The future of entertainment is being driven by YouTube stars once considered rank amateurs and policy makers should take note, according to QUT Distinguished Professor Stuart Cunningham.
“Two million-plus people worldwide are creating careers for themselves making YouTube content on subjects like beauty, style, cooking, unboxing and games as well as so-called serious subjects such as science communication. They fascinate and enthral viewers,” said Professor Cunningham who last year completed a Fulbright Senior Scholarship at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles examining this new ecology and has also been awarded a federal government $535,000 ARC Discovery Project Grant.
“The most influential are the vloggers (video bloggers) who use their personalities to create a huge following and therefore are in demand as brand ambassadors.
“The biggest style vlogger in the world is Michelle Phan who at 29 is a multi-millionaire entrepreneur. Her Facebook page has more than three million likes while her YouTube channel has attracted more than 8.3 million followers and more than a billion views.
“Many Australians are in on the act. Zoe Foster Blake for one; she has more than 372,000 Instagram followers. Nicole Warne has 1.5 million Instagram followers and has been signed up by Qantas to create content for the airline. These people have a reach far beyond traditional channels and the people that follow them like and share those posts ad infinitum.
“Brisbane-based beauty blogger Shani Grimmond is only 19 but has 662,000 followers on Instagram. A recent post she made on makeup mistakes to avoid had well over one million views.
“This is not some fly-by-night trend. There has been a steady growth over the last seven years towards what I call ‘communitainment’ which combines communication and commercialism to create a new form of entertainment.”
Professor Cunningham said we were witnessing a revolution in entertainment industries and the organisations that control the distribution of entertainment products and, as a result, the profits.
He said what was happening in the US entertainment industry had important implications for the rest of the world, including Australian policy, consumers and the production industry.
“The number of new participants, the professionalisation of amateur film makers, the commercialisation of content and the shift in advertising to online being seen in the US will be mirrored here and Australia needs to capture more of these opportunities for our industry,” he said.
“ … ‘communitainment’ … combines communication and commercialism to create a new form of entertainment.”
Professor Cunningham said online distribution giants like Netflix and Amazon were creating and commissioning their own content in addition to distributing Hollywood’s traditional film and television products while YouTube had spawned an ever-growing number of multi-channel networks.
The YouTube scale metrics are extraordinary: more than one billion users, revenue estimated in 2015 at US$4 billion per annum, four billion videos watched per day, and viewing now comes 50 per cent from mobile devices.
“This is not the future of entertainment; it is already the main form of entertainment for a great many young people.”
QUT is at the forefront of developing YouTube talent as a partner in the Queensland Creative Entrepreneurship Program.
The program’s Creator Original Awards provide cash grants to leading creators each year to help them develop their digital content for YouTube and expand their global presence.
Creator Days gather YouTube experts, entrepreneurs, producers, content creators and industry partners to bring projects to life; while Top Creator Visits see globally successful content creators come to Queensland.
The program also involves Trade and Investment Queensland, Screen Queensland, Griffith University and Brisbane Marketing and is backed by funding over three years from the Advance Queensland initiative.
The creation of influencers is generating massive marketing opportunities and a new business for QUT graduates Victoria Harrison and Tara Kingi.
In July 2015 the entrepreneurial pair created The Exposure Co, after realising what had started as a hobby the previous year, was a new form of marketing with as yet untapped potential. The company is one of Australia’s first Instagram influencer marketing services.
Victoria Harrison (pictured) said Instagrammers and vloggers were in demand to promote products, brands and events through social media, but businesses generally have no idea how to attract the attention of an influencer or how to do business with them.
“We create influencer marketing strategies for businesses, connecting them with relevant influencers to promote their product or service,” said Ms Harrison.
“Some of our influencers have more than one million followers but often it’s the influencers with smaller, intimate audiences that prove to be more successful for brands.”
The Hamilton-based The Exposure Co now has 1100 influencers on their books with a combined reach of more than 50 million followers.