Shielded away by mainstream, minorities take dominance on Youtube

Catch Kevin Wu’s latest comedy program on YouTube, and you may think he’s nothing more than a young Asian American talking to a camera in his bedroom. But almost each of his shows command at least 2 million views — rivaling the nightly TV audiences of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

A disproportionate share of YouTube’s top personalities are minorities, a striking contrast to the most popular shows on mainstream television, where the stars are largely white. These minority-produced, home-grown shows are drawing massive audiences — the top one has 5.2 million subscribers — enough to attract the attention of major advertisers.

Makeup maven Michelle Phan is the second-most popular female personality on YouTube as her makeup tutorials have attracted a huge following. Phan’s “MichellePhan” channel has more than 1.9 million subscribers and about 567 million video views. Phan, who started her YouTube career in 2006, says in her YouTube profile that her dream is “to help women empower themselves with this art, makeup.” In 2010, Phan became a spokeswoman for Lancome thanks to the success of her online videos. She, like many of the YouTube stars, now lives off the six-figure income generated from ads on her channel, The Post’s Hayley Tsuakayama says.

On Wu’s videos, ads for Mazda and Toyota pop up. Michelle Phan, a Vietnamese American beauty guru, who ranks 20th among YouTube’s most popular channels, has become a spokeswoman for Lancome. YouTube declined to reveal how much such producers earn, but it says hundreds of them make at least six figures annually.

“A lot of U.S. marketers are leaving minority audiences on the table,” said Seneca Mudd, the director of industry initiatives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau. “Advertisers would ignore that trend at their own peril.”

Among the 20 most-subscribed-to channels on YouTube, eight feature minorities. Most are Asian American. Many more black and Latino shows populate the top 50. These producers are also finding an audience that has been largely neglected by Hollywood. Nearly 80 percent of minorities regularly watch online videos, compared with less than 70 percent of whites, the Pew Internet & American Life Project says.

Wu, who ranks 11th among YouTube channels, said he does not intentionally target Asian American issues. But those viewers more easily understand his jokes on dating, stereotypes and the generational clash between parents and kids, he said. “I just tell my stories honestly, and usually Asian Americans will relate to me because they say, ‘That’s how I am and with my parents,’ ” he said.

Added Phan: “If you look at mainstream media, there aren’t many Asian Americans. But it’s also shown non-Asians that they’re not that different from a girl with a different skin tone and a different background.”

Analysts say the trend of minority content on YouTube makes sense. Networks feel pressure to appeal to a broader audience, but Internet video can thrive by just targeting niches because the cost of producing a show is so low, said David Bushman, television curator for the Paley Center for Media.

But the audience for shows like those of Wu and Phan extends beyond their niche. The viewership numbers are eye-popping. Ryan Higa, a Japanese American comedian, has 5.2 million subscribers, second among all YouTube channels, according to the company. In total, his videos have been viewed 1.1 billion times.

Wu has 2.3 million subscribers, but often many more than that watch individual shows. While precise numbers are not available, a large majority of his users live in the United States, YouTube says. The same is true of other minority content producers.

Other analysts note that these figures do not neatly compare to Nielsen television ratings, which measure the U.S. audience tuning in to programs on the day they air, both live and on DVR.

Still, the growing popularity of online video — and the time it is taking away from other types of media — is turning heads in traditional studios, experts say.

For minorities, the medium offers a way to push back against stereotypes on network television, said Maureen Guthman, the head of brand strategy and acquisitions for the African American-focused channel TV One. Blacks can present themselves “completely unfiltered and without [someone] telling us, ‘You’ve got to be more this’ or ‘You’ve got to be more that,’ ” she said.

While much of what’s on YouTube is raw, the production behind some of the shows is growing more sophisticated. Tutele, a popular Hispanic American channel, was launched by Maker Studios, a company with 70 million subscribers over 400 YouTube channels. Maker, which is also behind YouTube’s biggest hit, Ray William Johnson, also recently snagged former Disney vice president Chris Williams to be its chief programming officer.

“The Internet is moving so quickly in many directions that it’s hard to predict,” Guthman said. “I see some sort of merging” between online video and traditional television, she said.

