We've talked about the global reach of YouTube many times. YouTube's Lucas Watson more than hinted a few months ago that they were looking to attract Hispanic audiences as an underserved minority. Recently, The Washington Post's Hayley Tsukayama pointed out that minorities make up much of YouTube's Top 20 channels, with views that rival the likes of Jon Stewart. With way less pressure to succeed, and with shows that can be done on a lower budget, shows starring minorities are thriving. I thought I would take a look at some of these channels, and what makes them so successful.
A Few Of The Top Channels Run By Minorities
Michelle Phan is Vietnamese-American, born in Boston, Massachusetts. Phan's channel revolves around beauty tips and it's the 20th most-subscribed channel on YouTube. Here's a good example of leveraging something already popular to translate into huge views, as Phan shows how to do the Lady Gaga "Poker Face:"
Of course, that video's 32 million views is an anomaly due to leverage, but Phan has built a huge audience by giving professional how-to beauty tips, and it helps that she's really cute herself. Phan's following on YouTube led to a deal with makeup brand Lancôme a couple of years ago. Her beauty tips are universal, so they appeal to a wide audience.
DeStorm is African-American and his channel usually hovers around #50 all-time. He's a musician/comedian who has worked with the likes of Mystery Guitar Man, Freddie Wong, and even Harley Morenstein from Epic Meal Time. Here's DeStorm paying tribute to Michael Jackson with a "Beat It De-Mix:"
DeStorm obviously has quite a bit of talent, and he's attracted a bunch of YouTube personalities and recording artists to work with him. He even has an album coming out in May this year.
Mystery Guitar Man
Mystery Guitar Man, aka Joe Penna, hails from Brazil and currently lives in L.A. His unique music videos often play with multiple versions of himself, using different stop-motion techniques and camera/editing tricks. His channel currently resides at #15 all-time. I love this video, where he plays with markers:
Mystery Guitar Man appeals to a large base of fans with his combination of music and video tricks. It's like he was inspired by Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and decided to take many of his videos in that direction. He's one of the all-time most-recognizable faces on YouTube and has seemingly worked with everyone who's anyone on the site.
It must be said that I have not much of a clue what Werever Tumorro is saying, that's because he's Mexican and has a Spanish-language channel that is the 25th most-subscribed on YouTube. And that's freaking amazing. From what I gather, he talks a lot about relationships and such. This video was the top-watched video in Mexico last year (and it's got subtitles):
Tumorro talks about your usual vloggy-type stuff, and he appeals to a large Spanish-speaking audience, so much so that despite even limited appeal for those who don't speak the language (although the subtitles definitely help), he's got a huge following.
Almost everyone who has ever watched a video on YouTube knows who Freddie Wong is. He's one of the many Asian-Americans who hold a top channel. His stunt/action/comedy/special effects videos have a wide appeal, to the point that he has the 5th all-time subscribed channel on YouTube. I love this recent video of his:
His videos are uniquely tailored for success on YouTube. The one above has all of the elements of a great video. We always mention this valuable piece of writing on his blog, which is a virtual blueprint for YouTube success if you have the talent. Wong has also worked with virtually everyone who is anyone on the site, and he's got a lot of things going on outside of YouTube now because of his success there.
Issa Rae: The Mis-Adventures Of Awkward Black Girl & Friends
Few web series garnered more attention than The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl last year. It's a funny, frank look at, um, an awkward black girl and was created by Issa Rae, and she serves as writer/director/producer/star of the series. Here's the very first episode, and take note that there is some bad language:
The series won Best Web Show at the 4th Annual Shorty Awards, which led to some horribly racist comments on Twitter that she addressed on her blog. Racist comments aside, this is a particularly telling passage in the approach to her success (and the point of this article):
I was a huge fan of shows in the 90s, specifically because there were SO many shows of color on the air at the time. Fresh Prince, Living Single, New York Undercover, Martin, Moesha, the list went on and on, and on every channel! Maybe it was Y2K's fault, but since the 90s, black shows in particular haven't been given the chance to evolve on television.
I found myself relating more to the humor in shows like The Office, 30 Rock and Arrested Development, but the relatable characters of color in these shows were far and few. With Awkward Black Girl, I set out to change that. I wanted to create a character who was racially specific, but who goes through universally uncomfortable social situations, so you're forced to relate to her, no matter what color you are.
Many of the episodes on YouTube have caught fire and have hundreds of thousands of views, which is great for any web series.
This, of course, is not a complete list of all minorities making their mark, but it shows how an under-appreciated audience and video creators thrive on YouTube. As the Washington Post article from Tsukayama mentions:
Among the 20 most-subscribed-to channels on YouTube, eight feature minorities. Most are Asian American. Many more black and Latino shows populate the top 50. These producers are also finding an audience that has been largely neglected by Hollywood. Nearly 80 percent of minorities regularly watch online videos, compared with less than 70 percent of whites, the Pew Internet & American Life Project says.
That's a fantastic statistic, and it shows how powerful and important the reach of YouTube is.