To ‘blog’ or to ‘Youtube’; that is the question. The reason that question has popped into my head on a sweltering Friday afternoon in Manhattan, is because I’ve just realized a shocking fact: I’ve been slacking in my Youtubin‘. I have allowed 5 whole days to pass without posting anything new to tookoffskippin, my main YT channel. On the other hand, one might have noticed that my blog posts at ‘The Attention Wave’ have become more and more frequent; I’m entering the state Goldhaber calls, ‘blogalalia‘. Sort of.The simplest interpretation of ‘blogolalia’ is constant blogging. At the extreme it can be ‘too much blogging’, but I’ve yet to encounter anyone who is accused of blogging excessively. That’s what texting, and Twitter are for: constant typing.
There is, however, no doubt that I have devoted more of my time and energy to conjuring-up posts for this and other blogs I administer, rather than to coming up with videos for Youtube. The reasons for this is simple: I find writing posts to be more rewarding. I think I’ve come to feel that it is far easier to ‘align minds’ to one’s own through words than pictures. This is probably the reason that the books that inspire movies are almost always more complete and rewarding to those who’ve experienced both: there’s so much more depth in a book.
And it is depth that it is very, very hard to present in a medium like Youtube. As you might know by now, most content in the world of media are ‘attention scams’ . This blog is an attention scam. But all attention scams are not created equal. An attention scam in ‘blog’ form is generally attached to a ‘concept’ that the contributor feels a certain number of people somewhere ‘out there’ will align themselves to. The ‘scam’ of ‘The Attention Wave’ is this: offering insight into the ‘Attention Economy’. Anyone who might be interested in discussions of this concept is likely to check out some of my posts. The ‘scam’ of the blogger is one of ‘perspective.’
But the attention scam of the Youtuber is generally one of ‘spectacle.’ I may have mentioned that I conducted a study a while back in which I analyzed the top 2,000 Youtube channels, based on number of subscribers. In short, I found out that the majority of Youtube channels are devoted to ‘comedy’. In truth, ‘comedy’ turns out to actually mean ‘stupidity.’
9 of the top 10 Youtube channels can be mostly described as ‘comedy’ channels. The other one – machinima – is devoted to ‘video games’. That gives a pretty good idea of what sorts of content is most-likely to thrive on a platform such as Youtube: content that is easily-consumed without much thinking. To be sure, there are thousands of YT channels devoted to pretty much anything else one can think of, but the dominance of ‘comedy’ through the top 2,000 channels is fairly consistent.
A likely reason people who seek ‘stardom’ on Youtube use comedy is because there are a slew of ways in which to make someone laugh. ‘Laughter’ is a ‘cheap’ attention scam. It is also easier to induce laughter through ‘sight’, than writing. To find somebody’s writing funny, one must have a greater understanding of the writer’s sensibilities, or perspective. This perspective takes time to become apparent. To be funny on video, however, might merely require appearing laughable, even if it is unintentional:
Sad Packer Fan
The above video may be interpreted as ‘mean-spirited’, but it is no doubt ‘funny’ to a good number of people. As the description states:
Casey’s (my sister) reaction after we left the bar after the packers lost to the giants in the playoff game. GO PACK GO! follow her @caseyalewis or me, Megan @meganlewis11 on twitter!
Ms. Megan Lewis sought stardom – ‘follow me on twitter! – by piggybacking on the popularity of her video, depicting her sister’s reaction to her hometown Green Bay Packers losing a playoff game. The video to date is a ‘success’, with nearly 2 million views to its credit. But does this video have any ‘depth?’ Is this video a good reason to ‘follow’ Ms. Megan Lewis on Twitter? No. Because the video – successful as it may be – hasn’t aligned anyone’s mind to the uploader. It was uploaded, laughed at, shared, and went viral. All the viewer knows is that a ‘funny’ video of a chick crying (somewhere) has surfaced, and he/she can enjoy it – for now. Right now (lest one forget about it). The feeling after viewing it is this: Thanks, Megan, for the upload of your sister – it was very funny – but I see absolutely no reason to connect with you any further. I’m not one of your fans; I don’t even know you!
