How I turned home videos into a viral media empire: Jonathan Skogmo, Founder of Jukin: THE BIG SWING PODCAST

How I turned home videos into a viral media empire: Jonathan Skogmo, Founder of Jukin: THE BIG SWING PODCAST
Sam Barcroft and Jonathan Skogmo on the beach in Cannes, during MipTV 2017
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Jonathan Skogmo founded one of the most successful media start-ups of modern times.

Jukin Media became the home of Fail Army, People Are Awesome and Pet Collective, at the same time as pioneering the licensing of user-generated content for brands.

I was lucky enough to be growing Barcroft Studios at the same time, so we used to share stories on the sidelines of media conferences around the world.

Jonathan and I would say hi at Mip in Cannes, then have drinks at SXSW in Texas. It was wonderful to see someone else succeeding in growing a brilliant company that understood the challenges I was experiencing.

And Jonathan has revealed the three biggest decisions he took in growing Jukin from an idea in 2009, to finally selling it for a reported $115 million in the latest episode of THE BIG SWING PODCAST.

You can listen to full our conversation on Apple Podcasts  or YouTube below:

And I've picked out my five favourite quotes from this episode for you to take inspiration from:

Jonathan had done well at film school in his native Chicago, but when he decided to move to Los Angeles, things didn't go to plan:

I really couldn't find a job. So one of my first jobs in L.A. was being a desk clerk, bellman at a hotel. Wow. And I was just checking people in. I remember I couldn't even get a job as a waiter. I always had worked in restaurants also growing up. But even as a valet driver, too, that was even tough...

So it turned out that despite his experience and qualifications, there wasn't a way into Hollywood for Jon. Until he made one important connection:

And sometimes it's not what you know, to you know. And my first job in production was a woman named Sandy Spackman, who was an executive producer. She created the show Judge Judy... I think she took pity on me also a fellow Chicagoan, and she offered me to do manual labor around the house. And I was happy to do it because I just wanted to meet new people and do something different. But luckily this person was super. She just she passed away a number of years ago, but she was really great to me to give me an opportunity. And she actually founded my first job on a clip show and I didn't know what a clip show was.

How ironic, that the man who revolutionised the whole idea of a clip show into some of the biggest brands on the planet initially had no idea what they were!

But on that first proper job, Jonathan experienced the harsh realities of what actually happens behind the scenes in Hollywood:

Well, it wasn't as magical as I thought it was. It was an old production office in Hollywood. But at the same time, I thought it was really cool to work on Sunset Boulevard and this old rusty production office with these kind of scrappy producers that also happened to be from Chicago. And it was a really kind of a hazing... it was hazing from executive producers, whether it was name calling or making me feel bad for whatever reason, but also really toughened me up in a lot of ways, knowing that this industry is really tough.

But that first job didn't put Jonathan off, and he decided to figure out a way to grow into the opportunity that presented itself:

So I think I quit in June of 2009. And then I said, You know what? I've been working my ass off the last five years. I'm just going to sell these clips and enjoy my summer in L.A... And I thought, okay, let's see how I can do. And so I started licensing these clips out and the fall fall came and I thought I was going to go back and get a job. But then I started building this library...and started bringing revenue in. Probably spent $5,000 of my own money on some contracts and buying some videos at first, maybe 10,000... I'd love to say, come out with this big vision to create a 300 person global media company. I wish I could say that was the case, but it was almost like, Let's try these little stepping stones. It's fascinating to see if it works.

And John's side hustle became Jukin Media.

When Jon found a small channel called Fail Army, he knew he had spotted something special. So he decided to offer the founder a deal:

Why don't you partner with us? We'll buy the rights, we'll give you a royalty for the next two years. And let's grow this to be one of the biggest channels on YouTube. And that's exactly what we did. Rarely, things go out and set a plan, but it became one of the biggest channels on YouTube. We saw other people stealing our videos...they're creating copies of Fail Army. We were able to shut those down until Fail Army really rose to being one of the fastest growing channels on YouTube.

I loved hearing first-hand how Jon and his amazing colleagues transformed the world of clip shows from old VHS video bloopers into the mighty phenomenon of Jukin - the home of viral videos.

To hear our conversation please check out THE BIG SWING PODCAST which features a pioneer of content telling us how they weighed up making their three biggest decisions on their quest for success every Saturday

And don't forget to subscribe to Creatorville for inspirational content in your inbox every Friday.

Have a great weekend 🥰

Sam Barcroft

Sam Barcroft

Creative entrepreneur and strategist with over 30 years experience of building media businesses