That kind of growth suggests that something unpredictable and wild is happening: America’s grip on children’s entertainment is coming to an end. ChuChu is but the largest of a new constellation of children’s-media brands on YouTube that is spread out across the world: Little Baby Bum in London, Animaccord Studios in Moscow, Videogyan in Bangalore, Billion Surprise Toys in Dubai, TuTiTu TV in Tel Aviv, and LooLoo Kids in Iași, a Romanian town near the country’s border with Moldova. The new children’s media look nothing like what we adults would have expected. They are exuberant, cheap, weird, and multicultural. YouTube’s content for young kids—what I think of as Toddler YouTube—is a mishmash, a bricolage, a trash fire, an explosion of creativity. It’s a largely unregulated, data-driven grab for toddlers’ attention, and, as we’ve seen with the rest of social media, its ramifications may be deeper and wider than you’d initially think.
I don’t mean the kind of corruption that regularly sends lowlifes like Rod Blagojevich, the Democratic former governor of Illinois, to prison. Those abuses are nonpartisan and always with us. So is vote theft of the kind we’ve just seen in North Carolina—after all, the alleged fraudster employed by the Republican candidate for Congress hired himself out to Democrats in 2010.
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But as the latest controversy around PewDiePie illustrates, his jokes have failed to land with many, many YouTube users, and there’s growing frustration with YouTube for not doing more to combat the growth of extremism in its midst. Though its most recent move of simply erasing PewDiePew from its rosily optimistic look back at 2018 might temporarily help to create a positive public image, when considering the evolution of PewDiePie’s influence alongside his steady drift toward the far right, it’s increasingly difficult to look back and laugh.
On my last day in the ChuChu offices, Krishnan related a parable to me from the Mahābhārata, a Sanskrit epic. A prince wants to be known as generous, so the god Krishna decides to put him to the test: He creates two mountains of gold and tells the prince to give it all away in 24 hours. The prince begins to do so, parceling it out to people he thinks need it. But as the day ends he’s hardly made a dent in the mountains. So Krishna calls another prince and tells him he has just five minutes to give away the gold. This prince sees two people walking along, goes right over to them, and gives each a mountain. Just like that, the job is done. The moral is unsettling, but simple: Don’t impose limits on your generosity.
But sponsorships are where the big bucks are made, and where intermediaries like MediaKix and other agencies come in. This is the major leagues: Most brands aren’t interested in YouTube channels with fewer than 200,000 to 300,000 subscribers or average views of less than 10,000 to 20,000 per video, says Asano. The bar is also high because videos cost more to make, and require tricky negotiations —the sponsor will want to know where their product will be featured, for how long, and so forth. “When we’re connecting top brands with top influencers on YouTube, you’re talking a minimum budget of $50,000 to $100,000, and it just goes up from there,” Asano explains. “Some of the biggest YouTube influencers get paid $100,000 to 200,000 for a single video. And then those videos get millions of views. That’s why there’s a lot of money in the space.”
The power of YouTube's ad-targeting abilities -- enabled by both its own user data and outside data it can get with Google's help -- have also helped its cause. So have its investments in building quality measurement tools that help companies gauge the impact of a video ad on things like awareness of a product and attitudes towards the brand that's selling it.
Previously, viewing YouTube videos on a personal computer required the Adobe Flash Player plug-in to be installed in the browser. In January 2010, YouTube launched an experimental version of the site that used the built-in multimedia capabilities of web browsers supporting the HTML5 standard. This allowed videos to be viewed without requiring Adobe Flash Player or any other plug-in to be installed. The YouTube site had a page that allowed supported browsers to opt into the HTML5 trial. Only browsers that supported HTML5 Video using the MP4 (with H.264 video) or WebM (with VP8 video) formats could play the videos, and not all videos on the site were available.
It was after Krishnan joined the creative team, Chandar told me, that ChuChu really began to achieve global popularity. What made the difference, in part, was that Krishnan decided to rewrite nursery rhymes that he felt didn’t end well or teach good morals. What if Jack and Jill, after falling down while fetching the pail of water, get back up, learn from the resilience of birds and ants, actually get the damn pail of water, and give it to their mom? “It was ‘Jack and Jill 2.0,’ ” Chandar said. “I thought, This is how a nursery rhyme should be.”
Broadcasters snipe at the quality of YouTube's videos, aiming to hold on to TV advertising. Competing in subscription-based services vs. the likes of Netflix and Hulu would take big content investments. Not knowing YouTube's costs, margins or growth history will make it hard to gauge how it's meeting the challenges -- and the potential for a blow to its value to Alphabet, whose overall market capitalization approaches $500 billion. Alphabet stock closed Friday at 747.60, up 1.5%.
