As one of the first and most subscribed YouTube channels in Singapore, Clicknetwork often needs no introduction (if we might say so ourselves, ahem). Throughout the years, the channel has grown into a network with millions of viewers, who come back over and over again for more fresh, funny and fabulous video content.
As Clicknetwork celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, we look back at how far the channel has come – and the people who made it what it is today.
Many might think that something as successful as Clicknetwork was the result of a great stroke of luck or genius, but the reality is that it really just came about by chance.
Back in 2007, Clicknetwork founder Gillian Tan (who was then a TV producer), received news that the second season of Girls Out Loud had been cancelled by the TV network which had aired the first season. The hybrid reality and lifestyle show featured blogger Wendy Cheng (better known as Xiaxue) and Rosalyn Lee (better known as Rozz) exploring different themes in every episode, from proposals to plastic surgery (which, if you recall, was way more taboo then than it is today).
“The second season of Girls Out Loud got cancelled, because the content was deemed too controversial,” says Gillian, who also produced two seasons of reality dating show Eye For A Guy for the same TV network. “I thought, OK since we can’t put it on TV, why not put it on YouTube instead?”
And so, rather unexpectedly, the idea for Clicknetwork was born.
“Honestly, the whole idea wasn’t really planned. An unfortunate incident derailed us from our original plans, so we had to think of alternative options,” says Gillian. “Since we couldn’t put Girls Out Loud on TV again, I thought why not put it on YouTube instead?”
Road Trip, which features Xiaxue and Rozz going on an epic road trip to Malaysia, was a spinoff of Girls Out Loud – and also one of the very first shows on Clicknetwork. The episodes covered content that would never have made the cut on mainstream TV at the time, with uncensored conversations and even a secret sex tape.
“We started to see some traction with our videos in the beginning, and people liked that the content was different from what was on TV at the time,” says Gillian. “The style of the content was more raw, and we were able to do more things that pushed the boundaries.”
Making the channel financially sustainable, however, was still an issue at the time. Online videos and digital marketing were not as big as they are today, so few clients saw the channel as a viable marketing option.
“Even if clients did, it was still hard to convince their bosses to invest money in something that was not tried and tested,” says Gillian. “Only a few clients, such as Unilever and L’Oreal, saw potential in the platform and were willing to come on board in the beginning.”
As Clicknetwork grew bigger and more popular, the channel slowly started to become a viable business. That’s not to say that the journey was an easy one though – the channel faced multiple obstacles, including censorship issues with its more controversial content. Early shows such as Bored in Bikinis and FML definitely got people talking, but also drew flak from more conservative viewers.
“We were willing to do riskier content in the past because we were younger, but now I’d have second thoughts because I don’t want it to affect how advertisers perceive us,” says Gillian. “It’s challenging to get clients while also maintaining the integrity of the channel.”
Clicknetwork currently has eight main shows on the channel, featuring hosts like Oon Shu An, Rebecca Tan and Don Richmond. Some of the hosts, such as Xiaxue and Paul Twohill, have been on the channel since the very beginning.
“When Gillian first brought up the idea for Clicknetwork, I honestly thought that it wouldn’t work,” says Wendy, who hosts Xiaxue’s Guide To Life, a show centred around her life and interests. “YouTube was really unreliable back then, and online videos weren’t a thing like they are today. But I thought, oh well, I’ll just do it for fun because it’s no loss anyway.”
When it comes to finding hosts for Clicknetwork’s shows, Gillian says that it boils down to two factors – likeability and authenticity.
“Viewers not only have to like the personalities, but also feel like they are relatable enough with their own quirks and vulnerabilities,” says Gillian. “Unauthentic personalities somehow don’t seem to hook and engage people as much.”
Xiaxue’s Guide To Life features a no-holds-barred look at Wendy’s life and personality, from her surprise proposal (she said yes, obviously) to the birth of her son Dash. She is often candid and unafraid to appear less than perfect on the show – case in point, her satirical makeup tutorial on singer Sun Ho, which went viral (and probably pissed off Sun Ho to no end). Xiaxue’s Guide To Life was one of the first shows on Clicknetwork and currently has over 200 episodes and counting.
Xiaxue’s Guide To Life host Wendy
Rozz Recommends is one of the channel’s newer shows, but host Rozz is no stranger to Clicknetwork. In fact, she was on one of the earliest shows on the channel – The Shan and Rozz Show. Rozz and her co-host Shan Wee featured interesting personalities on the show, such as The Singaporean White Boy, Ris Low and a transsexual (which Rozz says is one of her most memorable episodes, because “Shan was sooo uncomfortable.”).
Although The Shan and Rozz Show only had a short run on Clicknetwork, Rozz recently returned with Rozz Recommends, a show about hidden gems. The show is in many ways an extension of Rozz, who often has – for lack of better word – lobang (aka the scoop) on cool but underrated things to check out.
