You've heard of YouTube stars, now meet the Newhouse alumnus turning them into household names

By Emily Kulkus

May 1, 2015

Andrew Graham '12 is leading the growing world of managing online talent

Andrew Graham (left) discovered and now manages Connor Franta (right), a YouTube star with more than four million subscribers. 

Andrew Graham’s entire job did not exist just a few years ago.

For that reason, the 2012 television, radio and film graduate of the Newhouse School says he pretty much always has to explain what he does.

“I am constantly trying to legitimize what I do,” says Graham, the senior talent manager at Big Frame Media in Los Angeles.

But when the five- and six-figure endorsement deals start rolling in, it’s amazing how quickly people understand his expertise. Case in point: Connor Franta. Never heard of him? Ask any 14-year-old girl and she will likely tell you all about Franta, a handsome YouTube vlogger and Internet celebrity who posts weekly videos of himself talking about pop culture, song lyrics or coffee. The 22-year-old has more than four million subscribers and 200 million views on YouTube; his weekly posts get hundreds of thousands of views in just hours.

Graham found Franta. And now it’s his job to keep the Internet star in the spotlight and diversify his reach.

“I spend my day managing people who have come off the Internet—YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter,” Graham says.

According to its website, Big Frame is a management company “building brands around YouTube channels and connecting advertisers with their audiences.” It was founded in 2011 and was purchased by DreamWorks Animation’s AwesomenessTV a year ago for $15 million.

Graham’s job is to tap into his clients’ interests and knowledge and then build brands around those things. Graham describes Franta as a “taste-maker” and “curator”—a trendsetter if you will. Franta is an avid coffee drinker so Graham helped him launch a coffee brand. Franta also has interest in clothing and design so Graham has been in talks with several major clothing manufacturers. Franta’s memoir “A Work in Progress” was published in late April and landed on the Amazon Top 25 Bestseller List.

A big part of Graham’s job is to think of new ways to market, brand and expand his clients’ exposure and public interest. The work is unique so his methods have to be, too.

“It’s about really sitting down and getting massively creative about their business,” he says. “My day is super fun.”

Assistant magazine and communications professor Corey Takahashi regularly invites Graham to speak to his classes, particularly MAG 500: Web, Mobile and Interactive Editorial.

Graham helps the students understand how significant and unique a platform YouTube is, Takahashi says.

“I spend so much time talking about the platform because it is something that people originally saw for frivolous cat videos, jokes and pranks but like every platform, it evolves and it’s evolving toward deeper, traditional media,” Takahashi says.

Graham is a good example of someone who recognized early YouTube’s growth and potential. Graham worked at Bogner Entertainment before moving to Fullscreen, where he was the start-up’s 24th employee. When the head of talent at FullScreen jumped to Big Frame, Graham went, too.

“I really respect what he’s done in his career as he jumped into it at a time when it could have gone south or it could have gone really far north,” Takahashi says. “He’s early enough in his career that he could have recovered had it not gone well. But it’s impressive he jumped in not knowing if it would be successful.”

The success of YouTube, which celebrated its 10th anniversary recently, is undoubtedly generational. For many young people, YouTube is yesterday’s cable television—it’s where they go for most if not all of their entertainment.

“Eight to nine years ago, unscripted TV was trashy and it was not where anyone was going,” Graham says. “Now it’s everywhere. It accounts for 50 percent of all programming.”

Working with young clients on the rise has its own set of challenges, he says.

“It’s a fun job but it can also be frustrating,” Graham says. “Eighteen to 22-year-olds making huge globs of money and sometimes they go off the rails.”

Big Frame Media is a good example of a company that’s at the critical intersection of traditional and new entertainment. Graham’s experience at Newhouse gave him a valuable perspective to combine the two, Takahashi says.

“The students who are going to really thrive in the media industry going forward are the ones who can identify new markets and create opportunities for themselves,” Takahashi says. “And on both fronts, that’s what Andrew does for himself.”

Graham’s advice for Newhouse students?

“Zig while everyone else is zagging,” he says. “Look where everyone else isn’t looking.”