Smartphones were supposed to democratise film making. But instead we got a bunch of YouTubers talking about nothing. Tim Green scratches his head at a modern phenomenon…
This weekend I did something that reflects my demographic status more beautifully than anything you could ever think of.
I am a white male Englishman of a certain age with an irrational interest in pointless and long-winded sporting contests.
Yes, I went to the cricket at Lords.
Today’s youngsters don’t always want drama and creativity – not on YouTube anyway. They want to see people being normal. And normal doesn’t mean interesting.
And it was marvellous. Nine hours of not much happening, punctuated by the occasional boundary or wicket (apologies to non-Commonwealth readers who don’t know what I’m talking about) and culminating in an unexciting climax with no drama at all.
Like I said. Marvellous.
Anyone who knows and loves cricket will appreciate that a day watching it is only partly about sport. It’s just as much about chatting, drinking alcohol and eating cake.
I did a fair bit of these on Saturday. Inevitably a constant topic of conversation was ‘the youth of today’. And the highlight of that chatter was when my friend – a teacher of five to 11 year olds – revealed a recent class discussion.
She’d asked the children to think about what they wanted to do when they grew up, and suggested they have a day when they would come into school dressed accordingly.
Clearly, this is something kids have been asked to do in school for decades.
And predictably, there were plenty of children getting excited about dressing up as ballet dancers, nurses, train drivers, firefighters and astronauts.
But this is 2016. And about a quarter of the kids had a problem. The profession they set their hearts on entering has no dress code at all.
They want to be YouTubers.
Yes, these eager youngsters – their eyes shining bright, their brains bursting with desire for knowledge – want to sit in the bedrooms and tell a camera why they like sandwiches.
If you’re over 30, this will be pretty mystifying. We all knew that the combo of smartphone and cheap connectivity would democratise film making. But we made the classic mistake of assuming the output would be as before.
In other words, we’d still get movies but by amateurs. I remember all the attempts at made for mobile movies from years ago led by startups like Mofilm and Fun Little Movies. Some of their output was excellent.
But it turns out that today’s youngsters don’t always want drama and creativity – not on YouTube anyway. They want to see people being normal. And normal doesn’t mean interesting.
In the UK, the top YouTubers are people like Alfie Deyes, who clearly have no talent at all. But it doesn’t seem to matter. They retain a mesmeric pull on their millions of viewers.
And much of this takes place outside of ‘mainstream’ media. Heard of Jack and Jack? These two teens are Vine stars, who sold 100,000 tickets when they went on tour across America in 2014. Everywhere they went they were greeted by thousands of girls. Now, they are rap stars.
In some market sectors, the YouTubers are wreaking havoc. The beauty industry is probably most affected. Pixability’s 2015 ‘Beauty on YouTube‘ report said brand-owned beauty videos had around 2.1 billion views. But there had been 45.3 billion total views of beauty videos available on the site.
In other words, 95.4 per cent of YouTube’s beauty content in 2015 was made by vloggers rather than brands.
Amazing isn’t it? But let’s see it as a positive. It’s democracy in a way (even if it’s the democracy of everyone being able to get smokey eyes).
So I refuse to join the ‘nostalgia’ brigade. People who think everything was better in the old days forget that Brotherhood of Man dominated the charts in the 70s, not Bowie and Roxy Music.
All over the web people are being amazing and clever for free. We should celebrate that and not get too fixated on the inane ‘stars’ of YouTube.
That said, maybe we should start a campaign for them to have some kind of uniform.