Practice English Speaking&Listening with: YouTube: Manufacturing Authenticity (For Fun and Profit!)

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cultural milestones come and go but every now and then we are privileged

enough to experience something so profound and important it not only

defines a generation it changes the world and right now in the era of new

media created for streaming online video that is still beginning to define its

own identity we can clearly pinpoint the apotheosis of generation-defining web

series which intersects altruism accessibility technical skill and

philosophy I'm talking of course about the YouTube series how to kick it with

Yolanda Gump welcome back to how to kick it I'm Yolanda during the course of an

episode of how to take it Yolanda challenges herself with the

creation of a novelty cake usually in the shape of a real-life object often a

tie-in with a relevant pop culture artifact that she has obviously never

seen and usually draped in fondant the most disgusting foodstuff man has yet

cruelly devised I'm going to carefully lift up the remaining fondant hold it

and drape it over the banana a typical how to cake in episode goes as follows

first Yolanda bakes her cake usually double-digit pounds of it 21 pounds 18

pounds of cake then she soaks the cake in simple syrup from her tool which her

commenters have named sir squeeze a lot sir squeeze her short you can buy your

very own sir squeeze at her website then she begins to ice the cake before

promoting her paid service Camp cake I hope I see you at Camp cake where you

can bake and decorate a cake with Yolanda in real time then she carves the

cake into the right shape while asking a question for you to leave a comment

which will up engagement be more favorable to YouTube's algorithm then

she crumb coats and chills the cake it is time to crumb coat and chill it's

time to crumb coat and chilled through before mentioning her t-shirt club

asking for shares promoting her 2nd channel and then removing the chilled

cake to do the final icing then she mentions her month

sprinkle service which you can subscribe to then she drapes her cake in the

horrible horrible fondant before then reminding you to subscribe to the

channel if you have it then the decoration begins after which she

reminds you that you can buy more of her merchandise at her website and during

the hours of meticulous decorating she also reminds the viewer to buy her book

a tactic which only a sucker would fall for as of August 2018 how to cake it has

amassed 3.8 million subscribers in about 3 years and in that 3 years the show has

grown from one or two calls to action within a given episode toe on average 11

calls to action in an episode your average episode of how to cake it is

almost more call to action that it is cake making at this point for those of

you who are not help to the lingo or who have never had a social media manager of

some sort a call to action is wherein the content of a video the host asks the

viewer to do engagement with the content in a more active way than just sitting

on your ass for 11 to 17 minutes this can be as small as asking me for you to

smash that like button if you enjoyed this video today please don't forget to

give it a big thumbs up down below it's matchmaking or to ask for shares or

suggesting that you use my URL to go build your own beautiful Squarespace

website calls to action are somewhat unique to online media if you're hosting

a cooking show on Food Network you can't exactly ask someone to leave a comment

on their cable channel I mean I guess you can but but calls to action are not

completely unique to online media one key to the popularity of RuPaul's Drag

Race is their prevalence on social media which is not only encouraged by a RuPaul

soliciting calls to action I want to hear from you the fans who do you think

deserves the crown are you Team aquaria Team Asia but by the structure of its

show lending itself to easy sharing not today Satan

the secret to Yolanda success is not of course the calls to action

those gradually rose as her subscriber count' did if you look at earlier

episodes of how to take it you see that there are very few calls to action and

most of them are requests for likes and subscribes with subscription services

merchandise and camp cake being gradually added through the years and

months early episodes are actually very conventional and more in the vein of

your typical Food Network show but about five months after the channel launched

in the flower pot of Cake episode published on may 5th 2015 a new element

is introduced then I measure then I measure this do I look tired

no sir cumference the giggle you hear is the voice of producer Jocelyn Mercer and

