One of the biggest social influencers on Instagram has seen the future and he says it isn’t looking good for social influencers.
Josh Ostrovsky, known online as “The Fat Jewish”, says that social media users are getting burned out and influencers need to make real things for real people or get a real job if they want to continue making a living.
“Everybody just wants to be an influencer now,” Ostrovsky, 36, said in an interview with CNNMoney. “Nobody wants to get a job.”
Easy for him to say. He has 10 million followers on Instagram.
— MarieCaroline Morand (@mc_morand) July 24, 2018
Ostrovsky started an Instagram account in 2009 with the handle “TheFatJewish.” The account went viral in 2013 after he posted a video parody of Soul Cycle, leading a spin class for homeless people on Citi Bikes parked on the street. In 2013, his Instagram account was suspended due to inappropriate content. He organized a rally outside Instagram’s New York office. The protest was live-streamed on Vice.com, and his account was restored after 15 minutes.
“He has parlayed a profane sense of humor that mocks the tropes of social-media culture and the hipsters who propagate them; an apparent affection for pot, pets and grandparents; and his own slovenly, outlandish physical appearance… into a huge web following,” the New York Times reported in 2014.
Time magazine named Ostrovsky one of The 30 Most Influential People on the Internet in 2015.
Burger King, Virgin Mobile, Apple, Budweiser and Stella Artois hired him to do product placement in his social media posts. Also in 2015, Ostrovsky was accused of plagiarizing other comedians’ jokes on Instagram and Twitter. Several stories were published about it, and Ostrovsky edited past posts to credit the authors.
says the guy that built his platform on stealing / using other people's content lol
— +Ash+ley+ (@AshleyyLibertyy) July 24, 2018
The online phenomenon that made Ostrovsky rich has almost run its course, he told CNN. The future lies in making real things for real people.
Ostrovsky is doing that. In 2015 — a good year for The Fat Jewish — he co-founded Swish Beverages, a company that sells wines with names like White Girl Rose and Family Time Is Hard. Swish just launched a line of canned wines called Babe, and is considering keg wine. “No, really. Keg. Wine,” Chloe Melas reported for CNN.
Founded with his buddies David Cohen, Tanner Cohen and Alexander Ferzan, Swish has tried to “reinvent” wine to “make it fun.” Apparently, it’s succeeding. ZX Ventures, the venture capital team for Anheuser-Busch, acquired a minor stake in Swish in March for an undisclosed amount.
In addition to starting Swish, Ostrovsky kicked off a modeling career in 2015 that “made the dad bod cool again.” Times of Israel reported. Claiming to be the world’s first male plus-size model, he signed a modeling contract with One Management and appeared in a photo spread in Inked magazine’s May 2015 issue. His Dad Fashion Show debuted a collection of men’s apparel at New York Fashion Week on Sept. 16, 2015. Ostrovsky continued showing up on the covers of magazines in 2016 and 2017.
“I want to get uncomfortably famous, develop a raging drug problem, then spiral out of control and surround myself with people who only want to use me, while simultaneously alienating people who actually love and care about me,” Ostrovsky said in a July 2015 Hollywood Reporter interview.
Ostrovsky keeps The Fat Jewish and Swish separate when it comes to branding.
“That was the biggest decision” the company made, he said. “We wanted something that you could be into if you followed me and you love my wild antics. Or something you would actually see in the store on a shelf and say. ‘That’s me. That speaks to me.”
More than 20,000 retailers carry Swish products and they do especially well in California, New York and New Jersey, CNN reported.
Here are some things Ostrovsky said about the social influencer business on CNN:
Bear in mind, few reach Ostrovsky’s level of influence.
When it comes to TV, commercials and film, he has made regular appearances on Bloomberg News, starred in a Bud Light commercial during Super Bowl XLIX, and appeared in music videos. He has been in several reality TV series including “3AM” and “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”, and played supporting roles in several films. He’s in the documentary “The American Meme”, which premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.
Brands won’t stop looking for people with strong social media followings, but their idea of “influencer” has changed, said Kamiu Lee, CEO of the influencer marketing agency Activate:
“The attention from brands has shifted to micro influencers,” Lee told CNN. “That’s the hot new buzzword for people with 50,000 to 250,000 followers. Working with people who have a follower base of that size allows brands to tailor their message to specific groups.”