Another year in the UK YouTube community is over, and TenEighty has been there throughout to celebrate, challenge, and critique all it had to offer.
So let’s look back on the year this community has had through the TenEighty lens. Warning: this editorial will include a lot of patting ourselves on the back. (We did this last year, too. One more year and it’s a tradition!)
The big interviews
We’ve always been committed to celebrating the UK’s best creatives. The ones that are being bold, doing something different, or have an interesting story to tell. And we didn’t let you down in 2015.
In February we spoke to Alex Bertie, the UK’s most prominent transgender YouTuber. From bullies at school to his quest for a beard, Alex spoke passionately about why he vlogs about trans* issues, often sharing some of the most intimate aspects of his life online.
March saw us chat to Luke Cutforth, who despite his notable success on YouTube had recently struggled with a few issues in his personal life. He spoke candidly about Jason Vihoni and Karim Slimani, two of his formerly-close friends who had been accused of sexual abuse a few months earlier.
Releasing her debut publication All I Know Now in April, Carrie Hope Fletcher spoke to TenEighty about the creative process behind the book, sharing nuggets of life advice along the way. This led to reflections about the YouTube community, as well as her final words on Alex Day.
Easily one of the biggest UK-based YouTubers (despite being from the US), we spoke to Michael Stevens in June about being the internet’s best-known educator. He revealed the story behind the Vsauce empire, and how he found himself working for Google in London.
Taking a look behind the camera, we spoke to Ciaran OBrien in July. Ciaran has worked on videos and films for the likes of Khyan Mansley, Benjamin Cook, Bertie Gilbert, and many more. Sharing insights and advice for budding filmmakers, Ciaran gave us a fresh perspective on the realities of online video.
In July, we announced our 2015 print magazine, which saw exclusive interviews from Emma Blackery and Charlie McDonnell. It was released with four covers, with a choice of Emma, Charlie, Carrie, or Luke.
Just off the back of breaking a million subscribers, Emma reflected on her success, and put to rest many of her demons. Talking candidly about her most outspoken moments, she passed on advice to fans and emerging YouTubers.
When we uploaded our interview with Charlie we split it into two parts. As the first UK YouTuber to break one million subscribers, back in 2011, Charlie reminisced about the early days of YouTube, branching out of vlogs into music, TV, and film, as well as hitting major milestones.
In the second part, Charlie talked about maintaining creative control, prioritising quality over quantity, and growing up with his audience. The YouTube world (as well as his own life) has changed a lot since he started out, and across both parts he reflected on all of it, sharing his usual thoughtful insights.
And finally, we caught up with PJ Liguori, the ultra-creative storyteller behind Oscar’s Hotel, in September. As his Vimeo-commissioned all-star web series launched, we tracked PJ’s story from early YouTube and video games, via university and the Fantastic Foursome, to Oscar’s Hotel and beyond.
Taking a closer look
In 2015, we were committed to investigating issues that had wide-reaching social and cultural impact on the UK YouTube community. These topics ranged from the culture of YouTube gatherings to brand deals, via how to deal with trolls and originality on YouTube.
At the start of the year, a string of high-profile YouTubers managed by Gleam Futures announced that they wouldn’t be attending Summer in the City 2015. At the time, it appeared to be a decision made in favour of Gleam’s own event Amity Fest, which ultimately didn’t take place in 2015. The fallout on social media prompted TenEighty to look at the driving forces behind YouTube gatherings, and ask what the notion of a ‘YouTube community’ really is.
That feature showed how UK YouTube events developed from small meet-ups in parks to massive-scale conventions, and how business and ethics play into that. We spoke to Tom Burns (the founder of Summer in the City), Dominic Smales (MD and founder of Gleam Futures), as well as fans who have attended YouTube events for many years.
To coincide with LGBTQ+ History Month, we released a three-part feature exploring what it means to be gay on YouTube. The series asked whether being gay affects your YouTube content, aimed to explain what Queer-baiting on YouTube is, and also asked why some YouTubers remain in the closet.
All three parts were illuminated by quotes from Gary C, Trent Owers and Luke Shayler, and Lewis Parker, along with snippets from videos and social media on the topic. The third part, on closeted YouTubers, received particular attention from YouTube fandoms due to an anonymous quote from a YouTuber explaining why they weren’t yet out to their audience.
