Anthony J. Pennings, PhD

WRITINGS ON DIGITAL STRATEGIES, ICT ECONOMICS, AND GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS

YouTube Meaning-Creating (and Money-Making) Practices

Posted on | February 2, 2020 | No Comments

Note: This is required reading for my Visual Rhetoric and IT class.

Youtube has emerged as the primary global televisual medium, attracting about 1.3 billion viewers from countries around the world with over 5 billion videos watched every day. People suck up some 3.25 billion hours of YouTube videos each month and over ten thousand YouTube videos generated over 1 billion views since they were posted. YouTube contents range from homemade DIY videos to professional high definition television productions.

Alphabet recently announced that YouTube made $15 billion in advertising revenues in 2019, growing 36% over 2018. That is a lot of money to spread around.

YouTube provides opportunities for new publishers or “vloggers” covering a wide range of topics. Every minute, some 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube from all around the world. Not many of those owners get rich but some have done extraordinarily well. Together, the world’s 10 highest-paid YouTube stars made $180 million in the year between June 1, 2017, and June 1, 2018, almost double the year before.

One big star to emerge on YouTube is Daniel Middleton (DanTDM) who made US$18.5 million in 2018. Middleton is an Australian professional gamer, and his videos primarily cover games like Minecraft, Plants vs. Zombies, and other favorite games that DanTDM’s primary audience, young kids, enjoy. Here he reviews the massive hit called Fortnite.

What makes DanTDM’s YouTube videos successful? What does he do to keep the viewer’s interested in his content and what keeps his audience coming back for more? How does he create entertainment and meaning for those who watch his show?

Even more extraordinary is Ryan ToysReview (now called Ryan’s World!). Ryan is a 7-year-old host of the YouTube show and is the top-earning YouTube channel at $22.5 million for the year up to June 1, 2018.

What knowledge can we gather about Ryan’s World!? What observations can we make about his show and other popular channels?

This series of posts will set out to explore a crucial relationship in (digital) media studies – between cultural/technical production practices and the meanings, emotions, and feelings that are produced by those practices. Media production involves a combination of equipment and processes to capture and construct various images, edit sequences, and integrate audio and sound effects to produce specific results. These are the meaning-making techniques that construct our blockbuster movies, our Netflix binge favorites, our local newscasts, and also the YouTube channels that educate and entertain us. Can we use some of the same analytical techniques to “interrogate” YouTube channels?

A good deal of related work has been done on film and television. By exploring camera shots: close-ups, zooms, pans, shot composition, as well as montage: cutting rates, parallel editing, reaction shots, wipes, etc., film studies and even television studies have given us a literacy to understand the power of these mediums. These important meaning-making practices can also be discerned in the realm of YouTube videos.

Social media apps like YouTube present significant new complications in understanding the power of the global mediasphere. One area of concern are the metrics associated with YouTube. Ratings were always a significant part of television services to determine the value of programming. YouTube measures “views” and adds likes, dislikes, shares, play-listing, and subscribers to measure the credibility and commercial viability of a channel. But vulnerabilities in the system allow many of these numbers to be tweaked by the “fake-view” ecosystem that has grown around YouTube.

YouTube has become a new frontier for media studies. The opportunity exists now to pioneer strategies for understanding this intriguing visual medium and the sets of meanings they create. What techniques are used in YouTube “channels?” What types of persuasive techniques are effective on YouTube channels. How do they differ from techniques used in film and television? Who is driving the narration of the video and what voices are they using?

But there are broader issues to address as well. What are the cultural, economic, and social implications of YouTube? What new ideas and cultural forms diffuse via Youtube? What economic activities and opportunities are made available through the platform? What impact will YouTube have on existing institutions?

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AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Technology and Society, State University of New York, Korea. Before joining SUNY, he taught at Hannam University in South Korea and from 2002-2012 was on the faculty of New York University. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, Marist College in New York, and Victoria University in New Zealand. He has also spent time as a Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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  • About Me

    Professor and Associate Chair at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea. Recently taught at Hannam University in Daejeon, South Korea. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, media economics, and strategic communications.

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