her presence in the series interacting with Yolanda from off-screen only

increases from here to the point where now it's a feature of the show that's a

workout game this element proves engaging and in the following months

there is a correlation of increased interaction between the production crew

and the host in effect Yolanda breaks down the facade that is production she

jokes with her producers she jokes with her cameraman our Americans gonna get

mad at this sometimes she even jokes with her editor who is not in the room

the series went from the occasional fourth wall breaks to fourth wall breaks

being a part of the show's identity

Yolanda and her producers have effectively figured out not only how to

market a curated version of her personality but with how she interacts

with her crew and the interactions with the crew make the show feel more

authentic you feel like you're just you know in the room hanging out laughing

about this elaborate cake that looks like a giant turkey now pop your turkey

cake in the fridge I'm don't wait too much of this this falls into line with

the appeal of YouTube in general that it strips away the polished facade of

television to give you something more real you should send every rapper a

newsletter without this info just now same word every sentence in the song

ends with the same where mm-hmm Yolanda can get away with her eleven

thousand calls to action per episode not in spite of this fourth wall breaking

format but because of it owning the fact that a a polish production like this is

in fact a group effort this isn't just a show you know we're just hanging out

laughing about this cake we're just having fun

you must chill this cake thy must chill

to be clear this is not a call out how to cake it has a clear and effective

business model and Yolanda Gump is both an engaging personality and a talented

artist with fondant I do find the calls to action distracting but I loyally

watch every episode of how to cake it and yes I own her goddamn book and no I

have not attempted to make a single one of these cakes but there is something

special innovative dare I say lucrative in the style and format Yolanda and her

colleagues have devised and other companies have begun to take notice

the medium is the message

YouTube was founded in 2005 by three former PayPal employees Chad Hurley

Steve Chen and jawed Karim the idea for YouTube in part was inspired by Jawad

Koreans difficulty in finding and watching videos online of Janet Jackson

having her tip exposed by Justin Timberlake during the Superbowl halftime

show based on a failed prior project a video dating site called TuneIn hookup

by February of 2005 the trio had agreed to set work on the YouTube project with

chin and Corrine taking technical duties and Hurley taking on a managerial /

administrative role in April of 2005 the very first video was uploaded to YouTube

a video of jawad hanging out at a zoo both hang what these guys explain is

that they have really really really long and no-one ever wanted for videos of

wardrobe malfunctions ever again and that's pretty much all today so what

does YouTube offer as a medium arguably YouTube offers anything you

want but the platform specializes in certain niches that flourish on this

platform more than they do elsewhere beauty blogs makeup tutorials video game

screamer at ers and DIY channels make up a huge percentage of successful channels

but the forum that both originated and flourished on the format and remains the

most popular are the slice of life vloggers to this day the biggest

channels on the platform with the likes of Logan Paul and PewDiePie even if they

specialize in a subcategory like video games are in effect slice-of-life

vloggers fundamentally YouTube lifts the barrier between the content creator and

the viewer decades prior television had come into people's homes

and given us the likes of news anchors and late-night talk-show hosts to

provide a friendly public figure a personality that people find

recognizable relatable and also a bridge to the world of celebrity but with

YouTube we strip away the artifice indeed even in the name of the platform

the person uploading the video controls what goes on on their channel YouTube is

the medium of authenticity one simply records a video at

so as they please and uploads it to their millions of subscribers no

middlemen YouTube is the response to the demand of a younger audience hungry for

what they consider authentic and because of this perceived authenticity audiences

give a great deal more latitude with the sale of certain things for instance

sprinkle services and t-shirt clubs this observation was brought to you by

Squarespace with Squarespace you can design a beautiful website designed by

professionals that know what they're doing not like me but even from the

beginning there are blurred lines between slice of life daily vlogs and

authentic fiction one of the earliest breakthrough channels was lonely girl 15

which launched in the summer of 2006 and was for a time

female subscribe channel on YouTube anyway so Daniel is really mad right now

and I know if he'll be allowed to come over anymore the series initially

presented as an authentic YouTube video diary but gained even more notoriety

when it was outed as being completely fictional in September of the same year

it is noteworthy that the big controversy around lonelygirl15 was the

revelation that lonelygirl15 was in fact an actress and that her daily vlogs were