In April, we spoke to some of the internet’s most renowned and beloved animators, from internet royalty such as Jonti ‘Weebl’ Picking and the creator of Salad Fingers David Firth, to the younger generation currently making waves such as Ed Stockham and Matt Ley. They told us how changes made to YouTube’s search algorithm in 2012 had affected their careers, and even endangered the viability of their profession.
Speaking to Dodie Clark, Lucy Moon, and Hazel Hayes, we took on haters and trolls in May. The feature explored the various options online content creators have in managing, responding to, or curating the nastier comments people leave on their videos.
Following a video posted by US-based filmmaker Casey Neistat which alluded to copy-cat behaviour on YouTube (which many speculated was referencing Jack Harries), we explored the idea of originality on YouTube.
And in December, we looked at brand deals and the culture around them. We spoke to Tom Ridgewell, Lex Croucher and Evan Edinger, as well as professionals working within the industry such as Lucy Chaloner from NVC UK, Elliot Willis and Riyad Barmania from ChannelFlip, and Ben White from NMCN.
When the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that creators must adequately disclose when videos were part of a paid sponsorship, the fallout spread across the later half of 2015. Many fans of YouTube became suspicious of creators they previously trusted, and our feature aimed to explain the industry behind it.
2015 was also the year when TenEighty took a closer look at other platforms and services that targeted online video creators and their fans. From the exclusivity of Vessel (which we called the conceptual love child of YouTube and Netflix) to Vimeo On Demand (who believe they are the best service to support creators), it appeared YouTube as the primary video platform was under threat.
As well as those platforms we looked at Unbound, a crowdfunding service for budding authors, as well as Victorious, a company that builds tailored apps. Both were looking to interest online creators in their services.
Ten years of YouTube
This round-up of 2015 cannot ignore the fact that YouTube celebrated a milestone birthday during the year. While many media outlets began announcing it in February, YouTube stayed tight-lipped about when the celebration would be (trust us, we know, we were bugging them).
On May 1, they announced they’d be running an A-Z guide spanning 26 days. This culminated at the end of the month with the release of a star-studded video and an infographic of the A-Z.
Alongside this, TenEighty held its own celebrations. We shared ten fun facts you never knew about YouTube, we listened to Radio 1’s special documentary on YouTube and shared our thoughts, and we also produced an alternative A-Z that pertained more to the UK YouTube community.
However, our crowning jewels were when we picked out ten moments from the UK YouTube community’s long history that we believed were turning points, from Charlie’s first viral video, and Dan Howell and Phil Lester‘s appointment as Radio 1 hosts, to Louise Pentland‘s YouTube Culture video. But it also featured moments often forgotten these days, such as 2008’s Upstaged competition, 2009’s ChartJackers music video, and Myles Dyer‘s StickAid, an annual charity fundraiser which no longer takes place.
It’s important to remember all of these moments, because they mark key milestones in the creation and shaping of the UK YouTube community as we know it today. While the scale and culture of YouTube has evolved rapidly, without the people and events covered in that feature, we wouldn’t have what we do now.
Celebrating YouTubers big and small
We’ve always tried our hardest to shine a light on content creators of all sizes, and this is shown through our commitment to the Weekly Round-Up, a column which pulls five videos from the week before, some of which come from those with smaller audiences.
We also love looking at video trends taking place through our column Five of the Best. Some of our favourites this year were Letters To Yourself, Big Collaborations, Anthems By YouTubers, Body Image, Short Films, Celebrity Collaborations and YouTubers Telling It Like It Is.
On the bigger end of the scale, we must admit that we went all-out when it came to celebrating the release of Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures. We kicked things off with ten things you need to know about Oscar’s Hotel, and then we got the scoop on the new character announcements at Summer in the City ahead of time.
When the series began, we released two features. The first looked at the team behind the series, interviewing Sophie Newton, Louis Grant, and Jamie Swarbrick. The second looked at the cast, interviewing Chris Kendall, Mitchell Davis, Jack Howard, Anna Akana, and Olan Rogers. These features were accompanied by PJ’s cover interview and our Vimeo On Demand article.
But our big ‘hurrah’ came with the launch of the TenEighty Shortlist. To coincide with YouTube’s tenth birthday, we hunted for ten creators with fewer than 15,000 subscribers that we believed deserved a bigger audience. We then did a spotlight on each of their channels as well as interviewing them.