“I’m excited to see where my Clicknetwork journey goes, and I don’t want it to end,” says Rozz, who has a special travel series slated for Rozz Recommends. Over the next few months, she will tour South America, the Middle East and the North Pole (which costs a bomb to get to, she says) and film her experience.
Rozz Recommends host Rozz
Another popular show on Clicknetwork is Tried and Tested, a beauty show hosted by actress Oon Shu An. In each episode, Shu An tests out various beauty products and gives viewers her verdict on them – but it’s her affable personality (and sometimes hilarious reactions to the products) that has won over a loyal following to both her and the show.
“Whenever I shoot for Tried and Tested, I feel like I can truly be myself on screen. It’s so liberating, because it’s like being myself is enough,” Shu An says, with the same sort of breathless passion she has when raving about a product she likes. “Honestly, I feel so lucky to be a part of Clicknetwork because it’s such a unique platform. All of the hosts have such different personalities, yet the channel somehow manages to bring all of us together on one platform – thanks to the visionary that is Gillian Tan.”
Tried and Tested host Shu An
While the seasoned actress and host may seem like a natural pick for Tried and Tested, she actually almost never went through with the show. (Say whaaaat?)
“I almost didn’t show up for the Tried and Tested audition, because I felt like I wasn’t qualified enough to host a show about beauty,” says Shu An, with a dramatic “I know right, how crazy is that?” sort of expression. “I was super stressed out even when I got the part. I went to Watson’s to buy some beauty cream that was supposed to make me look younger in 10 seconds or something!”
Other shows, such as The Click Show and Wonder Boys showcase more humorous lifestyle content – from drinking challenges to sexy pillow talk to even, hilarious music videos about cocks (we’re referring to the bird, obviously…what were you thinking of eh?).
Wonder Boys host Paul
Paul Twohill and Charles Ng, who host Wonder Boys, find the answers to some of life’s most important questions in each episode – such as whether ghosts exist or what it’s like to be a woman (yes, there was a Brazilian wax involved, and yes, they almost cried).
Wonder Boys host Charles
Don Richmond, who breaks down trending topics on The Click Show, has done everything from getting dating advice from old people to wearing a full face of makeup for a beauty tutorial spoof (one of many occasions he has been made to wear makeup on the show, by the way).
“I remember scrubbing my face at home after that makeup tutorial episode, and my mom looked at me and said ‘Aiyoh, why do they always make you wear makeup ah?'” says Don, who sometimes appears as his female alter ego Donatella on The Click Show.
The Click Show host Don
Over the years, Gillian has discovered Clicknetwork’s hosts through auditions, friends and blogs (back when blogging was still popular). Some of the hosts though, were discovered purely by chance. Charles was neither a blogger nor YouTuber when Gillian first met him, but she found him to be naturally funny and asked if he would like to host Wonder Boys with Paul. The boys hit it off almost immediately and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Wonder Boys have come a long way since their first episode, which saw the hosts exploring Haw Par Villa in a quest to find out what hell is like.
“I was so nervous before that first episode, that I brought my mom to Haw Par Villa the day before the shoot and got my wife Sarah to film me practising,” says Charles with a nervous but gleeful chuckle, perhaps the same one that has endeared him to fans of the show.
Paul and Charles have since gone on a date with a supermodel, spent a day running around in high heels and gotten schooled by female MMA fighters on the show. Charles’ own wedding was also featured on an episode of Wonder Boys, which he says is his favourite episode of course.
Hack It host Rebecca makes Charles very nervous, so he is probably saying “Please Rebecca, please don’t ah!” here.
Charles is not the only Clicknetwork host to have shared personal aspects of his life on the channel. Blogger Qiu Qiu has gotten a boob job and even featured the birth of her baby girl on Budget Barbie, which usually follows her around on her quest to find the best bargains. As Qiu Qiu grew from a young and fun-loving girl to a mother of two (who still enjoys finding good bargains, by the way), her viewers celebrated her milestones along with her.
“Qiu has definitely matured over the years, and I’m so proud of how much she has achieved since we first met,” says Gillian, who discovered Qiu Qiu through her blog. “She’s a proud mother of two now, so her scope of budget tips has widened from just fashion to also include baby things and actually, a whole budget lifestyle.”
Budget Barbie host Qiu Qiu
While Clicknetwork’s shows are often lighthearted and goofy in nature, the behind-the-scenes process is anything but. A professional team of producers do everything from developing ideas for episodes, to the filming and editing of the footage.
Some of the past and present Clicknetwork crew
Daniel Koh, who has been a producer at Clicknetwork for over 5 years, says that the entire production process requires a great deal of time and effort. Among the shows he has worked on, such as Chick vs. Dick, The Click Show and Wonder Boys, he says the most memorable episode for him was when the Wonder Boys went on an island getaway for a travel-themed episode.
“It was a great bonding trip for us all, especially since it was the first time we were working with Paul and Charles for Wonder Boys,” says Daniel, who has gotten the boys to pole dance, wear stockings over their head and stuff themselves with food for the show.
