Casey Neistat is Drafted to Lead CNN's New Media

YouTube sensation and Beme founder Casey Neistat was recently cherry-picked by CNN to front line their new media. Poised to tap into the millennial bloodline, the untitled media venture will be built off of Beme, Neistat's video-sharing social app set to be shut down at the end of January. The reason for the closure? CNN bought Beme for a cool $25 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. CNN has given Neistat full creative control over their brand; a wise decision considering his ability to successfully brand himself and inspire a following. On YouTube, Neistat's 5.8 million subscribers were treated to daily videos in which he vlogged about parts of his life, tech reviews, and gave voice to internal dialogues. He's quitting his day job in order to fully invest in CNN's offering.

By rolling Neistat and his brainchild, Beme, into a two-for-one deal, CNN has positioned itself well to absorb a loyal YouTube fan base and Beme's 1.2 million members.

For those of you who missed out on Beme, know that it was truly one-of-a-kind. The rear-facing camera activated only when the front-facing camera was covered, recording after 4 seconds of obstruction and stopping at 8. Users were unable to edit, alter, or in any way preview the video once it was done. Videos sent off were, per Snapchat's model, obliterated once viewed, never to see the light of day. If the video was posted to your personal profile, others could react to it with short videos of their own. This format totally does away with the vanity typically associated with social media and encourages the sharing of raw experiences. During its beta launch in July, the app immediately skyrocketed in popularity, garnering half a million downloads within the first few days. It didn't top the charts for long though. Underdeveloped and buggy, the concept was revamped May of the following year and was released to both iOS and Android with some marked improvements, including the addition of reaction videos.

Mourning over the inevitable loss of your irreplaceable content? Beme users will be able to download all videos and reactions in the months leading up to the closure (31 January 2017 as outlined in co-founder Matt Hackett's blog post).

Hackett's post details the driving force behind the deal with CNN. Beme, as successful as it has become, does not live up to the ideal: a platform to "reshape social media into the vehicle for candid, unfiltered perspectives that we always felt it should be ... making the perspective of each of its inhabitants immediately and compellingly accessible through video." Neistat and Hackett put all their energy toward creating a news-driven, realistic social app, but projects they've produced thus far don't come anywhere near their vision. As CNN's new media is slotted to build off of Beme, Digital Trends expects that it will be used to share videos regarding current events, in-the-moment news that capitalises on what social media could be. The team of 11 currently operating Beme will stay in their own office, and the co-founders expect to immediately start hiring engineering and creative talent for the new media. Hackett believes that the partnership with CNN will be able to foster the kind of growth that he hoped to see from Beme:
More than ever, these technologies need to be seized to open up the world: to show more perspectives, to add more context. WE must prevent social media from becoming a barren landscape of echoey trenches. CNN, doubly so with the addition of our team at Beme, will be passionately driving these technologies forward.

Beme was only the first of Neistat's app adventures. He also created Exit Poll in early November, coinciding with America's 2016 election. Living up to his image, Neistat's Exit Poll is another truly unique venture. Exit Poll presented a valuable tool, tapping into the real-time footage of voter thoughts. Users were encouraged to state outright who they voted for, giving a short speech detailing the reasoning behind their decision. Videos shared to the app were curated into a Facebook Live stream on its Page.  The videos are still available to watch, so mosey on over if you aren't still reeling from the results.
Dipping a toe into the swarming pool of uncertainty and doubt that was America, Exit Poll came out with rational, usable information. The app "was a small antidote to the filter bubbles of traditional social media, streaming the unfiltered views of real voters across the country on election day," said Hackett.

The dynamic duo's newest venture is "going to be very different from Beme and bigger than a single product," Neistat told The Verge in a phone interview. Look to the horizon for this one folks. It should be well worth the wait.

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