In 2018 YouTube is considered a major media platform. Content creators can now make a living off the platform with a small audience but does it bring about a secure income, job security, etc. Therefore it brings about the question is YouTube a valid career path in this day and age?
Loose ties to YouTube
Recently many well-known YouTubers’ earnings have dwindled; some by 60–80%. Many content creators have looked far and wide for other sources of income. These include Patreon,merchandise stores, moving onto other platforms or creating their own, and seeking sponsorships. The issue with being a “YouTuber” is YouTube doesn’t have a professional contract with their creators. Almost like Uber in this sense. The relationship between YouTubers and YouTube is not equal. Content creators are not employees of YouTube or Google. YouTube, in the end, does not owe content creators anything. There is no salary; there is no employer-employee contract vetted by a HR professional. This can lead to a lack of job security.
Despite of this there are many clear examples of many “influencers” making a living off the platform. That is undeniable but does that provide a career? The majority of creators on the platform can’t afford to use YouTube as their sole income which is a fact. Realistically many of the influencers making a living off the platform currently have been making videos for as long as 10 years. There is no real evidence that supports the idea there is a 20–40 year career to be made. Despite of this becoming a content-creator can lead to a lot of opportunities. Many creators start to create their own business off the back of the income and audience they have built from their success. It is rare to see a popular influencer on platform who hasn’t diversified in some way to protect themselves from being pigeon-holed by YouTube.
Another issue which I believe is coming to light more recently is the longevity of a YouTuber. Channels such as Zoella, Marcus Butler and Alfie Deyes channels are losing subscribers at a rapid rate which begs the question are we starting to see the start of a “YouTube” lifecycle. i.e (from channels conception, initial growth, big spike of growth to decline of a channel). You only need to watch Shane Dawsons “The Mind Of Jake Paul” to see the impact on a human of being a YouTube personality. It comes as no surprise that they have to fake content in a bid to try stay relevant. In contrast to this YouTubers like Marcus Butler are reinventing their content to longer podcasts discussing pop culture which do still attract hundreds of thousands of views after 10 years of being on the platform.
The problem with creating niche content is the inability to break free from the chain like wrap of your audience complaining any time you do anything different. The simple fact of the matter is as a YouTubers mature and so does their content which can disengage a lot of that channels target audience. In Zoella’s case the “pre-teen” category of her audience have grown up and are no longer interested in the “vlogger” type content. This can cause problems for creators as they essentially typecast their content. Switching content or niches can be risky. A tech expert who wants to suddenly make videos about the vegan lifestyle may alienate a portion of their viewership. A career as a YouTube content creator can be inflexible as they are locked inside a bubble. Although examples such as KSI have proven it is possible to seamlessly change their content from gaming to pranks to rapping to boxing.
Strong Skill Set
Perhaps being a “YouTuber” itself isn’t a 40 year career due to the longevity aspect of being a personality online. However as a creator myself one thing I have always said is that the skills of a content creator are highly marketable. Many branding/advertising agencies contain departments of highly skilled workers, to complete the typical process a YouTuber goes through on a daily basis. For example writing a script, filming, presenting, video-editing, graphic design, marketing and branding. Then repeating this process consistently to build a loyal audience is no easy task. The soft skills gained from that process are relevant and valued in many careers.
To conclude like with anything creative or freelance there is always an element of risk involved. It is down to the individual to decide if they are creative enough to be able to change and adapt to the trending and always changing world of YouTube. The potential rewards of this are financially beneficial. Despite of all this in my humble opinion I believe YouTube is a world of opportunity and it is likely other streams of revenue will be available if the platform fails to provide.