What can you do with 1 camera, an internet connection and a cast of 10-15 funny friends? Get 18.5 M subscribers. 7 Billion Video views. Become friends with Justin Beiber. And get 100,000 people to register to vote in 24 hours.
Welcome to the world of David Dobrik.
From Slovakia to America
David was born on July 23, 1996, in Košice, Slovakia. His family moved to Vernon Hills, Illinois, when Dobrik was six years old. He had immigrated to USA under the DACA Act (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). By his own account, he was an “American kid”.
In 2013, Twitter had just launched Vine. A 16-year-old David Dobrik wanted to see what the fuss was all about. So in April of 2013, he uploaded a comedy sketch onto Vine. His first few videos were cringy. But he enjoyed doing it. And so he kept making ’em. He soon began collaborating with friends and Viners to make more successful Vines. By the end of 1 year he had 100,000 followers on the platform.
But soon, real life soon came calling-high school had ended.And his parents had given him an ultimatum:- Either go to college or move out.
David moved out.
A born entrepreneur
He knew that a conventional career was not for him. He always wanted to be a late-night host- someone like Jay Leno or Jimmy Fallon. He wanted to chase after Hollywood. So David moved to L.A. and brought 3 of his friends with him. Three 18-year-olds in L.A. with heads full of dreams and the confidence that they could achieve them. That is until they first went grocery shopping. Just for bread and peanut butter, the total came up to 25$. At the time, David had looked at his friend and said, “I don’t know how long we can do this.” At first, things were hard.
Where did he find the money to survive? He had worked the previous year at a retirement home and saved up all the money he was paid. So when he arrived at LA he had 1600$. His own personal Vine account was only making 50-100$ from brand deals and so he branched out and made many different Vine accounts on which he re-Vined posts from different brands. He ran mostly sports accounts, and he would upload sports clips onto these accounts. Then he would charge brands money to post Vines on these accounts.
Even at 18, away from his family and unsure of himself, David had decided he would be his own boss.
David’s entry to YouTube
Eventually the money started coming in and for an 18-year-old living with his friends, it was a head rush. He said, “I was making like $1,500 or $2,000 a month and I was thinking, ‘I’m loaded! I can’t believe this!”
By the end of 2014 however, Vine had started coming to its end. Viners were transitioning to YouTube and they were adopting YouTube’s style by taking on big budgets to hire camera equipment and fancy lighting to up their production quality.
But David didn’t want to go this route.
It was around this time that he met fellow Viner Liza Koshy. Liza was making the transition to YouTube as well with a Vlog. It was about her daily life and she filmed with just one camera. No other bells and whistles.
David liked this and so David began uploading in the same format. What were his earlier videos like? Almost the same as what you see now. Short, abruptly cut videos of David hanging around in L.A, goofing around with his friends.
David was still far from being an overnight sensation. His first video had about 800 views(at the time) and for half a year he was getting only 5000 to 8000 views per video. Even David Dobrik had to work hard to earn his following. At first, he uploaded only once a week but then he upped the pace to 3 times a week. In between July 2015 and August 2016, he uploaded 167 videos until he passed 1 million subscribers.
But his progress would have been a LOT slower if it wasn’t for the Vlog Squad.
Meet The Vlog Squad
What’s the Vlog Squad? Some ex-Viners, YouTubers, comedians and singers who all have one thing in common- they’re all friends with David Dobrik.
Why are they important?
Well, the Vlog Squad is as central to Dobrik’s content as Dobrik himself.
In fact, his videos are almost never centered around him. It’s almost always about the adventures of the Vlog Squad with David as the man behind the camera who directs them.The Vlog Squad included Jason Nash, Corinna Kopf, Josh Peck, Liza Koshy and many more members that make consistent guest appearances on his channel.
This ensemble cast and their antics are the reason why Julia Alexander from the Verge claims that David has made the first sitcom-vlog. Think of it as ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ but made for the YouTube generation. It’s an apt comparison.
