Mixing with the mainstream

You probably definitely absolutely know the people at the top of this blog. If you don’t recognise them by face, you might by name: Zoe Sugg & Alfie Deyes – AKA Zoella & PointlessBlog – the biggest YouTube stars in the UK.

Between them they have over 3.5million followers on Twitter and over 8million YouTube subscribers – that’s more subscribers than Red Bull, Coca Cola, Apple, BBC Radio 1 and Russell Brand (plus many more) combined.

It’s been fascinating to see the rise of the YouTube star really take off over the last 6 months, and to see how that online stardom interacts with the mainstream media.

The main question being: is mainstream gonna get ya?

The situation

In the last 6 months, we’ve seen vloggers move from YouTube into mainstream media, attracting attention for their huge viewership and following of daily vlogs, we’ve seen people talk about their ‘brand’ and what ‘influence’ they have over an often thought as disengaged younger generation that are no longer watching TV or listening to radio in traditional ways – an opportunity to re-engage that audience in a more tangible way than a series of well targeted promoted tweets, it looks like. Brands have been asking ‘how can we use this potential?’ some have succeeded, and others haven’t.

I’ve been aware of these vlogs, but never really paid much attention. It’s somewhere I typically go to find things I need, rather than watch things daily, but when BBC Radio 1 invited them to their Radio 1 Teen Awards to present, and win awards, after all their work around their YouTube channel, video and generally engaging that younger demographic, that’s when I started to pay a little more interest – and so it seems did the mainstream media.

YouTube are even using Zoella as the face of their brand in their most recent UK television advertising campaign. Let’s think about that again – the face of a $40 billion company.

Flash forward a couple of months to last week; Zoella released her debut novel ‘Girl Online’, and in the days following that we’ve read stories that Zoella is ‘quitting the internet’ because of the backlash received to having a ghost writer on the book. Don’t worry anyone, Zoella is not quitting the internet, she tweeted so herself.

So how has it come to this? I think the mix of social and mainstream media, especially with talent, has been a fascinating one so far.

We only have to throw back a few months to Dapper Laughs with ITV and his eventual BBC Newsnight interview – which was previewed as an exclusive on social media, creating huge buzz. What we saw there was something that was working very well on social platforms (however much we thought it shouldn’t) – a large following of a well engaged, reactive and hard to reach demographic online and ITV wanted a piece of that for ITV2, the first of my knowledge to try bringing a social media star to mainstream broadcast television (BBC Radio 1 brought YouTubers Dan & Phil to their station) and see if that audience transfers. As we all know, it didn’t – and with that wider exposure, so too came the backlash that caused the eventual – and inevitable – demise of Dapper Laughs.

So how does this relate to the recent backlash to Zoella’s book? Mainstream. Mainstream, obviously, opens up your ‘thing’ to more people. People that don’t get the appeal of YouTubers (not sure I do), that don’t like what they are doing, don’t understand it, don’t actually care and even those that do care that this ‘non-news’ is being reported in the mainstream media and really don’t like it. No longer are they just surrounded by 8million people who like to watch a day in someone else’s life in 15 minute(ish) videos, or watch a guessing game with custard-pie-in-the-face-consequences if you’re wrong (actually, that one was quite good).

Mainstream appears to be a lot more nasty, opening people up to speculation, rumour and ridicule that seems less controllable than it does on something like YouTube – you don’t own that channel like you do your YouTube channel.

So is the mix right so far?

Who knows. I don’t. It’s unchartered territory – someone has to lay down a path, and who can say if you’re doing it wrong if no-one has done it before? We’ll have to wait and see if the stardom can be sustained and transferred to mainstream in the long term.

When so much emphasis is being put on the fact that these stars are able to reach people that are otherwise unreachable, as well as emphasis on native advertising, native marketing and native content – speaking to people in places they have chosen like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – I find it fascinating to watch those that are bigger than anyone else in those spheres mixing with the mainstream. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

What are your thoughts? Do you think social and mainstream media should mix – or is everything now just media? I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think will be the next steps.

Leave your comment below or tweet me @willdotbarker.

photo : screen grab of youtube video

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