The Working For YouTube Channels panel took place on the Friday at Summer in the City 2017. It was moderated by OutsideXtra’s Ellen Rose, and featured Chloe Dungate from Draw My Life, Rob Pearson and Nathan Ditum from PlayStation Access, and Brandon Ralph, the head of a company that creates behind-the-scenes content for multiple channels.
Based in Panel Room B, the panellists discussed the differences between creating your own content and working for another channel, as well as how skills learned from the YouTube community can appeal to potential employers.
Ellen started off by simply asking what it is like to create videos for a company’s channel, to which Chloe stated that it tends to be more bureaucratic. She went on to mention that in earlier jobs for large channels, even small elements such as the fonts for a video would need to be signed off on, but her current job at Draw My Life is more relaxed. Overall, she stated that it was a different feel, but a fun one – “Bureaucracy – woo!”
Rob continued by saying that his and Nathan’s relationship with Sony evolved over four to five years, and they are now seen as far more trustworthy, which he deemed “crucial” when running such a channel. He admitted it could be tough to have to go through approval processes, but felt it was necessary – as Nathan said, “Letting a bunch of idiots go and make videos on the internet without people approving and watching it would be ridiculous.”
The discussion continued with Ellen stating her belief that big companies tend to trust the creators they work with, as they filter out people they don’t trust at the application stage. Brandon, who sees his company as a middle ground between companies and creators, concluded with his observation that the bigger the company, the more “internal bureaucracy”.
The next question involved people’s approach to making videos for another channel, to which Chloe stressed the importance of teamwork – as someone who had only ever made videos solo before, she suddenly had to deal with co-hosts and a producer, and had a “learning curve” around cooperating with others. She also mentioned that the approach usually involves more research and is largely “more professional than I otherwise would be ever”.
A large portion of the panel was based around the importance of personalities to a branded channel’s success. Nathan stated that brands “cannot be the star of a channel”, and that he thought these channels needed to find talented presenters who were also able to connect with the product. Chloe agreed, mentioning that initially Draw My Life had no plans to be personality-based, but that they moved in that direction after viewers responded positively to a weekly series of her and co-host Noor narrating over news stories – even going to far as to ship the narrators. She believes that audiences want to “see past the brand” and find personality in whatever they watch. Brandon quoted Google research that stated that the best way to promote a product via YouTube is to build stories and personalities around it.
Ellen agreed with the panel, stating that it is a big mistake for brands to think they can change presenters overnight and have viewers be happy. She gave the example of SourceFedNERD, who left many viewers unhappy when they attempted to rebrand their channel with a completely new presenting team. While Rob agreed with everyone else, he also stressed that presenters do need to move on eventually and that brands can need to “regenerate, like the Doctor”. Nathan asked which Doctor he would be, to which Rob, forgetting their names, simply replied “…Doctor Seven.”
The final question revolved around how everyone on the panel obtained their roles. Chloe said that after spending three years working as a waitress in London and working on her personal channel, she realised she had picked up a large amount of skills that would look good on a CV. Brandon continued by stating that simply by being 17 years old, and therefore part of many brands’ target demographic, he found people were interested in what he had to offer, to the point where he somewhat considered university unnecessary for people of his age. Ellen mentioned how in her previous marketing job she was “the YouTube person”, and that even showing you have just a few thousand subscribers slows employers you are capable of building an audience.
Following this, Ellen opened the floor to questions from the audience. One audience member disagreed with Brandon’s feelings on university, to which he elaborated that he felt the value of a degree was decreasing, and that in an industry such as marketing people didn’t necessarily need one. Chloe responded by saying that for many it is a good opportunity to have a lot of free time, and be able to put hours into their channel, stating that she never would have gotten into YouTube if not for university. The same audience member asked if the panellists felt YouTube was coming “full circle” with brands being trusted more. Rob told the crowd he felt like any change was more due to brands being savvier and becoming more aware of how to market on YouTube than any change on YouTube’s part, while Ellen mentioned that one major change has been the increase in transparency when YouTubers are making a promotional video.
Finally, the panellists were asked if any of their employers had been affected by the recent “adpocalypse”. Chloe stated that while AdSense is becoming a less viable source of income for creators anyway, it definitely affected “everyone at every scale”, mentioning that even multi-channel networks like Draw My Life are searching for alternate sources. She mentioned that at one point, before the reasons for the revenue drop were clear, the channel had begun to change their content and make it more “clickbait-y” in response, which she was unhappy about. “So… oh dear, basically.”
Photos by George Yonge.
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