Every week, I get e-mails from the social media platforms suggesting ways to promote my podcast. Spreaker sends out something a few times a week. Mostly these e-mails are tips about metadata, topic descriptions and video features. They seem sensible, but I can’t help but wonder if it matters all that much. A professionally done, cleverly described and expertly distributed video on model train collecting is still going to be a video of interest to people into model trains. Ultimately, content is the determining factor in this stuff.
That said, it is useful to wonder why some YouTube people have huge audiences and why others have small audiences. Until recent, PewDiePie was unknown to me, despite his having 59 million subscribers. He is the #1 YouTube personality. Having watched some of his videos, I sort of get it. Young people are wired to imitate one another, which is why pop culture is a young person thing. PewDiePie plays video games and tells naughty jokes that very gently and subtly lampoon modern piety. Kids like seeing that stuff.
On the other hand, someone like June Nicole Lapine has close to a million YouTube subscribers. She pitches herself as a liberal anti-feminist and her videos are intended to be satires of social justice warriors. Not being an unmarried millennial woman, I’m probably hard wired to not get her appeal. I watched some of her videos and she is annoying and her act is trite. The earnestly stupid female who really, really cares about stuff has been done to death. At least I thought so, but apparently not.
While reviewing the above videos, this channel was suggested to me by the gods of YouTube. The assumption is they recommend channels based on prior viewing, which means some portion of June Nicole Lapine’s audience is into husky lesbians. The star of that show appears to be a carny, who bills herself as a lesbian comedian. She has half a million subscribers and 70 thousand Twitter followers. After watching some of her videos, I’m reminded of why the phrase “jolly lesbian” does not exist.
Now, half a million subscribers is not big by YouTube standards. To crack the top-100 you need 20 times that number, but most of the top channels are professionally produced music channels, backed by global corporations. Given that there are (maybe) 4 million adult lesbians in America, it suggests that Arielle Scarcella has figured out how to tap into this audience, so to speak, that is not easily understood by watching her videos. The people watching and enjoying her work, are very different people from anyone I know.
It is easy to be puzzled by the popularity of alien performers, but in researching this post, I did learn that Filipinos share the American distaste for the Speedo. That aside, I was made aware of a popular alt-right YouTuber named Andy Warski. His channel has over 250 thousand subscribers. He hosted a marathon debate between Richard Spencer, Sargon, Styx and some others, which is how I learned of him. His live show set some sort of record for viewers, but I don’t have numbers on it. He mentioned it in his show.
Now, I follow the alt-right and listen to some of their bigger personalities. I never heard of the Waski guy until last week. Watching some of his videos, I’m thinking he smokes a lot of weed and has a drawer full of hacky sacks. I’m not getting the popularity, but maybe I’m simply too old to appreciate bro talk anymore. There was a time in my life when my peers used the words “dude” and “whatup”, but that was a long time ago. As with PewDiePie, young bros probably like listening to other young bros talk bro stuff.
I watched some of the Spencer – Sargon battle on that Warsky show and I kept wondering how Sargon got popular. In fact, it was the genesis of this post. Every time he said something stupid, which was pretty much every time he spoke, I thought, “why would anyone like this guy?” He’s just a portly British version of Goth Fonzi. Yet, he has 750 thousand subscribers to his channel, most of whom are probably Americans. According to his Patreon page, he makes $8,000 per month as a YouTube star.
Like many of these popular YouTube stars, Sargon’s gimmick is assurance. He soothingly repeats the platitudes his listeners desperately want to be true. Americans always assume a British accent means intelligence, so Sargon’s fans are being told they are right about the world, by a smart British guy, who sounds confident and reasonable. It’s why his clash with Spencer was a disaster for him. He was revealed to be a petulant, argumentative airhead. His act only works when he is unchallenged and scripted.
It is a good reminder, though, that the audience for libertarian self-flattery is much larger than realism. People like easy answers and magical thinking. It’s why the number one right-wing Progressive is Ben Shapiro. His podcast is number one in terms of downloads, according to those claiming to know these things. I’m always suspicious when rankings are used in lieu of hard numbers, but a search of YouTube reveals his Daily Wire stuff gets about 250 thousand views. His channel has half a million subscribers.
All of that said, the people popular in their YouTube segment all have a couple things in common. One is their presentation is calm. Internet video is like television. It is a cool medium. Shouting and craziness on video, come off like shouting and craziness in person. You can be a crazy Mark Levin, screaming like a madman on radio, because radio is a hot medium. The better YouTube people could just as easily being doing their show from your bedroom. Most shoot their shows from their bedrooms and living-rooms.
The other thing they do well is they make no effort to imitate the legacy media. YouTube is not public access TV or a poor version of cable. The authenticity of the presentation seems to be what works. People like hearing people like them confirm what they think about the world. Watching a polished TV airhead repeat threadbare platitudes, even soothing ones, is not as effective as hearing a friendly voice, that sounds like you, saying the things you think in private. YouTube is a collection of mirrors that clap.