If you’ve ever searched YouTube for a review of the latest iPhone or electric car, you’ve likely come across Marquis Brownlee. Since he started his channel MKBHD As a teenager in 2009, Brownlee amassed 15.8 million subscribers for his in-depth, accessible tech videos. He even recorded interviews with him Elon MuskAnd the Mark ZuckerbergAnd the Bill Gates And the Barack ObamaAnd, above all, he’s a professional Frisbee player (the former president even praised his “cool jumps”).
But perhaps Brownlee’s most impressive achievement has been his ability to stay relevant over the ten years of his online video career without losing his audience’s trust. As short video content has become a must for any content creator, Brownlee has seamlessly transitioned to TikTok, making one of the only good things April Fools’ Day pranks.
We caught up with Brownlee at VidCon, where he was helping Discord promote beta testing of server subscriptions (watch out, Patreon). In a conversation with perhaps the most famous tech reviewer — sorry, other TechCrunch writers — the 28-year-old internet star told us about the move to TikTok, his views on the metaverse, and why Google Glass deserves a refund arc.
This interview has been summarized for clarity.
TC: It’s not easy to make TikToks or YouTube short when you make it big on YouTube with 20 minute videos. How can you create shorter content on these new platforms?
MB: I think about this a lot. I see ways that I don’t like doing, like having people reallocate other content and turn it into short form content. Best original content creation for each platform. When we started making shorts, it was a challenge. I was like, how am I truly Cut this to 60 seconds or less? I think my first three shorts are 59.8 seconds long. We found that after we specifically decided to spend some time on TikTok, and then get to know what works well, it helped us make things better native to the platform.
With so many new creator programs out there across platforms, what does your income pie chart look like as a creator?
I’d say it has about 50% of YouTube’s built-in advertising model, and 50% of everything else – including our shop, other deals we do, stuff like that. But bread and butter has long been a hit of videos. It’s just a well-oiled machine. We don’t really think about the overhead, we just know that videos can and will perform, which is…thanks, YouTube!
Although the short video has become very popular, no one has really figured out how to monetize it yet – do you have any ideas on how this works?
I don’t have an answer, and anyone who claims to have an answer is probably lying. It makes sense that a short video could explode. The numbers we see are not the same as the numbers anywhere else. As you know, 20 million views on TikTok is totally different from 20 million views on YouTube. When we talk about monetizing videos, YouTube monetization is related to the video because you have selected the option [to watch the video]. You saw the thumbnail, spent time there, and that was on you. This deal works. But shorts are completely different. I don’t know how to tie that together and make that a nice and neat monetization solution.
You’ve stayed relevant as a technical reviewer for over ten years – how does the balance stay true to your point of view while also remaining accessible?
I try to be as transparent as possible about what I like and don’t like. It is subjective. But whether or not someone agrees with what I prefer about a piece of technology almost doesn’t matter. I try to put myself in the viewer’s shoes and say what I want them to know if they’re going to buy the thing.
What are the trends in technology that you are most excited about?
I think augmented/virtual reality is one of the eyes of all of us right now. It’s fun because for me, the most interesting beginnings of new technology is when you get a product that’s actually supposed to help people or provide a new experience, and I think we’re about to start seeing products that are like, killer app really interesting and bringing people into it. . We’ve had Google Glass, and we’ve had crazy stuff in the past, but I think we’re about to see a bunch of cool stuff.
What do you think of the idea of Metaverse?
I get what people see in it. I understand why Facebook – or Meta – would want a big stake in it. But at the same time, it must have a purpose. We have to do the new thing for a reason, and I’m still searching for that reason.
Yes, playing video games in VR is one thing, but hanging out with friends in VR and going to work in VR is a hard sell.
There are some “Ready Player One” feelings sometimes where you’re like, “What would it mean if we didn’t have to go to the meeting?” But it’s also not that hard to do the thing we usually do. I’m looking for a reason to really want to try this stuff out. I give new things a chance, because that’s my job. I give it a chance. But I think we’re probably on the verge of getting a bunch of more interesting answers to that question.
Meta VRs are fun to play with, but I don’t want to He lives in it.
It’s just another great piece of technology to play with, and there are a lot of great techniques to play with already. You won’t get that mass adoption that I’m sure Meta is hoping for.
Do you think augmented reality will be more accessible to people than virtual reality?
This is where I find it easiest to see useful use cases. I remember the Google Glass days, and as crazy as this product was, having step-by-step navigation instructions right in your corner of view while walking through an unfamiliar city is very helpful. Little things like that, found already functional, in essence. The hardware was old, and that was 10 years ago, so obviously the technology has improved a lot since then. But I think augmented reality is easier for me to see as a future.
What companies do you think do well in augmented reality?
Obviously iPhone and LiDAR. Functionally, it’s really good, but it doesn’t do anything useful. Yes, I can put a sofa in a room and see what it looks like, but I’m still looking for something “must have”.
Is there any technique that you think is useful but didn’t work?
Google Glass is the perfect solution. Ten years ago, walking into a bar with a camera on your face was crazy, and now Snapchat has made a pair of glasses right with the camera. It is a more acceptable method.
There are a lot of privacy discussions around wearable technology – do you have any ethical concerns about this type of technology?
Well, you always hope it comes from a responsible company that does responsible things, which is why I’m concerned with Meta. That’s all I will say about it! But yeah, it’s the same as with your phone – if you’re doing important things on your phone, there’s going to be a lot of important data, so privacy is important. Hopefully companies will do the right thing with that data.
Is there any piece of technology that you think more people should talk about?
Electric vehicles are not Tesla. They are about to arrive.