Nicholas Stahl

Aaron Bleyaert, A Leader In Entertainment

Aaron Bleyaert is the head of all things digital at Conan. That includes the producing, writing, marketing, innovating, and experimenting with the all the content made at Conan that goes onto the internet. Commonly known as Conan’s video game accomplice in the Clueless Gamer series, Bleyaert is a multi-faceted and accomplished leader within the entertainment industry.

Bleyaert, an alumni of Michigan State University, worked as an intern at Conan and landed a job as an assistant after college. He has since become well-diversified and mastered many emerging media platforms such as videos, blogs, and VR.

Bleyaert has written brutally realistic and heart-shattering blogs that have garnered millions of views. His most popular is “How To Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps,” and I highly suggest you give it a read. He also started and co-hosted the “Clueless Gamer” series which has tens of millions of views on Youtube. Additionally, for Conan he has spearheaded a multitude of ambitious projects including VR and 360 degree video.

I had the privilege of speaking with Aaron about what he thinks of media innovation and how it has changed since he started.

SPARTANS INNOVATE: When did you first become interested in working in media?
BLEYAERT: I’ve just always been a kid who made videos. I’ve always known that I wanted to work in comedy. It just seemed impossible. I had compared it to going to the moon. I was in the James Madison college. One of my friends forced me to go to a meet and greet for ‘The Show,’ which was a club in Telecasters at MSU. I ended up joining and fell in love instantly. Two years in, I changed my major to telecommunications and even when I took the classes I already knew how to do everything because of all that I did outside of the class.

How’d that all lead to Conan?
I just found what I liked and explored some passions. Follow your passions and do it for you. Make a bunch of shitty stuff. Then it gets good. Then it gets great. That’s what led me to applying for the Conan internship, which turned into a job.

How has your job changed while working in media and the entertainment industry?
Basically you had to have a web presence in late-night television. For me, that started in 2008 and I was literally getting paid to be creative. It has changed in that “digital” is no longer a “dirty” word. Now it is something to be proud of. How people consume media did a complete 180. Stuff that used to be “Wow, you’re writing a blog” turned into “Wow, people pay a lot of money to have that.”

Do you think that’s a good thing?
We really live in this “culture of demand.” That is what really rules the day. I think it is great for storytelling! It is such a fragmented culture with so much media now. Audience taste is so specific and deep now. For example, our fans love our late night show.

How do you think media is now then? Your thoughts?
The tools are completely different now. The path has shortened so quickly from idea to execution. that being said, there has been this huge rise in level of quality of content. My answer is: Show people your brilliance. There’s no need for funding anymore. Everyone’s got a phone that shoots incredible video. I think it is the golden age of media.

Could you talk about some innovations that you’ve had to make within Conan and what you think the future might be?
Conan has a great attitude of “Let’s try it.” I don’t need to prove an idea is good. But we, on the show, play on the bleeding edge of tech. We’ve had to create a model for a tour strike. We were the first late night show to be able to watch the rehearsal of the show in a ‘Team Coco Sync app.’ We’ve been the leaders in both VR and 360 for late night. We often do livestreams where no one else does. We’ve created a ‘Catch Conan’ app to interact with the fans. We were the first show to post rehearsal scraps. It’s listening to the fans in different ways.

Any advice that you could give on innovating media?
We are always looking for different ways to chip up the show to stay competitive. It is about being smart and using every part of the animal. Media innovation and boring infrastructure things like clipping the show is what changes the game. You don’t need to always be doing huge things. It’s about looking at what you have with different attitudes.

What’s next for you?
It’s been a dream working for Conan. Whatever format it ends up taking. It’s fun to be a part of something that’s ambitious. I’m ambitious. I want to continue making more stuff. It’s so easy to get complacent. Fucking make shit. Do it and make stuff now.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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