Lately, there’s been no shortage of articles and blog posts wondering if the age of the YouTube internet star is over; that by changing its layout and algorithm and luring “pro” content creators away from the traditional media industry, YouTube Killed The YouTube Star.Many YouTubers are up in arms after losing significant viewership in the “newTube”. With so many changes to the site, YouTube was perceived as saying, “Yes, we know we’re biting the hand that fed us (the YouTubers and the online communities they built), but we have bigger fish to fry now – we’re going up against cable and TV.” So, did YouTube consciously kill the YouTube star? My answer is, “Yes and no.” Here’s why:
THE PROTUBE ERA
Let me start with a call to action. I call on YouTubers, digital celebrities, and their fans to PETITION the Hollywood Chamber that manages the Hollywood Walk Of Fame to include the digital stars who today have achieved massive influence and give them the boulevard stars they deserve.
The Internet has been driving the entertainment industry for at least the last decade. Digital celebrities and YouTube stars are some of the most viewed, most searched, and most talented personalities around the globe with huge fan bases, in many cases dwarfing the influence of “traditional media” celebrities. By including a new PLAY button star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Chamber can recognize the impact the Internet and its content creators have made to the global entertainment industry.
YouTube and digital stars are real celebrities (I once heard a kid say he wants to become the next Ray William Johnson, and not the next Tom Cruise). We’re also now seeing traditional “offline celebrities” finally start to embrace their inner Shane Dawson and begin premiering original content online and on YouTube. At the same time, I know of plenty of YouTube stars getting offers from traditional media companies to appear in film and TV (paging P’Trique!). The long-predicted crossover continues…
This petition breathes some new life into an old tradition (can you imagine all the tweens showing up from around the world for the induction ceremonies?). The Walk of Fame has symbols for film, radio, records, TV, etc., and it’s about time a new icon was added with the PLAY button. Go on over to their site and talk to Star Girl about it. Tell her I sent you and don’t forget to sign the petition.
CHANGE IS GOOD
Did “talkies” kill the silent film (Ok, bad example, but…)? Did TV kill the movies? Did the VCR and DVD kill movies and TV? Did social media kill physically hanging out with your friends? YouTube was bound to evolve further, and yes, the new YouTube may have its own new set of rules and best practices, and yes, it may be harder than ever to build an audience now that YouTube isn’t featuring individual YouTubers, BUT: The only constant in life is change. Embrace it or you quickly become old media.
THE NEW(MEDIA) STUDIOS VS. THE OLD STUDIOS/NETWORKS
For years, YouTube was trying to persuade the traditional studios and TV networks to bring their content to the site knowing that advertising dollars would follow. The old studios and networks were accused of having implied a friendly “F*** you” to YouTube, and they bet on Hulu instead. Fast forward a few years where a large amount of online video views are on YouTube (and if my info is correct), with around 3% Hulu and 7% the rest (Vimeo, Blip, etc.). So, YouTube won. Ad money started to move to YouTube anyway thanks to YouTube stars and some “viral” vids, but even so, YouTube went back to the “traditional media pros” (this time with a tad more leverage) and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse, spending $100 million on a host of new premium content channels after years of courting Hollywood studios and TV networks in efforts to bring “the pros’” content to YouTube (and did I mention, rake in those ad dollars?).
And where has this all been leading? To the day when my mom is channel surfing from NBC to CNN to “Epic Rap Battles Of History” on her plasma, and like millions of others, she won’t know the difference as to whether the content she is watching is traditional broadcast or digital distribution. That can ultimately be a very good thing.
But are the days gone when a lone, committed YouTuber can become a digital star and more? “Pretty much,” most YouTube “experts” say. However, new online networks like Maker Studios are fighting the good fight and are committed to growing the audiences of individual YouTube talent channels using their “network effect” and “community strategies” (disclaimer: I work with Maker Studios).
YouTube fully supports the new media networks, freeing up YouTube to implement this new phase of theirs while leaving behind a lifeline to YouTubers that has become the YouTube networks like Maker. I’ve heard some people from traditional media even argue that the old YouTube gave its users a free ride by featuring them and highlighting their videos. Now, it seems, YouTube will feature the content from the channels it spent all that money on. No one’s blaming them except for YouTubers themselves. “Be careful,” we’re told, because the accusation of “sour grapes” is not far behind.
And damnit if YouTube wasn’t right(!), at least for what their stated goals were. Since the changes YouTube made earlier this year, time spent by users on the YouTube site has gone way up and reportedly so have subscription numbers. Some insiders claim it’s due to the new homepage feed. YouTube was always “social,” and the new homepage feed (which kinda looks and moves like Facebook’s timeline) is becoming more and more integrated with Google via G+. There’s even been beta test sightings of the YouTube “Like” button replaced by the “+1”. So, the new YouTube’s just getting started, folks, and it seems people all over the world are staying longer on the YouTube site and engaging more. So, check one in the win column for YouTube, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of ProTubers and aspiring ProTubers who embrace the new platform and make the best of it just like other ‘tubers did in the old days.
YOUTUBE AND BEYOND
The changes of the new YouTube are said by many to have a negative effect on DIY-style YouTube personalities, and that in its quest to usurp television as content king, YouTube has left some independent video creators out in the cold. At the same time, there’s a host of new DIY-style video-sharing apps that are starting the whole star-creation system all over again.
As the Viddy and SocialCam apps are duking it out to be the Instagram of video (and one just came out on top), NMR recently asked, “Are Trendy Video Sharing Apps Competition For YouTube?” So, who are the next Viddy stars and SocialCam celebs, not to mention the hot talents that are now appearing on TV thanks to the new YouToo app? It could be you!