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MSU Comm. Arts students create college content YouTube channel, The Sidewalk

March 1, 2018
Sara Seryani, Grant Dehner, Michael Small, Ashley Conklin, and Miles Hampton (left to right) of The Sidewalk pose for a photo on Feb. 8, 2018, at the MSU Union.
Sara Seryani, Grant Dehner, Michael Small, Ashley Conklin, and Miles Hampton (left to right) of The Sidewalk pose for a photo on Feb. 8, 2018, at the MSU Union. —
Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Creation has been the crux of MSU Communication Arts and Sciences students who created the college social media group, The Sidewalk. 

The Sidewalk was created in spring 2017, and now the group of actors, producers, writers and social media influences looks to grow its image around MSU’s campus with a goal to be MSU’s go-to, relatable college YouTube channel.   

“The Sidewalk is an organization myself and Miles Hampton created last year when we were freshmen. I found out he was a Vine star and he knew I was a social media star,” journalism sophomore Mike Smalls Jr. said. “We talked for five hours and we knew we needed to create something on campus, but we didn’t know what.” 

The Sidewalk was a long way from fruition. Other pieces of their entertainment puzzle were far away in the beginning stages of the group. 

“Mike and I met on Twitter. So, when we both got into MSU I was looking for other people, and I was like, 'There’s another dude on the internet who’s coming to Michigan State,'” media and information sophomore Miles Hampton said. “We started to hit it off, we talked for awhile, and then Karl Gude told me about Mike.” 

Hampton has a knack for making others laugh. Hampton had approximately 445,000 Vine followers before the platform closed. 

“When it got shut down I was like, ‘Alright, let’s look into other avenues,’” Hampton said. “I started making Instagram videos, started doing YouTube a bit on the side. At first I didn’t really like Instagram, then I found myself starting to enjoy longer form comedy more than short.”

Smalls Jr. had a different rise to internet fame. He has more than 12 million views on the video streaming service, YouNow, in addition to his Twitter and Instagram base. 

“When I was 16 I had the opportunity to co-host The Nickelodeon 'Teen Choice Awards.' Just last year I did I gig for MTV,” Smalls Jr. said. 

Smalls Jr. co-hosted a live segment on MTV’s "Ridiculousness."

These social media achievements caught the eye of journalism professor Karl Gude. 

“Our professor, Karl Gude, realized he had two social media stars in his class. He linked up with us and said, ‘You guys need to make a YouTube show,'” Smalls Jr. said. 

Smalls Jr. and Hampton met through Gude, the director of the Media Sandbox at MSU. Hampton and Smalls said Gude had the idea to have them join forces and collaborate.

“I knew Mike and Miles were coming before (they graduated) high school because they already had a reputation that preceded them as internet stars, 'influencers' I would call them. They had a big following,” Gude said. 

Programs such as Media Sandbox have allowed MSU students to express their creative abilities with equipment and resources provided by the university. 

The Sidewalk later added a producer to the group to provide a fresh set of skills and ideas.

“I came on originally as videographer. We had just started out with me, Mike and Miles,” media and information sophomore Ashley Conklin said. “We all knew each other really well. I hopped on as a producer right when the year started, we picked right back up. We had a nice cast of four people and I was producing and editing.” 

It was a slow process in the beginning for The Sidewalk. They needed to find their sense of direction, Hampton said.

“We built this from the ground up, it took us the whole semester to find our groove,”  Conklin said.

Fall 2017 was when The Sidewalk began to morph into what it is currently. The crew eventually decided on a path all of the cast could relate to: a college comedy YouTube channel.

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The group also began to develop its comedy sketches during the fall, which is the direction the group has been focusing on as of late. 

“We would meet once a week and then shoot once a week for the most part,” journalism senior Patty Davis, a former member of The Sidewalk team, said. “We went to a trampoline park, we met with a lot of people, Mike and Miles know literally everybody so all these random people come up to us, and we made this 'Aux Battles' video." 

Hampton and Small Jr.'s previous fan base helped bring more publicity to The Sidewalk. 

"That worked out really well, got us a lot of publicity and we had like 20 people involved with that. After that we filmed another skit called 'Aux Battles,'” Smalls Jr. said. “Keep in mind, we’re still struggling with defining what The Sidewalk is all about, we don’t want to just be known for making cool stuff.” 

The end goal is clear for The Sidewalk: they want to be on the forefront of collegiate comedic content. 

“I want us to be the biggest YouTube channel in the world. For a college relatable YouTube channel, if you’re not shooting for the highest level, what are you shooting for then?” Hampton said. “I feel like by the end of the year we can be the biggest college YouTube channel in the state, and then we move on from there.”  

Smalls Jr. shared similar sentiments. 

“I want to be at the level that we are putting out quality content on a weekly basis. At the end of the day, I want this community of MSU to come more together, more like a family,” Smalls Jr. said “I want to incorporate as many people in the student body as possible in our videos, and just have fun doing that at the end of the day.” 

Gude is less involved with the group than he was last year. 

“The whole idea was that the show would be theirs on YouTube, it wouldn’t be hosted by the university, it’d be hosted on their own platforms so that when they gradated they could take it with them,” Gude said. “They started to need me less and less, and they wanted me less and less.” 

Patty and her sister Amy Davis are no longer as involved with the project because of their busy schedules. They graduate in May 2018.  

“This semester we made one video together, all the four of us. But since Amy and I are graduating in May we kind of transitioned over the ropes,” Patty said. “Our plan right now is we are moving to Nashville. In May we have a personal training job, but we are actually going into broadcasting, our goal is to work at County Music Television.” 

With The Sidewalk, Smalls Jr. and Hampton said they hope to grow a platform that any talented Spartan can use. With the channel, they said they hope to partner with other, smaller channels and use their subscribers and follower base to help others grow.

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