Through this we uncovered the likes of Lois Lillian, Jake Dunn, Ewan McIntosh, Maddie Sinclair, Sam-E Locock, Ellis Anastasiades, Jake Shiels, Francesca Georgiou, Adam Russell and Chloe Dungate. They are all brilliant creators and we strongly advise you check them out, by either reading their individual interviews (just click on their name) or reading this wrap-up feature.
A year of projects
A lot of YouTubers embarked on new projects in 2015, be it a short film, a music release, a TV appearance, a performance on stage, or (*sigh*) a book being published. TenEighty made sure we caught up with creators big and small to find out more.
At the screening of Paul Neafcy‘s Phillip Human series in March, we caught up with Liam Dryden and Matt Ley. Both gave the series a glowing review and congratulated Paul on this breakthrough achievement.
In June, we spoke to Calum McSwiggan who was about to launch a month of collaborations with notable people within the LGBTQ+ community. The series featured the likes of diver Tom Daley and drag queen Willam Belli.
In the same month, we spoke to Chris Bingham who was crowdsourcing money for his next record Pathfinder, as well as Jimmy Hill and Charlie McDonnell about their new channel and series Cereal Time.
In July, Pete Bucknall revealed he’d been cast in the Warwickshire production of Godspell, and we spoke to him about his stage debut. And later that month, Luke Cutforth told us about his venture into filmmaking with The Drowning of Arthur Braxton.
In September, we caught up with Bertie Gilbert to talk about the release of Blue Sushi, his short film which featured a trans* narrative. Meanwhile, Stuart Ashen broke a crowdfunding record for his book Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of, and we chatted to him to find out more.
It was also a busy month for Bethan Leadley, who discussed her 4Music presenting job and her new EP. Chloe Dungate spoke to us about her Uganda trip to raise money for Save The Children, on which Bethan accompanied her.
October was a truly busy month for YouTuber projects. Jaack Dean announced he would be hosting his own radio show on Fubar Radio. We caught up with Emily Diana Ruth about her New Form Digital-commissioned film Cold. Niki and Sammy Albon told us about the #YTStandsUpToCancer charity fundraiser they were hosting. And as he embarked on his book tour for Art Is Dead, we spoke to Tom Ridgewell.
But for us, the highlight of October came from Mawaan Rizwan, whose BBC Three documentary How Gay Is Pakistan? saw him investigate LGBTQ+ communities in a heavily religious and often homophobic country.
In December, Marcus Butler and Niomi Smart announced the release of SourcedBox, a monthly subscription box filled with healthy snacks. We spoke to Max Head-Lee, the Head of Operations, about the duo’s new venture.
And finally, we spoke to Jamie Pine about his appearance in Rich Kids Go Shopping, a documentary which will premiere on Channel 4 in the new year.
News that stood out
Running news is a big duty, and throughout 2015 we’ve covered a lot of ground. Looking back, it’s tricky to pull out just a few stand-out moments, but we do have a few that we believe are worth mentioning.
Tom Cassell from TheSydicateProject raised over £163,000 for Motor Neurone Disease in January, while February saw the announcement of the second round of creators to have projects funded by New Form Digital. Emily Diana Ruth, Benjamin Cook and Jack Howard and Dean Dobbs made the cut, and their films were released in June.
Probably the biggest news story we broke in 2015 was that YouLive boss James Yeates had been jailed for fraud in May. The network boss was heavily involved in a crowdfunding film project with Jaack Dean and Mazzi Maz at the time, although this was not connected to his conviction.
In August, the Advertising Standards Authority announced new rules for vloggers. The new guidelines stated that it must be clear if a video is an advert. We spoke about the ruling with Emma Blackery, who at the time didn’t believe these guidelines were beneficial.
In October, the announcement of ad-free subscription-based service YouTube Red was met with varying opinions. For a while, there was conflicting information, with US-based network Fullscreen making claims that YouTubers wouldn’t receive payment for views accumulated during the first month’s free trial.
This was later contested by YouTube. However, creators such as Jonti ‘Weebl’ Picking and Tom Ridgewell told TenEighty that they still believed there were major issues with the service.
November saw YouTube make a bold move, as they announced they would be defending creators’ rights to fair use, both financially and legally. While for now this is in the interest of a handful of US-based creators, it’ll be interesting to see if more of this sort of intervention will take place next year.
While the majority of the UK YouTube community had attempted to leave him behind last year, Sam Pepper catapulted himself back into our consciousness. His Killing Best Friend Prank video drew criticism from some of the UK’s most notable creators.
