The Power of YouTube Turning Amateur Audiences into the Professional of Producing Video

by Gianandrea Villa from Unsplash, Unsplash License

When Web 2.0 becomes the new paradigm of the media industry that allows each individual to produce their own media contents and distribute them through social media platforms (Burgess and Bank, 2014), it indicates the power of media professionals in production has been progressively granted to the amateur or the audience.


Regard Dijck and Poell (2013), this shift or decentralisation of power is relied on the attributes of social media, including:

  • programmability —an editorial value through the techniques of social media platforms
  • connectivity —participation and potential audience through the internet
  • popularity —the ‘likeable’ media personality
  • datafication —ability to do audience research


These four features change the creative production within the media industry drastically, particularly the video production through YouTube.

(Opening YouTube, by freestocks from Pexels, Pexels License)


The traditional idea of video production which reveals a professionally collaborative team among directors, marketing, photographers, casts, editors and public relations is challenged by the four features of YouTube.


Because those features function as every single part altogether in the traditional idea of video production, such as programmability as the producing team, connectivity and datafication as the marketing, and the popularity as the casting part.


Hence, in the following essay, I argue that the power of producing videos is decentralised by YouTube from the professionals to the amateurs. To start with this argument, I will map out each sector of YouTube within the video production, thereby providing a general interpretation of video production through YouTube. After that, this transformation of production power will be elucidated by the emerge of Vlog on YouTube.


The ecology of YouTube:

(YouTube, by Pixbay from Pexels, CC0 License)


Carah and Louw (2015) argue that the work of producing meaning always requires the cooperation among media professionals in different fields, and mass societies demand a class of people who can manage both the creation and circulation of meaning or the creative production.


However, what they overlook is the potentials and features of social media which shift the collaborative work of creative production away.  If the establishment of YouTube in 2005 is the beginning of the revolution for video production, then the ownership of Google in 2006 strengthens the development of this revolution (Karch, 2018).

(Figure 1.0, YouTube Ecosystem Map)

Following figure 1.0, YouTube is based on the participation of users who can be either producers or spectators. As for those self-produced videos on Youtube, they are mainly the self-documentation or self-exposure.


Regard Wilken and McCosker (2014), there are more and more users opting to expose themselves by sharing videos of their personal life through YouTube. This trend of sharing and exposing self-personal life set by YouTube emerges the first-prison-based vlog, which mixes both blogging and streaming.


(Figure 1.1 Vlog page of Rachel Nguyen, from YouTube)


(Figure 1.2, Vlog page of DionYorkie, from YouTube)

Both figure 1.1 and 1.2 reveal the key subject in the self-produced videos on YouTube is the producer themselves and their private personal life. When they are producing those videos, meanwhile they are also acting as editors and casts. Thus, YouTube, indeed, grants the power for individuals to produce their own videos and restructure the collaborative work of creative production.


Besides videos of self-exposure, the game streaming starts flourishing on YouTube as well. Jia, Shen, Eprma and Iosup (2016) point out the rise of game streaming videos requires a professional understanding in games and more emotional engagements with audiences, therefore, creating a video of game streaming is more challenging than others.

(Turn on Twitch, by Caspar Robin from Unsplash, Unsplash License)


However, the subject in game-streaming videos is still considered as a type of exposure of producer themselves since they are exposing their physicality and sharing their genuine emotions. That is why when YouTube is arising for video production and decentralising the authority of producing videos to the amateurs, both Twitch where most viewers will consume the video of game streaming and Bilibili which is a Chinese website for self-produced videos are challenging.


Case Study: Rachel Nguyen —ThatsChic:

Rachel Nguyen is an example of utilising features of YouTube, including the programmability, connectivity, popularity and datafication to perform as a professional video producer. Her video content should be categorised as the lifestyle blogging which is based on her personal life and subtly advertises certain cosmetic brands through the documentation of her life.


Regard figure 2.0,  the video titled what’s (always) in my bags’ produced by Rachel not only indicates the idea of self-exposure of video production on YouTube but also potentially advertises certain brands through this video. This video is an example of how the four features of social media, particularly YouTube transform audiences into a professional video producer.


(Figure 2.0, What’s (always) in my bag, screenshot from YouTube)


Programmability structures ThatsChic:

According to Dijck and Poell (2013), programmability refers to a general interpretation of the techniques within social media which is availed by users to filter and organise their own contents, thereby functioning as the editorial strategy in mass media.


They further explain this interpretation of algorithms and data constitutes into the form of liking, commenting, reposting and sharing feature which can facilitate the social relations.


Back to Rachel’s video, following figure 2.1, Rachel understands techniques of YouTube correctly and makes engagements with viewers through the algorithmic feature of commenting and liking, thereby knowing viewer’s attitude towards and response to the content. This will direct her to structure and consider the subject of the upcoming video.


(Figure 2.1, Rachel’s engagement with audiences, screenshot from YouTube)


Dwyer and Martin (2017) argue that the algorithmic feature, particularly the ‘likeable engine’ makes the editorial decision of media content centre on the consumption among audiences. This is how Rachel is empowered to carry on the editorial authority to select contents by obtaining feedbacks from audiences with the commenting and liking feature.


(Figure 2.2 comments on ‘WELCOME BACK, RACHEL!’, screenshot from YouTube)


Rachel Nguyen uses those algorithmic features to engage with the audience, thereby being guided by them to make the editorial decision for her contents. For instance, figure 2.2 reveals a majority of comments on her documenting-style video are supportive and encourage from her target audience-female.


