Tomorrow, April 8th, public voting closes on the contestants in the YouTube NextUp contest. The top 50 contestants will enter the final round of judging by YouTube employees and up to eight other top YouTube Partners. The top 25 are awarded $35,000, four days of one-on-one mentoring and training techniques, and site-wide promotion on YouTube.

As a contestant myself, I’m obviously hoping to be in the top 25. This week I’ve been taking advantage of every connection I have to gain as many votes as possible for this potentially life-changing event. However, I noticed that other contestants are, as well, and with top YouTubers plugging their friends, it makes it feel almost impossible for people like me to reach the finals.

With this public voting method of determining finalists, I wonder if YouTube is looking primarily for undiscovered talent or for those who have the most connections with people who have substantial audiences. The two aren’t necessarily incongruent, but it feels like the results of this contest will be based more on popularity and who has connections with popular people than it will be on talent and passion.

But maybe that’s what YouTube is really looking for anyway. Maybe they’re looking for people who have a substantial audience and support from people who have an even bigger audience. Maybe it’s less risky to invest into people who have already proven to connect and collaborate with top players on this platform. The difficult part is that it’s really hard to make those connections on a personal level, but maybe that’s what separates the good from the best.

Still, I’m hoping this is my breakthrough! If this is more of a popularity contest than a contest about talent and passion, then so be it. Maybe that’s what YouTube really wants.

As we wait for the results to be made public in the next week or two, please head over to YouTube and vote for me! (Yes, I’m taking advantage of my social connections through ReelSEO, as well. Thanks, Mark!)

QUESTION – What do you think?

Is it better for YouTube to find undiscovered talent or to make popular YouTubers even more popular? Which could serve them better in the long-run: new talent that could potentially bring a new audience to YouTube or proven talent that plays into the audience that’s already there?