A new generation of vloggers are trying to make it big and a living on the video platform
By Olivia Morris
Thirteen years ago, YouTube gave people the opportunity to showcase their talents for free on the Internet. The platforms quick rise to prominence has made it possible for people worldwide to turn their passion into profit. Today, many YouTubers make a living out of creating different genres of content for their channels.
Digital content creator Josh Rimer joined the YouTube community in 2007. A few weeks later he uploaded a contest video that went viral, receiving nearly 455,000 views.
“I was giving away 100 dollars every time I hit 5,000 comments because at the time 50,000 comments would’ve given me the most discussed video of all time on the website,” Rimer says.
The video landed Rimer in the mainstream media spotlight. He was interviewed for radio, television, and newspaper outlets for having the most discussed video on the platform. Today, Rimer produces content for OUTtv, Canada’s national LGBTQ TV station, and continues to upload LGBTQ friendly travel vlogs twice a week.
“When I started I had no intention of making money,” Rimer says. “No one saw any sort of future in this silly website with cat videos, whereas now it feels like there’s a lot more of a struggle with the pressure because I’m trying to make a career out of it.”
As YouTube grew so did its rules and regulations. The website introduced the YouTube Partner Program eleven years ago, which gave creators the chance to monetize their content on the platform.
However, the partner program quickly changed the dynamic of uploading content. The website transitioned from a hobby to a job for many digital creators, making uploading fresh content more competitive.
Programs like AdSense allow digital content creators to generate revenue from the advertisements featured on their videos. The most popular program being Google Preferred, which features the top five per cent of content on YouTube in 12 particular categories.
On January 16, YouTube announced new eligibility requirements for the advertiser program. Content must adhere to the YouTube Partner Program policies in order to have ads turned on by the platform. If the channel activity doesn’t meet the program’s algorithmic processes or violates community guidelines, creators are unable to earn money on their videos.
“You need 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time to qualify to have ads turned on,” Rimer says. “At my level I’m just not a big enough YouTuber to really be making a huge income from the AdSense. Whereas a company that wants to work with me and wants to reach my specific target market of gay travelers is going to pay me a whole lot more than two dollars for a thousand views.”
The trend of people wanting to become successful digital creators has increased exponentially. Making a sustainable income is one factor, but it’s also due to viewers transitioning from linear television to non-traditional platforms, like YouTube. According to Omnicore, a YouTube statistics website, millennials prefer YouTube two to one over traditional TV.
“You’re taking a look at a huge shift towards digital video content as the main way people watch video now,” says Account and Social Media Manager at Qode Social Yoav Lai.
The social media marketing company helps clients build their business by using different social media marketing strategies. For YouTubers, Lai believes leveraging other platforms to grow their channel is necessary for new influencers to stay relevant in the expanding industry.
“When something becomes viral it’s not through YouTube itself, especially if you have a small channel. It’s through the conversation that comes around YouTube,” Lai says.
In order for YouTubers to make a statement in the industry, Lai suggests becoming a knowledge leader; someone their followers consider to be the top in the industry. Not only is it a great marketing strategy, it’s also an effective way of gaining a dedicated following.
“You can do that by using those other platforms like Twitter and Instagram to engage in other conversations. Check out the hashtags that are relevant to the industry that you’re in, always be commenting with other people,” Lai says.
Digital content creators have a better chance of being discovered by advertisers and brands the more their channel grows. This is ideal for creators looking to expand their creativity onto other media platforms.
Manager of YouTube Space Mark Swierszcz oversees the newest of nine global YouTube Spaces in Canada. After working at Bell Media for nearly a decade, Swierszsc saw the rise of talent in YouTube and digital broadcast content.
“The more people that we were talking to the more we discovered that they had side businesses going where they had their own personalities all over YouTube. I sort of fell in love with the platform and then discovered that the next wave of Canadian talent was using YouTube as their primary platform,” Swierszsc says.
Swierszsc says committing to having a space in Toronto where a community of creators can come and feel welcomed was the main reason behind creating the first space in Canada.
“Toronto over-indexed on top creators that were actually staying in Canada,” Swierszsc says. “When Canadians have ever had talent that’s kind of blown up, there’s always a bit of a brain drain down to the entertainment capital in the U.S. I think they started to look at that three years ago and started to say, ‘Toronto’s a really great hub for talent and creators and we should commit to having a space in Toronto.’”
Canadian content creators with over 10,000 subscribers can use the space, located at George Brown College, as a free resource to shoot videos with the help of a production team.
Director of Business and Partnerships at Bell Media Mike McShane manages the YouTube multi-channel network at Much Digital Studios. In 2015, the network launched their Made to Make campaign, a partnership initiative that featured digital content from 50 YouTube creators on Bell Media channels.
Being a network that’s connected to youth culture, McShane thought it was important for Much Studios to go where their audience already was YouTube. Although the purpose of the campaign was to show their relationship with the creators, the main goal was to identify the origin story of the person behind the camera.
“They all sort of have a different story to tell, so we’d identify the ones that we thought would be great and show all the various, different sides of the content creation genres in particular,” McShane says.
The videos created for the campaign were developed collaboratively between the creator and Much’s creative team, who helped script a narrative that remained authentic to the creator’s content style.
“It’s very much a partnership with them, in terms of accurate development. It’s their story, we’re just trying to articulate their story for them,” McShane says.
According to McShane, the growing trend of digital content creators on YouTube is far from slowing down. However, there’s more to YouTube than sponsorships from brand deals and ad revenue on videos.
“The business starts to transition into you as a personality. You have to have that creative side and continue to generate content that entertains people and build that audience to begin with,” McShane says. “A lot of the big, successful creators now are the ones who were in it from the beginning and they weren’t in it necessarily because they wanted to be rich and famous.”