The Austin Chronicle

The Digerati Dish on YouTube Success

By Ashley Moreno, March 9, 2014, 2:40pm, SXSW

Update: YouTube is no longer synonymous with "cat videos."

Tyler Oakley’s YouTube channel has 4.05 million subscribers. Grace Helbig has 2.2 million subscribers on Daily Grace and 1.7 million on It’s Grace. Ze Frank (executive vice president of video at BuzzFeed) creates all kinds of digital art for his personal site, which enjoys a loyal fan base as well. Examples of his work include "How to Dance Properly" and "Young Me/Now Me." During South by Southwest Interactive , Oakley, Helbig, and Frank sat down with Andy Cohen, host and executive producer of Bravo’s Watch What Happens: Live, to discuss fandom, video creation, and comedy in the digital era. That’s right, a discussion largely about YouTube without a cat to be found.

Advice on how to connect with an audience, both technically (across platforms) and emotionally (through content creation), composed much of the conversation. Regarding which social platform online humorists should use moving forward? “It’s coming back around to LinkedIn,” said Helbig. “It’s all about Grindr,” countered Oakley. Frank offered a slightly more serious response: “Lighter-weight peer-to-peer, peer-to-group technologies,” says Frank. “The story of technology seems to go up, and then seems to retract into simplicity over and over again. And we seem to be going into one of those retractions where some of this really simple technology seems to be pretty powerful.” He offers Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp as an example. All the panelists agree: Avoid Snapchat.

When it comes to content, make videos you like; don’t try to make viral videos. “Focus on finding your voice,” says Helbig. She offers an idea on how to get started: “It’s a lot easier to decide for yourself what you don’t want to do versus what you do want to do. Sometimes peeling away all the things you don’t want to do will help you find what you do want to do.”

Super Fandom in the YouTube Age

Friday, March 7, Austin Convention Center

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