Are YouTube channels hurting viral-video stars?

YouTube stars Matt Harding, Liam Sullivan, and Judson Laipply debated the issue at ROFLcon. 

Mar 3, 2020, 6:17 am*



Fruzsina Eördögh

In its quest to usurp television as content king, YouTube has left some independent video creators out in the cold.

Or so argued viral-video stars Matt Harding and Judson Laipply on Saturday during the ROFLcon panel, Channels Killed the (Internet) Video Star, a discussion revolving around YouTube’s corporate changes as related to the YouTube community. (To set the tone of the panel, news of Google’s additional $200 million investment in premium content elicited boos.)

Harding, who became famous for his video series, Where the Hell is Matt, which features him dancing in public in various countries, believes “the barrier for entry” into YouTube stardom is higher than it used to be and that YouTube as a company doesn’t care about the little guy any more.

His main gripe is because he doesn’t produce serialized content, he can’t get ads on his videos, some of which have been viewed more than 42 million times.

Since the inception of the Partner Program in 2007, YouTube has moved from a simple video-sharing site filled with cute animals doing silly things on camera to a video-production powerhouse emphasizing professional, serialized content. With this shift, a whole industry of promoting, managing, and branding YouTube celebrities has emerged (i.e. Makers Studios). And with that has come big money from interested advertisers.

“In 2008, I could show YouTube employees my videos,” and they would be “excited about my videos,” and they’d put them “on the front page” Harding said. “When I talk to them now, they’re like ‘eh.’”

Known for the the “Evolution of Dance” video, Laipply echoed Hardings sentiments by simply stating “we don’t matter to YouTube.” Laipply understands why YouTube is moving in the direction it is, though, saying “marketers need a reliable audience” and “serialized content is easier to sell.”

However, Liam Sullivan, the other viral-video star and YouTuber on the panel, has had a remarkably different experience. Sullivan hit stardom in 2007 with his video “Shoes,” sung by his female character named “Kelly.”

“I had to adapt to this new model” said Sullivan, who is signed with Makers Studios. He compares the current YouTube industry to “Columbia Pictures but in the 1920’s.” He finds the restrictions, and the need for serialized content, a positive that has helped his creativity.

“The rule is, ‘Always be posting,’ like that saying from Glengarry Glen Ross: ‘Always be closing’,” joked Sullivan.

Photo via x-ray delta one /Flickr 

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*First Published: May 8, 2012, 1:08 pm