When I revived this blog, I promised myself to write something related to digital media at least once a week. But since I’m in the middle of job hunting, I decided to write another quick piece so that I won’t feel completely frustrated if I miss my self-imposed Wednesday deadline. A lot of my interviews involve me talking about content creation, so I figured it would be a great time to talk about Internet content, specifically creative YouTube content (journalism will, alas, have another day).
Now, when I say “content,” I mean literally anything that has been created for people to see. This includes and definitely isn’t limited to:
A video of your dog dancing at your cousin’s wedding
Snapchat stories of your vacation in Ibiza
Memes using inside jokes you have with your friends all the time
360-degree videos posted to media outlet’s YouTube
Blog posts written by quirky USC graduates
And the list goes on….and on...and on…
Part of the inspiration for this post, besides my job hunt, is this guy and his YouTube series (took the image from his Twitter):
Chris Reinacher was one of my favorite creators at Buzzfeed Video. The guy is funny, does well at rap improv, and can act. He’s also a UCLA alumn, but no one is perfect (just kidding. I only bash Bruins on game day). Chris left Buzzfeed last year, and recently got a lot of attention when he appeared on his personal YouTube channel with the video, “Why I Left Buzzfeed.”
“Why I Left Buzzfeed” videos have been somewhat popular recently as former Buzzfeed employees, who garner many fans during their work, start new chapters in their creative careers. It's gotten to the point where some creators are actually making parodies. And The Try Guys, a popular Buzzfeed team, actually referenced “Why I Left Buzzfeed” videos during their evolution of viral video performance at VidCon.
But Chris’ video stood out.
Instead of going deep into the reasons why he left Buzzfeed like many people before him, he chose to stick to one idea: having more creative control over his pieces. And when you watch the video, there’s a sense of how much better videos can be when a creator doesn’t have to worry about, as Chris puts it, “Having a bunch of different brains into one person.” There’s great acting, the transition from where it seems like he's vlogging with a shitty camera to just creating a whole sketch is amazing editing. And there's even a bit of foreshadowing at the end when Chris sees himself warning about the channel's sponsors!
Yes. Yes. Yes. Subscribed. More than 570,000 people agree with me.
From the get-go, Chris didn’t produce vlog-style videos. They were more like realistic sketches that portrayed his journey as a creator while under pressure to create content by the Sponsors (which are eerily symbolized by the security cameras that watch his every move). Fans have praised the videos as a critique on BuzzFeed, and with videos like “Exes Take A Shower Together” and the Sponsors’ influence on fictional Chris’ work, it’s not too hard to make that assumption.
Chris, however, has something to say about those assumptions.
I’ve been an avid YouTube watcher for a while; you’ll find the Vlogbrothers, Hannah Hart, Lily Singh, Cyprien, Foodwishes and many, many more in my subscription feed. And after a while, there are a few types of popular videos that look the same. For instance, there are react videos, mostly dominated by Fine Brothers Entertainment, in which people react to anything from food to casting calls to viral videos. There are also DIY/test videos, like ThreadBanger, where people do some sort of craft or test out a popular hack/recipe/craft found on the Internet. But I digress.
The point is that such videos often get a lot of views. Channels that want to grow their following might feel pressured to make content that would be popular with a wide audience as opposed to content that have less ROI but is also considered more fulfilling by the creator.
Chris' series is timely because it feels like people are creating popular content for the sake of views and subscribers. In the case of one couple, this desire to be famous on YouTube for the sake of being famous actually has been fatal. And not that I want to create even more attention to his content, but it really frustrates me when I see a prankster like Jake Paul who has 8.6 million subscribers as opposed to channels like Wong Fu Productions with 2.8 million. The former flaunts his wealth and makes his audience wish that they can copy his lifestyle (which got him in some hot water with his neighbors recently). The latter creates heartwarming and relatable content that inspire more people to pursue a creative career. I’m not quite sure if that says something about society that Jake Paul’s videos get more views, but it’s still a shame.
The story arc for Chris’ series is not complete yet, but the climax was released earlier this week and you should definitely go and catch up if you haven’t seen it. And if you're into his stuff, definitely subscribe.
Huge disclaimer: I'm not collaborating with Chris in any way and I never even talked to him. I just want to make sure that the series has a lively discussion surrounding it beyond comments that are like, "Dammmm Chris throwin shade at buzzfeed lol." But tossing it back to you now: what are your thoughts about YouTube creators and popular videos?
And side note, since I'm going to Arizona soon, does anybody have any tips to not die in the heat?
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