fictional and completely fabricated part of the appeal of YouTube is its

perceived authenticity but even if there is no network or middleman everything

that is uploaded to YouTube is cultivated by the creator and is it fair

therefore to say that what lonely girl 15 is trying to sell you is any less

authentic and Logan Cole I guess what I what I wanted to ask you was why you

decided to be a youtuber I didn't decide to be a youtuber this is anyway I didn't

decide to be a youtuber just called to you there well there wasn't no there was

there like there were no youtubers it was 2007 there wasn't a such thing as a

youtuber so here here's a question do you okay so like the stuff you're

supposed to do like calls to action and do you ever do you ever consciously like

incorporate stuff like that like stuff that's supposed to improve metrics no I

mean the things that I do to improve metrics are like a good title and a good

thumbnail and I don't think beyond that like that the algorithm changes to too

much for my old man self to be trying to keep up with it but no I mean what I do

to action because I want when I want somebody to take an action ID calls to

action when PBS tells me what someone on Twitter actually like called me out on

that they were like it's weird hearing you do a call to action it's very not

on-brand and I'm like yeah yeah you're right you're right

yeah influencer culture yeah hey everything about it both of those words

are mean nothing I I think you can see a flash dear Hank no I ya know this this

video is gonna be sponsored by Squarespace if they clear okay this

video where I'm highly critical of influencer culture

I like if you're gonna influence people to do something like yeah you know if

you're gonna have a website you might as well use Squarespace oh that's their

that's their new motto don't try to be all fancy and shit you don't know what

you're doing good we're really good at this the medium is the message

see I forgot his first name Marshall the medium is the message

Marshall McLuhan 1961 what McLuhan yeah around one Yolanda

Gump started using the joshing with producers gimmick her sub started going

way way up and by mid-2016 she's well past two million subscribers and around

this time on July 26 2016 venture capital funded startup craftsy begin

publishing the first episode of their own cake show sometimes you need more

than just to know how to cake it sometimes you need um

about cake hey guys welcome to man about cake craftsy was a startup service that

specialized in hobby and lifestyle tutorials and craft education that was

launched in 2011 by a bunch of former eBay executives one of the contributors

who featured in content behind this paywall was pastry chef and sugar artist

Joshua John Russell pointer stencil resting against her cake board to help

make sure it doesn't shift around we begin starring in content for craft C in

2012 but in November of 2014 the company raised another 50 million in BC

financing and lo and behold they got their own fancy cake show starring

Joshua John Russell featuring drastically improved production values

and a whole new format one that seems strangely familiar by the way the

milkman came today and dropped this on my door I don't know why I find that

incredibly sexy it is sexy sword baby is about to be born

okay so if like me you're integrating a new

cake show into your cake tube diet one that admittedly does have more polished

production values than your old hat it may feel seamless at first and this sort

of thing is perfect for you to put on in the background of whatever it is that

you're doing and not really paying attention to but if you watch enough man

about cake you start to notice something what bird did that come out of it's like

