When three PayPal employees started a video-sharing website from a small apartment above a Japanese restaurant, they probably had no idea of the scale of the movement they had started. Founded in 2005, by 2007 YouTube was estimated to use as much bandwidth as the entire World Wide Web did in 2000, at a projected cost of $1 million a day. From origins as an angel-funded enterprise, funded by strategic investors, to being taken over by tech giant Google, many of us have been able to chart the rise of the site simply because it grew so quickly. By 2013, YouTube would regularly see upwards of 1 billion users per month. How has a service that is less than fifteen years old cornered such a huge and diverse market?
In spite of some of the mind-boggling statistics, the origin story and growth isn’t what springs to mind when we think of YouTube. The connotations we have centre around the contributors the site could not survive without – its inspired content producers. No television channel would have captured ‘Charlie Bit My Finger,’ or that Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger. No radio station would ever have delivered us Gangnam Style, The Lonely Island or Weird Al Yankovic. Indeed, no record label would have shown us as much audio and visual content from our favourite musicians. YouTube is a home for artists, comedians, dancers, gamers, cooks, designers, reviewers, competitive eaters and until his recent passing, one very grumpy cat.
You would think, then, that every use to which YouTube can be put has been done already, that no original content appears on the site anymore and we are all just indoctrinated slaves to the subscriber-hogs like PewDiePie and Dude Perfect, as well as the legion of celebrities who still actively post to their respective channels. The fact is though, vlogging (‘video-blogging,’ to the uninitiated) has never been more popular and YouTube users are finding more and more niche subjects to create content about. There is no reason why specialist content should be any less popular than that which has gone before it. Let’s face it, PewDiePie mostly just reviews popular memes, and he is YouTube’s top-ranked star.
Should you wish to make the jump to YouTube stardom, it is just a case of finding one such niche that has so far gone unexplored. It might be that you have the talent that users are always searching for and can never find. It might be that you are so wacky that people will watch you whatever it is you happen to be doing! Either way, finding a niche is the best way to start, whether you are creating videos for fun or potentially as a business. Let’s examine a few of the underused subjects that could form the basis of your channel.
The alternative gamer
Gamers are some of the most popular stars on YouTube, so this is a good place to start. Though many competitive gamers are turning to Twitch to stream their sessions, a large number still use YouTube to upload more casual content, recorded gameplay and live action features. Whether you prefer funny Fifa videos by KSI, crazy Grand Theft Auto stunts by Sanflix or even retro gaming from the likes of the Angry Video Game Nerd, there is a whole host of content for fans of popular game franchises. Some of it (most, if we’re being honest) involves funny game glitches, overzealous competitions and highlighting silly features, while other channels do offer candid, serious reviews and opinions on the games of today and yesterday.
One new angle that needs to be taken advantage of is iGaming, which is rapidly growing in popularity in the UK. This industry is now one of the main providers of adult gaming services and features a wide range of online casino suites, bingo games, live poker tables and sportsbook betting. These games treat users to VIP content, a range of free gameplay options and have daily jackpots to be won. Unearthing the secrets of these games in their huge variety could be a great way to earn subscribers to your channel. By streaming your own progress, you could help influence the play-strategy of this generation of iGamers by sharing your success and by pointing out where you went wrong so that others do not make the same mistakes. Featuring your favourite casino or bingo games will only increase their popularity among players.
A collaborative effort
If the YouTube community relies on one thing, it is collaboration between talented producers. Channels that have produced great quality content from a roster of different artists and creators, such as Jamal Edwards’ SBTV, have seen huge success. What else could be done with the model of collaborating with other artists?
Running a form of competition between YouTubers from different backgrounds might be an interesting place to start. The popular TV show Taskmaster pits comedians against each other in a series of bizarre challenges, and it might be an amusing spectacle to organise a similar contest featuring the likes of Zoella or Logan Paul. Popular YouTubers have great screen presence and would be a great draw to your channel, but it could be costly to feature such high-profile stars from the off.
Seeking out up-and-coming YouTubers may be a more sensible place to start. Different people with niche talents, such as musicians, artists and poets, could feature to spread the word about their material and gain more followers for themselves, while more and more viewers will be attracted to the diversity of your content.
Reasons for collaboration can often seem fraught and this is something to watch out for. You don’t want to collaborate for the sake of collaborating and end up as the ‘meta-YouTuber,’ who only has a channel to feature the work of other channels. Try to draw intriguing parallels between features that you find enlightening or interesting before contacting any prospective guest contributors so that you can suggest a theme or an agenda to them that they will relate to. Who knows, they may have further ideas for content that you can use.
Local news and features
The natural home of local news has always been TV and radio. This is because in the past everyone owned a television or radio and relied upon media broadcasters like the BBC to bring them important local and national news stories. But this is not the case anymore. The traditional broadcasters are losing their audience as they struggle to connect with young people, who are more at home with online content.
As we now have our portable devices permanently to hand, podcasts have naturally taken over some current affairs newscasting, with panellists often discussing the more intriguing political or social issues of the day. This is a more streamlined and convenient national news and opinion service than YouTube, but a channel devoted to local features, such as interviews with prominent local people, recorded or live footage of events and features contributed by members of your community, would still have its place.
If you have a journalistic streak about you, you could be the perfect person to provide a snappy, reliable local news reporting service, using video to show more detail than a story on a social media news feed. Subscribers to your channel will likely only be from your area, but they will be a younger generation that relies on YouTube content and will checks back every day. Your news service could cover everything from the opening of a hot new restaurant to promoting local charities and concerns. Offering reviews and recommendations is also a great way to ingratiate yourself to viewers. The best thing about this idea is that there is always potential for expansion to new areas and opportunities for collaboration with local YouTubers.
Becoming a YouTube star relies on very much the same sort of knack that TV and radio personalities have: the ability to talk to and about people in an engaging manner on screen. Whoever our favourite YouTubers may be, the individuals behind the most-subscribed-to channels on the site share a charisma and screen presence that cannot easily be reproduced. If you feel that you have the personality and staying power to make a go of it as a YouTuber, think very carefully about the kind of channel you want to create, the kind of audience you want to appeal to and whether you want to use your channel as a business or as a hobby. All of these factors will affect how you produce your content and how much of it you will need.
Breaking the monopoly of the like-and-subscribe kings is never going to be easy. But if you love what you do enough to persevere, the rewards can still be great.