Over the holidays, a last minute trip cancelation left me with a lot of time to sit on my couch, and catch up on some reading. Apologies to my neglected Kindle, but instead of reading, I found myself watching a lot of YouTube. An unhealthy amount of YouTube most normal people might say. As I spent time watching multiple videos from a variety of creators, I would look them up, to try and learn more about their story, to better understand how they amassed their followings, and what led them to what increasingly feels like the goal for many young people today, internet fame.
For many of YouTube’s biggest creators, from studying their origin stories began to emerge a unifying thread, many of them built their early audiences on Vine. Vine proved to be a fertile ground for talented people to create , to experiment, to iterate, and to collaborate. I believe so many first-time creators got their start on Vine because the platform’s design encouraged it. Six second looping videos created on mobile provided the necessary constraints, but also a wide enough door for anyone with an idea, a personality, and a level of confidence to participate.
Think about what starting a YouTube channel looks like today. The bar for production quality is incredibly high. People expect videos to be at least a few minutes long. Creating something that will go viral almost always requires real planning, production chops, editing skills, and a budget. This is possible for creators who already have an audience and resources, but excludes almost anyone else. Starting a YouTube channel has never been easier, but building an audience has arguably never been more difficult. Contrast this with the experience for creators on Vine a few years ago, or more recently on Musically/TikTok. I believe that lowering the bar for creation, and allowing the best stuff to be discovered by more people provides more newcomers the opportunity to build a real audience for their content.
The internet has shown us that incredibly funny, creative, and talented people are everywhere, not just on stages, movie screens, or on our televisions. By bypassing many of the traditional gatekeepers of entertainment, we have seen an entirely new class of celebrity emerge. I think the next step is for new products and services to think about how can they enable a greater number of people to create, and then empower the ones who are succeeding to continue creating by building a path for creators to monetize their efforts. A lot of opportunity still exists to do better here.