Influence and power in the age of the YouTube celebrity

comicbookgirl19

YouTube celebrities – like comicbookgirl19 above – are the fastest growing media stars of our age, yet a group much of the mainstream media seems utterly unaware of. There’s an interesting piece arguing that female YouTube celebrities have greater influence amongst viewers than traditional celebrities, because they’re seen as having more agency – more control over their own image and business:

The reason being, the way a YouTube star will approach social media is fundamentally different from the way a mainstream celebrity like Taylor Swift is going to approach their Instagram account or social media. The mainstream celebrity is using social media as just another platform to project the same images, ideas and positioning, whereas the YouTube stars and digital influencers are using social media as an inherent part of theirDNA. If the fundamental flaw from the get-go is the positioning of that celebrity and whether that celebrity’s positioning is actually credible or authentic, it doesn’t matter on how many different platforms you express that positioning; it is not going to make much of a difference.

It makes an interesting counterpoint to Alanis Morissette’s reflection on Jagged Little Pill after 20 years – and how she struggled to keep her own voice within the traditional celebrity system:

But my growing desire to write in the no-holds-barred way that I now dwell in was being discouraged…under the guise that “no one wants to hear this from you, not the least of whom is your manager.” Oh. I wasn’t aware that I was writing my songs and expressing myself to make sure my manager was happy. Perhaps my burgeoning sexuality and coming-of-age were being made evident through the imagery in videos I started to shoot — nothing wildly gratuitous, but an indication of the sorts of places I wanted to further explore in my art, in my music.

I suspect the creative limitations of the next generation won’t be about managers or labels, but about necessary ways of behaving to get the reach and eyeballs needed to keep their publishing platforms working in their favour.

I wonder how long before we see a YouTube celeb release their own app for the new Apple TV?