The New Culture Industry

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For many, YouTube has replaced televisions and is a whole new frontier in the media/entertainment industry. More and more large corporations are turning to online video advertisements than print or television. These advertisements span all forms of video genres. Furthermore, many companies only need to sponsor content creators on YouTube for them to create a sponsored video for them. Rather than having a commodity to fetishize, the current culture embraces the commodification of the self. This new way of participatory culture has grown from sharing personal stories and creations into one of the most successful commodities of the 21st century.

YouTube’s form of digital marketing is in the website’s name: “you”. In Christian Fuchs’s “Social Media: A Critical Analysis”, he writes that “capitalist media are modes of reification in a double sense…they reduce humans to the status of consumers of advertisements…and cultural commodities that are bought by consumers and audience commodities…become themselves…sold as an audience to the capitalist media’s advertising clients…” (23, Fuchs). By having YouTubers sponsored by companies to create videos for them or be influencers of a product; audiences are not only seeing someone they subscribed to promote a product, but also someone who they have built a relationship through videos supporting a company. However, in many of those influencers’ cases, they themselves have to be avid consumers of that company in order to gain their attention. Haul videos, reviews, or constant mentions of the brand will most likely get the attention of the companies, whether that was their intention or not. In today’s popular YouTube culture, many influencers and YouTubers are sponsored by the same companies depending on their content, style, and personalities (Audible, cosmetic brands, recent movies, apps), therefore enabling a cycle of the same large companies and corporations to flourish.

On the flip side of this are those trying to make a living off of YouTube. While YouTube has been around for over a decade, the rise of internet celebrities and YouTubers is still relatively new. The ad revenue that creators gain from doing sponsored videos is apart of their income. While many creators work with their companies, a majority try to break free of company restrictions on their videos. Thus not allowing the company to take over the “channel” and “style” of creators’ videos.

Similarly, YouTube also serves as a platform for users and creators to blast companies that they feel are not up to par. Even a simple dismissive comment from an influencer can have a lasting impact on a company. Nonetheless, in the recent years, as companies are buying into YouTube fueled advertising; many creators have been relying solely on sponsorships to create. Such reification of video styles have now spread across the platform, creating a wave of the same videos, all touting the same catchphrases and slogans. While advertising on YouTube through content creators, despite having a more human representation of a brand, there will always be resistance when working directly with someone who is themselves is the brand.

In 2017, the constant use of phones, laptops, and other mobile devices has challenged companies and corporations to change the way they operate. Rather than creating advertisements themselves, they are asking those with a large online following, to make the content that people want to see today. This double-edged sword of online advertising can allow the culture industry and commodity fetishism to flourish, or it can reveal the true aspects of a company. By feeding into another style of advertising, the very content we see online is shaping us to be both the creators and consumers.

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