It led to petitions for his removal from YouTube, as well as a fracas with a group identifying themselves as hacker collective Anonymous. Despite many mainstream outlets reporting on it, Anonymous later clarified that they “don’t take down any media, that’s censorship”, and disassociated themselves from the Twitter account that made the threat.
What about Zoella?
Of course it wouldn’t quite be a round-up of the year if Zoe Sugg wasn’t included, so here are some (quick) highlights. In February, the Daily Mail published an article about the location of Zoe’s new home, which prompted widespread criticism from the community.
That same month, it was announced she’d be appearing in Comic Relief’s Great British Bake Off special. Zoe didn’t win Star Baker, losing out to Gok Wan, but her appearance on the show gave us lots to write about.
Later in the year, Zoe and Alfie Deyes were recreated as waxworks, which were unveiled at London’s Madame Tussauds, while tickets for the Girl Online: On Tour book-signing events sold out in under five minutes.
2015 saw us cover some smaller events such as Suli Breaks’ intimate London gig to Hannah Witton‘s #UndressYourMind meet-up at the Wellcome Collection, as well as some major events such as #YTStandsUpToCancer 2015, BrandCast 2015, and VidFest at MCN Comic Con in May and October.
We even took our first trip overseas to attend Buffer Festival 2015 in Toronto, Canada. This was the first time we’d ever done anything like this, and it was great to give our UK audience a glimpse of an event many of them don’t get to attend.
However, our highlight is always Summer in the City. Not only is it the event where we sell our annual physical magazine, but it’s a golden opportunity for us to get as much coverage as possible of all the creators we love.
In total we covered 29 panels across the event, all of which were put live on our website within hours of them happening. This came alongside news stories, and our photo recaps of each day — Friday (Creator Day), Saturday and Sunday.
Some of the panels we think you should check out are the Smaller YouTubers panel (as it highlighted upcoming creators), the Ethnicity and Diversity panel (as it was the first time the subject had been tackled at SitC), the Creator/Viewer Divide panel (as it’s still very much an issue at the forefront of the community), the Networks panel (because there was a bit of dirt-throwing!), and the Let’s Talk About Sex panel (because… well, it was controversial and panned by the creators who took part).
But of course, our personal highlights were the panels which featured our Co-Editors. Alex J Brinnand chaired the Coming Out on YouTube panel, while Teoh Lander-Boyce chaired the Ethics & Creator Responsibility panel as well as the #YouTubeHonestHour Panel, the latter of which was dubbed “the best panel of Summer in the City”, but we would say that, wouldn’t we? *gloat*
Having a bit of fun
This year we decided to launch a new section called Pulse. This was designed to show off TenEighty’s fun side. And boy have we done that. Maybe a little bit too much, tbh.
Whether it was listing 13 TV shows that should have YouTubers in them, sharing our observations from YouTube Rewind 2015, or simply naming nine places we never thought we’d see Alfie Deyes’ face, we just wanted to make you giggle. (Please tell us you giggled, we tried so hard…)
But there were two articles in particular that really captured the imagination of the community, as we did some fantasy casting, putting our favourite YouTubers in popular TV series — imagining them first as Game of Thrones characters, then as Hunger Games characters.
Both were a lot of fun to write and we loved how everyone responded. Although, as Daniel J. Layton and Hazel Hayes pointed out in a video inspired by our Hunger Games article, we do have a bit of a problem with typecasting Hazel. We thought that was our in-joke with her? D:
And it wasn’t just us having fun, it was those YouTubers too. Showing off all their pictures all the bloody time. We recapped them using the Snapchat update, having fun on Halloween, and showing off on the red carpet of films such as Spectre and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Lucky bunch.
The fandoms got honest
And finally! We reckon one of the biggest things to take away from 2015 is the way fans of YouTube spoke up to air their views. There were several occasions when either #YouTubeHonestyHour or #YouTubeFandomHonestHour was trending on Twitter.
To that end, it’s really important everyone has a little read and reflects on the following articles:
- 9 Things We Learned From #YouTubeHonestyHour
- 7 Things #YouTubeFandomHonestyHour Taught Us
- #YouTubeHonestyHour Panel at Summer in the City 2015
- 11 More Things #YouTubeFandomHonestyHour Taught Us
And hello 2016. We’re still going to be here, doing what we do. Will you still be watching and reading? We hope so. Thanks for another amazing year, and here’s to the next one! *cheers emoji*