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'60 Minutes' Airs Extremely Overdue Explainer on the 'Influencer' Phenomenon

"The more followers an influencer has, the more money they can make." You don't say!
Photo: '60 Minutes'

Photo: '60 Minutes'

On Sunday evening, "60 Minutes," the CBS news program that caters mainly to a demographic of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, aired a segment reporting on a phenomenon that millennials (and readers of this website) are already extremely knowledgable about: social-media influencers. The fashion industry has proven its dependence on influencers — women like Danielle Bernstein, Chiara Ferragni, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and more — season after season, and on account of their large followings, they've scored lucrative collaborations, ad campaigns, magazine covers and all-expense-paid trips to exotic locales, while building bona-fide businesses along the way. 

Correspondent Bill Whitaker, who admits the phenomenon can be "dumbfounding" if you're not a millennial, sums up the rise of the influencer thusly: "There is a new trend in advertising that might surprise you. It doesn't show up in any traditional media. It's exploding on mobile devices, set off by young people — most in their 20s — who have attracted large numbers of followers on social networks — platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. They're called social-media influencers... Major companies are paying them millions of dollars to influence their followers — and persuade them to buy products." 

While fashion and beauty companies were among the first adopters of this marketing model, Whitaker speaks to more mainstream personalities: 21-year-old Vine star Logan Paul, 25-year-old YouTuber Amanda Cerny and 28-year-old Vine personality Andrew Bachelor (aka King Bach), who have endorsed products like Dunkin' Donuts, Jimmy John's sandwiches and Bic razors — all for a cool six figure paycheck. "I speak the language of millennials, and they respond to my content," Paul says. Ah, the millennial American dream: monetizing your #content. "I chose the wrong line of work," Whitaker laughs during an interview regarding a Vine star's salary. Same, Bill. Same.

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Photo: Jamel Toppin for Forbes

Photo: Jamel Toppin for Forbes

Interestingly enough, Whitaker got the opportunity to sit down with OG influencer Kim Kardashian — just weeks before she was the victim of a harrowing robbery in Paris during fashion week. He notes that Kardashian, who currently boasts 85.8 million followers on Instagram and 48.6 million on Twitter, is a "savvy businesswoman, who was one of the first to turn those millions of eyeballs watching her online into millions of dollars. She posts pictures and gets paid for clothes she wears; products she uses, brands she endorses." 

Despite the fact that she recently covered Forbes, has developed a mobile game ("Kim Kardashian: Hollywood") that's generated over $160 million in revenue and heads up a number of product lines with her sisters, haters still belittle her by saying she has "no talent" — an insult she brushes off with ease. "It is a talent to have a brand that's really successful off of getting people to like you for you," she says. In an almost prophetic question, Whitaker asks Kardashian whether the lack of privacy in her life is worth the payoff, to which she replies, "I do believe that the pros in my situation and my lifestyle have been more beneficial than the negative things." We're hoping that the 36-year-old doesn't have a change of heart after the recent incident — the influencer ecosystem wouldn't be where it is today (or ever be the same) without her.  

Watch the full segment over at CBS News right now.