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2020 has been a wild year for everyone. With so many people spending more time at home, it was a huge year for YouTube, TikTok, and creators on all platforms. But don’t take it from us! We spoke with Rebecca Zamolo, Hank Green and D’Angelo Wallace to get their takes on the last year and what to expect for 2021.

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D’Angelo Wallace ►
Rebecca Zamolo ►
Hank Green ►
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Creator News is a production of Tubefilter, Inc.
Created by: Drew Baldwin and Joshua Cohen
Produced by: Chris Widin
Edited by: Kenzie Edmondson
Assistant Edited by: Kenzie Edmondson

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Rebecca: I think the biggest lesson we learned in 2020 is how important connection is.  

D'Angelo: In 2021, I think everyone should find ways of new connections with their audience.

Hank: Tools for creators to connect with their audience, to monetize their audience, to deepen their relationship with their audience, are all going to be really important.


Welcome to Creator News, TubeFilter's investigative news show where each week, we delve into a topic that affects you, the creator.

Creater News is brought to you by Patreon, the platform that gets creators paid.  It's the end of the year here at Creator News.  Streamys are over, which went fine, thank you for asking

Lilly: (?~0:41)

If you want a great recap of the year...

You can actually check out the Streamy awards, especially our creator spotlights.  We heard from Amber's Closet on racial justice, we heard from Jay Shetty on mental health and wellness, we heard from ASAP Science on innovation and adaptability during the pandemic, but for the year-end episode of Creator News, we sat down with three well-respected but very different creators: Hank Green, D'Angelo Wallace, and Rebecca Zamolo, to gain some perspective on what happened to the industry in 2020 and get some insight into what to look out for in 2021.

The first thing that we're gonna look back on is how creating has changed in 2020, starting with TikTok.  We talked a lot about TikTok in our Creator Fund episode, and TikTok has had its fair share of controversy this year, but one thing's for sure: TikTok exploded this year, producing huge stars like Charlie and Dixie D'Amelio, Addison Ray, and Spencer X, who create in popular TikTok genres like dance and music and lifestyle, but more interestingly, TikTok has given rise to popular creators in unexpected genres, like Wisdom K in fashion, Tabitha Brown in food, and (?~1:48) in learning and education.

Hank: I've been surprised by the robustness and the amount of good educational content.

For those of you who don't know him and don't recognize him from our previous episode of Creator News, where we talked about creator earnings in Q4, this is Hank Green.  He's an OG YouTuber, founder of VidCon, and host of popular educational series Crash Course and SciShow.

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Hank: Having this focus on learning that TikTok has had, they've actually put money into it, they've attracted educational creators to the platform with little grants, and it's actually, it's very good for the platform, and I think it actually does good.  I think that, you know, you end up with people who sort of, in amongst the, you know, sketches and the dances, will get these little tidbits that help them build a more accurate understanding of the world.  I can talk about different things and talk about it in different ways than I would on YouTube where my average audience is significantly older.  I would not have expected it at all, and I was super skeptical about it, and then I started doing it and I started seeing how other people were doing it, and I was like, actually, this is good.

TikTok's massive popularity is owed in large part to its proprietary alogrithm For You page, which seems to know exactly the kind of stuff that you want to watch, but there's also another reason that TikTok popped off in 2020.  

Hank: The genius of TikTok is that it makes creating easy.  Like, we talk about it in terms of the algorithm, which is also genius and also is extremely functional and makes it very good for the viewer, but it also makes making stuff, and making good funny stuff, easier, both with the creation tools and also with the community that's always like, creating new jokes that you can riff off of.

Indeed, but Hank warns that TikTok's algorithm and ease of use, which can make even brand new creators seem to accelerate to stardom overnight, can also pose a threat to creators as well.

Hank: But I think a really important thing to note about trends in general and how Tik--like, the role that TikTok is playing in an overall trend, is that the platform is having more and more power and it used to be that the people with the most power were kind of the middlemen, the studios who like, decided what content got made, and now the middlemen don't even exist anymore, so like, the people who are making the content have some power, the people who are watching the content have a lot of power but really don't sort of recognize the power that they have, it's just sort of the power of their own individual decisions being turned by a machine learning algorithm into recommendations, but then, what we're seeing, and TikTok is the ultimate manifestation of this thus far, is that the platform has a tremendous amount of power.  

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Hank (cont): Creators on TikTok have really no way to directly communicate with their audience.  If there's content stuff being showed to their followers, like, you know, my--even my following page, there's a ton of people I follow who I never see content from them anymore, and like, there's no clear reason why that is.  I go and I check their content and I'm like, I still love this, and I still like, like their videos, it's just like, it's almost like TikTok just wants to keep me on my toes.  That means that the creators have less and less power and so are going to have to create systems with which they develop strong relationships with their audience that would be built-in to another system, like podcasts where like, subscriptions actually matter or YouTube, where subscriptions matter more than they certainly do on TikTok.

