On Thursday, the Senate voted unanimously to blame Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and 56 members—a clear majority—-cast votes to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen. The rebuke was followed shortly afterward by a revelation about the Defense Department’s refueling of that bombing campaign: According to the Pentagon, the department had somehow failed to bill the Saudis and the Emiratis for at least $331 million in fuel and servicing costs. The Saudis, it appears, never directly paid the U.S. a penny.
The Pentagon’s admission, relayed to the Senate, came a week after The Atlantic revealed “errors in accounting” in how the U.S. had tracked and billed the Saudi-led coalition for refueling costs—a service that was among the most visible and controversial elements of support as civilian casualties grew. Washington’s support began in March 2015 under President Barack Obama, without explicit congressional authorization, and continued under the Trump administration, amid growing outrage in Congress over Saudi conduct. That changed last month when the Pentagon said it had ended aerial refueling at Riyadh’s request. The Pentagon’s acknowledgement puts a number to at least part of the expansive assistance that the U.S. provided to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen over the last few years.
ChuChu TV, the company responsible for some of the most widely viewed toddler content on YouTube, has a suitably cute origin story. Vinoth Chandar, the CEO, had always played around on YouTube, making Hindu devotionals and little videos of his father, a well-known Indian music producer. But after he and his wife had a baby daughter, whom they nicknamed “Chu Chu,” he realized he had a new audience—of one. He drew a Chu Chu–like character in Flash, the animation program, and then created a short video of the girl dancing to the popular and decidedly unwoke Indian nursery rhyme “Chubby Cheeks.” (“Curly hair, very fair / Eyes are blue, lovely too / Teacher’s pet, is that you?”)
If you think that’s alarming, especially given the many teens and preteens who watch and are influenced by PewDiePie, you’re not alone. In many ways, PewDiePie’s trollish irreverence and offense-proof shock humor embodies a more pervasive overlap between YouTube’s gaming culture and its alt-right culture. And the criticisms leveled at him in his role as YouTube’s most popular creator represent what seems to have become a larger battle to reclaim YouTube culture— a battle that in recent months has come to a head around PewDiePie himself.
In May 2014, before Music Key service was launched, the independent music trade organization Worldwide Independent Network alleged that YouTube was using non-negotiable contracts with independent labels that were "undervalued" in comparison to other streaming services, and that YouTube would block all music content from labels who do not reach a deal to be included on the paid service. In a statement to the Financial Times in June 2014, Robert Kyncl confirmed that YouTube would block the content of labels who do not negotiate deals to be included in the paid service "to ensure that all content on the platform is governed by its new contractual terms." Stating that 90% of labels had reached deals, he went on to say that "while we wish that we had [a] 100% success rate, we understand that is not likely an achievable goal and therefore it is our responsibility to our users and the industry to launch the enhanced music experience." The Financial Times later reported that YouTube had reached an aggregate deal with Merlin Network—a trade group representing over 20,000 independent labels, for their inclusion in the service. However, YouTube itself has not confirmed the deal.
The tech conceit of starting with nothing and growing a business into being profitable sounds appealing. Who wouldn't like to minimize initial investment? But the successes have typically required hundreds of millions, if not a billion or more, of investment to ultimately succeed. And there are many ways in which the grand concept can fall short the way theory sometimes does when faced with the reality of application.
Of course, influencers have their own interests to look out for, too. “The process of creating a brand campaign is holistic, and the cost is not standard,” says Natalie Alzate, the woman behind NataliesOutlet, a YouTube channel with almost 6 million followers. “My manager, agent, and attorney work hard to ensure that each campaign is a success, which is measured by whether the fans respond to it as well they do to non-sponsored content.”
YouTube also has a more democratic appeal. Unlike Instagram, where the biggest influencers are mainstream megastars in their own right (Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé), YouTube is dominated by homegrown celebrities, such as Jenna Mourey (a.k.a. Jenna Marbles), Mariand Castrejón Castañeda (a.k.a. Yuya, a Mexican beauty vlogger), and a bunch of gamers that I’ve never heard of but have millions of fans. The world’s highest-paid YouTube star is Daniel Middleton, a British 26-year-old who goes by “DanTDM” and gained his fortune (an estimated annual income of $16.5 million, per Forbes) by posting videos of himself playing Minecraft. Last year, he did an international tour that included four sold-out nights at the Sydney Opera House.
4. Use product placement and video sponsorship: Companies interested in your channel’s audience might sponsor your videos or offer you product placement deals in exchange for a shout out. You’ll likely receive payments on a per-sale basis or in commission tiers. Search on sites such as ShareASale, Clickbank and CJ Affiliate by Conversant for possible corporate partners — and be sure you’re willing to vouch for the company and products you’re selling before signing up.
Some investors and others have renewed calls for more transparency from YouTube in light of accounting rules and recent questions raised by the Securities and Exchange Commission about its disclosures. They say YouTube has become a material part of Alphabet’s business and an important driver of its growth, warranting quarterly disclosure of its revenue, costs and profitability. Some investors are also arguing that the lack of disclosure around YouTube could potentially be undervaluing Alphabet.
Chu Chu loved it. “She wanted me to repeat it again and again,” Chandar recalls. Which gave him an idea: “If she is going to like it, the kids around the world should like it.” He created a YouTube channel and uploaded the video. In a few weeks, it had 300,000 views. He made and uploaded another video, based on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and it took off. After posting just two videos, he had 5,000 subscribers to his channel. Someone from YouTube reached out and, as Chandar remembers it, said, “You guys are doing some magic with your content.” So Chandar and several of his friends formed a company in Chennai, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, from the bones of an IT business they’d run. They hired a few animators and started putting out a video a month.