For someone such as Ms. Lewis to significantly increase the number of people ‘following’ her on Twitter, she would have to pretty much be able to repeat the trick of recording ‘something funny’, preferrably at a rate of at least 1 video every day or two. Apparently, the success of Megan video – her fourth at the time – inspired the young woman to ‘switch’ her channel theme from ‘comedy’ to ‘makeup instruction. Megan has uploaded 5 videos since ‘Sad Packer Fan’, devoted to makeup. The total view-count for all 5 videos since then is about 150. The message seems to be: do something funny, or we (the random viewers) will bail.
Online video has never been easier to produce and distribute, so there is a growing level of competition for attention in any video-related medium like Youtube. Because of this, the likelihood that any particular video uploaded by an amateur will even be noticed is reduced significantly. It therefore makes complete sense to keep digital videos ‘light’ (short form, and simple production-values), the focus being more on consistent ‘churning out’ of content, than producing intricate works. It is easier to ask someone to laugh at your sister for 1 minute, than listen to you gab about your ‘Birchbox’ (what the hell is that?) for 7.
It’s a lot harder, and takes a lot more time to build up a ‘fan base’ on Youtube if you are an amateur and your channel is not devoted to ‘being funny’ (or plain stupid, like realannoyingorange). It is also incredibly hard to build up a fan-base if you are not constantly uploading content to Youtube; you cannot ‘take a break’ from Youtubing, or you’ll be forgotten. This highlights the most significant difference between the blog and the Youtube channel: time.
A blog is ‘timeless’, whereas a Youtube channel is always ‘on the clock’. Like a good book by one’s favorite writer(s), a reader of a particular blog will often feel free to read and re-read posts, and to peruse the ‘archives’ of the blog for more of the contributors’ content. This can often lead to a person seeking additional writing by the blog’s writer(s). That is the nature of the blogging medium: aligned minds. Take a look at the blog of Michael Goldhaber himself:
Goldhaber had been MIA on his goldhaber.org website for exactly 2 years before resurfacing on that platform to address the ‘Occupy’ movement. I myself was pleasantly surprised, and read every word of the post. But Goldhaber hasn’t felt the need to write anything more on this platform since then. And that’s fine.
On Youtube, however, such a lapse in time between ‘uploads’ would be a cardinal sin. The biggest factors in whether or not a potential ‘fan’ on Youtube will subscribe to a channel are : a)the frequency with which the channel is updated, and b) the total volume of uploads the channel has. This means that ‘new Jacks’ have to prove themselves worthy of continued attention by continually uploading content to Youtube, no questions asked. But, as the tale of Ms. Megan Lewis shows, a video’s success on Youtube is in many cases unpredictable; there is a lot of luck involved. Continued success on Youtube is many times harder.
These factors make attention-seeking on Youtube a daunting task for the neophyte. Many will give it a go, due to the relatively little amount time and effort involved producing digital videos for sites like Youtube. But many will increasingly find the rewards for the effort insufficient to the aims of attention-seekers. Uneven, and inconsistent ‘consumption’ of their video content will discourage those who seek to align the minds of others to their own, in a way that is too ‘heavy’ for a medium like Youtube. The discouraged people might then decide to ‘take a break’ from Youtube. But this is a death-sentence for the aspiring Youtube star. As short a time a one week with no ‘new’ activity might be too long a time to leave one’s Yotube account idle. Therefore, a 2 year hiatus such as Michael Goldhaber took from his blog, would send a clear message to any potential ‘fans’ that the ‘channel is dead’, and they would seek any potential ‘void’ left by whatever said channel used to provide elsewhere.
In all likelihood, they would find a replacement after not too long.
Thus, the future should be a bright one for the blogosphere, the actual star-making platform of the attention era…….