Despite being established in 2005, YouTube, or more precisely YouTubers, have really cemented themselves in every household. Watching YouTubers used to be a niche interest; now it is now rare for anybody not to have a favourite channel to watch. Ask your parents, your younger sibling, your dog – they probably have a fave. Things have changed a lot over the last ten years, from how YouTubers deﬁne themselves to how much they get paid (which are deﬁnitely not mutually exclusive).
Ten years ago, vlogs were barely a thing and the measure of a successful YouTuber was reaching 10k subscribers. Five years ago, Troye Sivan was just a YouTuber from Perth and Zoella had only recently launched her beauty line. Now, YouTubers are selling out stadiums and regularly ﬁlm videos with A-list celebrities. Ten years is a long time – so we’re going to look at what has improved, and what died faster than YouTube Red.
Jenna Marbles and Shane Dawson are two of the biggest OG comedy YouTubers still kickin’, but their journeys have led them to very diﬀerent places. Both of them had some fairly problematic older videos, riddled with stereotypes and misconceptions. However, while Shane Dawson still makes some seriously considerable choices (a whole series on a Paul brother, really?), Jenna Marbles has evolved into the hilarious, unproblematic queen she is today. She apologies for her past mistakes and still creates incredible content. Shane also creates some interesting content, but he also creates a lot more controversy.
There are plenty of other YouTubers who had much more signiﬁcant controversies that destroyed their careers. Five years ago, a string of sexual harassment claims came out against various YouTubers, including prankster Sam Pepper, Alex Day and Veeoneeye. These channels were quickly boycotted by a large proportion of the YouTube community, causing these stars to lose huge groups of subscribers. In comparison, the controversies that have come out in the past several years have not received the same level of immediacy in criticism, nor have any sort of boycotts for those channels stuck. Despite Logan Paul’s 2017 Japan scandal, he still is hugely successful. This is evidence that the increase in YouTube’s popularity has provided a platform where creators do not suffer the consequences of unethical behaviour that they may deserve.
Sadly, other YouTubers naturally lost some of their audience, but still have smaller, loyal followings. Charlie McDonnell seemed to be one of the ﬁrst creators to fall into the YouTube slump. He was well known for his videos from almost 10 years ago, but now the couple of million views that they received don’t seem so signiﬁcant. DaveDays was hugely popular in the early days as well and still creates content, but not the comedic style that brought him into fame. Similarly, Crabstickz made a fair few attempted comebacks, but never kept up a normal schedule for very long. He was best known for his skits, where he played multiple characters.
In comparison, Dan Howell (originally known as danisnotonﬁre) and Phil Lester (AmazingPhil) remained as a duo team (as opposed to the ‘fantastic foursome’ they had with Crabstickz and KickthePJ in previous years) and now tour internationally, selling out live shows all over the world. Comedy in YouTube used to primarily focus on skits and “randomness.” While Dan Howell used to regularly talk about llamas and stuﬀ things in his shirt to pretend to have boobs, Jenna Marbles drew on her face with a sharpie to mimic a moustache and made a whole video about a “land shark.” Humorous videos were also a lot shorter than they are now, with small skits usually going for three to ﬁve minutes. Of course, that was before decisions were based on monetary advantage. Now it is strange to see a video below 10 minutes long. Similarly, skits were replaced with sit down videos and YouTubers’ ‘randomness’ was replaced with showing more of their real, daily life. Jenna still holds onto some of her original ‘randomness’ appeal, but it isn’t nearly as contrived. Other YouTubers tried to ﬁnd ﬁnancial beneﬁts from their comedy videos in diﬀerent ways, like the irritatingly high voiced ‘Fred’ channel, which was the ﬁrst to pass one million subs; he eventually moved his character to Nickelodeon. Yeah, you forgot he existed, didn’t you?
When YouTubers started coming into the public eye, the lines between lifestyle bloggers and beauty YouTubers (or “BeauTubers”, as Jenna Marbles calls them), were pretty blurred. Beauty YouTubers back then rarely had the professional standard that many have today. While pretty much every beauty video today includes a cut crease, YouTubers used to do much more daily wear looks. Shopping at stores like Sephora was not nearly as common and the YouTube community usually seemed to have bought everything from their local drugstore (and it wasn’t for a challenge).
Lifestyle vloggers like Zoella were considered beauty gurus as well, despite never creating the full on looks like you see from James Charles or Nikkietutorials today. While beauty YouTubers now are not always professionally trained, there is a much higher standard than there was when we originally started watching Tanya Burr’s latest Christmas look (i.e. straight up red lipstick and sparkly eyeshadow).
Similar to beauty, the lines between lifestyle vloggers and fashion gurus weren’t nearly as clear as they are now. This also comes down to the successfulness of individual YouTubers, but not always in a good way. Many of us began to follow YouTubers for their relatability, shopping at cheaper stores like Primark in the UK or treating themselves to an ASOS splurge. Many of the YouTubers who gained their success that way would now not be caught dead in their local department store, doing hauls exclusively with brand and designer names. While we might watch one or two videos because they’re aspirational, it’s now much more rare to ﬁnd aﬀordable fashion in videos, unless you find a sponsored video with those brands.
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, is one of the biggest YouTube trends of the past few years. From a SuperBowl ad to the W Magazine Celebrity series, ASMR has deﬁnitely made its way into the mainstream. Don’t know what it is? Check out this explanation video:
However, many people don’t realise how long some of the OG ASMRtists, like GentleWhispering and WhisperRedASMR, have been making tingle-worthy content for. Ten years ago, the term hadn’t even been coined yet (and wouldn’t be until 2010) and the often used description of “brain orgasm” understandably gave misconceptions about what the videos were actually for.
It may seem like all the big name YouTubers are rolling in money, and they are, but they’re in the exclusive top three per cent. 96.5 per cent of people trying to be YouTubers won’t make enough on that sole income alone to go above the poverty line and even those just breaking into the top three per cent of most viewed videos won’t make more than $25K AUD, according to a German study.
However, that is why we are seeing so much diversiﬁcation within the larger YouTubers. An increase in sponsored videos and branded merch means these YouTubers have more of a guaranteed income, and are earning bigger bucks. The lifestyle vlogger, turned makeup brand creator, turned author, turned homewares brand, turned all around ridiculously rich human being Zoe Sugg (also known as Zoella) earns an estimated over 90K AUD each month and has a net worth of 2.5 million British Pounds. However, she’s not even breaking into the top 10 richest YouTubers. Number 10 on that list is Logan Paul, which proves that the biggest earners aren’t always the most talented.
YouTube has changed in countless ways. Ten years ago, we never would have considered sitting in your bedroom talking to a camera as a real occupation. That’s still up for debate now. YouTube has become a primary source of entertainment and education, one of the first places we go to for any sort of television or media experience. It is easy to say that YouTube has changed over the past 10 years, it’s almost impossible to deny it, but we have to remember that we’ve changed too. While we may not enjoy having three ads in a 15 minute video, it’s still a lot better than the amount of ads crammed into traditional television. Although we’re all aware of YouTubers extending their videos times for monetary reasons, we also wouldn’t find the old two minute Fred videos as enjoyable as we did so many years ago. Yes, YouTube has changed for better and for worse, but its audience has too.