Student strikes YouTube gold
More than 7 million people have watched the YouTube video, “The WTF Blanket,” by Jack Douglass, a senior in the School of Communication.
That’s a lot of people.
That’s the population of Hong Kong, or double the amount of people who visit Yosemite National Park each year. It is also roughly the number of people in prison in the United States, according to the Pew Center.
If you haven’t already guessed, he’s talking about the now-infamous Snuggie.
Douglass, a film major from Columbia, Md., lives in a small attic room in an off-campus house with several of his friends, most of whom are also film majors. He edits most of his videos on his MacBook laptop using Final Cut Pro and Garage Band.
His YouTube Channel, Jacksfilms, has 62,688 subscribers and he is a partner member of Google AdSense, raking in some $2,000 a month in revenue from ads Google runs on and around his videos.
“[The ads] usually have something to do with the key words in the video,” Douglass said. “Ironically, one time the WTF blanket had Snuggie ads next to it, which was great.”
The Snuggie is a blanket with arms that comes in several shades and colors, including zebra print.
It’s a popular item in the infomercial world, where “some dumb***** have paid as much as 60 dollars for the What the F*** Blanket,” as the video puts it.
It’s designed so the wearer can, as stated in Douglass’s stinging satire, “Color a book, drink some tea and hold a baby. You know, things you couldn’t do with a regular blanket.”
Douglass’s witty exploitation of this couch potato’s dream has earned him quite a YouTube fan base. Through a feature on YouTube that tracks the demographics of video viewers, Douglass can tell where his viewers are, how old they are, what gender they are, and how popular each individual video is.
“Oddly enough, a lot of my viewers are teenage girls,” Douglas said.
A fact to which his friend Tina Steier, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, can attest to firsthand.
“I was in Bed Bath and Beyond once,” she said. “When I walked by the display of Snuggies I heard these girls talking about “The WTF Blanket” video. That’s when I realized how popular it had gotten.”
That popularity can be put into perspective when looking at other successful viral videos: “The WTF Blanket” has 36 million fewer views than “Chocolate Rain,” 20 million fewer than “Leave Britney Alone,” 7 million fewer than “Star Wars Kid,” and a good 3 million more than “Boom Goes the Dynamite.”
It’s been featured on cnn.com, Collegehumor.com, todaysbigthing.com and countless other smaller blogs.
“There’s definitely a formula to what Jack’s done,” said Chris Trice, a senior in SOC who has acted in several of Douglass’s videos. “I don’t think he really knows what that formula is per se, but whatever he’s doing, it’s working.”
Douglass launched his YouTube channel in 2006. It did not reach 100 subscribers until nearly two years later. It’s hard to establish an initial fan base, according to Douglass, but once you do they can add up pretty quickly.
“I made [The WTF Blanket video] in just a few hours,” Douglass said. “I was bored and wanted to make fun of something. I didn’t even own a Snuggie then but I did get one later, two actually ... only for the purposes of the videos. I swear I don’t wear them ... they ruin your sex life.”
Douglass’ other popular videos include, “WTF Blanket 2,” “WTF Blanket 3,” iPhone parodies, MacBook parodies, The Wimpy Boy Band series and the “Jesus Christ Sponge,” which is “the only sponge that will make you cry, Jesus Christ that’s neat!”
Douglass says these videos are an income source, a hobby and a way to beef up his resume and gain filmmaking experience. He hopes to write, direct and act in his own feature film someday. He has tentative plans to move to Los Angeles after graduation where his viral video success might give him an edge in the competitive film industry.
But for now, he’s content making teenage girls giggle through their braces at his clever abuse of bathrobe-blanket-hybrids that has millions asking “What the F***?”
You can reach this writer at email@example.com.