From The Blog

The Youtube Phenomenon

Youtubers have rarely started creating video content with the intention of getting popular.

Even the most famous vloggers have created their accounts out of boredom. The Youtube community was born in 2005-2007, when people like Shane Dawson, AmazingPhil and CharlieIsSoCoolLike joined the platform. At the time, the algorithm of the site was different, as was the size of the platform. Therefore, new Youtubers were regularly featured on the homepage, and a tight-knit community was formed. People started making videos just to enter the community and make friends, or in order to promote their music. People kept joining Youtube throughout the years, until 2012- that year, the number of viewers exploded, and people joining in afterwards are mostly lost in the depths of the new Youtube algorithm. Their videos are very different from those who were already established in 2012, as well – Youtubers got a lot more professional at that point, and you can tell the popularity of a Youtuber just judging by the quality of their image and sound.

There are many types of videos on Youtube, and not all video content creators can be given the label of “Youtubers”. It’s not necessarily whether they share their face or not (gamers like Cry and animators like Domics purposefully keep their face a mystery for different reasons). However, a Youtuber needs to be personally talking to their viewers and share their opinions in order to be considered one. Within those guidelines, videos can be really diverse. The biggest type of content is definitely gaming – Pewdipie, the world’s most subscribed channel, has gained over 40 million subscribers by making jokes while playing popular video games. Another popular category is beauty – though not the most subscribed channels, makeup and hairstyle tutorials accumulate millions of views from people who watch them for reference. Zoella, a British beauty vlogger, has almost 10 million subscribers. She stands out from the crowd because of her funny collaborations with her brother, boyfriend, and her other friends in the Youtube community, who are mostly humour vloggers. Humour is a very wide category in itself – from well produced skits (like Smosh, who are also known for their childish humour and young audience) to videos about life situations filmed from the person’s own bedroom (like aforementioned AmazingPhil), it contains anything not already defined. Entertainment vloggers are also the most stereotypical Youtubers – they just talk about things, and that’s essentially what the platform is about.

Now, Youtube is a new media platform, and many of its video content creators extend to traditional media, either by themselves or because of offers from platforms who understand how big of a deal Youtube is becoming. An example is Grace’s Show – a TV show on E! featuring Youtuber Grace Helbig, who is famous for her awkward, ironic personality. The show is peppered with clichés and tacky editing, clearly added to ‘appeal to teenagers” by E!’s producers. Needless to say, the show wasn’t really a hit, and I haven’t heard anything of it recently. However, Grace’s self-run podcast “Not Too Deep” is still popular, despite having started before the TV show. A more successful experiment of Youtubers given shows was with comedy duo Dan and Phil (they have separate channels called DanIsNotOnFire and AmazingPhil, but also a joint DanandPhilGAMES gaming channel, along with an April’s Fools prank channel called DanandPhilCRAFTS). They were given a weekly two-hour show on BBC Radio 1 for a year, and their show was such a success that they’re still invited monthly to do a segment called “Internet Takeover”. Another significant extension of Youtubers outside of the platform was books. So many vloggers have published books that it has become the butt of the jokes other Youtubers make – who then go and publish books themselves. These books are most often autobiographies (like Tyler Oakley’s “Binge”), but they can also be fiction (like Zoella’s novel, “Girl Online”). Alfie Deyes (PointlessBlog, also the boyfriend of Zoella) has paired his book, “The Pointless Book” (which is unnervingly similar to “Wreck This Journal”), with an interactive app. Dan and Phil have also released an app, involving a segment on Phil’s channel (later introduced in the radio show) called the Seven Second Challenge, in which you need to do a series of tasks in 7 seconds, such as rapping or spelling things. Youtubers like Tyler Oakley have also released actual feature-length films documenting their lives. However, much of these publishing and launches are really a reason for tours – except for annual Youtube conventions like VidCon and Playlist Live, vloggers have no means to meet their viewers. Therefore, they organise tours, often paired with book launches but not always – from Tyler Oakley to Dan and Phil, Grace Helbig with her two best friends, vloggers love to go out and meet their subscribers. Another notable thing is Youtubers who use their popularity to promote their music, like Troye Sivan, who’s reached the tops of iTunes charts, and Dodie Clark (doddleoddle). However, these are mostly people who posted their music online even before they started making funny videos.

Why is Youtube so special? It’s probably because of the honesty of the whole concept. Aside from being more upbeat and “entertaining” online, and sometimes maintaining personalities that had changed in real life, Youtube is, for a form of media, extremely real and intimate. Vloggers are obligated to state when they’re sponsored, so that you know that every opinion they share is their own. Some people have compared it to online friendships – and they’ve got a point. Tyler Oakley, who now has almost 8 million subscribers, started Youtube as a way to keep in touch with his friends. AmazingPhil’s videos are known for their friendly small-talk vibe, and he actually met his best friend and frequent collaborator Dan through his content. Aside from that, viewers tend to form little communities of their own, where they meet people with similar interests and promote their own channels. Youtubers are basically half celebrities, half online friends. They are extremely active on social media because of their platform being the internet, and are therefore much more connected to their fans. They’re also good role models – many people, from Tyler Oakley to Connor Franta, have used their fame to raise money for charities. Emma Blackery, a British Youtuber, has shaved her head at a Youtube event called Summer in the City and thus raised £26,001 for five charities.


Article by Kira Atanasiu