The Breaking Through to Traditional Media panel took place on Friday at Summer in the City 2018, on the Fashion and Beauty stage. It featured Scola Dondo, Laura Bubble, Joe Tasker and Connie Glynn, and was hosted by TenEighty’s Teoh Lander-Boyce.
The panel featured a range of creators who came from different creative backgrounds and went on to different paths in traditional media. The panellists introduced themselves. First was Scola, a creator of health and fitness videos on YouTube and presenter on CBBC. Next was Laura who makes comedy videos online and is a comedian and a CBBC presenter. Joe made comedy videos on Facebook before moving to YouTube and has just finished a kid’s TV show, and Connie created YouTube videos on her channel Nooderella but said she was “no longer sure about [her] content”. She currently writes books and is moving into acting and theatre.
With the panellists balancing so many different roles, Teoh asked them how they would label themselves. Connie shared that she feels she is a writer first and is a YouTuber on the side. Joe tends to say content creator but noted that “it doesn’t look great on paperwork when you’re trying to get car insurance”. He joked that he sometimes switches it up – occasionally he’ll put down entertainer, comedian, “sometimes ‘actor’ if it’s a Wednesday”.
Laura will change her labels depending on the situation. “If someone wants a comedian – I’m a comedian! If someone wants a YouTuber – I’m a YouTuber!” she said. Scola is starting to say she’s a creator as that’s been the only label she finds that fits most of the time.
Teoh asked the panel if they saw creating online as a stepping stone to where they were now. Connie felt that YouTube was just something she was doing at university. “I had a lot of creative energy and it was the best platform at the time,” she said. “There’s no denying that it helped but it was never the first step.”
With Joe, he found that creating online ended up helping him a lot, even with networking, whilst Laura found everything to be completely an accident. “I started when YouTube was weird and you got picked on if people found out you did YouTube. It was lucky I stuck with it,” she said. Scola said she started her channel at the age of eleven so she had no idea it would lead anywhere.
The panel were then asked when the transition to traditional media began and how they took that first step. Laura had finished her degree and was looking for jobs when she was approached by an agent, which was a big turning point for her as she found that simply having the agent meant people took her seriously. For Scola, she feels that her path has been an accident since leaving school. Unable to get funding for university, she kept making videos and said “I’ve been taking a gap year that’s never ended”.
Joe went to university to study acting and presenting before deciding to take the presenter route. He started posting videos on Facebook and as the change was gradual, he found it hard to pinpoint when things began to change and feels that things are happening now. For Connie, at the end of university, she decided to focus on writing as that was always her dream and was approached by HarperCollins (to which Joe asked “are they the people who wrote the dictionary?”).
Teoh then presented the question: “do you need a manager or PR company to make that jump?” Joe felt that it depended on the journey you want to take, and it can be good to have that support in order to gain more respect. However, both Laura and Scola didn’t feel like having a manager or agent helped. Laura emphasised the importance of focusing on making the content and doing the networking yourself, rather than being obsessed with finding an agent. Scola has struggled to find someone who fully understood her, her personality and how she fits in all the spaces she currently does.
The panel were then asked if they could share what they feel creators need to know if they want to branch out into mainstream media. Scola stressed the importance of knowing who you want to be. “You don’t have to know everything but one thing that’s helped me is that I know my own brand.” Joe agreed, emphasising the importance of finding your passion and going with it. Connie echoed Joe: “It’s important to have faith in the thing you love doing. You have to have faith that the universe will come together.”
“Don’t wait for someone to approach you to start [creating]. Start and, if people want to approach you, you’ll have things ready for them to see,” Scola added. Laura encouraged the audience to be unafraid to ask questions: “Fight the feeling that you have to act like you know everything – if people are judging you, then they’re horrible people. We’re all self-made, we don’t have the training they’ve had.” She also stressed the importance of forming real friendships instead of just professional connections.
Teoh then posed the question “What helps you open doors and are there any barriers creators should be aware of?” Joe noted that he experiences the paradox of wanting to get more presenting experience but needing experience to gain experience. He advised persisting and taking as many opportunities as possible, something Laura expanded on: “So many people get great opportunities but they blow it. They miss deadlines and aren’t professional.” She stressed the importance of maintaining good relationships and a positive reputation for yourself.
Connie warned that “once you start on YouTube, you will be considered a YouTuber for a very long time afterwards,” and that creators may never escape that label. This led to the conversation moving to how traditional media views YouTubers. Connie had strong feelings on the topic: “I think it’s ridiculous – you have a portfolio of work, a great work ethic and you’re building relationships with people – I don’t understand why traditional media frowns on YouTubers.” Joe noted that despite the amount of online creators out there, one person can do something and ruin the reputation of all YouTubers. He alluded to the Logan Paul incident in Japan. “My mum asked me if that’s something I’m doing and I’m like no, I’m not going to Japan!”
Scola pointed out that in the online space, anyone can make it and there are fewer barriers: “Traditional media doesn’t like that”. She feels that, as creators on the internet are from such different backgrounds and not trained on what the industry wants them to be, it becomes harder for creators to break into traditional media. Meanwhile, Laura feels she gets classified as a YouTuber whilst others are introduced as comedians and, when working with companies, she gets passed over to the digital team even when her work has nothing to do with digital. However, Joe was optimistic, feeling that change is coming.
The final question Teoh posed to the panel was: “How do you define success when it comes to traditional media?” Connie and Joe shared that their feelings of success came from the process of creating. Laura believed it was important to feel like she was progressing creatively, rather than plateauing. Scola shared that she struggled to define success for herself, and joked that “when you don’t have any standards then everything’s a success!”
The panel then took questions from the audience. Someone asked if Connie found her writing classed as a “YouTube book”. She shared that she went through different publishing houses as they wanted her to write a book about being a YouTuber until she found Penguin, who were happy to accept her story. She also specifically requested for her book to not be placed in the “YouTube section” in bookstores.
The next question was about whether or not to erase their digital past. Scola hasn’t erased anything, including her old videos, which she believe show her journey. However, she admitted that, as she works in children’s TV, she will be checking herself. She noted how “people are being outed for things they tweeted 10 years ago.” Joe noted that he’s privated three videos as he felt he was trying too hard and putting on a character, but otherwise he’s left all his work public.
Connie feels conflicted – she wants young people to be able to look at her channel and know that she’s also created things in the past that she’s embarrassed about. However, she wants to ensure her channel reflects who she is now. Laura agreed, feeling that there was nothing wrong with erasing past videos, regardless of past behaviour. She compared it to running a shop: “You wouldn’t leave old stock…wouldn’t you rather people find the nice up to date products?”
Teoh then rounded up the discussion by asking the panel what main message they wanted their audience to take away. Scola said “just do something you love and put it out there…The sky’s the limit – don’t set goals as your goals could be too small.” Laura advised to never give up: “Sometimes the work stops and you think you’re going to quit but it never ends up like that – keep a sense of perseverance and positivity”. Joe felt that it was important to find your passion. Connie echoed the panel’s advice: “Do what you love – if you stop loving it, stop doing it”.
Photos by Emma Pamplin.
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