Snapchat Celebrities Are Making $100K per Week. Seriously. Seriously?
The point of the messaging app Snapchat is to share words and images that don’t last. You can capture them (with a nimble screenshot) but the service was designed around the idea of fleeting thoughts and pictures that disappear in seconds.
This does not sound like an ideal medium for creating new “stars.” But that is apparently happening anyway: Forbes and Time, among others, have recently pointed to Shaun McBride, 27, as a leading example: He is “Snapchat’s first homegrown celebrity” and is “known by brands, social media celebrities and agencies as a Snapchat pioneer.”
Probably you’ve never heard of him. But that’s beside the point. His snapshots, humorously embellished with his own rough digital drawing marks, have earned him more than 140,000 fans eager to see what he’ll share next. That puts him among a number of elite Snapchatters who have built an audience that’s not only significant — it’s also profitable.
Forbes reports that brands — it names Disney, Taco Bell, and Major League Soccer as examples — are now “shelling out up to $30,000 for advertising deals with McBride and other power users, hoping to reach Snapchat’s demographic: the fickle and influential 13- to 25-year-old bracket.” Time cites unnamed sources to the effect that “the most coveted [Snapchat] stars now earn anywhere from $1,500 a day to more than $100,000 for a week’s work for a company.”
Something about this sounds satirical. How good can a Snapchat message be, anyway? And is there no limit to the fame-making power of the Internet and mobile Web? YouTube stars, Instagram stars, Vine stars, Twitter stars — are we fated to witness the rise of celebrity Yo users?
But jokes aside, the curious-sounding emergence of Snapchat fame as a lucrative phenomenon should really be no surprise at all. In part it’s just the latest example of how the Internet and related technologies have been redefining fame for years.
It’s not just because of the way the technology has changed — it’s the way we’ve changed, too.
New audiences, new fame
Long before people started declaring that YouTube had “gone pro,” in the years when it was still dismissed as a forum for skateboarding dogs, clever individuals who really understood the medium were building their own audiences — and making a good living.
Even today a list of the most-watched YouTube channels contains many names you may not recognize — these are not marquee Tonight Show guests, let’s say. But the numbers next to those names are impressive. Familiar with stampylonghead’s channel? Well, it piled up 181 million views last month, so somebody must be. Something called SevenSuperGirls had 131 million. And so on.
As Instagram, Vine, and now Snapchat have come along, there’s been a similar dynamic: Creators are less concerned with leveraging fame on a given platform into a shot at the official big time, and more interested in bringing home big paydays from that platform itself.
When fame got small
Scholar Terri Senft has used the term “micro-celebrity” at least since her 2008 book Camgirls. Here’s how she defined it: “A new style of online performance that involves people ‘amping up’ their popularity over the web using technologies like video, blogs, and social networking sites.”