It’s too early to say how this will play out, but a shift is coming, said Forrester analyst James McQuivey. Future content producers may choose to bypass the networks altogether, for instance, because they can go to advertisers directly with proof that there’s a demand for their content, he said.

“That may not be the case when you’re Joss Whedon or J.J. Abrams, but what about the next J.J. Abrams?” he said. “Will that person ever do a network television deal? I don’t think so.”

Regardless of the future of television, McQuivey said, the trend of minorities on online video is welcome.

“There’s a thriving opportunity for any of these groups to see a rise of content targeted at them from their own people,” he said, “and that will be a great thing.”

In just a few years, Kevin Wu went from a teenager "who felt he didn’t belong anywhere" to a man who gets stopped for his autograph, The Post’s Hayley Tsukayama reports. Wu, or “Kevjumba” as his fans know him, started his YouTube career in 2006. The 21-year-old is known for his comedic videos that have garnered more than 277 million views. Wu tries to make it a point to “address awkward issues like dating, Asian stereotypes and, prominently, the generational clash between Asian-American kids and their parents” in his videos, Tsukayama reports. In 2010, Wu appeared on the reality show “The Amazing Race” with his father, whom you often see adding to the comedic fun in his YouTube videos. Wu’s channel has 2.3 million subscribers.

Before Shay Butler’s YouTube career really took off, the comedian "had almost every job under the sun,” he told Forbes in 2011. At the suggestion of his friend, Butler turned to YouTube in 2006 to showcase his comedic talent. Since then, things never were the same. Butler’s "shaycarl" channel has more than 1 million subscribers and more than 102.9 million video views. He has expanded his YouTube empire with his other popular channel “SHAYTARDS,” which captures his family’s adventures, and “ShayLoss,” which tracks his efforts in losing weight. Producing content for his channels is now Butler’s full-time job. Interesting fact: Former NBA player Charles Barkley made a recent appearance in one of Butler's videos.

Video blogger Natalie Tran is another person making waves on YouTube. The 25-year-old joined the video-sharing site in 2006 and has been posting comedic skits about life ever since. With more than 1.1 million subscribers, Tran’s “communitychannel” is the most-subscribed-to channel in Australia. Her videos have received about 424 million views.


Ryan Higa launched his YouTube channel “nigahiga” in 2006 when he was in high school. Higa explained in a video that his channel's name is made up of his last name and the Japanese word for rant, which is "niga." Higa's channel, which features a lot of humorous videos, has more than 5.2 million subscribers and about 1.2 billion video views, making it the second-most subscribed to channel on YouTube.

Felicia Day is the brains behind and the tar of “The Guild,” an online series whose episodes have scored 150 million views since its 2007 inception, The Post's Monica Hesse reports. Day has won two “Streamys” for best actress, and the Hollywood Reporter named her “one of the industry’s top 50 digital power players,” Hesse reports. The 32-year-old took her online video success to YouTube when she launched her channel “Geek & Sundry” last summer. It already has about 170,000 subscribers and 4 million video views.

Dan Savage's "itgetsbetterproject" is the 11th-most subscribed to nonprofit channel on YouTube. The channel reminds LGBT teens "that they are not alone -- and it WILL get better," the profile says. Savage started the channel in 2004. It has more than 43,000 subscribers and about 3.5 million video views.

Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox’s are the third-most popular personalities on YouTube with 4.6 million subscribers and almost 1.4 billion video views for their “smosh” channel. The comedic duo launched their channel in 2005.

Jenna Mourey's "JennaMarbles" is the second-most subscribed to channel in the comedian category this month. The 25-year-old blogger launched her YouTube channel in February 2010, and it already has 2.8 million subscribers and more than 474 million video views. Mourey is the top female YouTube star, according to The Post's Tsukayama.

The most-subscribed-to YouTube channel belongs to no one other than Ray William Johnson. The Oklahoma City native has more than 5.4 million subscribers. Johnson started his “RayWilliamJohnson” channel in 2008 when he was “about to study law,” his YouTube profile says. Since then, Johnson’s videos have received more than 1.7 billion views. In his regularly scheduled and humorous “Equals Three” video series, Johnson showcases some of the viral videos that have come across his radar.


Source Washington Post

This entry was posted in Business, Media. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>