When Marques Brownlee first hit the record button on his laptop in January 2009, he was a young high school student out to have a little fun on YouTube by exploring his interest in technology.
That first video — a review of the remote that came with his new HP Pavilion laptop — ends with a young Brownlee asking visitors to leave comments and subscribe.
Have they ever.
Brownlee, now a junior studying Business and Technology at the School of Business at Stevens, this month released his latest video, a thank you to his fans and subscribers — a total that now numbers 1 million.
That’s “kind of a ridiculous number,” Brownlee says to his audience in the video.
Each video Brownlee records, edits and shares represents as much as a couple of days’ worth of work, which is a challenge as he balances that with his Stevens studies. That’s difficult, he said, but his classes have taught him much about leveraging social media and audience engagement, so it’s been a worthwhile struggle.
And it's not just in the classroom where Stevens has helped Brownlee. The university's Hoboken location, just across the river from New York, is a big asset.
"A lot of the companies I've worked with have locations in New York that make coordination much easier than if I were located elsewhere," Brownlee said.
Howe professor Dr. Jeffrey Nickerson, who’s had Brownlee in his Social Networks: A Marketing Perspective course, said Brownlee is a valuable asset to fellow students, since he’s willing to share what he’s learned in the classroom.
“He’s what we want in our students — he’s somebody who has really good business savvy and also is technically deep,” Nickerson said of Brownlee. “He deeply understands the technologies that he’s dealing with, but he expresses them in ways that are perfect for the audience he’s trying to reach.”
Brownlee’s channel and company are MKBHD, short for his initials and “high definition,” but his first video was certainly standard definition. And while in that recording he lacks the poise and professionalism that have become commonplace in his most recent reviews, a viewer can easily spot the trademarks that still define his work, including a focus on the consumer needs, as opposed to complicated engineering specifications, and an easygoing, comfortable dictation with his audience.
He’s been able to improve thanks to his audience, he said.
“I’m reading everything you guys write,” Brownlee says in the video. “Obviously, I can’t reply to every comment on every video, because I wouldn’t have time to make more videos — or go to class.” But that interaction — which he also maintains on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus — drives him to be better, he said.
In an interview last year, Brownlee said he wasn’t sure what MKBHD would turn into after he graduated, but that he wanted to keep doing it. That’s an emphasis he returned to in his thank-you video.
“We’re just getting started,” Brownlee said. As the relentless pace of technology continues — from computers and gaming consoles, to phones and tablets, and beyond — “my interest in it also will never stop,” he said.