My nephew has recently learnt how to make videos of himself going about his day and speaking into the camera as he does this. One of his recent videos, he welcomes people onto the 15-year-old video sharing platform — YouTube. Through the video, he is coaxing his friend Peter to do the same who is visibly disinterested and trying hard to get away from these seemingly adult, childhood follies.
Also him, at the end of a video call — promptly calls out, ‘Like, share and subscribe’. And, he is 4 years old!
His desire is basically to put himself in all his glory out in the world — yes, to create vlogs of himself and post these on YouTube. He is excited by the idea of having his own YouTube channel. Aside from the fact that he knows the concept of a YouTube channel, the whole plot is both adorable and strangely frightening.
In the mid of 2020, suddenly it seemed like there were a lot of vlogs on our feeds. Unable to create new content, owing to the constraints of the pandemic, many content creators and “entertainers” resorted to homemade video content. And one of these, was the vlog. It satisfied their creative urges and also ensured that they did not lose their audience. While YouTube is not the only medium for this format, it is clearly the most dominant one.
A famous comedian with close to 4 million subscribers
A pilot turned YouTuber with close to 7 million subscribers
A YouTuber, political and social commentator
A chess player who in in fact the №2 chess player of India
A magician with more than a million subscribers
An artist with 10 million subscribers
A girl in 10th standard with 1.5 million subscribers and gets close to 150000 views within 3 hours of the video being uploaded
And a whole lot of others.
The kind of content varies from travel, tech, beauty, nutrition, cooking, moto vlog, comedy and of course a daily account of their activities. This account could also bring in a vast range, from being fun, informational to super cringe.
Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels
First of all, thank you, Indian population. We are so many of us that all forms of content manage to find an audience. If not anything, our friends and family provide views which manage to push it to an already significant audience. The only other population that can compete with us on this has decided to keep its people off of it.
But apart from the number game, why do we enjoy this as a means of entertainment?
There are few reasons why most of us reach out to YouTube — entertainment, information, educational, relaxation and the good old, for timepass. Vlogs manage to check most of these boxes, albeit a little less of the educational part in most cases.
Vlogs that are successful typically have some specific qualities.
Fun and engaging
The creator of the vlog needs your attention not just for those few minutes but wants you to be a repeat customer or the golden words — a subscriber. So, the content is created in a way where not only are you enjoying it but are also invested and inquisitive to know what happens next. This could be by bringing in new elements, showing different places, people or also cashing in on the dynamics of the family and friend scene.
Typically, you have one main vlogger who is conversing with you through the camera and becomes a medium for all the others who appear in the vlog. Over time, this kind of conversation helps to develop a connect with the viewers. It is much like watching a friend through his/her day.
Vloggers generally focus on everyday stuff and not larger than life things which get dished out to us in our movies and shows. This makes their content more relatable to the average Rakesh. We had vloggers talking about their experience with the Covid vaccination, including the challenge to book a slot for one. For the rest of us who were precisely trying this at home, it helps you connect better with them. Also, the fact that even you could start doing it, (if only you were brave enough) makes it all the more charming.
Less pretentious and raw
There are a lot of good travel shows. However, most of them have some well edited shots, rehearsed lines but most vlogs seem like a more honest account of the travel. If a trek is difficult, the vlogger shows his frustration and tiredness on the video instead of talking about the scenic views. Again relatable!
Informational, Different experiences
Yes, vlogs can be informational and educational too!
A friend recently travelled to Russia and recorded his experience going to Siberia from Moscow. It was the first time that I had seen some of the places that he captured on his vlogs, especially from the point of view of a regular Indian traveler.
You can watch it here.
These kinds of vlogs offer you a view of people, places and experiences which you could perhaps never have had otherwise.
Sneak peek into celebrity or semi-celebrity life
Not all vloggers are just YouTubers. Some of the vloggers are famous in their own right. We have Vidit Gujrathi who is a chess GrandMaster vlogging his experience when at tournaments. These give chess enthusiasts a behind the stage view to the world of the chess players, their conversations and sometimes, chess too.
Tanmay Bhat, who is a famous stand-up comic regularly puts out vlogs on his channel which feature several famous comics from his community. While this already provides enough entertainment value, one of his vlogs featured the Hotstar ad shoot with Shahrukh Khan!
Easily consumable content
With all of us being blessed with shorter and shorter attention spans in the Age of Distractions, vlogs fall in that sweet spot. They are small enough to be consumed as you wait for that Uber to arrive and engaging enough to pull you through if he cancelled and need to wait up for another one.
Vlogs have generally held a view as being a means of expression for the vlog creator and as a means of frivolous and shallow entertainment for the viewer. They have had a reputation to be low in terms of quality of video and also on the quality of content. However, as the format grows in numbers, so does it grow in its production value and consumption expectations. What started out as people talking into their webcams and mobile cameras with shaky video, has evolved into a more sophisticated content.
Many seasoned vlogs now involve several elements of a short film production. Right from sourcing the appropriate equipment to shoot the vlog, defining a script or at least a content plan, audio and video edits to ensuring that it has the catchy title before release. Some of them even have a sort of preview, like a trailer at the start of the vlog and end credits.
Vlogs are no more a mobile camera following you around. Amazon has a separate category called “Vlogging equipment and accessories”. This has tripods, gimbals, different types of microphones, LED lights and of course our good old friend, the camera. A wide range of gear and big business around it.
For the viewers, this translates to better content which looks better, sounds better and is more entertaining and engaging. While the better content is definitely welcome, the charm of the novice vlogger struggling with his camera through the terrain of Siberia, as the wind gushes through his microphone is undeniable.
If you are wondering what is in it for the vlogger? Lots, if he/she manage to get a big enough audience. And perhaps some of them, without much of an effort too because they have a natural flair for it and have the right base around them already to get good content.
For a personality who is not “just a YouTuber”, vlogs are a way to increase their reach and promote their actual work too. It could be comedy, acting or even chess. But vlogs can also earn a lot of money. Apart from the YouTube ads that we skip, there are other avenues too. Have you seen the videos where the creator starts talking about a product or a service in the middle of the video (which may or may not be related to the video itself)? Have any of you clicked the description section of a YouTube video and found links to several products either used in the making of the video or other products, services, and so on?
These basically could be a sponsorship, affiliate marketing or even influencer marketing that you are seeing play out. The vlogger may have special coupons and discount codes of the brand to give out in these cases. Once they have a large enough subscriber base, you could also see merchandize in the form of coffee mugs, t-shirts etc being promoted which focus on the creator himself/herself as a brand. YouTube ads in itself, though most common, may not be a significant portion if the vlogger does not too have too many views and the creators get only about 55% of the ad revenue. But then again, sponsorships and affiliate marketing too come in based on the subscriber base and viewership. Apart from managing this aspect, YouTube has several guidelines and requirements for a creator to be able to join the YouTube Partner Program and monetize their videos.
All in all, there is a lot of furor and finance behind the frivolities we see. The ones we mock for the cringe content could be making a moolah out of it. And what seems like raw, natural and personal could also be carefully curated content to keep the illusion. While this game ensues, there are also our friends like Peter who are either unwillingly or unwittingly made to be part of these videos. And it is good to remember, this means that it possibly stays on the internet for eternity for everyone to watch.
In this age of digital content and marketing, vlogs are a medium that are here to stay. It remains to be seen if we will have more and more celebrities and popular personalities embrace this medium. This could in turn, render the media which resorts to reporting of this private footage of their lives, jobless.
And yes, do like, share and subscribe.