a robin's egg no Robin's eggs are very very pale our birthday it's for the

viewers these guys are miked James who's that

guy that's Mike say hi Mike hello that's a lavalier mic and named the dragon go

ahead Brandon great okay like the sound cop from the producers on how to cake it

is either at the onboard mic or from your lung does lavalier mic but I made

about cake everyone on the set has a lavalier mic like these this is a

lavalier it's not it is a Thor joke and then you start to notice other things

like their use of props probably celebrate

that was the best thing that ever happened to me guys I didn't notice

there were balloons right above me balloons or their use of sound effects

I'm gonna kill these balloons that pop was at it in post

you all fired your fires there use of relationships within the show trim gets

cornered you better watch that night do you see this shirt that does not say

maybe I will cut you yeah you know just some guys joshing around just you know

being broke bros making some cake as you do a weird and unnatural dynamic that

Russell calls out in the very first episode of man about cake

joining me is my all-male crew which is not weird at all that four guys would

just be hanging out talking about cake but that's what we do and when you spend

hours watching this show as I have you start to realize that this wasn't just a

natural dynamic between the host and the crew that eventually got incorporated

into the show like in how to cake it this was part of the pitch the banner

for their YouTube show isn't just the hosts it's the host and these three guys

facing away from the camera you go into their website and there are like BIOS

for each of the camera guys you know camera guys but they don't have surnames

or any defining attributes and their eyes are blacked out like there ain't

goddamn witness protection so it's like this entire show was built around this

scaffolding of bros joshan with each other while making a cake let's

that was the best thing that ever happened to me more like man about fake

the plain breeze just like we're done

but a youtube show can't be like the obvious way more fake genre of reality

shows it is that has to embrace this manufactured authenticity already

pioneered by shows like how to cake it but here's the thing how to cake it has

a really clear business model obtrusive at this point and honestly kind of

distracting but I get it I get why the show exists and what its business model

is and I can respect that but mad about cake has hardly any calls to action also

on occasion they'll do like q and A's they'll do Instagram based contests

they'll ask for comments but that's it the vast vast majority of the man about

cake calls to action are all about building engagement and here's the thing

mad about cakes Channel doesn't have that many more subscribers than I do and

I know what kind of money these numbers pull ad revenue alone cannot pay for a

show that looks this nice hmm starburst and in 50 yards I still don't

really understand what their business model is what are you trying to sell man

about cake

they're just gonna get a lot of footage of me looking sad I was hoping to get it

from different angles but it's genuine

literary critic marie-laure Ryan states that we are more likely to be affected

by what happens to people we know than by the fate of strangers and youtubers

who have shared their lives with their subscribers for several years and

hundreds or in some case thousands of videos can feel more familiar to some

audiences than real-life acquaintances as we see in reality shows there is a

viewer fascination with what Ryan calls higher cognitive emotions ie shame

excitement sadness embarrassment in 2007 vlogger Chris Crocker became one of the

first youtube stars with an emotional appeal defending pop singer Britney

Spears who was at the time going through a variety of personal crises and being

hounded by the paparazzi and press you're lucky she even performed for you

bastard part of the viral appeal to this video is in part that the emotions are

so extreme and sincere that they push the viewer to a place of discomfort and

the best way to deal with that discomfort is to make proper the target

of ridicule of parody but more to the point that the emotions over-the-top

that they may be read is sincere and in this new marketplace of YouTube

sincerity and authenticity are the valuable commodities reality TV was

hugely popular when YouTube came onto the scene and remains hugely popular

even in the world with YouTube but with reality TV there is more of an

understanding that there is little real in what the viewer is watching with the

medium of YouTube the rules that is to say the understanding between the

creator and the viewer are a little different the videos on your personal

channel were like I guess a little more stream-of-consciousness II yeah cuz I

yeah just like my day of VidCon and stuff like that whereas like I guess the

scishow and stuff is obviously like the most scripted and I think the

interesting thing with the stuff you do on the vlog where those channels you

have much you have a different cadence and the way that you speak

and I've noticed this like even when I was doing a QA I noticed myself slipping

into this like cadence that I I have developed I didn't even realize that I

had developed it over the course of how many years yeah I am I have lots of

friends who are youtubers and some of them I'm like you sound nothing like

your YouTube self and they're like I don't I don't hear I don't have any idea

what you're talking about it was just like you have a different voice when

you're narrating a video it's just different it's completely - in some but

some people sound exactly the same and they they are they they make the same

jokes they make the same facial expressions like nothing is different I

think usually when people meet me they're like surprised that I'm short

and that I compulsively apologize what you don't do in your videos yeah no no I

like kids because people kind of have like even my friends are like wow you

just seem like such a hard-ass yeah and in real life you are not I don't know I

don't think I am competitive in his videos I think it's just because I'm a

woman and it just speaking speaking with any kind of confidence feels aggressive

that's true yeah no you're not wrong the term emotional labor comes from Arlie

