ChuChu is largely making things up as it goes, responding—as any young company would—to what its consumers want. Despite the company’s earnest desire to educate the kids who watch its videos, it has not tried to use the lessons generated by previous generations of educational-TV makers. Its executives and developers don’t regularly work with academics who could help them shape their content to promote healthy development of young brains. So what effects are ChuChu’s shows having on kids? How does what it’s producing compare with whatever kids were watching before?
In a widely circulated essay last year, the artist James Bridle highlighted the many violent, odd, and nearly robotic children’s videos sitting in the vaults of YouTube. They didn’t seem made by human hands, he wrote, or at least not completely. Some were sadistic or sick. (After Bridle’s essay was published, YouTube undertook an effort to purge the site of “content that attempts to pass as family-friendly, but clearly is not,” and ultimately removed some of the disturbing videos the essay cited.) Others seemed like grab bags of keywords that had been successful for more professional operations: nursery rhymes, surprise eggs, finger family, learning colors. These were videos reverse engineered from whatever someone might enter into the YouTube search box. And though none of these videos has achieved the scale of ChuChu’s work, they definitely get seen, and are occasionally recommended to a child who has been happily watching something more virtuous.
The idea of making millions off of videos the way YouTubers like PewDiePie famously have certainly seems like a pseudo-new-American Dream. And while not all of us will reach internet stardom with our videos, it might be worth looking into how you could make a few dimes from the popular platform. So, how do you make money from YouTube, and what will you need?
On April 6, 2017, YouTube announced that in order to "ensure revenue only flows to creators who are playing by the rules", it would change its practices to require that a channel undergo a policy compliance review, and have at least 10,000 lifetime views, before they may join the Partner Program. On January 16, 2018, YouTube announced tighter thresholds where creators must have at least 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months and at least 1,000 subscribers.
But even in relatively limited doses, these videos can affect young toddlers’ development. If kids watch a lot of fast-paced videos, they come to expect that that is how videos should work, which could make other educational videos less compelling and effective. “If kids get used to all the crazy, distracting, superfluous visual movement, then they may start requiring that to hold their attention,” Johnson says.
“All I said was I like this guy’s anime review,” PewDiePie says in the video. “[The channel creator] apparently likes to have hidden and not-so-hidden Nazi references in his videos and obviously if I noticed that I wouldn’t have referenced him in the shoutout. ... I said publicly a year and a half ago that I was going to distance myself from Nazi jokes and that kind of stuff, because I want nothing to do with it. Generally, I’ve done that. I don’t really have a reason to dip into that again — it’s just stupid.”
YouTube was founded by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, who were all early employees of PayPal. Hurley had studied design at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Chen and Karim studied computer science together at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to a story that has often been repeated in the media, Hurley and Chen developed the idea for YouTube during the early months of 2005, after they had experienced difficulty sharing videos that had been shot at a dinner party at Chen's apartment in San Francisco. Karim did not attend the party and denied that it had occurred, but Chen commented that the idea that YouTube was founded after a dinner party "was probably very strengthened by marketing ideas around creating a story that was very digestible".