So building connections to your audience and then building upon those connections, it's gonna become more critical than ever before in this coming year

Hank: Creators and tools for creators are, you know, and like, this isn't like something that like, a surprise report from me or anything.  There's not a prediction really, but like, tools for creators  to connect with their audience, to monetize their audience, to deepen their relationship with their audience, are all going to be really important as these platforms do their best to consolidate power, and that's Patreon, and that's other crowdfunding platforms

Throughout Creater News, we're always emphasizing the importance of diversification of revenue, not just to maximize creator earnings, but to protect creators who are dependent upon a single source of income from changes that can be devastating to their livelihood, like what the potato king said!

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In our Food Merch episode of Creator News, we talked about how the story and personality of a brand and how it relates to people, is important in differentiating your product from the others, so we may see more changes in the way that marketers are advertising their products to consumers, doubling down on connection and authenticity.  

Hank: Ultimately, advertising and sales has always been about story, and there's a part of story that is about creating discontent in people, dissatisfaction with their lives, that's a lot of what advertising does, and I really don't, obviously, I have already framed it in a way where I'm going to say I do not like that part of advertising, and then there's a part of advertising that's like, this is a thing that we are part of, and like, you are going to--this is a product that's gonna like, provide a service to your life and like, you're gonna need anyway, but you can also be part of a bigger story, and I think that's hopefully where we're headed.  You know, I think that a lot of influencer marketing is about manufactured discontent but I think there are other ways to do it that people who might see that model and be really turned off as a creator, like, I don't want to engage with that system, there are other ways to reach people and to get them into like, make them enthusiastic about your story and the brand of whatever it is you're creating and those things can actually be fulfilling to people.  They can make them feel like they're a part of something.  They can actually have them be a part of something, whether that's, you know, taking some of the money or all of the money and donating it to charity, whether it's like, having it show how you have become a part of this person's life as a creator, being able to do this full time and like, creating content for you for free, and so I think like, like, knowing that there are these different kinds of stories that there are these different kinds of stories that we can tell can include more people in the story or in the ecosystem, because if you only see the stories that are about making people feel this unnecessary want and dissatisfaction with their lives, then you might be turned off from this entire way of supporting your creative life.

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Hank: What we're seeing, big companies or bigger companies or growing companies that are currently doing fundraisers, like, you know, doing venture capital fundraise, reaching out to creators and basically letting them buy in at discounted rates and then they own a piece of that company, and that is a--like, a really amazing opportunity.  I've been saying that to companies forever, like, you need to get influencers in your (?~16:30) table and to be, like, not just like, "invested" in your company, but invested in your company and so I'm seeing that more now and that's gonna be how a lot of influencers make the kind of money that a movie star would make, so we will never have YouTubers making, you know, Tom Cruise level money making online video.  Like that's, there's just--that, like, infrastructure has been too disrupted, but we will see people who make content making as much money as Tom Cruise  They will just do it in very different ways, and that's gonna have to do with business.  

We've noted how the nature of content production has changed over the last year and is going to continue the change in 2021, but we also need to note how the nature of content consumption has changed, too.

Hank: It's easy to look past the success of YouTube in the face of all of the other things that are happening, you know, with podcasts growing, with TikTok growing, but YouTube still is really good.  It's very good at knowing what I wanna watch and the content, like, YouTube made a very intentional decision to like, focus on longer-form content to increase time on site, but that has had a really interesting cultural result in that just like, there is lots of really interesting, good longform content, just so good, and that has had another result, which is, I think, underreported, which is the amount of time people spend watching YouTube on television.  

 (18:00) to (20:00)

Like, YouTube is second only to Netflix in terms of television viewership, which is an astounding fact to me.  I watch a lot of YouTube on my television, so I guess it shouldn't be surprising, but like, that transition happened pretty slowly, almost to the point where I didn't really notice it happening.

D'Angelo: Mostly because we're in a--witnessing a bit of a Netflixication of YouTube, which is like, a very unexpected consequence of quarantine  If I had to make a guess, if I look at when people started staying home and when people started having more free time, I notice an upward trend of engagement on content that's longer, on content that's interconnected.  We're already used to binging things thanks to Netflix, Hulu, all the major streaming services, but on YouTube, it was still way more focused on short form videos that are, you know, a bit disjointed.  You never know what you'll get from one week to the next, but I truly believe with the performance of things like Tiger King on Netflix and the way that  just because a cultural phenomenon, similar things are happening on YouTube where if you look at like, a meta community narrative, if you can figure out a way to turn that into a story, not only can you get more content out of that, so that's more watch time and more engagement, but you can also get more of a connection between your videos, so a lot of the videos on my channel directly tie into the other videos, and that's a shift I distinctly made after I started noticing this trend, and since then, the combination of those things seriously just caused things to skyrocket.

It's hard to understate the impact the pandemic has had on viewing habits over the course of this year, and although television viewership has been on the decline, the demand for online programming has been insatiable.  

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