YouTube: “Sell…we mean Broadcast Yourself”

YouTube has prided itself on being the online locus for user generated audiovisual content, adopting the motto “Broadcast Yourself” to further incite user interaction.  With new technologies affording greater filming and editing capabilities, amateurs are not only able but also encouraged to create their own content.  Content can be original in creation, leading to some YouTube stars, while others use existing audiovisual material, creating new pathways for potential fans to learn about a product, band, company or television series.  Media companies understand this possibility but find that it does not outweigh the benefits of matching distributive content with target marketing.  This leads companies to choose how to monitor their content and this choice could potential effect future Internet stars.

With the increase of contracts made with YouTube, companies are exploring the ways in which they are able to exert greater control over the representation of their content.  If YouTube users use their content in radical ways, viewers with no prior knowledge of the companies misconstrue their message.  In order to combat these issues, these companies enforce strict copyright laws to ensure that their content isn’t used in a negative light.  If “the concern about YouTube is that user generated content might not fit the dictate of advertising culture as closely as the forms of mainstream commercial media content…” then companies will either create their own interactive content sites, as was the case with Hulu, or chose to restrict their content online (Andrejevic 414).  If companies are pulling their focus off of YouTube, then what happens those users who are attempting to be “discovered” via their YouTube content?

Liam Kyle Sullivan, famous for portraying Kelly in several YouTube Music Videos

Liam Kyle Sullivan, famous for portraying Kelly in several YouTube Music Videos

YouTube has seen users and channels take their popularity and transform it into full-fledge careers, with these chosen individuals being valued more on their marketability than their content.  Since “YouTube’s visitors are largely concentrated in the world’s most economically developed nations,” they are users that have both the ability to access advanced technology and are absorbed by media rife with amateur works (Eriskon and Wasko 383).  The link between amateur and star is ever present and even more of a possibility, creating a culture of selling one’s self for fame.   If user’s want to get noticed by media companies, then they must be willing to sell themselves as a cultural object that can easily be identified with a product or commodity.  The problem with this suggestion is that user’s must flatten out their content to meet the standards of attracting the audience at the most basic level.  Not only does this create a mass population of users all selling the same gimmick, but is in direct contrast to YouTube’s own self purported motto of “Broadcast Yourself.”  YouTube functioned well because it offered fringe entertainment, covered topics less visible in traditional broadcast media.  If there is a shift towards “Selling Yourself” rather than “Broadcasting Yourself,” then content may become uniform or bland and YouTube may end up losing its users.

 

Andrejevic, Mark. “Exploiting YouTube: Contradictions of User-Generated Labor.” The YouTube Reader. Ed. Pelle Snickards and Patricia Vonderau. Stockholm: National Library of Sweden, 2009. 406-423

Erikson, Mary and Janet Wasko. “The Political Economy of YouTube.” The YouTube Reader. Ed. Pelle Snickards and Patricia Vonderau. Stockholm: National Library of Sweden, 2009: 372-385

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