While your parents may still scoff at the concept, it’s widely accepted for those under the age of Close-Minded that having “YouTube” listed as your occupation is perfectly valid. In fact, if you check out Social Blade, you’ll see that many of the big YouTubers out there make more than your entire lineage combined.

The crazy thing is that once you start succeeding, it’s kind of hard to stop. Or even allow it to happen at a more manageable rate. As subscribers come piling onto a new channel, it eventually hits a breaking point somewhere around 500,000 or so that only leads to explosive subs. After years of working towards that half million, the one million milestone is only a few months away and then two million maybe a year from that. It’s from social sharing, YouTube systemic highlighting, and third party press.

And as long as you keep putting out those videos, you can depend on a reliable source of income. Despite what many people think, this is not a zero-sum game. You have the die hard loyal, then you have a small percentage that will always view new uploads, bored subs that will finally scroll down to your channel, and random viewers that are always hungry for the latest YouTube Challenge craze. Outside of everyone using ad blockers (which is, oddly enough, the genesis of the paid version YouTube Red that is garnering so much ire), it’s solid enough.

That only ever leads to people joining the self-sufficient strata of creators, though, and nothing against them, but as success finds them, the desire to take risks leaves them. (Or, perhaps as Hank Green says above, it’s harder to find risks.) They either find a comfortable niche that reinforces their present viewership or begin to broaden their range to only those things that won’t offend. And that only lays out the unfortunate blueprint for BabyTubers: do these milquetoast things and you’ll be fine.

For the day-in-the-life folk, it’s all about challenges and games like the Cinnamon Challenge or the Tin Can Challenge or the Cotton Ball Challenge or the Ghost Pepper Challenge. (Hell, the Whisper Challenge made it to the big time with Jimmy Fallon.) For gaming streamers, you play a scary game and scream a lot. Oh, and then you take a screenshot of you making a dumb face and set that as your thumbnail. Perfection!

You can see the fruits of these labors most obviously in some of the biggest stars of the realm. Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, for example, has a new show called Scare PewDiePie to where he cuts out the middle man and just has cameras on him screaming his Swedish head off. Grace Helbig has a podcast called Not Too Deep to where, heaven forbid, they ever discuss anything meaningful and then top it off by playing a new challenge.

That’s perfectly fine, though. There’s obviously an audience for what they do and that’s good for them. Kjellberg’s new network Revelmode will actually highlight charitable causes for viewers to donate to, which is super cool. But on the creative side, it is a bit lacking. While pitched as a nurturing incubator for smaller YouTubers, it’s just a bunch of Kjellberg’s superstar friends, all of whom have similar tastes, creating a cyclical feedback of sameness.

It’s why successful writers and artists consume books and works so vastly different from their own. It’s so they are actually challenged, their sensibilities pushed and shoved around until they learn something new instead of marinating in peers that only bolster their current habits and strengths. (It’s the same problem with Twitter: you never follow people that vehemently disagree with you, so when you have a several hundred users all tweeting things you’re thinking, you start to feel like you’re only ever right.)

There is, however, hope. As the lower class gets rocketed up to the luxury cloud of paved AdSense checks, there are those that seemingly choose to exist outside of the banality. The only appropriate comparison I can even fathom is French New Wave cinema, the abject rejection of the established order of films in the 50s and 60s. They don’t seem as concerned with success as they are with exploring what they can do with the form.

My favorite example is GoldVision, which from the outset looks to be another video game streaming channel, but it’s actually way weirder than that. He is, actually, the guy that created Grand Theft Auto Pacifist, a series where he covered the life of someone who never kills or steals in Grand Theft Auto Online. Like, not his attempt to do so, but the actual character’s life as a pacifist as he tries to return inadvertently heisted cash and making new friends.

He’s since expanded into building miniature meta narratives around footage of games that ostensibly have no connection to whatever he’s talking about. His 25 Games of Christmas series (which you can’t even find in his list of uploads) is wonderfully heartfelt and absurd, being far more meditative than any two-minute video has the right to be. The story of a Besiege architect learning about learning new things from obstacles in life is especially endearing.

Then there’s You Suck at Cooking, an equally ridiculous channel about parlaying cooking tutorials into either nonsensical conclusions about interpersonal relationships or an ongoing drama surrounding an egg detective, a kidnapping, and an apparent murder. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love what’s happening in these videos.

And he’s already on the come up, actually. Since September of last year, You Suck at Cooking hit critical mass and now grows 10-15% each month, which compounds exponentially. He’s already past 10 million total views and almost at 200,000 subscribers. Not bad for not existing just a year ago.

The concern there is that he’ll soon slide into the rarified air of a nondescript YouTuber. He’ll lose that edge that makes his willingness to try outlandish ideas. Remember when Hannah Hart made that video game-themed episode of My Drunk Kitchen? Or when Epic Meal Time had an earnest desire to create epic meals and not absentmindedly throw fast food into a bucket and shill beer?

They still make good videos, though. They obviously still succeed for a reason. But as they reach new levels of income and subscribers, YouTubers have a tendency to get neutered, handcuffed by their prestige. More than most occupations, their ability to live is tied at a fundamental level to returning customers. So they may not actually be disappearing, but their edge certainly is. And at that point, is there really a difference?

[By Tim Poon] [From Platform Nation] [Read More]