YouTuber Jake Paul has launched a new program that promises to teach you how to make it big using social media and the internet and, frankly, it's not great.
Paul launched the Financial Freedom Movement over the weekend, a $20 per month online course that offers lessons via video, starring himself and others in the influencer space.
He launched the program with a rally of sorts that included people holding signs like “Pi = 3.14 but how do I start a renters lease” and “School sucks start a YouTube channel today," according to Variety.
Indeed, the overall message of the program is that traditional schooling is useless, but Paul can teach you how to make real money in the real world.
"Basically I'm sick of our education system and how it's teaching kids 0 real life skills for them to secure there own future," Paul wrote in a tweet.
"I'm creating a movement for everyone who wants to take life into their own hands and learn real life skills from actual professionals."
The program's website greets viewers with graffiti font and pictures of Paul with messages like "How to Live Life on Your Terms" and "Achieve Your Dream Goals." It promises "Cutting Edge Mentorship, Coaching and Training" and "Jake Paul’s personal experience, rituals and secret formula."
There's also a letter to parents, which makes sense given that Paul's key demographic is kids and tweens. The letter attempts to convince adults to buy the program for their children.
"If you’re already paying for Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime, then this is a no brainer. Those things aren’t helping your child or their future are they? Whereas for only $19.99 per month your child has access to world renowned experts who have taught and impacted over one million students around the globe," the letter says.
"This is your chance to show you are truly committed as a parent to giving your child access to the best resources and education they can have to live a great life on their terms."
The website also hypes up the course instructors, which includes a selection of (nearly all white) men, such as Dan Fleyshman and Travis Lubinsky.
Paul, who dropped out of high school and completed his degree online, told Variety financial freedom, to him, means luxuries like travel and partying.
"And at the end of the day, it kind of ties back to if I want to throw a party, why not?" he said.
So I paid my $19.99 to create an account and check out some of the lessons. I was, in a word, underwhelmed by the ones I viewed.
The actual interface of the program is a series of courses starring different "experts," in total about 20-plus hours of content. Each of the courses is introduced by Paul saying "whaddup, freedom fam!" and is themed around a concept like social media, e-commerce, or making money. Some of the courses are long with multiple parts, and others are short with just one video.
The first video is an introduction from Paul, where he encourages us to "quit your job and fire your boss, or quit school because you’ve been lied to."
"The system is broken. Ask yourself why are there teenagers making millions of dollars and broke 40- and 50-year-olds?" he says.
To get a feel for the program, I decided to watch "Money-Making Machines With Jake," one of the courses that includes Paul himself. He is joined by Fleyshman, hyped as someone who's spent over $60 million on social media influencers.
The 1-hour-and-49-minute-long course, shot in Paul's Team 10 House with a whiteboard prop, is made up of six different lessons. The overall theme of the vague, poorly paced series is "hustling" and "putting yourself out there."
The second lesson in the course is all about driving for Uber or delivering food to make money on the side. The next section, purportedly about using skills to make money, includes tips like just being a chef (post photos on Instagram!) because everyone needs to eat. When asked about artists, Paul simply says, “I would just make art — make it good." At another point, viewers are told to simply cold-email Costco if they have a clothing brand.
Throughout the course, Paul delivers his advice with all the chutzpah and know-how of a high school kid who just remembered he had to give a presentation in social studies class. His advice is mostly limp rhetoric about working hard and he fails to give any actual specifics about how to do anything. Mostly he stares dead-eyed at the ground, offers vague catchphrases, then gives an anecdote about someone he knows who made it big.
Sometimes Fleyshman tries to coax more detailed answers out of Paul, but he comes off like he thought he could wing it, but definitely shouldn't have.
Another section, titled "What Jake Paul Wishes He Learned in School: Shave Years Off Your Learning" includes advice about living with roommates. In the last section, about social media, the whiteboard simply lists various websites, and Paul discuses his "formula" for success, which includes having high watchtimes on YouTube.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Paul for comment on his program.
Other courses, that don't include Paul, seem to contain more concrete information about leveraging YouTube, social media, and e-commerce, but it's nothing groundbreaking that you can't already find on the video platform for free. Advice for YouTube, for example, includes tagging your videos.
The view counts on these videos are still low, often under 20, according to the website.
The site also has a discussion section, which right now is a mix of trolls and teenagers posting about how they want to make it big online.
"I’m 20 years old and love Jake and everything he’s about. I’ve spent the past year or so learning everything I can about business/social media/time management/personal development and I’m ready to take on the world and become one of the biggest on all platforms! Lets do this!" wrote one poster.
Completely lacking from the material is the admission that making it big online also involves luck, privilege, access, and time. And that's a problem, said Leslie Rasmussen, an associate professor at Xavier University who studies the relationship between online personalities and their fans.
"We have this high-profile YouTuber selling this path that to me is a little dangerous, and to me, it's particularly dangerous to the younger viewers of this channel," she told BuzzFeed News.
"It isn’t probable for most folks to hit it big on YouTube because it’s so saturated now. The landscape now isn’t what it was when Jake Paul entered."
Still, she suspects there will be a market for Paul's program. A recent survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Lego, found the profession kids aged 8 to 12 most want to be in the US and UK is a YouTuber.
"[Paul's] not dumb. He realizes that there is a market for that," said Rasmussen.
Sara Grimes, an associate professor at the University of Toronto who studies kids and their use of digital media, said Paul's program appears exploitative.
"He’s exploiting an unmet need in children’s lives," she said. "He’s obviously tapping into perceived need among young people that’s not being met by other avenues."
While she doesn't think Paul is the right person to fill that need, it does show that other adults in kids' lives may not take their desire to pursue a career online seriously. But Paul's program also isn't being honest about what it takes to make it.
"These are privileged people in privileged positions and they luck out," said Grimes. "Meanwhile there are millions who are trying and failing, and most people who are engaging in these types of activities are making zero money."
This is Paul's second foray into attempting to teach people how to be an influencer. Two years ago, he launched Edfluence, another site the charged money to unlock video lessons. The website is now dead.