Online blogs and vlogs (video blogs) posted on YouTube are one of the most popular places to garner information on the latest looks and trends, with survey results from 2014 revealing that 41% of women are turning online for makeup tips, tutorials and hauls. “What is a YouTuber?” I hear you ask. Well, YouTubers are internet sensations that film videos on just about anything and everything and publish them on Google’s platform.
But is there much point to posting videos online? Surely people aren’t interested in watching somebody talking about what they have in their makeup bag? Well to put it bluntly, yes, there is. According to the Guardian, YouTube viewership alone is growing 50% year on year.
Here in the UK, we have a pretty well known set of YouTubers, represented by agency Gleam Features. These include the likes of Tanya Burr, Jim Chapman, Alfie Deyes and the one you’ve probably heard of the most, Zoe Sugg aka Zoella. All of these twenty-something sensations now create online content for a living. Yep, they work from their homes filming videos all day and they’re making a tidy sum doing it too. Gaming YouTuber PewDiePie reportedly earned £4.5m in 2014, and has around 38 million people subscribed to his channel. Once a YouTuber becomes popular and has a high number of subscribers, it’s not unlikely for them to begin posting sponsored content and charging brands for including their products in a video. One YouTuber claimed that you earn around £4 per 1000 views, though when a YouTube rep was asked about this, their reply was that they “can’t say”. Sponsored videos can rack up between £500 and £20,000 depending on your popularity!
However, under recent ASA guidelines, you now have to be extremely careful when uploading sponsored content. In the past, vloggers would upload a video gushing over their new favourite mascara and right at the bottom of the description box, in a slightly smaller font, you’d read the words “Some items in this video were sent to me for consideration” or “This video was sponsored by x”. Now, it must be declared in the title of the video so that viewers are aware of what they are watching and can make the decision whether they want to.
Not only can making YouTube videos be a successful way to make an income, some YouTubers can actually become minor celebrities among their fans. Take Zoella for example. Zoella started her YouTube channel back in 2009. Six million subscribers, a two-book publishing deal, an appearance on last year’s Celebrity Great British Bake Off, a part in Band Aid’s 2014 single and a £1m house purchase later, you could say that she’s pretty successful. In the last 12 months or so, brands have been jumping on these new opportunities with internet stars, such as Superdrug with Zoella. Her beauty collection broke Superdrug’s internal sales, crashed their site and increased pre tax profits by 31.3%! It was a clever move by Superdrug; they identified the trend and fan culture among vloggers and used it to boost sales. Zoella and her boyfriend Alfie even have their own waxworks in Madamme Tussauds after being the most voted for by customers and her book, Girl Online, was the fastest selling book of all time, even outselling JK Rowling! Phew.
The world of YouTube isn’t all fluffy bunnies and rainbows though; with all the excitement and passion comes a backlash of hate and negativity. There is a noticeable divide among YouTubers, especially those from ‘rival’ agencies. A recent disagreement comes from a number of popular YouTubers dropping out of fan favourite “Summer in the City”, a vlogging festival where you can meet and greet your favourite YouTube stars, instead choosing to attend Amity Fest. For both events, you must pay (a considerable amount) for tickets and queue up for possibly eight hours just for your 30 second chat. Some fans are willing to make the switch between festivals without a second thought, though some think that they’re only trying to make more money.
While YouTube has been a popular method of uploading video content for free onto the web for a while, a new platform has emerged: Vessel. Vessel is a subscription service where viewers can pay $2.99 per month to gain access to their favourite YouTubers videos a whole three days before they are published on YouTube! Some of the YouTubers involved have such huge fan bases, their viewers haven’t hesitated in signing up for the service. On the other hand, some fans have called those on the platform “greedy sellouts” and it has even earned criticisms from fellow YouTubers. Is this exploitation of loyal fans, or a very clever business strategy? Possibly both.
And fans aren’t afraid to jump on their favourites either. While Zoella’s book was clearly a huge success, it didn’t come without the inevitable drama. It recently emerged that Zoe hadn’t actually written the book (awkward) and had used a ghost writer without acknowledging it to her readers. She then received quite a bit of negative feedback and consequently took a “break” from the internet. I don’t blame her, who would want 7 million people shouting at you?
Brand collaborations can also go down one of two ways. Primark’s recent partnership with Gabriella, of VelvetGh0st, wasn’t taken too well. She’s been branded as having a “bad reputation and attitude” due to her outspokenness on Twitter and public arguments. I can imagine it’s hard not to retaliate to tweets if you’re constantly being harassed, though some bloggers have reacted to the news quite badly and argue that she should filter what she says more and that Primark has made a bad decision. Primark is yet to make a comment, so it’s unknown whether they don’t care about what she’s done and are only concerned with making money, or if they didn’t actually do any research.
The way we are consuming content is inevitably changing; tutorials, advice and reviews are only a click away nowadays. YouTube is accessible to anyone with an internet connection, and makes the world accessible to everyone. Should the YouTube stars be admired for being so tech savvy, or is it truly just making easy money from their bedroom? With YouTube being such an easy way of creating relationships between YouTubers and viewers, and a clearly effective method of marketing, I don’t think that YouTubers will be going anywhere anytime soon. Now, I’m off to go and set my camera and tripod up…