In People

YouTube hires Derek Blasberg

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YouTube is forming a new division dedicated to fashion and beauty content partnerships, led by Derek Blasberg.

The appointment comes less than a week after Instagram launched its long-form video app, IGTV, in a clear bid to compete with the Google-owned platform.

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Blasberg will be based in New York and report to a team led by YouTube’s Kelly Merryman, vice president of content partnerships. He is tasked with cultivating relationships with brands and high-profile people in the industry so that they will use the platform more often, more effectively and build audiences there.

Merryman’s team has similar divisions dedicated to news, sports, television, gaming and other categories and had been looking for the right person to lead its fashion and beauty industry relationships. A different division at YouTube will continue to focus on fashion and beauty influencers who built their followings on the platform.

Instagram hired Eva Chen, the former editor-in-chief of Lucky Magazine, in 2015 to play a similar role as head of fashion partnerships at Instagram. Since then, the platform has deepened its connection with the fashion and beauty sectors by working with designers, brands, stylists, makeup artists and influencers to ensure they get the most out of Instagram. Chen’s team assists in creating content and helps these industry players engage with their audiences.

With Blasberg, YouTube has found a popular, well-connected frontman to court fashion and beauty leaders. A former columnist and editor for Style.com, Harper’s Bazaar and other fashion and lifestyle publications for over a decade, Blasberg is leaving his role as the host of CNN Style on CNN International after two years and heading to YouTube full time. He will retain a role as a contributing editor at Condé Nast’s Vanity Fair, where he was appointed the title of Our Man on the Street in 2015.

“I am looking forward to bridging the world of YouTube creators with the global style and beauty industries in this newly created role and department,” said Blasberg in a statement.

Blasberg is a smart hire, but he has his work cut out for him. Instagram has an outsized influence in the highly visual fashion world. The platform and its fashion partnerships team have become an active part of the industry scene, most recently sponsoring a table at the Met Gala and supporting tentpole events like the CFDA Awards by installing and running Instagram-friendly photo sets. With the launch of IGTV, brands and influencers have a new outlet for vertically aligned videos for up to one hour in length, edging closer to something more typically found on YouTube.

“Vertical video is ideal for fashion and it’s a format that younger audiences are really comfortable with,” said Jim O’Neill, principal analyst at Ooyala, a video and analytics technology company. “The whole idea of up to an hour-long option is potentially really big for Instagram influencers, more so than even brands.”

YouTube has some advantages, including a larger user base — 1.8 billion unique monthly visitors to Instagram’s 1 billion — who are already trained to search for videos on the platform. On YouTube, Chanel has 1.1 million subscribers; a recent campaign video for its Bleu de Chanel Parfum was seen 3.8 million times. On Instagram, where the house has 28.5 million followers, the same commercial was viewed 250,000 times in the feed post format.

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“In this newly created role, Derek will collaborate with our incredible creators and diverse portfolio of brands to achieve even more success,” said Merryman in a statement.

YouTube already has some fashion trailblazers: model Karlie Kloss launched her own channel, Klossy, in 2015 and now has over 700,000 subscribers. She recently released a series sponsored by Ford as part of a partnership with her nonprofit Kode with Klossy, that features her interviewing trailblazers in science and technology.

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