That is a reason for Rachel to maintain this documenting style of her vlog because she knows this what the audiences expect to watch. Cinque (2012) explains this phenomenon on social media as a result of interactivity on social media, which provides a great deal of information for producers to select contents for the audience to consume.


Unlike the traditional media, this is different from analysing the readership and circulation or watching rates in a collaborative work of gatekeeping which both deliberately include and exclude certain information for the audiences without even interacting with them and knowing their stances on the inclusion and exclusion of information (Cinque, 2012).


In this context, programmability within social media makes the reception of feedbacks from audiences simultaneous with releasing production (Dijck and Poell, 2013). Based on this feature, the collaborative work among gatekeepers to make the editorial decision is downgraded to one self-independent work.


Connectivity with Audiences makes ThatsChic a digital influencer:

(Digital influencer, by rawpixel from Pexels, Pexels License)

Boyd (2011) points out scalability as one of the affordances of social media which provides a plethora of potential audiences through the internet. This potentially large amount of audience is the key factor to transform an individual into a digital influencer, thereby engaging with the attention economy.


The attention economy should be interpreted as value commodities involved in the transaction which is collected by the media and consumed by the audience with information as a bias (Havalais, 2013).


In the case of Rachel Nguyen’s video, What’s (always) in my bag,  she uses a number of audiences through YouTube to advertise certain products and brands to flow the attention economy. This idea of advertising products through audiences and potential audiences via social media platforms is the revelation of connectivity.


Dijck and Poell (2013) define connectivity as spreadability that recognises the importance of social connections among each individual, thereby advertise products in a digital context. 


(Figure 2.3, Things in Rachel’s bag, screenshot from YouTube)


(Figure 2.4, Advertisements, screenshot from YouTube)


Regard to the video, What’s (always) in my bag, it is apparent that the main idea is to advertise products and brands. However, she followed her editorial style maintained by programmability to advertise products in the documentation of her everyday life, which makes the advertisements come less stronger and more acceptable.

In figure 2.3 and 2.4, she didn’t insert any links in the video as what other YouTuber advertisers do, whereas she made the information available under the description of the video. This is how she avails her more than 120 thousand subscribers and other potential audiences to advertise. 


Connectivity in this contexts makes the advertising companies function less important because it blurs the boundary between the traditional advertiser and the target (Dijck and Poell, 2013). In the case of Rachel Nguyen, she could be understood as both advertiser and the target.


This fits the current trend of advertising through social media where advertising from users seems to be more genuine and persuasive. And her case also reveals the marketing in video production on YouTube does not need cooperation with advertising companies. Producer themselves can willingly advertise certain products.


Data is the new way to construct persona:

Although Dijck and Poell list four features of social media separately, datafication and popularity are intertwined. Datafication refers to a real-time data analytics which is mainly used by internet firms to predict users activities, and popularity represents the social construction of persona based on the prediction of audiences’ preference (Dijck and Poell, 2013).


What Dijck and Poell ignore is the prediction of user’s activity is based on the record of data that generated by users. This record of user’s data is availed by internet companies to make significant decisions about user themselves (Pasquale, 2015).


Adopting this concept of both datafication and popularity to the case of Rachel Nguyen, the algorithm of YouTube record the activity, particularly engagements among viewers which are structured by programmability and used by Rachel to maintain her persona.


It seems the concept of datafication and popularity here is similar to programmability. However, the editorial decision made by Rachel through the engagements among viewers is built on the record of users data.


Figure 2.2 demonstrates the expectation of audiences on YouTube and it gives a general guide for Rachel to frame her video production and construct her persona.


Hence, the feature of datafication and popularity within social media, indeed, reveal the record of user’s data. In the case of Rachel, datafication, popularity and programmability are interconnected, thereby strengthening the authority that allows the amateur, Rachel, to produce videos in terms of making editorial decisions.



(YouTube Channel, by Pixbay from Pexels, CC0 License)


The rise of YouTube starts the revolution of video production which transform the amateurs into the professional of video producers. This transformation is based on the four attributes given by Dijck and Poell, programmability, connectivity, popularity and datafication.


Those features of social media, particularly YouTube not only enables users to act as professional video producers but also decentralise the collaborative power of producing meanings and creative production to producers themselves.


In the case of Rachel Nguyen, the video she produced indicates how she utilises those four features of social media. She used datafication as a foundation that provides the record of users’ activity to maintain her persona structured by both programmability and popularity of YouTube and to make an editorial decision for her contents.


Connectivity of YouTube based on the scalability provides real-time audiences and a large amount potential viewers through the internet for Rachel to advertise products and brands, thereby engaging with attention economy.


Moreover, the case of Rachel to advertise products in her video indicates that YouTube also weakens the importance of advertising companies in traditional video production but grants the ability for video producers themselves to promote and advertise products.


Using Rachel’s video as an example to demonstrate the entire video production through YouTube might be too naive, while what her video implies a trend of exposing and documenting self-personal life through social media platforms.


Mosco (2014) argue that datafication as a current technological trend turns the individual’s everyday life into a computerised information. Mosco’s idea of datafication regards the exposure and share of individual personal life as a result of technologies.


Because of those features of social media, the power to produce creative production, particularly videos is no longer restricted to audiences or no longer wielded by media professionals. But those features make the video production on YouTube focus on self-exposure like Rachel Nguyen’s vlog series of her personal life.



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