What is the last positive story about some YouTuber you can recall? Mainstream media authors would have a hard time recalling one and I want to rectify that. I will argue that YouTubers are portrayed differently to ‘offline’ celebrities and that their job is in peril because of that. Even now, I’m writing about YouTubers as some homogenous entity that they are not, yet when it comes to writing about the few ‘bad apples’, the press seems to forget this fact. It sure requires some digging to get a few examples of positive articles about YouTubers in this cesspool of negativity, but dig I did. Let us start with the most recurring argument: It’s not a real job.
To get one thing out of the way, yes, YouTubers do pay taxes and you can learn more from Ashely Johns article on that topic (John 2017), where she concludes that being a YouTuber is a job like any private entertainment/education job, at least from the tax perspective. What I will do now is to present two different examples of what it entails to be a YouTuber. I chose these examples as they represent two different approaches to what ‘being a YouTuber’ may entail. Let us start with a one-person channel: Crainer, created by Benjamin Dreyer Vestergård. In an inspiring interview (Chrissoy 2016), Benjamin relays his experience and what it takes to produce enough content to sustain one’s living. Being a YouTuber is not just about uploading videos, but recording and editing, as well as preparing new types of content. Time is Benjamin’s biggest investment (Chrissoy 2016), as there is no specific time his work for the day ends. It ends when everything that needed to be done is finished. This means that some days, especially when preparing for a day off, the working hours can reach over 16 hours a day, including weekends, since the videos must be prepared and set for uploading schedule before the next day hits. Missing an upload could mean devastating drops in revenue (month salary – ads) or loss of viewership (Chrissoy 2016). The second example leads us into the studio built and owned by Philip DeFranco, which produces informative news videos with facts in mind (DeFranco 2018). Here we have an entire business built upon a YouTube career, that not only earns money, but also provides jobs to other people, similar to television news stations. There is a research team, a writer’s team, a set and makeup team, a finance team, etc., all working together to deliver content on a tight schedule for millions of people to watch every day (DeFranco 2018). It has become more than a job; it is a small enterprise.
Now, I ask you again, is being a YouTuber not a real job? For Benjamin and Philip, it sure is. Moreover, this job, all this hard work put into building their careers, is in peril, because of the few ‘bad apples’ depicted in mainstream media. Are all YouTubers same as them? Silly question, maybe, and to answer it, I could just point towards any stereotypes concerning any minority. Because that is what it is. Stereotypes. The few ‘bad apples’ shown in mainstream media, such as Logan Paul’s Japan debacle (BBC 2018), where he desecrated Aokigahara (the suicide forest) in Japan by filming the body of a recently deceased man. Another example can be one of the top viewed YouTubers: PewDiePie and the controversy in which he was accused of spreading proto-fascist ideals (MacInnes 2018). For a more recent example, we can just look at the controversy concerning child predators (Alexander 2019), in which YouTube and its creators are depicted as a source of the problem, rather than the actual harassers using explicit language in the comment sections under almost any video depicting kids. And now, what about the rest of the YouTubers? The YouTubers that support charity? Where are their stories with major headlines such as ‘Small YouTuber raised $1,000 for charity helping kids’? Are they not present? I argue that they are not present as much as the negative headlines. Matthew Patrick does provide convincing evidence to support my claim in his video-analysis What They WON’T TELL YOU About Your Favorite Channels (Patrick 2019). He also arrives at an interesting conclusion concerning the maybe subtle yet ever-present double standard of safe advertising on YouTube. He claims that major advertising companies, the source of revenue (monthly pay) for many YouTube channels, are pulling their ads back with every major social drama involving some ‘bad apple’ in the name of children’s safety. The same advertisers that are fine with supporting other channels owned by major companies and businesses such as the Oscars or football news networks (Patrick 2019), which also propagate what I would argue is content inappropriate for children, promoting violence or self-harm.
Why are advertisers pulling ads from ‘not family friendly’ channels and who let them decide what is a ‘family friendly channel’? The so-called YouTube ‘Adpocalypse’ that affected thousands of channels multiple times in YouTube history (Wikitubia 2019) is happening again, with the most recent example of Nestlé and other brands pulling ads from YouTube creators (Mullen 2019) because of the child predator controversy (Alexander 2019). Where was this massive advertisement removal from the Oscars when Gary Oldman was accused of domestic violence (Grady 2018)? Why do those companies pull ads from news channels informing on the issue of child predators on YouTube but leave their ads on regular television covering the same topic? Why is watching the same topic on YouTube considered ‘family unfriendly’ while on television it’s perfectly fine? Why does this massive advertisement withdrawal happen over the whole platform, when, as Matthew points out (Patrick 2019) the advertisers are the ones choosing the place for their ads, not YouTube. Why not just pull the ads from the one ‘bad apple’? Because YouTube creators are just that for big companies, YouTubers. There is a strong prejudice against YouTubers, strengthened by mainstream media as it depicts mainly the juicy, emotionally charged, negative stories about YouTube ‘bad apples’, leaving the thousands (Patrick 2019) of good ones out. As it stands now, one ‘bad apple’ ruins them all. This attitude must change. Do you want to hear positive stories about YouTubers now?
I do and I’ve argued here that YouTubers have real living-supporting jobs and that their jobs are in peril because of the few ‘bad apples’ and how they are portrayed in mainstream media. YouTubers deserve positive stories – stories that will not fuel stereotypes but rather disperse them and show the wide outside-YouTube audience how many good apples are there. I would like you to think now a for a while. Do you want to hear positive stories about YouTubers? Do you want to go against the generation that knows everything and that leans towards stereotypes? Then keep an open mind when you hear that YouTubers are all bad. There are always stories that you were denied, because they were deemed unattractive for mass audiences as ‘no one wants to hear positive stories about YouTubers’. I do want to hear them, and I encourage you to hear them too.
Ondřej Klíma is a Master’s degree student of Sociology
Article was written in Writing Sociology class
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