Betabeat’s headline is “It’s Time For YouTuber’s to Grow Up,” SFGate says “Forget Pet Videos…” and all over the web tech blogs are speaking to the idea of a slicker, more professional YouTube. Advertising money tends to strip the soul from beautiful ideas and if the pundits and venture capitalists have their way, YouTube will be next. Is that really what’s best for the deo site known best for cat videos and terrific acts of internet randomness?
Sure the top creators are loving it — they’re, as Harley Morenstein so eloquently put it, millionaires who deserve to be taken seriously. And he’s right — YouTubers have the fixed attention of our nation’s youth. But this influx of money and fame isn’t without a price. Look at MTV, the History channel or any other entity that started off as a small niche vessel catering to a select audience that suddenly decided to follow the money. Pretty soon what used to be relevant turns into New Jersey kids and space aliens.
By all means, we’re not suggesting that YouTubers shouldn’t take the money — they absolutely should. Life is hard, get money where you can; hell, sell out a thousand times over. But realize the repercussions of taking the money. Suddenly your identity has to shift a little bit to appear more corporate: gone is Grace Helbig’s traditional greeting of “What’s up, f**kers?” Advertisers aren’t smart enough to realize that what made people flock to the medium in the first place was the freedom and wild west mentality.
If advertisers have their way, the free-spirit loners who made YouTube what it is in the first place won’t have a place on YouTube. Advertisers will only want kids who are attractive and sycophantic — easily controllable.
There is no easy answer here because YouTube’s gatekeeper — Google — isn’t exactly unmotivated by that whole profit thing. Seemingly right now no one is looking out for the future of YouTube and that’s a scary thought.
Those who don’t know what happened to The History Channel are doomed to repeat it.