Monday, August 01, 2011

VidCon revels in YouTube

While across town the ongoing Television Critics Assn. press tour was drawing far more media attention, the audience for many of the cable series being discussed there actually pale in comparison to what the so-called YouTubers get each week -- and at a fraction of the budgets at even the cheapest TV shows.

Yet the YouTubers are still making money. Of the estimated 20,000 in YouTube's Partners Program, which splits ad revenue between the site and these amateur content producers, hundreds are making six figures a year. The most-subscribed attraction on the site, Ray William Johnson, is said to have cracked seven figures, though it probably earns far less than Daniel Tosh, the Comedy Central star whose hit series "Tosh.0" attracts fewer viewers to an average episode (4.2 million) than Johnson, who grabs over 6 million -- twice a week. Yet their shows are somewhat similar, aggregating and mocking viral videos.

These YouTube phenoms aren't to be confused with viral videos, which are typically one-off sensations. With a sophisticated understanding of the YouTube platform, these talents manage to bring viewers back again and again. And this isn't the largely passive experience of TV; YouTubers are engaged in an interactive loop grounded in social media.

Most of what passes for entertainment on YouTube is tween-friendly silliness, whether talking animated fruit like "The Annoying Orange" or video bloggers -- call them vloggers -- like Shane Dawson who essentially spout off directly to the camera on all manners of subjects.

But they're not just here for hero worship. Many VidCon attendees split their time between paying homage and paying attention to training sessions and peers who can educate them on everything from proper lighting to balancing their production responsibilities with homework.

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