Consider this – there is a returning cast of characters; romantic interests within the friend group; musical transitions; guest appearances from celebrities; the content is evergreen and importantly, David’s laughter acts as the laugh track.By mid-2018, with his 520th vlog, David Dobrik had hit 10M subscribers.In the YT niche that can be called the most competitive, he took a relatively short 3 years to hit that number.
The Dobrik rulebook of success
But why did his videos do so well? One reason was his early success on Vine.
Dobrik had a following of 1 million+ followers on Vine. With this he had mastered a form of content; learnt the power of brand deals and figured out how to collaborate with other creators. His often imitated Vlog style is another reason for his success. He combined the short, funny sketch styles of Vine with the longer, organic content style of YouTube. The result is the best of both worlds. Content that is both wildly entertaining but with moments of genuine emotion.
Another plus is his filming style.
His casual shooting style(which is David’s POV) combined with the genuine interactions between the Vlog Squad makes you feel like you’re part of the action. Almost like you are a part of the friend group itself. But there are certain YT success rules that David breaks. To get maximum ad revenue and brand deals, most creators follow conventional YouTube wisdom. Like making your videos as long as possible; being family-friendly and not using copyrighted music.
David flouts these rules.
David’s videos are short (usually 4 min & 20 sec-we’ll let you figure why he likes those numbers) and easy to consume. David realized that he would have a greater impact by not overstaying his welcome with his videos. At the end of every video, you’re left wanting more. He also frequently uses cuss words; loves edgy humor and usually ends his videos on a high with some of rock/pop music’s greatest hits. Because of this, his videos are almost always demonetized by YouTube.
But David’s fans can’t get enough.
Induction into YouTube’s Hall of fame
Today he has 18.5 Million followers; is worth an estimated $7 Million Dollars; hosts a show on Nickelodeon and another on the Discovery Channel. Every single vlog that David has made in the past year has over 10M views.
His big dream of being a Late Night Host has been in part fulfilled. Yes, so he doesn’t have the studio audience or the camera crew but check out the list of celebs that have been a part of his videos:- Jennifer Lopez, Kevin Hart, Kendall Jenner, Justin Beiber, Snoop Dogg, Courtney Cox. Unlike a late-night show, there is no set format. It’s just David interacting with these A-List celebs the way he wants to.
It’s not unfair to say that David might just be reimagining Late Night as well.
What does the future hold for David Dobrik?
So where does a 24-year-old who is in the process of changing two entertainment industries go to next? Reimagining politics perhaps? For the 2020 election, David promised to give away 5 Teslas for people who promised to vote in the upcoming election.
As a DACA recipient, David himself can’t vote. We don’t know what the road ahead holds for David Dobrik, but we will be sure to stay subscribed.
Whatever YouTube might feel about him, Gen Z has found it’s King of Vlogging.
What David’s been upto lately?
It was all running smoothly for YouTube’s resident King of vlogging- he had just gotten a new $9.5M mansion in LA; he was rubbing shoulders with Leo Di Caprio while discussing climate change and was even considering raising $100M for funding for Dispo, the disposable app he’d cofounded.
Then, the pandemic hit. And things went south-quickly.
First, there was his decision to stop vlogging during the pandemic-which turned into a year and a half of no vlogs. During what should have been a quiet period out of the limelight, David found himself in the middle of one scandal after another.
First, his association with Vlog Squad member Durte Dom brought accusations of being an enabler for sexual harassment. Then after weeks of public outcry; the loss of 400k subs and cutting ties with several of his marque brands-including being ousted from the app he co-founded- there came the Tractor incident with Jeff Wittek. What followed was more public damning and internet pitchfork shaking.
After months of “internet cancellation”, reminiscent of what Logan Paul went through in 2017, David finally emerged with a Vlog in June, almost a year and a half after he had first stopped. With the promise that he’d post atleast once a week. Since then he’s signed a contract with Discovery for a travel series, and is being considered for 2 more shows from both Discovery and Nickelodeon.
Guess this means he’s ‘uncancelled’ we guess?