The start of the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way in which we consumed products and thought about work. Due to COVID’s accelerated spread, many businesses and institutions had to close in order to prevent further spread of the deadly virus. As a result, many were now stranded at home looking for things to do amidst all the chaos. Although not everyone experienced a positive change, one thing is for sure, many found themselves with lots of free time. This shock wave of availability caused a disruption in the way many consumed media. Instead of casually streaming an episode or video from your favorite streaming service, time spent in front of streaming services such as YouTube increased unsurprisingly. YouTube rose not only as a platform in which to look for entertainment but also as a site filled with information and updates on COVID. This was true even for me. Struck with endless hours on end with nothing to do, I relied on YouTube to keep me entertained and informed in a time where staying inside was the norm. Although, I am sure many content creators were now happy to find an influx in revenue due to the surge in new viewers, many found their videos and their livelihoods struck like those of many others around the globe. To understand how YouTubers and other content creators were affected by the pandemic, we need to take a step back and establish how many creators make a livelihood out of online content.
Like many other sites out there, YouTube relies on advertisements to generate revenue for itself, as a company, and for the creators making content for their platform. After all, without content a site would be essentially dead. Although mostly any channel can generate revenue off advertisements, videos and channels are still revised as either advertisement friendly or unfriendly. What this means is that despite the amount of reach and quality that any video can have, that specific video could still be prevented from generating any money if its content is deemed unacceptable to those who are advertising on YouTube. Previous controversies have only solidified and made stricter the rules with which many creators must play by to make a living. The aftermath of such controversies can be seen by the so titled “Adpocalypse” that happened on YouTube a few years back. After all, who would want their image on a video that could potentially be harmful and offensive? Because of this many who were able to make a living on YouTube could no longer be sustain themselves on their platform due to sensitive content and a shortage of advertisements on the site. But how did that affect creators out there who already make videos out of their house or apartment?
As it turns out, due to YouTube being a major player in spreading information on COVID while the virus was just starting to take off, many creators began playing on the craze to achieve higher view counts which would result in greater revenue streams. This does not even account for the fact that YouTube is a platform in which just about anyone can upload and share their opinions without many consequences. Due to this, misinformation regarding the COVID pandemic became increasingly dangerous. As a response, YouTube combated this along with the exploitation of the COVID pandemic by disabling some advertisements on content that contained sensitive words such as COVID, COVID-19, the Corona Virus, and more. This resulted in lower income for creators, many which were now affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in other ways. Many creators had to meticulously maneuver around sensitive words in order to stay advertiser friendly even if their content showed no ill intent or misinformation. YouTube, a site which represented livelihood for many was now shaken up by the pandemic just like any other site or business. Although people tend to associate the word YouTuber with someone making videos out of their home, many creators whose crews had grown to more than just the creator themselves had to begin seizing production in large studios filled with many individuals. Work was spread out and many had to find new ways to reach their audiences in a time where nothing was certain. Even for those who approached YouTube as a platform for entertainment noticed the sudden change through their favorite creators. Creators were able to persevere despite the adverse circumstances by collaborating online and creating new and innovative ways to blend their usual content to their home environment in a way which had not really been seen by subscribers. An example which comes to mind for me is a channel on YouTube by the name of LinusTechTips. This channel is one which is manned by many which focuses on technology, mainly computers. As a result of the pandemic, LinusTechTips adapted by bringing videos and streams inside his own home to continue the flow of quality content for many viewers. Linus Sebastian, the host and owner of the LinusTechTips channel as well as many others, was able to even blend in home repairs and upgrades as a way to combine not only the DIY portions of his channel but also his free time in a way which was interesting and fun for the viewer to watch. In a way, the platform became another way to connect with those who you could no longer reach due to the current circumstances. The site represented ongoing connections and human interaction during a time in which many felt alone and isolated. At least that is how I experienced things. Through visiting and checking up on my favorite creator’s latest videos, I was able to take my mind off the scary and fickle place that had become the outside world.
Although the state of things has not been reversed to how things were prior to the pandemic, like most other businesses, YouTube as a platform continues to be a source of entertainment and information that represents a livelihood, dreams, and human connections for many on and off the platform.