During the same court battle, Viacom won a court ruling requiring YouTube to hand over 12 terabytes of data detailing the viewing habits of every user who has watched videos on the site. The decision was criticized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which called the court ruling "a setback to privacy rights". In June 2010, Viacom's lawsuit against Google was rejected in a summary judgment, with U.S. federal Judge Louis L. Stanton stating that Google was protected by provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Viacom announced its intention to appeal the ruling. On April 5, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated the case, allowing Viacom's lawsuit against Google to be heard in court again. On March 18, 2014, the lawsuit was settled after seven years with an undisclosed agreement.
Advertising rates -- Online media in general has had major problems with ad revenue. Even though video ads pay better than banners or other text ads, advertisers only want to be charged for people who actually see the ads. The question of verifying the actual audience that saw an ad is a thorny one. Older media like print and television were hugely profitable in their heydays because they never had to show that the audiences they claimed were ever truly realized by advertisers.
Should PewDiePie have known better? His critics say yes; though he has been dismissive about the uproar, this is far from the first time he has dabbled in alignment with alt-right beliefs, and he’s previously faced backlash for this type of incident so many times that it now seems more than a little intentional. But PewDiePie and his supporters say his critics are overreacting to a harmless mistake — all while tens of thousands of new subscribers have followed the anti-Semitic channel based on PewDiePie’s brief endorsement.
These two ends of a vast YouTube spectrum have clashed recently over two interesting and arguably related phenomena — both of which directly involve PewDiePie. The first is an ongoing battle that PewDiePie’s supporters have been waging in order to prevent his channel from being surpassed as the most popular one on YouTube. To keep this from happening, they’ve done everything from take out a Times Square billboard to reportedly hacking into 50,000 printers around the world in order to promote their “subscribe to PewDiePie” meme.
In new year, Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, seemed certain to catapult into that top tier of political nemeses for Democrats. Like Pruitt, Zinke excels at generating bizarre scandals; also like Pruitt, his own heroic vision of himself seems to survive any amount of bad press. House Democrats, salivating over their new oversight power, had already promised to subpoena Zinke over a number of issues, including a sweetheart $300-million contract for electricity in Puerto Rico that he allegedly gave to a small power company based in his home state of Montana.
Another focus for the viral video platform has been supporting the many creators who have flocked there to create videos. Actress and comedian Grace Helbig, whose channel has 3 million subscribers, joined the site three years ago to start her show because of the creative freedom. “There are no gatekeepers,” said Helbig, who appeared onstage with Wojcicki.
This means that if someone skips an ad, or is running an ad blocker, then you don’t get paid for that view. This makes estimating the amount of views a video has and how much a user makes off of the video very challenging. It also depends if it’s a video ad at the front of your video, or just a box at the bottom of your page; this determines how many people interact with your ad and the amount of money that can be made.
The Hawaii native (real name Mark Fischbach) launched his YouTube channel in 2012 when he was a biomedical-engineering student at the University of Cincinnati. He was going through tough times: He’d broken up with his girlfriend, been laid off from his desk job and had an adrenal-gland tumor removed that surgeons found when they went to take out his appendix.
I’ve been creating content on YouTube for over 3 years and on December 6th, 2018 I was given 4 community guidelines strikes in 5 minutes and my channel was terminated. I’ve never had issues on YouTube nor has my content been called into question by YouTube. I had over 83,000 loyal subscribers tuned into my content and they are all incredibly upset with YouTube’s ban. I’ve filed 4 appeals, one for each community guideline strike, and YouTube will not get back to me.
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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.
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.
YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) is YouTube's premium subscription service. It offers advertising-free streaming, access to exclusive content, background and offline video playback on mobile devices, and access to the Google Play Music "All Access" service. YouTube Premium was originally announced on November 12, 2014, as "Music Key", a subscription music streaming service, and was intended to integrate with and replace the existing Google Play Music "All Access" service. On October 28, 2015, the service was relaunched as YouTube Red, offering ad-free streaming of all videos, as well as access to exclusive original content. As of November 2016, the service has 1.5 million subscribers, with a further million on a free-trial basis. As of June 2017, the first season of YouTube Red Originals had gotten 250 million views in total.
For kids to have the best chance of learning from a video, Johnson told me, it must unfold slowly, the way a book does when it is read to a child. “Calmer, slower-paced videos with less distracting features are more effective for younger children,” she said. “This also allows the video to focus attention on the relevant visuals for the song, thus aiding in comprehension.”