YouTube on all channels

In its almost 10 years of existence, YouTube has developed into a colorful hodgepodge of cat videos, makeup tutorials, and song and film parodies. But the industry is undergoing a process of continuous professionalization, and above all commercialization. Many today make bold claims for the platform’s potential, calling it “the future of television” and “a financial gold mine.”

Niche and mainstream?

“Amateurs take over the entertainment business,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote in a recent article on prominent YouTubers. “Nobody needs the television anymore to become famous.” The beauty and lifestyle channel run by Nilam Farooq, aka Daaruum, has more than 900,000 subscribers. More than a million people have subscribed to Sami Slimani’s “Herr Tutorial” YouTube channel, a mix of lifestyle and lip-care tips. Both advertised prominently for YouTube across Germany this autumn. Doubling those figures with 2 million subscribers is Florian Mundt, better known to his fans as LeFloid, who has been chatting about world events on his YouTube channel since 2007. But the leading position in this race goes to gamer Gronkh, who has drawn 3 million subscribers to a channel in which he comments on his own video games as a “Let’s Player.” Hot on his heels is the trio Y-Titty, whose channel of parodies and comedy clips is only a small distance behind.

Indicator of viewer engagement

Networks such as Studio71 (200 million views) work closely with their flocks of bloggers to optimize their channels. But click numbers aren’t the only measure of success. Viewer satisfaction on YouTube is measured by the degree of “audience retention,” calculated on the basis of the number of videos viewed and the length of time spent by visitors. TubeOne Networks (150 million views) solicits so-called creators by offering “broader reach, more support, more money,” promising cross-media promotion and additional marketing in the form of product placement. Mediakraft Networks (400 million views) has 2,600 of these video producers under contract. “We are the biggest online TV station in Central Europe,” says Christoph Krachten, Mediakraft’s president.

Authenticity as currency

Netflix is showing how it’s done: Those who know their viewers’ detailed individual tastes and viewing habits know how they’ll act today – and what they’re likely to want tomorrow (DIE ZEIT Nº 45/2014). By establishing regular formats, video creators on YouTube are seeking to define clear target audiences, as this is what lands the big advertising deals. Moreover, the video bloggers have a huge advantage: Their viewers are above all fans. The two sides are in direct communication through tweets and Web comments. The media world’s new rock stars have a messianic appeal for their admirers. For a fan, being “followed” by his idol amounts to a kind of canonization. This was evident at YouTube’s Brandcast Day in Berlin, a promotional event highlighting Internet-video opportunities. In the halls of Berlin’s former Tempelhof airport, filmmakers and campaign experts explained how they use Google’s video platform for their purposes, while at the same time German YouTube star Sami Slimani passed out autographs, photos and hugs to screaming fans.

Forecast: growth, success, ethics

How does the future of YouTube and its video bloggers look? The number of visitors to Videodays in Cologne has increased from 400 at its initial 2010 meeting to more than 15,000. Today it’s the biggest YouTuber convention in Europe. Bloggers like Daaruum and Slimani are seducing advertisers away from television. According to a study by market-research firm eMarketer, YouTube will take in $1.13 billion in advertising fees in 2014 – an increase of 39 percent compared to the previous year. Bloggers’ career paths are also heading into new territory. Daaruum’s acting career has been given a boost, while Slimani is a Viva host and most recently an author (“The Slimani Principle”). Other bloggers are breaking away from the big networks, citing a code of ethics. LeFloid recently resigned from Mediakraft. With their trade-union-like 301+ association, he and other Berlin-based YouTubers are trying to preserve the video platform’s old spirit against the effects of rising commercialization.


Recent articles and links:

Inside YouTube, Wired (December 2014)

Stars statt Katzen - YouTube im Goldrausch, Business Punk (6/2014)

Sie wollen doch nur spielen, SZ (December 6, 2014)

YouTube Rewind: Turn Down for 2014