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YouTube tech reviewer Marques Brownlee is the most famous person you wouldn’t recognize in public

Brownlee’s YouTube channel MKBHD has amassed nearly six million subscribers — and big tech companies are paying attention.

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YouTuber Marques ‘MKBHD’ Brownlee
YouTuber Marques ‘MKBHD’ Brownlee
Courtesy Marques Brownlee

Marques Brownlee likes the fact that he still has a bit of anonymity — despite having more than six million subscribers on YouTube and more than 2.75 million followers on Twitter, he can go almost anywhere without people accosting him in public.

“That’s the beauty of the internet,” Brownlee said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. “A lot of people who are on the internet most of the time aren’t in the street most of the time. So, I can just walk down the street and no one knows.”

But when he goes to tech conferences like CES, he gets bombarded with attention. Although making YouTube videos started as a hobby, his channel MKBHD’s massive reach has caused the tech giants to take notice: When the Samsungs and Apples of the world have a new phone coming out, Brownlee is one of the people invited to those products’ unveilings, in the hope that he’ll make a video about the new product that will attract millions of views.

“We’re at a point in 2018 where pretty much every company recognizes, there’s eyeballs on YouTube,” he said. “If you want to reach them, you’ve got to have some sort of relationship and work with the creators.”

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On the new podcast, Brownlee talked about how MKBHD has become more professional in recent years — at age 24, he now has three full-time employees working under him. Almost all of the money his videos make goes into future video production and paying those employees, he said.

“All I think about is my next video and making it as good as possible,” Brownlee said. “Until recently, that’s all it was. Now I’m thinking more about one or two years from now, as this team grows — I’ve never been a boss before, so I’m trying to get better at that.”

In January 2009, when he released his first videos about tech, he was 15. The fortunes of today’s 15-year-olds who want to be the next MKBHD are a mixed bag: On the one hand, cameras and editing software have gotten so much better that anyone can be a YouTuber. On the other hand, anyone can be a YouTuber, and people have much higher expectations for a video’s production value than they did nine years ago.

“The barrier to entry is mainly in your own head,” Brownlee said. “I get a lot of questions, like, ‘What camera should I buy to start making YouTube videos?’ Because that’s what they see, is this production. My answer to that is, ‘Just take what you have and start now.’ If you don’t enjoy making videos with what you have, you’re not going to enjoy the process of trying to build something up for five or six years.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, also hosted by Kara Swisher, answers all of the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, such as the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Peter. Tune in next Thursday for another episode of Recode Media!

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