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May 23, 2019 | by  | in Features |
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WHERE VIRAL DREAMS GO TO DIE

 

Dreams of stardom are easy, fulfilling, and most often, fairly fleeting. It’s not very hard to look at a person in the media who’s doing well for themselves, and decide that you want that life.

 

I should know. I did.

 

My name is Emma Maguire, and I’m a reformed YouTube vlogger. I’ve been making videos for ten years, over five accounts and two platforms—and for the most part, they’ve been total shit. Yeah, there were points in my past when I was publishing content every few weeks, and I managed to get a Film degree out of it all, but there are very few things on my channels that I actually like.

 

My channel lies as a barren wasteland now, full of shitposts and showreels, and not much else. It is hard to find the motivation to create work on a platform that actively campaigns against its smaller creators, and sometimes, I just can’t even be bothered trying.

 

And it turns out, I’m not alone.

 

A ^Verge article (2019) suggests that there are multiple reasons for the decline of YouTube. Well-meaning but ultimately ineffective moderation policies, a pivot towards promoted content that benefits advertisers, an oversaturation of videos on the platform… Whatever the reason, it’s fucking over creators large and small. It’s just that those who are more popular have less to lose.

 

In January 2018, YouTube enforced restrictions on their YouTube Partnership Programme, limiting ad-revenue earners to channels that received over 4,000 watch hours a year, and had over 1,000 subscribers (Polygon, 2018). This essentially kicked any sort of smaller channel out of the running for monetisation. A lot of people just don’t have the time to spend hours making a video when there’s no kind of reward in return.

 

However, lack of income is not the only thing that’s pushing former YouTube creators away from the platform. I spoke with a group of disillusioned content-makers, all of whom have different reasons for leaving the site.

 

SAM*

Sam* started her first channel ten years ago, because she loved to sing and wanted to create music. She enjoyed the editing and creating process, though she didn’t have much time to dedicate to it. It was YouTube’s dramatic decline into monetisation that pushed her away. “It went from being a platform where I could just goof around with my friends to ‘how many views could I get from this?’” She felt that such a change was toxic and something that she didn’t need. When asked whether or not she would consider coming back to the platform, she said, “I’ve considered getting back into it just so I can release my creative side, and staying away from the rest. There’s too much drama in being part of the YouTube ‘community’. It’s a bloodbath out there now.”

 

As I write this article, there’s a shitstorm over on stan** Twitter, where James Charles (a prominent beauty YouTuber) is losing subscribers by the second for a harassment case. Two days ago, ProJared, another prominent YouTuber, was ousted from the community because he cheated on his wife, and then they aired the whole dispute over Twitter and YouTube. From shipping*** real people together (I think we’re all glad that Phan and Septiplier seem to be dying out) to sexual assault cases, and risky pranks gone wrong, the YouTube “community” has seen some of the ugliest cases of ‘celebrity’ out there, and it only seems to be getting worse.

 

TROY – @PtruePteresa on Twitter

^Troy’s always had an overactive imagination. “Coming from a small town, there was nobody weird enough to write and act in plays with me.” Unable to find substantial creative output around him, he turned to YouTube, where he found content creators turning their unusual lives into videos anyone could enjoy. “I wanted to create videos that allowed me to express myself, and experiment with a variety of characters, impersonations, genre, and techniques.” He made variety shows, drag performances, short films, and even some gameplay videos. However, without the technology and experience that so many other creators were lucky enough to be gifted, he lost inspiration and motivation to continue on the site. With a film degree and some experience under his belt, he hopes that he can begin making the kind of content he’s always wanted to.^

 

Money makes everything easier, and YouTube is no exception. For the vast majority of popular creators, they’ve been lucky enough to start with money or resources that others don’t get—that “my father gave me a very small loan,” schtick sound familiar to you?  If you’re coming from a small town, or from a background that isn’t so privileged, you have to work a lot harder to get results. Often, however, longevity on Youtube, or other video platforms, just comes with the luck of the draw.

 

One creator who still makes work on the platform (you might have seen him around on Vic Deals when the Metlink bus shitstorm was really kicking off) is Saeran Maniparathy.

 

SAERAN – ^facebook.com/SaeranNZ

“I started watching Casey Neistat when I was in high school, and kinda thought, ‘I can do this too.’” It wasn’t that easy, however, and Saeran made over 140 vlogs in high school and over the summer, which kickstarted his video-making career. Although he mostly vlogs, he’s beginning to make other videos around deeper topics if he thinks that he has some value to add. He has not used YouTube as much recently, because he finds that, ”if you’re spending a lot of time in front of an editor for [your 9-5 job], it’s hard to do that again in your spare time,” although he hopes to get back into it soon.

 

Based on these three creators’ experiences, it would seem that a fulfilling experience as a creator on YouTube is often what you make it. Speaking personally, I stepped away from YouTube because of the site’s iffy algorithms, pushing inane or problematic content in the name of ‘views’. I also just don’t have time to spend on making things that I don’t enjoy, all in the name of increasing my watch time or viewership.

 

If you want to become a prominent YouTube creator, you have to enjoy making videos that fit into a very specific box, that don’t piss off advertisers, and that look legit enough so you can hit an ideal market, regardless of creativity or effort spent on the work itself.

 

Do I still have dreams of going viral, or finding adoring fans through my quality skits and sketches? Absolutely. But in this sort of marketplace, it’s just not for me.

 

Alexander, Julia. (2018). YouTube’s lesser-known creators worry for the future after major monetization changes (update). Polygon.

 

Alexander, Julia. (2019). The golden age of Youtube is over. The Verge.  

 

*Name changed.

 

**A crazed or obsessed fan—usually used in reference to fans of a thing who are ^really wild in their fandom worship.

 

***From “relationshipping”—writing fanfic, fanart, and harassing people or actors on Twitter because you want them or their characters to be in a relationship.

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