We are finally, finally reaching the end of 2020.
This hellish year has profoundly affected every aspect of our lives, including how we create and consume digital video. And while it might be tough to imagine wanting to carry anything from 2020 into 2021, the YouTubers we chatted with for this week’s episode of Creator News have seen some positive developments in the creator ecosystem that could shape it next year and beyond.
For our last 2020 episode of Creator News—Tubefilter’s investigative series exploring issues that impact the entire creator community—we talked to OG YouTuber and VidCon founder Hank Green (3.33 million subscribers), popular family creator and Game Master Network founder Rebecca Zamolo (10 million), and rising star commentator D’Angelo Wallace (1.82 million) about what they experienced this year, and what they expect to see from creators, viewers, and platforms in 2021.
Both Zamolo and Wallace view the backlash to March’s cringey “Imagine” collab, where celebrities like Gal Gadot, Will Ferrell, and Natalie Portman recorded themselves singing the John Lennon song from lockdown, as emblematic of content viewers will no longer tolerate.
Wallace says that reaction is part of a widespread “deglamorization of the wealth gap” that occurred during quarantine. Pre-2020, viewers might have craved sunny check-ins from celebrities, luxe Louis Vuitton hauls, and ‘I bought $100,000 of Supreme blind boxes’ videos, but now? “Nobody wants to see 17 Gucci bags,” Wallace says, “when they can’t afford medical bills.”
He adds, “Interclass sermonizing is done. I don’t think anybody ever wants to hear another celebrity tell them what to do ever again. I think this was the big chance for celebrities to thoughtfully and correctly use their influence to spread important information and best practices, but instead we get ‘Imagine’ being sang from like 30 different mansions.”
Zamolo says the “Imagine” video “felt so disconnected,” and showed that, even relatively early in the pandemic, viewers had begun prioritizing authentic, relatable, and relatively lo-fi content from creators.
“People are realizing that you don’t need millions of dollars to create content for people,” she explains. “Maybe we don’t need all the crazy effects, maybe it’s more about the story, more about the connection…The glitz and glam is nice, but it’s not necessary, and at the end of the day, I’d rather see someone at their house. I feel more connected to that than some movie star in this extravagant place.”
The growing desire for genuine, non-glitzy content drove a lot of viewers to TikTok, where more and more creators in diverse niches are finding a foothold. Green, who’s been producing educational YouTube series like CrashCourse and SciShow for years, says he was “surprised by the robustness and the amount of good educational content” coming out of TikTok this year.
“Having this focus on learning that TikTok has had, they’ve actually put money in it, they’ve attracted educational creators to the platform with little grants…” he says. “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.’”
All three creators think the focus on relatable and educational videos will continue in 2021–and makers of that content, Green says, should be thinking about two things: how to establish a genuine connection to their audience, and how to sustainably monetize.
Creators on TikTok particularly “have really no way to directly communicate with their audience,” partially because TikTok “is very bad at delivering to you any kind of sequential content,” he says. “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.”
You can check out more from Green, Zamolo, and Wallace in the latest episode of Creator News right here on YouTube and in the embed above.
Creator News is made possible by and produced in partnership with Patreon — the platform that helps you generate recurring income from your creative work by offering exclusive content and community to your fans. They’ve been amazing partners and we couldn’t do this without them. Go to Patreon.com/CreatorNews to learn more and launch your own Patreon today.