Hochschild in her book the managed heart and was her contribution to discussions

of effective and immaterial labor according to Hawks child emotional labor

requires one to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward

countenance that produces the proper state of mind and others her research

found that in working with affect managing one's emotions can be

physically tiring in the same way that manual labor is and that the

commodification of emotions estranges workers from their own feelings more

attention has been paid in recent years to emotional labor in a context of

intimate relationship ie the idea that romantic relationships the onus falls

more on women to manage the emotions both of herself and us for partner but

Haas child was more interested in emotional labor as it pertains to a

capitalist commodity in hostiles analysis not only is seeming to love the

job part of the job but actually trying to love it

and to enjoy the customers helps the worker in this effort as they are not

simply faking it but they come to believe and internalize what they are

doing for the job critical to her analysis is when this is done for and

guided by capital it's it's kind of strategic you want someone to have a

reason to come back and watch your video I think a lot of content you actually

end up with it being a one-off viral video and I'm watching this because I

like the video like because it's a good funny video yeah and if you don't get

connected to a personality then like the chances that you're going to come back

for a second video is way way down so trying to figure out how to connect with

a personality without connecting your whole life experience without sharing

everything is a really tricky balance how has your approach to selling a

version of yourself changed since you started I that super addict no it's not

it's just like I'm trying to come to terms with the version of myself that I

am on the Internet I think that ultimately I think that

it's it's really hard to have that version of myself not also in fact the

real me and so there's the in this weird way like where I've been held

accountable to being like a better person on the Internet I also like just

find that it is more comfortable for me to be a better person in real life and

to like be really thoughtful and careful and like aware of the impacts I'm having

on other people but there is no doubt that like I am a different person on the

internet than I am in real life and then I am very careful and I don't think that

there's anything inauthentic about that I am the version of myself that I need

to be for my own mental health but also for like the impact that I'm going to

have on the people who are watching

every job to a certain extent requires maintaining a certain effect but there

are a number of jobs in which maintaining a certain effect is a

requirement of the position if you are a cast member who works at Disneyland a

requirement of the position is to maintain a friendly effect it is in your

job description to make the customer feel special and to induce a feeling of

happiness now anyone who interacts with a waitress or a Disneyland cast member

while they appreciate and expect to receive this effect don't actually

believe that this effect is genuine all of the time the bartender at the PF

Changs doesn't actually care about how you never see your husband and how

YouTube comments are scary and overwhelming and how you're pretty sure

that the guy who sends you these novel-length screeds about how feminist

throughing society and he's going to kill himself and you and probably 10

dozen other people is probably actually gonna kill you someday youtubers are

selling more than a service like the bartender or the cast member the product

that youtubers twitch streamers and other influencers sell is almost

exclusively affect and this is a form of emotional labor more and more discussion

has turned to create a burnout but most of that has focused on consistency

maintaining a schedule little of that discussion has focused on the emotional

burden of maintaining the effect associated with the creator's brand

overtime little tiny micro traumas can build up as a result of a person

behaving in a way that does not reflect their emotional truth but more

importantly that their livelihood depends on and on some level a part of

burnout is the desire to rebel against this one-sided picture of yourself that

you have painted in the interest of consistency some extreme examples of

this are high profile youtubers and streamers letting racial slurs slip into

their speech or going on to other people's streams to rant about how

immigrants are bad or maybe they got drunk in public and had a run-in with

the police it happens I don't mean to condone random acts of racial slurs that

occur during heated gaming moments but rather suggest that a part of the

burnout is a result not only of YouTube's algorithm placing priority on

creators who upload regularly and homogeneously but also on the emotional

labor of only showing the side of yourself that your audience wants to buy

we acknowledge that people working in the service industry don't always do it

for the love of the game a cast member a Disneyland probably works there in part

because they like being nice people but we also accept that the

effect is a part of their job not necessarily their inner lived truths but

there's very little sympathy for a high-profile creator who isn't 100%

grateful for their platform 100% of the time when the same basic idea for

youtubers comes up that they're sometimes they're afraid of their fans

that maintaining an on brand effect becomes draining and exhausting that the

expectation of constant availability can begin to do real harm well that becomes

a breach of trust that the Creator had with this community a part of the

platform of YouTube what some would call influencer culture is that it's

important for creators that their audience think they know you and that

your job depends on maintaining that sense of accessibility and authenticity

without going crazy the premium of authenticity is predicated on

maintaining that the effect is convincing the challenge for creators is

to maintain the illusion for their followers of feeling like they do know

this creator when reality they only know the effect the construct the site of the