Clicknetwork producer Daniel Koh
Another Clicknetwork producer, Vera Ang, has been with the team for five years – although it was something she never really planned to do at the start.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I first joined,” says Vera, who produces Hype Hunt among other shows on Clicknetwork. “I actually thought I’d stay for maybe 2 years then change jobs, but I ended up staying for much longer than that because of everyone at Clicknetwork. Gillian is a great boss because she is firm, but still gives us freedom with our work.”
Clicknetwork producer Vera Ang
Since its humble beginnings as a small 3-person team, Clicknetwork has undoubtedly gone through many changes both with its cast and crew. However, the one thing that has always remained constant with the channel is well, change.
From early shows like Numbnuts, which showcased hosts Mike and Hutch’s crazy daredevil antics, to newer ones like Hype Hunt with hosts Roz and Jemma, Clicknetwork continues to produce fresh, interesting and relevant content for its viewers – something Gillian believes is key in maintaining and growing authentic viewership.
And advice for those who want in on the YouTube game?
“Be very patient, persistent and don’t let what haters say affect you too much,” says Gillian, with the serene wisdom of (a younger and more attractive) Yoda. “You really just have to filter out the noise.”
Clicknetwork 10th Anniversary Party
To celebrate our huge milestone, Clicknetwork threw a party for the hosts, crew, industry partners and friends. Here’s what went down at the event.
Clicknetwork hosts with Gillian
The event was hosted at Grand Hyatt Singapore’s Party Room, with plenty of booze and bites for all – including 9 of their signature gin and tonic cocktails.
An Insta-worthy dessert table by Oni Cupcakes had many ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the display. The best part? The desserts actually tasted as good as they looked.
And, what’s a party without some balloons? Guests had plenty of photo ops with the customised balloon displays by Partyshop SG.
A cool 180 Time Stop GIF Video Booth by Instantly.sg kept guests entertained throughout the night…because photo booths are so 2016.
Past hosts and crew, as well as friends and partners of Clicknetwork showed up to celebrate.
Clicknetwork founder Gillian Tan giving a speech at the party
Hayley and Jayley (Remember their cameo on Now You Know way back in 2010?)
Hype Hunt host Jemma Wei and friends
Hack It host Rebecca Tan and Allan Wu
Pat Law and Xiaxue
Night Owl Cinematics, Dee Kosh and thejianhaotan group
We asked Gillian and the Clicknetwork hosts some hypothetical questions, and here are their answers.
If all the Clicknetwork hosts were stuck on an island (Survivor-style), who would you pick to be your ally and why?
Charles: Rebecca, because even if I don’t make it off the island I’ll die happy. (laughs sheepishly)
Roz: Jem, because I know she’ll look out for me!
Don: Wendy, because I don’t want to get on the wrong side of her. Come on man, have you seen what she’s done to her enemies?!
Jemma: Roz (Pho), because she’s responsible. When push comes to shove, I know I can count on her. She’s just amazing lah, and I would trust her with my life.
If all of the Clicknetwork hosts had to live together for a reality show, who do you think would be the House Mom of the group?
Rozz: Shu An, because she seems to be the most sensible one. I think she’d be able to separate her emotions from the situation and be impartial about her decisions.
Charles: Maybe Rozz? Or…is there a Discipline Mistress title ah? (chuckles nervously)
Gillian: Rozz Lee, because she is very wise and no-nonsense. As much as she may have a tough exterior, she really is very soft-hearted towards the people she loves. She doesn’t think twice about going above and beyond for the people she cares about. Plus, instead of just complaining, she will find a solution and get things done.
What about the one who would be best for reality TV?
Jem: Roz, because she knows how to work it for the camera.
Don: Wendy lah! Eh, can you not write that ah? I don’t want to get on the wrong side of her leh. (Sorry Don.)
Gillian: Wendy, because she is just drama. Drama follows her, she craves it, she loves it. Even if she doesn’t want it, it just falls on her lap. She wears her heart on her sleeve and doesn’t care what people think, so she really has no censorship. That’s the best for reality TV.
What about the trouble-maker of the house?
Xiaxue: Don of course, because he likes to prank people
Paul: Charles, because he’s always trying to prank people. If I could prank him, I’d trick him into entering a room, lock him inside and tell him that the only way out is to eat a whole bowl of vegetables. (Charles hates vegetables.)
Gillian: Rebecca, because she’s the fun-loving one who will tease or prank people just to get reactions. When people are being serious, she’ll monkey around and make people laugh, so she’s a fun person to have around.
Event Space, Food and Drinks: Party Room at mezza9, Grand Hyatt Singapore
Desserts: Oni Cupcakes
Party Balloons: Partyshop SG
180 Time Stop GIF Video Booth: Instantly.sg
Photography and Videography: Vivid Snaps
Backdrop: Bruce Banner