The Smaller YouTubers panel took place on Sunday at Summer in the City 2016. It featured creators such as Sam Saffold-Geri, Will Carne, and Orla Ainsworth. It was chaired by Mary Akemon.
The panel took place in Panel Room 1 and also featured Ellie Wilkinson, Theo Ogden, and Aiesha Ijewere. The panellists were all chosen from an application process, except for Orla, who was picked from the audience.
The panel began by talking about success on YouTube, and how it can be hard to see beyond numbers of likes, comments, and subscribers. Mary‘s first question to the panellists was how they personally measure success.
“Everybody wants to quantify it in numbers,” said Sam. However, he added that he prefers to look at the comments and see people’s responses to his videos. “I don’t have to just put something out and ignore it, it can be a continuing discussion.”
Ellie referred to an obsession with numbers as the “viewing game”, saying, “I have fallen victim to YouTube count, regardless of how many massive YouTubers say ‘don’t play it'”. Ellie creates content on mental health, particularly documenting her recovery from anorexia. “I wondered, ‘Why aren’t many people wanting to watch it?’,” she said, “but that’s because it’s a niche, and it’s a niche that I like talking about. People who are in the same situation as I am, been through the same stuff as I do, they go and click on it and watch it – and that’s when the views start coming up.”
Questioning the use of the word “success”, Orla said that she’d rather look at is as happiness, saying that, for her, it’s about how she feels after uploading a video, and after receiving positive feedback from viewers. Sam agreed, adding that “it’s so easy to want to define your own success the way most of YouTube would define your success. […] Finding how you find your own success is so much of the pleasure of being here.”
Will corroborated that, saying: “Any friends I have that aren’t in YouTube, their question is always how many subscribers they’ve got. It’s more important that you’re happy with what your content is and what you’re doing.”
The panel had differing opinions when it came to analytics. Ellie shared that she doesn’t understand or look at the analytics at all, and that she believes using algorithms runs counter to the creativity of the platform. “[YouTube is] a creative place where you have the freedom to do what you want to do and make the stuff you want,” she said.
Conversely, Sam said that analytics it could help creatively, explaining that when he looked at audience retention figures, it could help him pinpoint times when his audience figures would drop and whether this matched with a dip in the quality of his content.
Mary then moved the conversation on to talk about communities, and whether the panellists felt that there was still a YouTube community. Ellie said that she found that there were three levels to the community, based on audience success. She felt that there could be more communication and collaboration between these levels.
Orla, however, spoke about the close connection among Irish YouTubers, who all share Facebook group, regardless of popularity. She also mentioned the Irish convention, CraicCon.
Sam then turned to address the audience, saying: “You’re here because you feel like you’re a part of something. You’re not here it see what a certain creator has to say on a certain topic. You’re here to engage in a community, in a community of smaller creators.”
Mary then asked the panel whether there was a pressure as a small creator, with the amount of content there, to upload something unique and creative.
“One great thing about YouTube, that I love, is that you can upload anything you want,” responded Theo. “You can be as creative as you want.”
Aiesha added that although she considers her videos to be mainstream, by putting her own twist on the content she makes it unique: “Everyone has their own type of branding and everyone does things differently.”
The floor was then opened for questions, and one audience member asked whether, given the production value of a lot of the popular content on YouTube, you need to have expensive equipment to create videos.
The panel universally agreed that high-quality equipment was not necessary for engaging content. Although it could, in some cases, make it more enjoyable and easy for a viewer to watch, it could also be detrimental, leading to a reliance on the production quality, rather than the quality of the content. “It’s a really pretty frame. What are you putting in the frame?” said Sam.
As per tradition, the panel concluded with a speech from Summer in the City co-organiser, Jazza John. He began by speaking about the growth of Summer in the City over the years, from its origin as a small gathering in a field, to its current place in the ExCel Centre, “but at the end of the day, we’re a load of nerds with cameras in our bedrooms.”
He went on to add: “The fact that you create completely validates your reason for being online and being on YouTube. You shouldn’t have to feel like you have to grow in order to be successful, and to be worth something in this community.”
Photos by Rachel Kiki.
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- Collaborations Panel at Summer in the City 2016
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