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The daring future of YouTube

The daring future of YouTube


Getting that trusted partnership is more valuable than ever in the advertising space. In 2014, the stars of YouTube are more recognizable and trusted than mainstream ones for teen and tween audiences. That means ad dollars that once flowed toward traditional commercials and brand endorsements of the latest movie star are moving more in the direction of a vlogger with a million subscribers. No one is taking away Jennifer Aniston’s Aveeno ads just yet, but YouTuber Grace Helbig is selling you St. Ives and rapping in anti-smoking ads that live online and air during the Super Bowl. For now, digital and broadcast are going to play in the same sandbox, but as the culture shifts, so will the money.

“In our youth-obsessed culture, everyone pays attention to what teens like and what they’re doing,” said Westerby. “Whether or not youth culture gets any respect is the greater question. We’re at an inflection point where the greater cultural importance of digital celebrities, especially YouTubers, is starting to not only be recognized but respected by traditional outlets—in part because there’s a lot of potential money to be made.”

While there’s a lot of focus on the top creators, the ones with the million-plus subscribers, that doesn’t preclude YouTube from being a ground for new breakouts even in 2015. There’s just a bigger hurdle to their financial and viewership success in an ever-crowded marketplace.

“There’s this general thought that digital and social media are great equalizers, that anyone can go out there and become famous,” said Westerby. “It’s true that there are fewer gatekeepers than in a broadcast-dominated media framework, but it’s not true that anyone can create great content. Sometimes the hangups are with equipment—vlogging does have a higher barrier to entry than blogging, when it comes to both tech needs and skills—and some are with the creative process. People who can conceive, shoot, edit, and then write great copy for a video are special.”

“It’s really exciting when top creators or channels ‘break through’ in a mainstream sense and brings new ‘legitimacy’ to online creators,” added Corey Lubowich, who makes videos as part of the comedy group Tin Can Brothers and previously worked with YouTube musical theater artists Team StarKid. “However, those extreme successes translate into a much harder time ramping up if you’re a new creator. It’s become an ecosystem that is very heavily weighted at the top. It seems to be all or nothing. Creating something that generates moderate income and is not a blockbuster seems difficult.”

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YouTube is creating more trusted celebrities and brands than Hollywood. Wow. 

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