The Popularity vs Integrity panel happened on Saturday at Summer in the City 2016. It featured creators such as Sammy Paul, Mikey Murphy, and Savannah Brown. It was led by Liam Dryden. Over the course of the discussion, panellists explored growth on YouTube, compromising content, and more.
To start, Liam had the panellists introduce themselves and give their personal definition of what they thing integrity means. Although the answers varied a bit, the main consensus was that integrity is a case-by-case situation that at its core is about being true to yourself and what you believe in.
Quickly, the conversation turned to the path of finding integrity. All the panellists bar Sammy admitted that, when they initially started their channels, they played more into the YouTube click game rather than creating content they really wanted to be making. Because of that, many found the transition between content styles to be a bit murky.
“It can be really tricky if you get to a point where you have an audience built around you and what you’re expected to make,” said Savannah. “It can be very difficult to get out of that sort of downward spiral.”
Bertie Gilbert bounced off of that point, disagreeing a bit, by saying, “I think from the very beginning, even if you were making challenge videos or something, if at that point you were honest and real, your audience will understand that. I think people that go into a downward spiral, it’s because they don’t gain the trust of their viewers so when they make a change, their viewers are like, ‘Well, we don’t care about this guy so why should we stick with him?'”
“Yes,” agreed Savannah. “It’s all about transparency.”
Mikey, who has most recently overcome this exact hurdle, said that he found integrity in his work when he settled on a place somewhere in the middle. “I had a talk with my friend about this and he sort of said, ‘You need to find a happy medium’, If you don’t care about what your viewers want to see than you’re not playing the game and you need to participate. If it’s just for you, then you can’t expect something out of it. You can cater to your audience in a way, but also like what you’re making. An example would be Casey Neistat. He’s making videos that are vlogs, in a really original way, but his videos are still clickable.”
Although Liam did have a few direct questions, this discussion continued on pretty organically into a wider conversation about views and business. Because, of course, with popularity comes money.
“I guess what I find interesting is: Does the business side have to bleed into your videos?” proposed Sammy, bringing into discussion the idea that views equals success. “I think that sometimes it’s more about whose eyes are on it rather than how many eyes on it.
“There is something to be said about getting hundreds of thousands of views on every video, but who is watching that? It’s most likely a younger crowd. So, although we’re not getting millions and millions of views and the paycheque isn’t coming out of the AdSense, instead people are saying, ‘Hm, that’s interesting’, and then off the back of that we get funding for our films. So far, I have been able to get by with making things that aren’t getting as many views but making sure that when I do, its something that I’m so excited to share. Although I absolutely agree that if you’re in the position where you want to be making money off it, then there is some give and some compromise to be made.”
To wrap up the panel, Liam opened the floor to a Q&A session where two audience members asked very interesting questions. The first was whether the panellists, as creators who have a certain image or persona online, ever turned down a collaboration.
To the shock of the audience, Jamie Jo answered that at one time she had to shut down a collaboration because the other party wanted sexual favours in return. Luke Korns added that he only says no to collaboration if he thinks the content is stupid or petty – for example, anything involving marshmallows.
The second question centered around integrity of “offline” projects like YouTuber books. Bertie pointed out that although there are instances where YouTubers didn’t have much input or had their project ghostwritten, it’s a book-by-book situation and people shouldn’t make those assumptions until they’ve read the book.
Photos by Aria Mark.
Want more from Summer in the City 2016?
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