The Internet’s biggest success story has been to give influence — and income — to anyone who wants to earn it. Old media owners are called moguls because you need to be rich to own a newspaper. Anyone though can now launch a website or publish a blog — and they can also be newsreaders, singers and television presenters. Those dream jobs that were once available only to people willing to build the right connections or study at drama school are now open to anyone with a microphone and a video camera.
Create a bit of footage, upload it to YouTube and the masses might just respond to your talent. Forget Simon Cowell and his snarky comments; these days if you really want to be successful and famous, you can give the gogglebox a miss and head straight for the biggest test of all: the Web.
At least, that’s what Google seems to think. The owners of YouTube now have their own specialist in Artists and Repertoire (“A&R” in media world jargon) whose job is to identify talent on the site, then nurture and develop it so that the company can earn high income from advertisers. “Our charge is really developing that next great wave of creators and supporting all the creators on the platform,” Tim Shey, director, development at YouTube Spaces, told DigiDay.
Drop The Talent Scout, Build A Talent Algorithm
Spaces provides YouTube’s most talented users with the room and the resources to grow their ability to shoot videos that people want to watch. The platform gives channels created by contributors a “P score” made up of watch-time, the number of shares and the number of repeat views they can generate. That score allows the site to identify, through an algorithm, which members are both building up and retaining their audiences. Instead of going to a dark club and checking out unknown bands, as a record label’s scout might have to do, YouTube’s talent spotters can look through pages of Excel files to see who’s videos and channels are picking up the most comments, views and shares.
As those figures pile up, so YouTube’s resources start to become available. Experienced contributors with more than 10,000 channel subscribers can make use of the company’s physical production spaces in Los Angeles, as well as its studios in Tokyo, London and, later this year, New York. Users are expected to understand the basics: they should know how to handle lights and a professional video camera, and arrive with a production plan.
Those who have managed to rack up 75,000 “watch hours” over 90 days can receive help in brand development, tech support and strategy, while YouTube.com/Creators offers beginners advice in best practices and basic video-making.
The benefit to Google of all that help for its most talented contributors is clear enough. Young people in particular are turning off their television sets and turning up their YouTube. Over the last three years, Q1 television viewing among 18-24-year-olds has fallen by 4.5 hours per week, or about 40 minutes per day, an 18 percent decline in weekly television viewing. At the same time, YouTube reports that the number of people subscribing to user-generated channels has increased by a factor of three since last year and daily subscriptions are up four-fold. YouTube now reaches more US adults aged 18-34 than any cable network.
Only Old Folk Watch TV
That big and growing audience is a huge opportunity both for Google and for the people who make it to the top. Justin Bieber might have found fame on the site but he didn’t remain on it for long. Make-up expert Michelle Phan has done as have Jenna Marbles and Bethany Mota whose channels have all the design and appeal of a home-made MTV show. Phan and Mota both have around 7 million subscribers; Marbles outdoes them both with over 13 million subscribers who tune in to her 200 videos.
Those top producers are now part of Google Preferred, a new advertising system which allows advertisers to ensure that their ads only appear in the top 5 percent of content on the site. The brands can be certain that their ads aren’t being shown alongside offensive content and the quality of the company’s products match the quality of the content that promotes them.
Clearly, there’s money to be made here and YouTube’s top producers have managed to turn that influence into revenue. They’re all making six or seven-figure incomes from advertising on their videos, from selling products on their websites and from deals with brands themselves. Michelle Phan’s make-up advice is now sponsored by L’Oreal.
Achieving that success didn’t happen overnight though, and it wasn’t simple. It took the same kind of dedication and professionalism that ambitious media types would once have used to land themselves a job at a local cable channel before working their way up the career ladder. YouTube’s biggest young stars are successful because they’re producing quality content.
But they’re also successful because they’re producing content aimed at the right demographic. YouTube might be bringing in the young crowd but older folk are still sitting in their armchairs watching their televisions. Those aged between 50 and 64 increased their time in front of the box by more than twenty minutes a week between 2011 and 2014, while those aged over 65 have increased their viewing by nearly three hours each week. Even 35-49-year-olds are still watching an average of more than 34 hours of television every week, over thirteen hours more than those low-earning 18-24-year-old YouTube fans.
To make big money as a media mogul on YouTube, you will need to be talented, professional, photogenic and determined. But it helps, too, to be young and to think like someone young. For the rest of us, there’s still cable television.