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The Future of YouTube Content Creators

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Online video has only been practical for the last few years. In only six years, YouTube, has almost become synonymous with online video sharing. It’s where viral videos live, where nostalgia reigns, and also where an entire generation of content creators and consumers have built an interactive community that could very well be the earliest stirrings of an entirely new platform of entertainment – related but fundamentally independent from motion pictures and television.

Entrepreneurs, advertisers, and studios, of course are finding ways to use online video to facilitate or feed other ventures, and it provides added content to traditional media products.

Others  see the “web series” concept as the future of online video. Actors and traditional media types are particularly attracted to this format, which has the closest resemblance to traditional scripted media. A number of these ventures, in fact, have achieved some modest success, primarily in funding and building a social-based following. Break-out financial success, though, still hasn’t materialized.

Today, the most successful content creators, financially speaking, are YouTube “partners” – popular YouTubers whose success has earned them entry into a profit sharing arrangement with YouTube, earning a percentage of the advertising placed on their videos or channels by YouTube. The top YouTubers are even are making a good living at it.

The most effective YouTube content creators are of a decidedly different breed than those in other media. These individuals, often in the teens and 20s, write, produce, direct, edit, market and perform in their programming. They also interact with their viewers with an intimacy and responsiveness that would be impossible in traditional media platforms. They may be comedians, musicians or commentators. Some are hobbyists, while others have dreams of fame and fortune. Some are even aspiring feature filmmakers. Very few have studied media.

At this early stage it’s unclear if even the most-watched YouTube partners can survive long-term as online content creators.  Many are experimenting with methods to develop and monetize their content or create peripheral content – from the sale of related music to t-shirts to DVD highlight compilations. An increasing number have crossed over into traditional media as traditonal media actors, filmmakers, or pop musicians.  None, however, have discovered a clear path toward making a long-term living creating strictly for an online audience. Professional vlogging (video blogging) is the domain of very few.

As a traditional media professional, I’ve seen countless colleagues turn glossy-eyed when the subject of online video or even social media comes up. “I don’t know much about those people” one says. “They’re young” concludes another. There’s a collective scratching of heads related to those people who create online. Traditional production, after all, has over one hundred years of development behind it, and many filmmakers spend a lifetime honing their craft. YouTubers, on the other hand, can come from anywhere. They may never have studied film. They may own just a Flip Cam. They’re inventing the rules as they go. Anyone who has spent time browsing YouTube will agree – there’s chaos online. A working professional in television or motion pictures looks at this mass of content creators as a huge collection of amateurs – who aren’t making money.

There’s also great raw talent.

Cecil B. DeMille (The Greatest Show on Earth, The Ten Commandments), the legendary director of early Hollywood, wrote in his autobiography about the beginning of the motion picture industry. He noted that “for the most part, the only men in America who saw the commercial possibilities of “Mr. Edison’s Invention” [motion pictures] were men with no theatrical, scientific or artistic background” but “they took risks, they had drive, they had organizing ability. And the best of them had vision.”

If the YouTube (and the wider online video) community can maintain and grow it’s independence as a unique media platform, and resist the temptation to become a second-rate imitation of motion pictures and television, then it’s quite possible that online video professionals can someday number into the millions.

If, to paraphrase Mr. DeMille, the best of them have vision.

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About Rickflix

  • YouTube believes their future is more scripted and produced content. I created a post and video that talks about the social future that could and should be for YouTube.

  • Hello I am a youtube partner from Los Angeles an independent filmmaker with a film available for rent on YouTube intitled Outside My Window Documentary. Not many people have rented my film maybe a thousand or so but the fact that Youtube gives independent filmmakers like myself a shot is awesome. I invite you all to watch my film called outside My Window Documentary now on Youtube

  • Thanks for the great response! I think the changes this will ultimately bring to society are profound – and far beyond what we can even imagine today.

  • I am a YouTube Content Creator or “Vlogger” and I am also one of Rickflix’s YouTube friends.

    Based on my experiences with YouTube, first as a long time viewer and now as someone who creates and uploads videos, I have seen the change happen. YouTube continues to grow both in community and as a source of unique entertainment that cannot be found in today’s “traditional media.”

    The rules for this new media ARE being made up as we go along. There is no magic formula as to how we create our videos and there are no set guidelines as to what the videos have to have in them. We create videos because we want to create them and we want to share our thoughts and views on the world around us.

    Anyone looking for instant fame from this new media like a Justin Bieber will be in for a HUGE culture shock. That kind of fame is like lightning in a bottle:

    Extremely rare and extremely hard to catch.

    For those who decide to venture into this new media just to gain YouTube or online “fame”, they will be surprised at how much work goes into making an online video regardless of whether it’s a daily vlog or a video put together with talent, creativity, hard work, and love. For those people, they will be even MORE surprised at how little recognition the content creator receives in return. Especially in the early stages.

    It takes a lot of drive and determination to make online videos. And if you are lucky enough to enter the YouTube Partner Program, you are still a long ways away from becoming a “YouTube star”. And I am not trying to discourage anyone from starting their own journey into Social Media and online video creation for there is plenty of room in this new industry. You just need to know what you are getting yourself into.

    Social Media IS a young and growing media, much like today’s television, film, and even radio industries were during their respective early days.

    We “amateurs video makers” who create online videos ARE indeed a new and growing media. And I believe in the years to come, this online video outlet will become recognized as a legitimate source of talent, entertainment, and most of all a unique interaction between creator and audience that has never been witnessed before.

    Thank you for your continued support and championing of this new medium, Rick.

    And most of all, thank you for your continued personal support of my YouTube channel and for your friendship which may have never existed if not for the social media we are proud to be a part of.