The oldest video on Matt Kovalakides' channel appeared on YouTube 12 years ago, back when he was a more traditional filmmaker in Hollywood, dipping his toes into the platform. He loved the freedom and direct access to his audience. His friends thought he was crazy.
Like his other short films, that video – a potato-quality vignette about a man working on a dry cleaner the day before 9/11 – racked up some views and supportive comments, but the work he uploaded to YouTube never gave him a breakout success. Kovalakides, best known by a friendlier search handle, Matt Koval, took a break from his channel. When he returned, it dawned on him that he should try getting in front of the camera. He hated the idea. He did it anyway.
YouTube was not yet known to make money, but it's not cheap enough. Still, the money was inconsistent. YouTube was an eccentric way to make a name for yourself. He was already older than most creators on the platform. His work as a creator did not offer the kind of financial stability he could rely on. Once he got pregnant, it was a big boy job with benefits.
The answer, as it turned out, was still YouTube. He took a role as a content strategist. Goal Kovalakides is hardly the first YouTuber to go corporate. Many employees run their own channels. "Kovalakides says," We've realized that creators do not want to learn from YouTube. "They do not want to learn from their parents, or their high school teachers. They want to learn from other creators who are in it. "
Today, YouTubers are a growing cornerstone of pop culture. They are better paid and higher than ever before. Some are bridging the gap between Hollywood and online fame, while others are building empires on their behalf alone. As creator culture becomes more viable path, however, problems of burnout are giving way to the issue of overall sustainability. Is it a full-time career, or a stepping stone to something else? "I want creators and young people to understand what they're getting, and if they're going to be a career-long thing or a job for five years," Kovalakides says.
YouTubers collectively upload more than 450 hours of content per minute. Audiences have a seemingly endless ocean of content to choose from, and their ongoing viewership will waver. "People grow up and their tastes change," Kovalakides says, comparing it to teenage bands you might have loved and grown out of. "That's a challenge that they want to understand and be realistic about, that their audiences' tastes are going to change, and theirs will be well."
To survive as a creator in 2019, you need to be quick on your feet. High-profile creators like Lilly Singh has grown up from YouTube. Others, like Shane Dawson, have swiftly pivoted to ride and even set trends. In 2018, Dawson used Tana Mongeau, Jeffree Star, and Jake Paul. He is currently working on another series with Star, with whom he has also recently launched a pallet makeup. "He's amazing at how he reinvents himself," Kovalakides says. The two started on the same time platform, but their paths have branched. Kovalakides turns to music as a metaphor once more. "The best career-long musicians really find ways to reinvent themselves and stay relevant. Shane has done that. "
Kovalakides' transition to the corporate world. Revenue is a moving moving target, unlike the reliable paycheck of a YouTube employee. Putting yourself out there every day can be an exhausting emotional journey. "I try to convey the experience of that to YouTube, the company, as much as I can," he says. The company can have an adversarial role with its creators, who feel the impact of platform changes more acutely than anyone else. "I try to make it clear to people [changes to YouTube] could affect people's careers, and lives, and jobs, since they're sitting on top of our business at YouTube. If we make any kind of slight change, they're going to feel it under their feet. "
Part of YouTube's strategy has been putting its own employees in front of the camera. According to Kovalakides, there's always been a bit of paranoia about what YouTube employees can say to creators. Channels like Creator Insider are working to strengthen that relationship. It was kicked off some two years ago with an internal conversation around employees knowing their own platform firsthand. If YouTube employees wanted to understand what it meant to be a creator, they'd have used their own product.
Unlike Kovalakides, Sarah Healy and Tom Leung turned to their own channels after they had begun working at YouTube. Healy works specifically in the games and kept her own channel where she streamed daily. Leung serves as director of product management for YouTube Creator Tools and a driving force behind the Creator Insider. What did they learn? Being a creator is harder than it looks.
"There are more steps to [creating YouTube videos] than it might appear to an outsider, "Leung says. "Secondly, we're going to have this hope, 'Oh, we're going to have a lot of choices.' and just because you can not watch the next day. That applied to us as well. "
The gaming industry has been one of the first to fully embrace creators alongside press, recent reports have gone into the game. Perhaps more succinctly, as the Gamasutra It's a question of how to play, "No YouTuber's influential status is guaranteed." Gaming, Healy says, faces a unique challenge: "They're more churning out, just uploading far more, and I think that makes them hypersensitive to any issues or concerns that they might have. Because they really are living on this kind of day-to-day scale, where they do not have a week to produce content. "
The burden is one of them, but they have it much easier. In addition to Leung and his core team, a handful of volunteers make the channel run. They have the backing of a full-time job with benefits and internal support, and they do not have a full-time pursuit. Instead, they all contribute in different ways, making it's hosting, creating thumbnails, coordinating and writing scripts.
Leung credits the process of growing that channel as a formative experience for the understanding of the creator community. "Part of what we learned was the importance of finding your voice," Leung says. "Which is a trial-and-error kind of process, it does not happen right away, finding your niche, and then also, like, consistency and just sort of grit." It's a slow crawl from the first hundred handful of subs to bigger numbers. Intellectually, he says, the team knew that. "But when it's your own channel and you're going to check it out, you know it, it's not going as fast as you thought it would different lesson. "
Creator Insider has more than 170K subscribers. The channel allows YouTube to connect with creators on a variety of topics, from platform experiments and ad revenue to advice, unboxing, and Q & As, in a more personal way than through a blog post. "The creator ecosystem is super diverse, but I think they have a lot in common … they have a story to tell and they want their hearing as wide as possible," Leung says. Creators are constantly seeking new ways to grow and sustain their channels, and understand the platform.
For Healy, juggling both her work at YouTube and her channel. Her channel may have been made smaller, but it has given rise to growing insights. "What did I learn as an employee who was then a creator was just kind of that idea of how all-encompassing your channel becomes to you," she says. "I do not think I realized the extent to which I would like to take over my day-to-day life and my constant concern of," Am I not only understanding my content but my community? the extent of how powerful that feeling is. "
This experience is an important reminder for smaller creators, who can often get overlooked for larger names. "The reason that there is such a gap we can have these one-on-one conversations with people, and it's not always the case with our smaller creators," she says. "We can not sit down and talk to every single one of them, one on one."
For both YouTube and its creators, there is still a gap in understanding and culture. Internally, Healy Says, YouTube Continues to Work on How to Navigate the Scales Between Well-Being and the Taxing Nature of Their Online Work – Not Just for the Big Names, but anyone who's for their time into a possible career. "I think we will make the mistake of looking at our top creators and talking about burnout. We're supporting a group of people who are both doing so and they're supporting, "Healy says. "It's a really, really tricky issue to fix, and I do not think there's any perfect one-size-fits-all solution to it."