Digital

The Rise of the YouTuber (almost certainly pt 1 of many)

One of the main themes in my world over the last week has been YouTube, and the fairly new concept of YouTube Celebrities.

On Saturday various friends, each with kids themselves, came to meet Jacob. And in each case we ended up talking about the role of the media behemoth.

We chatted about which ones were favourites, why the kids liked them, what kind of content they put out, and a whole lot more. And by the end I was no further forward in deciding how I felt about it all.

What Do You Want To Be When You’re Older?

Make no mistake, YouTubers aren’t just mucking around. Well, in some cases they are, but they are getting paid handsomely for it.

Ask many a young person these days what they would like to do as a career, and many of them will tell you they want to be YouTubers. I’ve heard it from my niece, from her friends, from my mate’s friends - there is a desire to appear on the small screen like never before.

People aren’t just making careers out of sharing what they are up to. They are becoming millionaires. Not everyone obviously, but those who are succeeding are positively raking it in. In a lot of cases despite them being the focus of controversial news stories.

Logan Paul started 2018 by getting thrown off YouTube’s Google Preferred Programme after he filmed a suicide in Japan and made light of it. His advertising partners took umbrage and a number pulled their financial support. Yet thanks to partly to merchandising, Paul still went on to earn a reported $14.5 million last year, making him the tenth top earning YouTuber last year.

Coming in at number nine on those charts is PewDiePie, the most followed YouTuber. He’s hit the headlines a number of times in recent years, largely due to anti-semitic comments within his videos. Again the advertisers fell away. Again he rallied. And ended up earning around $15.5 million in 2018.

Unboxing Success

At the weekend the YouTuber that we discussed the most wasn’t Logan Paul, nor was it PewDiePie. It wasn’t Paul’s brother Jake, who was second on the top ten earnings list.

It was a seven year old boy.

Ryan Kaji’s YouTube channel has over 19 million subscribers. It was Ryan who took the top slot in the league table for the most earnings from YouTube in 2018, with he and his family earning a reported $22 million.

His content couldn’t be simpler. He unboxes toys.

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Unboxing is not new to YouTube. Viewers love to see new products, from phones to fashion accessories, opened for the first time before their very eyes. It’s a process that not only can they connect to, but which makes them feel as if they are part of an exclusive club. To them, it means they are one of the first to get their hands on the product, even though their hands are nowhere near it, and they are in an audience of thousands, if not millions.

And if it works with devices and shoes, why wouldn’t it work with toys?

Not only did it work, but it was popular to a whole new audience. Which instantly made him a marketers dream.

Kids as young as four or five see him as a celebrity. His videos are what keeps them captivated. And I’m sure the toy companies are delighted to send him their new releases to maintain his popularity.

It Could Be You. Or Could It?

There’s a line I often use in my training, which discusses the democratisation of content. The idea that we no longer need expensive equipment, software or indeed high level expertise to put something online.

Social media and phones have put paid to that, making us all content creators every time we post, snap or stream.

And these days you can make a website within a few minutes, fully mobile and ready to share with the world.

Then there’s the likes of Twitch and Mixer, where gamers, musicians, creatives and more can share what they are up to live with us, wherever we are.

YouTube was at the forefront of the push to make content easy, becoming one of the big boys in a very short time. Videos didn’t need to be highly produced to be a success. In fact, the more real they were, the more connection they made with their audience. It was like ‘You’ve Been Framed’ gone global. And in most cases, better.

While others are at play here, YouTube was the birthplace of a lot of these new celebrities. And it feels like it’s only just beginning.

Hit The Like Button?

But is it a good thing? I’m still as yet undecided.

The promotion of the somewhat idealist concept that we can all be creators is a good one. I do believe there is creativity in all of us, and it’s a case of finding it and tapping in to it.

The flip side though is that the deluge of content quickly became a full-on tsunami, with little or no quality control. The chance for everyone to share actually makes it a lot harder to get eyes on what you’ve created, because standing out becomes nigh on impossible unless you get that little break of luck.

Personally I don’t think it’s done the music business any good for example. Sure, vinyl has made a semblance of a comeback, but we still live in a world where new acts find it harder and harder to break through. And those who do aren’t being compensated for their efforts or talent. As someone who has had a love of music for as long as I remember, I think the model of business that exists currently isn’t anywhere near to what it used to be, with no real value placed on what we consume. Those who get to the top get paid handsomely, but what about everything underneath. What about the artists that don’t have the big guys behind them to spend millions on promotion?

Media is continually changing, these days arguably quicker and in more revolutionary ways than it has ever done. And the rise of the YouTuber is just the start.

Green for go

Alongside a couple of personal days, I’ve been busy on my travels since my last blog.

What at one point looked to be a manic week (including jury duty) thankfully calmed itself down to training sessions in Renfrewshire and Dumfries & Galloway. And jolly fun they were too, exploring social media and its role within consultation, and having some really interesting conversations with the very welcoming staff from both local authorities.

As I sat at yet another temporary traffic light en route, it got me thinking about where training is going. What doe the future hold for our learning? We now have a range of online tools that allow us to share video, resources and get involved in real time discussions. And most of them are free, meaning access isn’t a massive issue, although connectivity may remain a barrier for some.

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I fully agree that having a trainer in front of you is something that can’t be replaced - I think for most it helps us to learn easier, and to get real answers to our follow up questions where appropriate. But it’s often a big time/money commitment to learn within a physical training environment. For some, there just isn’t the training budget to commit to a ‘real’ course. And that’s presuming there is a local course that fits your requirements (an issue for me recently).

I’ve tried some online courses, and they work well. But not well enough for me. The opportunity to learn at my own pace is great, and in a lot of cases (like Futurelearn) the cost is low or non-existent. But they haven’t clicked for me as yet. There’s an element missing.

Is there a happy medium where the real and digital world meet to offer the perfect training environment? One that is flexible to the demands of the modern world, without sacrificing quality? Or is it a case of horses for courses, where we all choose the one that is best for us based on our learning needs, and accept that there may be something missing?

It’s an area I want to explore. I’m beginning to think that there is potential in seeing if something new can be developed and tested. And not just as a trainer, but as someone who enjoys learning myself.

Temporary traffic lights have a lot to answer for…