Ever since YouTube became a legitimate way for people to create content and have their voices heard, people have been looking for a way to break in. Whether it be striking up a brand new channel and looking to gain an audience, or hoping something you do goes viral, people have been attempting to climb the rungs of the YouTube ladder for years. In 2018, a brand new type of creator began emerging: the celebrity YouTuber.
Unlike folks in the past, celebrities already have a built-in audience that will follow them anywhere, so in 2018 we saw an explosion of celebrities flocking to YouTube. Perhaps most notably was Jack Black, who - along with the help of his son - joined YouTube in December 2018. In a video filled with references to memes, PewDiePie, and Ninja, Black promised that his channel would feature all things gaming, food, and life. To date, Black’s “Jablinski Games” channel has only uploaded five videos (two of which are less than one minute), but has already gathered more than three million subscribers.
Black’s jump to YouTube probably won’t be permanent, and he certainly won’t be adopting the hectic schedule that most YouTube creators often do. Still, Black's mere presence on the platform - and his immense amount of subscribers - proves that celebrities can make a name for themselves on YouTube if they simply try. While Black has been no stranger to YouTube, recently releasing an animated series titled Tenacious D in Post-Apocalypto on the site, he still isn’t what many of us think of when we think “YouTuber,” and he’s just one of many people who are trying to use their fame to gather a new audience.
Ranging from athletes like Kevin Durant, actors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or even Will Smith making a channel and then a (not-so-beloved) appearance in the 2018 YouTube Rewind video, famous people might finally be realizing what most of us have already been aware of: YouTube is the future. Movies and television definitely aren’t going anywhere, but the online world is where it’s at for most people, and it seems that celebrities are starting to become well aware that if they can get their foot in the door, they might be able to extend their reach to entirely new areas.
This doesn’t just extend to YouTube, however. Social media as a whole, be it Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook, are seeing more and more celebrities pile onto the apps in an effort to interact with their audience in a way that no one ever thought possible. It only makes sense that more people will flock onto these sites, but it does beg the question of whether or not any of this is sustainable.
Take YouTube, for example: creators on YouTube spend years building up their audience, and through that development, their fans often feel like they grew along with the creator. For certain creators, their community is very much that, a solid group of fans or supporters who were with them through thick and thin, and are now reaping the rewards of having grown an audience from scratch. For celebrities, this entire step doesn’t exist, as they come to these platforms with an audience already established and ready to tune into whatever happens.
Companies like YouTube know this as well, and that’s why they’ve begun catering to and promoting these celebrities over some of their own, “homegrown” stars. As stated above, the highly divisive YouTube Rewind video featured tons of celebrities, and it was clear throughout that YouTube very much wanted to present the site as a place where celebs of any kind will be hosting content. While some might see this as a bad thing, that isn’t necessarily the case. Celebrities don’t have to worry about slowly climbing through the ranks of social media, as they’ve already done all of the footwork in the years prior.
Now, their fan base will pretty much follow them to any platform, which could in turn create even more of an opportunity for new audiences to latch onto a conventional creator. For example, if fans flock to Jack Black's YouTube channel and it goes dormant after a couple of months, most of those fans might leave, but some could stay on and end up becoming part of an audience for someone like Ninja, PewDiePie, or any other of the gaming channels that exist.
This works both ways as well, especially when it comes to YouTube creators breaking into the “mainstream” of pop culture. Content creators like KSI and Troye Sivan (who was making YouTube videos prior to his explosion onto the music scene) have leveraged their initial fame on the platform and taken their audience out into the “real” world. There are countless other examples of creators doing this, but the bottom line remains the same: building a loyal enough audience can help you in trying to break into a new avenue. As stated earlier, creators that build their audience from the ground up might even have a leg up on certain celebrities, as they don’t have to worry about hesitancy when it comes to trying out something new.
At the end of the day, the growing number of celebrities that are popping up on sites like YouTube might scare some, and possibly with good reason. With companies looking more and more to promote safer, advertiser-friendly content, some creators might begin to feel squeezed out of their role. Still, these celebrity additions do open doors for everyone, including the celebrities themselves. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be seeing Will Smith and Jack Black partnering up with Ninja in a game of Fortnite.