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The Young Turks: No. 7 in #Famechangers Digital Star Ranking

Variety ranked the top 12 stars in the digital world as part of its #Famechangers issue. For more of the rankings, click here.

Radio host and lawyer Cenk Uygur started The Young Turks as a talkshow on Sirius in 2002. In 2005, he started posting TYT videos to YouTube, an early arrival to the then-fledgling startup, and it has since grown into a 60-employee bicoastal operation that produces shows ranging from current events and sports to pop culture and tech on 18 YouTube channels. The network’s flagship remains “The Young Turks,” a live weekday news and commentary program hosted by Uygur and Ana Kasparian.

Content Style: “Our brand is about honesty. That’s what the digital audience loves, authenticity. If we do something wrong, and the audience points it out, we immediately come out and point it out. Some people in traditional media are scared of admitting errors. There’s nothing wrong with being honest — not how Fox News lies about being fair and balanced. We’re also passionate, and that makes a big difference. It permeates everything we do.”

Audience Target: “Seventy-six percent are under the age of 35, so when you compare that to traditional news media, it’s not even close. CNN’s average viewer is 63 years old, and Fox News’ is 68. It’s an open question about who owns the keys to the future. I wouldn’t want to be on that side of the business. They’re doing fine now — they have a cash cow now — but in the long run, they’re monumentally screwed.”

Strategy: “There’s a ton of people on YouTube, and doing stuff online. The audience chose us. They took a look at what we did, and that organically grew our audience base. We didn’t have a marketing budget, we didn’t have any tricks. We just look at the camera and tell a story. In traditional media, they largely use actors who read a Teleprompter, and most of them don’t care about the news. We have news anchors who genuinely care about the news. And we have an outsider perspective.”

Knew He Hit It Big When: “I’d already known by 2011, when I decided to not go forward with MSNBC (after a six-month stint in a primetime slot). I knew ‘Turks’ was huge and was only going to get bigger. With the demographic information we had about the size of our audience and age of our audience, the handwriting was on the wall.”

In Five Years: “We’re going to do global expansion. Right now, 50% of our audience is already outside the U.S., and we’re hoping to do programming in languages that are native to the regions — Chinese and Spanish, etc. In 2003, when we were doing just the radio show, only half kidding, we said we wanted world domination. Today, when people think of news, whether that’s politics, sports or entertainment, we want them to think, ‘I can’t wait to see what they’re going to say at TYT.’ ”

Next Challenge: “We built most of our company on YouTube, because that’s where the audience is. No one did more A/B testing than we did. Now, with Facebook, we’re getting there very aggressively; we were one of their first video partners. For our ($10 monthly) subscription service, we have about 10,000 subscribers, and we want to grow that.”

Biggest Endorsement Deal: “There have been a variety of deals, ranging from American Express to Squarespace. At this point, we have a relatively small sales team that is doing phenomenal work. The best part is the clients keep coming back.”


*Data provided by Tubular Labs

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