Creator that the Creator most likely without they're making a good conscious

decision to do so has decided it is most beneficial for you the audience to see

it is impossible to have a personal connection to a giant faceless mass of

people who are in effect your customers and when the deception becomes clear

fans can get angry but lucky for me I don't have to worry about you guys

you're the good ones

I remember this this very brief conversation you and I had at VidCon

where you you were talking about making this video where you asked youtubers

kind of random trivia questions and I was like oh man that was so sorry

I hate you know I hate that you had to do that while you're here and you're

like no I actually look forward to it like that's like my one creative outlet

and that kind of surprised me because I like I so see you too anything that I

put on YouTube is just work like sometimes it's gratifying work but at

the end of the day is work to me hmm yeah no I mean like making a video is

not I mean I don't know what work is I don't know what work is anymore I don't

know what relaxing is I don't know like I don't I don't I really don't know I

don't know how to do it really well like I have a hard time I sometimes have

a hard time like being like going to just like a gathering of friends and not

you know thinking about how could my time be better spent so I like I do have

that problem but I do really like making YouTube videos like I love to edit video

I love to I love to be on camera I love to write I love the whole process coming

together I love how fast it can happen i I'm very glad that I have this than that

I get to do every week yeah I know in a perfect world what would your positive

impact be I want people to smile and be happy and and like think that that was a

fun experience one I want people to like get excited about the universe in the

world and like how cool and weird and like thinking critically and hard about

stuff more and more like I want to foster some kind of better communication

and Milland am also more and more I feel like that that that needs to happen a

lot more off of the internet than is happening now I think that we need to

have more physical connection or else we will continue to become more

lonely and we need to occupy the same physical space as other human beings so

my hope is also that people find community and connection that can grow

outside of and be larger than just the Internet and I don't really know how I'm

trying to get that done right now but it's something I think about a lot no

Wendy am I going outside like Pokemon go it's like that except that I'm going to

MFI friendship yeah no no no we got a game of eyes friendship it's like the

Starbucks app that gamma Phi's coffee where it's like hit a star every day you

get coffee so maybe game if I get a star every time you like see a person in the

real save more than 10 words to them I like it the only the only problem I have

with this idea is but it's a non-profit we need to make money Lindsey we need to

get filthy rich

so obviously I'm coming at this discussion both from the angle of a

creator and as a viewer part of the reason I focused on cake-decorating

YouTube is not only because you know that's what I watch but because there's

something that happens in media where the scenes that are supposed to be

hidden once you see them it's kind of hard to unsee asking what Matt about

cake is selling is the wrong question Matt about cake isn't trying to sell

anything it is instead the product to be bought which it was after that influx of

VC financing in 2014 and the launch of mad about cake two years later that was

all made with an eye towards acquisition which they were by NBCUniversal earlier

the summer rebranding craftsy as blueprint on July 17th 2018 big

corporations see the value in authenticity even manufactured

authenticity like many about cake or this old companies will pay a lot of

money for brands that can successfully sell authenticity and entire newer

corporations have molded their marketing strategy around the faith viewers have

in the authenticity of their favorite youtuber or their favorite podcaster

companies like Casper audible and of course Squarespace now I

hope this doesn't come across that I'm trying to make a grand sweeping

statement about how thing bad even though that does tend to be the most

effective way to get popular on YouTube but rather thing exists and thing is a

part of a system that you may not even be conscious of but all content is

cultivated no one can portray a fully lived experience on this platform and to

paraphrase the great Dolly Parton it takes a lot of Labor to up here this

authentic this video was brought to you by Squarespace

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to launch use the offer code lindsay ellis i guess to save 10% off your first

purchase of a website or domain we bought this URL because we were having

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we were really angry about it so we just made a website where you just complain

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The Description of YouTube: Manufacturing Authenticity (For Fun and Profit!)