For me, the tipping point was when young people began proclaiming that their goal in life was to become a reality star. That point of view began, more or less with “Real World” and expanded with “Survivor” and then mutated into something really ugly with “Real Housewives” and a zillion others.
Everybody could be a star, and then came YouTube, where quite a few of them did.
The word now is that YouTube is trying to sweeten the pot for the formidable bunch of young stars it's created. According to The Wall Street Journal, YouTube is now offering some of its best-known channel hosts bonuses to make sure they keep YouTube as their home base, in the face of competition from Facebook and the yet-to-start site Vessel being planned by former Hulu chief Jason Kilar.
The article says it’s doubtful many YouTube stars would leave altogether—YouTube is just too big and entrenched to give up on--but YouTube wants to make deals that assures their most recent videos stay on its site before migrating to rival services.
Vessel is reportedly telling some YouTube stars that it can make their videos look and perform better because, the WSJ says: Vessel “will provide a nicer neighborhood for their videos than YouTube, where videos may run next to edgy or low-budget fare, according to people who have heard the company’s pitch.”
Hidden behind all of the jockeying for online stars is that online/social media stars increasingly live in their own worlds, at this point with only lukewarm interest in testing out big TV and movie deals. It’s as if that locally sensational bar band told the big record label to go take a flying leap. YouTube stars do their own thing. Network stars don’t.
At a conference last week, YouTube star Bethany Mota, who has been a star on “Dancing With the Stars” on network television, admitted that the glam gig was fun but stoked no interest beyond that.
"When you do TV, there are all of these people -- directors, producers -- you have to go to for approval to do things," Mota said, according to a story reported on the “Today” show’s Web site. At Business Insider's annual Ignition conference, she said "Online, I'm my own director, my own producer…I can make it happen without approval from someone else."
And while dancing and a weekly TV series might be fun, "I look at YouTube and what I do online as more powerful than that."
And why not? She has nearly 8 million subscribers. And she makes plenty of money. By one estimate, she makes $40,000 a month from her videos, and she has her own clothing line at Aeropostale. She’s no 19-year-old layabout, and there’s still a lot of upside. Here’s a list (a little suspect, but with some correct pointers) about the richest YouTube peformers and sites, including, of course, the awesome PewDiePie.
However, many millions of dollars it’s off, it does show YouTube has some artist stroking to do. But even more than that, it’s a sure bet that CBS’ Leslie Moonves wouldn’t know more than three or four people on this list. And that’s the future of mass media.