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Sunday, September 15,2013

OU student has 850,000 'Vine' video followers

By Evan Peter Smith
Photo Credits: Photo by Evan Peter Smith.
Photo Caption: OU freshman Logan Paul poses with a group of random strangers he found on the street. Random interactions are a staple of Paul's popular Vine videos.

It took Logan Paul four months to become famous on the Internet.

The Ohio University freshman had been making videos since middle school in his Northeast Ohio hometown of Westlake, filming and editing them himself and posting them online to YouTube, slowly garnering more viewers. At his peak, he had around 1,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, a huge number for a 12-year-old. But then high school began - sports, a heavier workload, a social adjustment - and he let the videos fall by the wayside.

"So then cut to the end of high school," Paul said, "and now everything was winding down, summer was coming up, and I didn't have a job, so I had a lot of free time. That's when I decided to start taking it seriously, when I went out and really starting putting effort into making Vine videos."

For the unenlightened, Vine is a mobile app that allows users to create six-second videos that are easily uploaded online. The idea is pretty basic. Users hold down the "record" button on the screen of their phone, and the app starts recording. Let go of the button, and the app stops recording. This makes it easy to record one shot and then switch to another shot, the final result being a short video that looks edited and polished (at least to a certain degree), and the medium has quickly attracted millions of would-be filmmakers and artists (40 million registered worldwide users as of August).

Having had limited success on YouTube, Paul said he decided Vine videos were the way to go. They were easier, quicker and more fun to create, and they seemed to get more traction online. And so, with an entire summer before him, he went out and started filming. And by the time fall semester had started at OU, he had nearly 850,000 followers online.

"It's crazy. It's still so hard to grasp," Paul said. "The other night I was walking down Court Street, and these girls started yelling at me from this balcony. I kid you not; I just walked by and someone screamed down at me, yelling my name. They weren't too wild or anything, but as soon as I took my phone out, they went crazy, screaming and waving and going totally nuts. Dude, how they even saw me from up there, I have no idea."

The recognition is not only limited to fellow Bobcats. Around the start of August, Paul was contacted via Twitter by Jerome Jarre, the creator one of the most popular profiles on the Vine app. Jarre, who has nearly two and a half million followers on vine, asked Paul if he wanted to visit him in New York City to work on videos together.

"So I flew down there and stayed in his apartment with three other people," Paul said. "It was a crazy small apartment, smaller than my dorm room, and I slept on the couch, and we spent the next three days just walking around the city, making videos. This was back when I only had maybe 32,000 followers. But he liked my content, and he told me he was convinced I could be the next big thing on Vine, and it was just a great experience overall."

MOST OF PAUL'S VINES ARE PRETTY goofy - self-deprecating videos where he dances around or pranks on unsuspecting strangers - and often utilize clever editing tricks for greater effect. In one series of videos called "Supermarket Wrestler," Paul walks up to random people in the grocery store and rips off his shirt and sweat pants to reveal a wrestling singlet, knee pads and wrestling shoes. He then challenges the person to a wrestling match.

Usually the victims of his pranks take it in stride, laughing or smiling even as Paul cranks up the discomfort level. His videos are all of a similar vein: funny, but with a focus on content that is suitable for most age levels.

"That's something Jerome was really adamant about," Paul said. "At first I didn't care at all about what I did or said, but then I reached a point where I had, say, a quarter million followers, and that's when I started being more careful."

In an attempt to clean up his Vine page, he went back and deleted nearly 100 of his old videos, getting rid of anything that didn't mesh with his new standards.

"Look, everyone loves it when you push the boundaries, but I'm trying to be responsible here," Paul said. "As of right now, Vine media is not my future, and I don't want an employer to look me up and see a bunch of offensive videos. I don't want to pretend like I'm in some ecstasy of invincibility right now, because I'm not. So I've got to be practical."

This practicality extends also to the way he goes about sharing his videos. He pays close attention to the time, noting the intervals when Vine's overall number of users is at its peak.

"In the beginning I spent a lot of time on learning how to reach as many people as possible," he said. "On weekends, it's 11 to 12 (noon); that's the prime time, when most people are waking up and checking their phones. Then it's dinnertime from 5-7; that's when it get's nuts. And the key thing about it is that Vine has an algorithm that collects the most popular videos and puts them up on a single page, and if you can hit a primetime just right and make it on that 'popular now' page, you stay on there for 12 hours."

The process only works if the quality is there to back it up, and Paul seems to have hit upon a certain nerve in that regard. His re-Vine rate - that is, the probability that someone who views his video will then share that video - is around 50 percent, over triple the rate of other top profiles on Vine. It's made him a sort of local celebrity around the OU campus, as more and more people recognize him on the street as "that Vine kid."

"It happens at least five to 10 times a day," Paul said. "When I was in New York City, Jerome kept telling me about the importance of keeping grounded in order to continue making good content. He's got a really crazy way of thinking. He sleeps on a hardwood floor, for instance. A single blanket, no pillow, just a hardwood floor. And he takes cold showers. He says it keeps him from getting a big head. He says it's important to feel uncomfortable."

Jerome Jarre, as one of the most prominent users of the Vine, has used the app as a means of connecting with companies who want to sell advertising. Now, with nearly a million followers, Paul himself is on the brink of monetizing his work, currently trying to sell himself to advertisers.

"When I get a million followers, it's going to be a huge deal for me," Paul said. "I'm trying to put together a 'SuperVine,' to get as many Bobcats as possible down on South Beach (of the "Front Four" dorms on South Green) to go nuts, hoot and holler and cheer their asses off. I want it to be a video that is essentially me saying thank you. And I want it to be something big. Because I'm grateful, really."

Still only a freshman, majoring in industrial systems engineering, Paul said he's uncertain where his career path will head from this point onward. His dream job, he said, is in the entertainment business, but he's practical and reserved, not making any big bets just yet.

"It's insane that it's gotten to this point," Paul said. "But I'm not sleeping on hardwood floors yet. I mean, I'm not going to lie; there have been a couple of mornings recently where, near the end of my shower, I'll turn it down to cold just to see how long I can stand it. But it's usually not long, and I'm just not used to freezing every day. But who knows?"

To take part in Paul's upcoming SuperVine video, be at the Front Four of South Green at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29.

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