Hank Green Explains Why You Can’t Make it on YouTube Anymore

hank and john green at vidcon

Hank Green, of the Vlogbrothers, SciShow, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, 2D glasses, and gobs of other stuff, recently wrote “You Can’t Make it on YouTube Anymore (At Least, Not Alone)” for Medium.

You still only have to be just a little bit better than everyone else to get noticed. But a little bit better is getting to be quite a lot — enough that you’re going to have to lay down some cash and some plans before you get started. And maybe you need even more than that. Maybe you need a bump from a big YouTuber or a bit of a marketing budget. And, yeah, maybe all of this is going to require an investment…along with the necessary connections and savvy to acquire and manage that investment.

You see where I’m going here.

What happened, Green notes, is that people started to see YouTube not only as a place to share cool videos, but also as a way to build an audience.

YouTube is a significant piece of Google’s bottom line, Disney has paid some crazy amount of money for MAKER and people want to be YouTube stars. They see it as a thing that you can become, rather than a thing that just happens to you.

So when YouTube became something that could be managed and monetized, the big media companies showed up and they brought their big media money. Or the indie media companies founded and they raised some indie media money.

What Hank Green is getting at is that within a decade, YouTube went from the type of career where you could build your own success if you were interesting and engaging, to the type of career where you either need a lot of resources to start with, or you have to apply for jobs and wait to get picked before you can get access to the resources that you need to succeed.

And, of course, “apply for jobs” is a bit of an incorrect statement. Although I’ve seen some YouTube shows, including ones that Hank Green produces, put out calls for applications, a lot of people that want to start YouTube shows simply work with their friends and usual collaborators. After all, if you were going all-in on an expensive YouTube series, wouldn’t you want to work with people you already know and trust? So the “jobs” aren’t necessarily out there, at least not in a visible way.

And if you’re thinking “well, who cares, it’s YouTube, these kids should get off my lawn and go find real jobs”—well, first, YouTube is pretty real, and second, the YouTube story is like this rapidly accelerated version of what happens in many career fields.

You either have to wait to get picked, or you have to start meeting and working with interesting people long before any of you know about the job you’ll someday all do together.

You can’t make it on YouTube just on your own merits anymore.

For some bonus fun, here’s a video I made during VidCon 2011 (VidCon is the YouTube/online video convention that Hank Green founded), in which I predict that all of this will happen:

Photo credit: Genevieve



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