Breaking YouTube: Controversy About YouTubers Branching Out

When YouTube was created in 2005, it was just a platform for people to create and share videos all around the world. However, that has changed drastically. It was during my sophomore year in high school that I began to hear the word “YouTuber” being dropped around. A YouTuber is someone who accumulates enough subscribers and views to get paid to create more content.

I started watching more YouTubers and following them on Twitter. Since they are closely partnered with YouTube, many of them get special opportunities to go to award shows and special events. At the 2014 Teen Choice awards, there were two categories linked to the internet: “Choice Web Star: Female” and “Choice Web Star: Male.” Two YouTubers whom I’ve come to know through their videos, Tyler Oakley and Bethany Mota, won in these categories. The popular ABC show, Dancing with the Stars, even had Bethany Mota on its 19th season. YouTubers are starting to be considered celebrities.

A few months ago, I started to see buzz on the internet about a book called Girl Online. It was written by Zoella Sugg, a British YouTuber I knew of. A lot of articles or Tumblr posts I read were complaints. At first I thought that was ridiculous. YouTubers are just normal people. Don’t they have as much of a right to write as everyone else? Then I realized what a lot of the complaints were about. Rumors were floating around that Zoella did not actually write the book herself and that it was written by a ghost writer. An article I came across on The Telegraph confirmed it: “Penguin Random House and Zoella have confirmed that bestselling first novel by Zoe Sugg, aka YouTube sensation Zoella, was ghostwritten.” I do not mind that Zoella had her book ghost written. She probably just wanted to get her story out there, but since she is not a writer, she wanted help. What did bother me, however, was that the back of her book reads, “My dream has been to write a book and I can’t believe it’s come true.” I think a lot of fans and other people are upset that Zoella didn’t just come out right away and say her book was ghost written. Instead, she made money off of a book people thought was written by her.

Since then, I’ve heard about other YouTubers such as Alfie Deyes and Shane Dawson writing books. I heard no controversy about these. I didn’t hear about the book writing controversy again until YouTubers Dan Howell and Phil Lester announced their book, The Amazing Book is Not on Fire. I follow a lot of people on Tumblr who post about Dan and Phil, so after the announcement, it was all over my dashboard. I thought that fans would be delighted, however much to my surprise, a large part of them were not. The book went to number one on “the Amazon New Releases” list in less than a day, proving that a big part of the fandom still supported them, but I couldn’t ignore the other group of fans who didn’t. A lot of the fans were saying they were upset because so many other YouTubers have written books and it wasn’t original anymore. This made me upset and I shared a lot of the same sentiments as the other half of the fandom. Of course writing a book isn’t original. So many people write books. Dan and Phil must be very proud of their book and seeing their fans react so poorly must have been crushing to them.

Other YouTubers who I follow more closely, Connor Franta and Tyler Oakley (my Atlas Online article about him and his charity work can be found here), have also released or announced that they will write books. It’s been interesting for me to try and find a trend with these YouTubers and how their books will be received. Both Franta and Oakley’s books were very well received. Tyler announced his book last week and it’s already on the top of the list for pre orders. I think the reception of the books has to do with whether the fans think the content will be good. Connor included a lot of his own photos in his book, and Tyler revealed that he received a book deal back in 2012 but declined it because he didn’t think he was ready to write a book he would be proud of. I also think it has to do with how many subscribers the YouTuber has. The fans were probably confident in the content that Dan and Phil would produce, however, since they both have a subscriber count that is on the lower side, fans are probably more protective of them. It’s been hard to try and analyze the reactions of the fans, but it has been interesting to discover trends.

Similarly to the book writing trend, YouTubers have been making names for themselves off of YouTube by going on tours. The first time I heard of this was a year ago, when a collar channel who have since broken up called O2L, went on tour. YouTubers go for a few days to about 10 or less different cities and entertain their audience by playing games and doing a lot of the things they do in their videos.

I went to one of these tours when Tyler Oakley came to the Colonial Theater at Emerson in December. Tyler called his tour “the Tyler Oakley Slumber Party Tour.” He set the stage up to look like his apartment and invited all of the people in attendance to wear pajamas. He went on tour with his best friend, another YouTuber named Korey Kuhl, and the pair took the stage with a different onesie for every city. This is another thing that has caused controversy in the YouTube community. When Dan and Phil announced their book they also announced a tour. Fans complained about the originality of that as well. However, for Tyler, he recently announced his second tour which is now going international. I guess it’s a prime example that you can’t please everyone and you never know how people are going to react.

I’ve often been proud of YouTubers and how they’re starting to make names for themselves off of YouTube. They shouldn’t have to limit their success to just one platform and the increased popularity of these YouTubers is starting to make the internet a legitimate platform for a career. However the fans may react, I know that YouTubers are still going to have the support of other fans, and their success and popularity is going to continue to grow both on and off of YouTube.

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