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Smosh CEO Alessandra Catanese Reveals How the Comedy Brand Stays Relevant in 2024

Alessandra “Ale” Catanese, CEO of digital comedy brand Smosh, is steering the long-standing company through creator economy challenges. Catanese, who cut her teeth at early YouTube network Maker Studios, now leads a 50-employee operation blending scripted and unscripted content. With a background rooted in the early days of content creation, she’s applying her experience to modernize Smosh’s content and talent management approach.

Her vision encompasses talent diversity, platform adaptation, and ambitious content projects while maintaining the brand’s core identity. At the helm of a 50-employee operation, She is balancing the needs of long-time fans with efforts to attract new audiences in an increasingly competitive space.

Catanese’s insights into Smosh’s strategy and her views on the broader creator economy offer a window into how established digital brands adapt to remain competitive in 2024.

Catanese’s Road to Leadership

The industry veteran’s journey includes stints at Disney following its Maker Studios acquisition, consulting work, and a period at Patreon. This diverse background has shaped her approach to leading Smosh, where she oversees everything from business management to creative direction.

“My experience as a leader is still, I’d say, fairly young and new,” Catanese admits. “I’m only about a few years into my executive experience. One year into being an official CEO of a company.”

At Smosh, Catanese fosters a workplace culture that aligns with the company’s content strategy. “Our mission statement is to make people laugh through comedy rooted in friendship,” she explains. This philosophy extends to their approach to content creation, aiming to make viewers feel like “members of the friend group.”

Catanese’s leadership style emphasizes efficiency and employee well-being. “I like just to make sure that everything that I’m touching, the purpose of me being involved in it is to try and make something better,” she states about her commitment to improving processes and work-life balance at Smosh.

Constant Digital Adaptation

With Catanese at the helm, Smosh is progressing in the creator economy by focusing on talent diversity and content innovation—the company’s strategy for staying relevant hinges on continually introducing new talent and perspectives.

“Sustaining the last 18 to 20 years has been about fostering the next generation of talent every year,” Catanese explains. She parallels Smosh and Saturday Night Live, noting, “We’re very much like a digital version [and] next generation of Saturday Night Live in that way.”

Diversity is crucial in Smosh’s approach to content creation and audience expansion. Catanese emphasizes, “We value diversity in our cast. It helps us reach new audiences and expands and broadens our voice.” This strategy allows Smosh to move beyond its initial demographic and explore new comedic territories.

Embracing Short-Form Content

As platforms like TikTok gain prominence, Smosh adapts its content strategy to capitalize on short-form video trends. Catanese views TikTok as a valuable tool for organic marketing and talent development.

“We kind of think of it as its own YouTube channel in a way,” Catanese says. “The revenue certainly isn’t there, but it still is such a great organic marketing tool for us that it allows our talent to be hands-on and get creative in ways that remind me of like 2008- 2010 YouTube.”

According to her, this approach enables Smosh to reach new audiences while providing a platform for individual talent to showcase their skills. Catanese notes the parallels between TikTok’s current climate and YouTube’s early days, observing, “I see people go viral or amass an audience very quickly and successfully in a very short period.”

Balancing Tradition and Innovation

While embracing new platforms and formats, Smosh remains committed to ambitious projects that appeal to long-time fans and new viewers. Catanese cites a recent live show as an example of this strategy.

“We put our twists on these things and saw a great audience reaction where clips of it went to […] TikTok. And the comments were, ‘I don’t know who this is, but I want to watch this,'” Catanese recounts, highlighting the company’s success in attracting new audiences through innovative content.

By balancing traditional elements with fresh perspectives and platforms, Smosh aims to remain relevant in its digital space.

Ali and Smosh at VidCon 2024

VidCon, the annual convention for digital creators and influencers, began as a hub for YouTube enthusiasts and content creators on various online video platforms. Over the years, it has evolved to welcome various creators from social media giants like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitch. The event boasts Creator tracks, live performances, interactive meet-ups, and more. This year, VidCon takes place in Anaheim, California, from June 26-29.

Catanese, Smosh co-founders Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox and EVP of Programming Kiana Parker participated in a leadership panel “SMOSH LEADERSHIP ROUNDTABLE: SCALING A CREATOR-FIRST COMPANY” on Friday, June 28. The panel comprehensively analyzed Smosh’s operational structure and content strategy.

“The panel is going to cover […] how we structure the company, how the different processes work from ideation down to distribution, and everything in between,” Catanese told us ahead of the event. She emphasized that the discussion would discuss how Smosh balances various revenue sources, platforms, and the challenges of “such an ambitious company that creates so much.”

Beyond her panel, Catanese expressed excitement about other VidCon sessions, particularly those focusing on industry economics and creator ecosystems. She views the event as a valuable opportunity for networking and knowledge sharing among industry professionals.

For first-time attendees, especially creators, Catanese offers practical advice. “Collaboration opportunities are going to be the biggest value add,” she states, encouraging newcomers to make connections regardless of a creator’s perceived status. “Don’t be afraid to say hi to somebody, no matter how big they are. […] VidCon is the exact right place to go, shake a creator’s hand and say, ‘Hey, I love what you’re doing.'”

Catanese also stresses the importance of being open to diverse collaboration opportunities. “Sometimes creators get a little too tunnel vision on the bigger stars, and they forget how valuable creators at their level, or even below, can be,” she notes, indicating that alignment in content values and creative perspective is more crucial than follower counts.

Envisioning Future Creator-Brand Relationships

Catanese advocates for increased transparency in the creator economy, particularly in brand-creator partnerships. She identifies this as a key area for improvement in the industry.

“The most important thing to me is the transparency from brands to creators,” the creator economy professional states. She emphasizes the need for brands to share more detailed information with creators, especially regarding campaign performance metrics.

“Brands need to […] open up to that conversation and share,” Catanese explains. “We are very transparent with our data. […] We’d love to see that reciprocated.” She believes this increased openness could significantly advance brand-creator relationships.

Ambitious Projects on the Horizon

Catanese expresses enthusiasm for Smosh’s future projects, hinting at ambitious plans. “The next live show that the Smosh team does […] I think it will be our biggest one yet,” she reveals, building on the success of their recent “sitcom” project.

Catanese credits the company’s creative talent for driving these initiatives. “Smosh is filled with incredible creative talent […] with such incredible creative ideas,” she says. This creative energy fuels her optimism about Smosh’s growth potential.

The CEO emphasizes her role in facilitating and nurturing this creativity. “I love working with creatives because they’re just so vibrant and weird and fun and funny,” Catanese shares. She describes her approach to idea generation, noting, “I love pitching those ideas because you got to start somewhere, and it makes people so comfortable to then like pitch their idea.”

As Smosh looks to the future, Catanese sees the company undertaking increasingly ambitious projects. “I see us doing massive projects in the coming years,” she concludes.

Cecilia Carloni, Interview Manager at Influence Weekly and writer for NetInfluencer. Coming from beautiful Argentina, Ceci has spent years chatting with big names in the influencer world, making friends and learning insider info along the way. When she’s not deep in interviews or writing, she's enjoying life with her two daughters. Ceci’s stories give a peek behind the curtain of influencer life, sharing the real and interesting tales from her many conversations with movers and shakers in the space.

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