The New Celebrity: How YouTubers Has Made the Rise to Fame
The most subscribed to person on YouTube has double the amount of followers as Rihanna. It is not a celebrity whose name is known by everyone, but a 25 year old gamer from Sweden called Felix Kjellberg, or PewDiePie as he goes by. With 36 million subscribers, none of the “normal” celebrities are anywhere close to catching up with the amount of followers that he has gained, but with the popularity of vloggers growing, they are more than likely to bypass the amount of subscribers that celebrities has.
While the most watched videos on YouTube are all music videos, except for “Charlie Bit My Finger — again!”, the majority of the most subscribed to channels are held by vloggers, a term used to describe video bloggers. The content created by the vloggers are supposed to be watched once, which is why they’re not ranked on the most watched-list, while music videos is an easy way to listen to songs again and again.
The success of YouTube started a year after its creation when Google in 2006 bought the platform. At the time buying the company was a big risk; YouTube was full of copyrighted material that the users uploaded without consequence. Google worked its magic and managed to get contracts with the owners of the copyrighted material and created a takedown-policy for the platform. If someone used copyrighted material on the site now, the video would soon be removed from the platform. From being a big risk, YouTube has become one of Google’s biggest success stories. With over one billion users on the site watching hundred millions of hours of content everyday YouTube has gone from being a risk to becoming one of Google’s biggest success stories.
At the start of the YouTube era people saw it as an opportunity to use the platform as a place to show off their talent. Whether it was singing, comedy or just a random home video, you could be discovered by talent agencies. While not everyone turned out to be a success story, a handful of the most famous people today were discovered on YouTube. Musicians Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Cody Simpson and Soulja Boy, and model Kate Uptown are some of the most successful stories of how a single viral video could bring you into stardom. During the last 10 years, the aim of YouTube videos has drastically changed. From wanting to create a career in the real world, the new aim is to become successful on YouTube. With millions of subscribers, PewDiePie, Michelle Phan, Tyler Oakley, Zoella and PointlessBlog have become household names during the last couple of years. With the increasing popularity of vloggers, they are now seen as celebrity.
“What we do now is where everyone wants to be.”
YouTube has gone from being a fun hobby to the main income for the most successful vloggers. In an interview with BuzzFeed, that took over a month to set up, Zoella said, “I never had any goals in mind like, ‘Oh, I think I’ll carry this on because I’d love to be a presenter.’” Zoella, or Zoe Sugg, a 25-year-old woman who has become a huge success on YouTube. With over 8 million subscribers on her main channel her success has transferred into the real world. Zoella has a focus on beauty and fashion on her main channel, which has brought her a big audience because of her perky personality. She has even shed light upon her struggle with anxiety in one of her videos, with the hope of helping any of her viewers that might struggle with the same thing. “If this helps at least one of you watching this — just one of you — then it’s totally worth it and I’m a hundred percent happy that I’ve managed to help.” In 2014 Zoella launched her first novel, Girl Online, and brought out a range of beauty products. With millions of fans excited for the release of her book, Girl Online broke sales records during its first week on sale. But what is it that has drawn such a big crowds to follow Zoella? It might as well be because she is a bubbly girl who does not share any of her other problems than her anxiety. Everything about her channel is easy going and fun, not a serious subject in sight. Zoella has become a space for millions of people to come to relax. Escaping from the real world for 15 minutes while watching Zoella’s latest makeup tutorial or ‘haul’.
Almost every vlogger who are able to live off the income from YouTube are set up with general talent managements like Storm Vision. Several social media managements have been set up with a focus solely on helping social media celebrities. Through managing their time, money and business opportunities the different managements are able to help create the best opportunities and manage the vloggers work in a good way. Two managements that are working solely with vlogging talents are Gleam Futures who are working with UK vloggers with offices set up in both London and Los Angeles, and Californian Big Frame working with US vloggers. The creator of Gleam Futures, Dominic Smales, told the Telegraph that Gleam is about establishing the vloggers in the new medium while also giving them the right tools to create a respected career. Smales said, “We try to make the most of what they have on YouTube while planting seeds for the future.”
Many of the most successful vloggers are doing projects outside of YouTube that has been made possible because of their managements. Writing books, hosting events and launching beauty products are only some of the things that the vloggers have gotten opportunities to do after being successful with their channel. But, at the same time they are still creating content for their YouTube channels. Why do they continue to work with YouTube after having success in the “real world”? For many of them the goal was not to end up having YouTube as their main income. To the Telegraph vlogger Alfie Deyes, or PointlessBlog, says, ”When I started making videos in 2009, it wasn’t a job for anybody. It was just for the fun of it, and that’s all I ever wanted. So to be five years down the line and doing it as my job is the best thing ever.” The commitment to YouTube is strong for the vloggers. Leaving millions of followers with no new videos to watch anymore is a sure way to lose many of their fans. Jim Chapman, who makes funny videos, doing challenges and fashion vlogs, told easyJet Traveller, “People ask what I’m going to do when getting of YouTube and into the mainstream, and I keep telling them that TV isn’t going to be as mainstream in the next five years. What we do now is where everyone wants to be.”
And of course there is money to make as a successful YouTuber. According to Social Blade, the most followed vloggers can earn up to an estimate of a million euros each year. PewDiePie with 36 million subscribers earn between 791 000 euros to 12 million euros a year. Zoella with 8 million subscribers earn between 62 000 euros to 1 million euros a year, while beauty vlogger Tanya Burr with almost 3 million subscribers earn between 19 000 euros to 316 000 euros a year. These earnings are all from advertisement in videos and do not include projects that are done outside of YouTube. With such high earnings only made by posting their videos, the appeal of continuing with vlogging alongside outside projects is easy to see the reason for. Combining their hobby with an income is not something there is a downside to saying no to.
The daily vloggers SacconeJolys with almost a million subscribers earn between 37 000 euros to 606 000 euros a year. Broadcasting their everyday lives has brought great success for the Irish family, and it made them move to England in 2014 to fully commit to being YouTubers. They quickly signed with Gleam Futures and their branding grew immensely. The appeal of watching the family of four; dad Jonathan, mom Anna and kids Emilia and Eduardo, doing normal things, has been a new success for the UK vloggers. The SacconeJolys comes across as a reality TV show online, creating a real connection with their audience by speaking to them through the camera and asking them for tips and advice about everyday situations.
So what is the appeal of watching vloggers talk about beauty products, fashion, film their everyday lives or film while they are playing video games? Having curated millions of followers through not really having a talent other than being themselves, the appeal of watching YouTube might be a mystery for many. According to Gleam Futures’ creator Smales, with successful vloggers like Zoella, PointlessBlog, ThatcherJoe, Tanya Burr and the SacconeJolys in his management, the answer is easy. Smales told easyJet Traveller, “The digital generation has more control than previous generations over the media they consume. They’re able to watch what they want and where they want. This is the first generation whose entertainment is not 100% determined by what a commissioner or editor at a media company decides they can see.” With the appeal to a niche audience, the talk about vloggers competing with the most popular TV shows is not something that will happen soon. With different target audiences for the different medias, having one take over for the other is not likely. At least not in the foreseeable future.