:                           Thank you. It's been fun!

Mike Bienstock:                 No problem. Thanks so much for having me.

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The Creative Influencer is a podcast featuring YouTubers, Instagram influencers and the professionals who work with them.

  • YouTube , The Creative Influencer , Influencers | Social Media
  • Jul 17, 2019

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