Although type of content varies between older and younger users in the same cohort, we see that the mobile screen is taking over as the electronic time killer of choice, while the big screen TV will eventually reduce to a – not irrelevant, but increasingly distant – number two. It is also common for children to use several screens at the same time.
Every 22 minutes YouTube provides more content than Hollywood does in a year.
This rapid production and turnover of content in user-generated media affects not only consumption by the viewer, but also the type and length of fame of the celebrities that the viewers root for. Many of the up and coming tween and teen stars make it into quasi-corporate channels like AwesomenessTV and earn fans for their charismatic humor and perceived earnestness.
With shortening attention spans the narratives are getting shorter and punchlines are coming more quickly. The humor is often goofier and less polished. Can you see a difference in preferences between post-Millennials and those older Millennial preferences displayed at the same age? Or is it just an age thing? Let’s have a look at the rising starlets in the post-millennial YouTube fanbase.
The who’s who of emerging YouTubrieties:
- Nash Grier: T.J. Marchetti in imediaconnection called him the most important celebrity you’ve never heard of. You might not have heard of him, but your daughter probably has.
- Bunny Myers or Grav3yardGirl: Humorous, expressive and insanely popular among kids. Reveals the gimmicky quality of many “As Seen On TV” products for her viewers.
- Miranda Sings: played by comedian and actor Colleen Ballinger who took to youtube to build her fanbase. Her signature red lipstick is smeared amply around her lips and her character talks nasally about tings she knows little about.
- Seven Super Girls: Tweens and teen girls create online episodes and sketches that take place around their homes.
- Adalia Rose: Adalia is a six-year-old girl in Texas with the rare disease Progeria in which the body ages abnormally quickly.
- Disney CollectorBR: Appealing to the very youngest ones, a mysterious woman with manicured nails and an even more mysterious accent unboxes and plays with toys popular with toddlers. Nobody knows who she is, but she has an immense following among the youngest viewers.
…and what they mean for their young audiences:
Humor. Sorry Disney and Nickelodeon, but your sitcom punch lines are getting some competition! Humor is enormously important to Gen Z or Homelanders kids. Rambunctious, unpolished, yet innocent humor. Not unfunny jibes in staged high-school hallways that rely on laugh tracks to announce their funnyness. But unrehearsed humor, yet one which reflects a childhood that has been largely protected from advertisement, profanity and commercial plot lines. Humor so soaked with self-ridicule and unpretentiousness that is forever lost on the over-confident female lead character with the long tresses (yea yea, we get it, Grrl power and all that.) and her goofy parents who dominate all cable TV sitcoms today. The path to this generation goes via real humor, not manufactured jokes and artificial punchlines. In fact when comparing desirable personality traits (for example in a study carried out by – tada – Nickelodeon!), Homelander kids are much more likely to say they want to be funny than popular or pretty than Millennials were at the same age. Other directed, down-to-earthy types are also the main role models they look up to, so if you’re in the entertainment industry, get your actors out of the styling rooms and up on the local improv stage. Or pick them up from the Central Station while they’re doing “Improv Anywhere” with other public thrill seekers.
Miranda Sings makes videos of her comically talentless, egotistical and quirky character, often parodying popular hit songs her viewers are familiar with. Kids today are inundated with so many media messages of manicured, airbrushed and sound-enhanced perfection everyday. Subjecting this perfection to parody may actually bring some relief. Grav3yard Girl is another character with Homelander appeal. Refreshingly unpretentious and spunky, Grav3yard Girl (Bunny Myers) humors with theatrical facial mimicry and sardonic wit and kids find her videos irresistibly entertaining.
The Heartthrob: Nash Grier is the pre-teen’s romantic fantasy Justin Bieber used to be became a Narcissus’ water reflection hypnotized him to a point that the young tween girls ditched him. Nash is an ingenuous homeboy, handsome with sky blue eyes and affable affection for his little sister Skylynn, whom he often features in his vines. But even Nash has an innocence problem. In earlier vines recorded with his friends, he educates female fans on how “females should look and act” to win over guys. Lately, homophobic slurs have been found in his pre-fame tweets and vines. Fans are forgiving but despite his profuse apologies, his career with the kids might be jeopardized if his remorse seems fabricated and dishonest. On the other hand, if he’s a true Generation Z’er he might claim to be so post-homophobic that he takes liberties in poking at old taboos. No types of 20th century bigotry will win ground with this “plural generation”, which is both more diverse and more tolerant of diversity than any one before them.
Diversity: Diversity to this generation is beyond ethnic background and sexual orientation, and has to do with the next paragraph, Authenticity. They want to see variety many different levels. You don’t have to win the genetic lottery or reach high scores on traditional measures of perfection to gain 7-digit views and a solid fanbase. Actually the most popular vines and videos are not those protagonists who ooze success or enlist in the video menagerie just to seek applause for their personal trophy collection. Rather success with post-millennials is granted those who are different, honest and who bring their personal battles out in the open. One example was Talia Castellano, a bubbly young youtuber who was diagnosed with cancer at age six and who built a following by doing online makeup tutorials for her viewers. When Talia died, her fans experienced true grief. They had connected with a real person with a disease. Not an actor who plays sick. YouTubers can’t always promise a happy ending. Or a happy beginning. When mother of Progeria-diagnosed Amalia Rose first shared her daughter’s videos on YouTube, she was met with vicious internet trolls, but also a loving following of children who would otherwise never get to learn about this disease and the people affected with it. Speaking of, I should make a separate post about haters and trolls, but that would put me in an unsummerly bad mood…
Authenticity: Grav3yard Girl runs a series called “Does This Thing Really Work?” where she tries and comments on various “As Seen on TV” type products. By putting products to the test and unveiling false promises advertised in infomercials, she reinforces the message many parents try to drive home with their kids: to view advertisement with skepticism. Children enjoy when they can “discover” marketing ploys, and Bunny from Grav3yard Girl is a great help. Authenticity also shows up in kids’ preferences for “down to earth” entertainment. Studies show that this generation of kids is remarkably domestic and down to earth. They trust their mother more than any others and have more “realistic” ambitions than was common with Millennials at the same age. The rise of apps like Snapchat and Whisper are other signs that younger generations are looking for more authentic experiences in a world of digital footprints where reputation management and competition so often interferes the genuine, local and unique.
“7-in-the-gang”: Seven Super Girls and Seven Awesome Kids are popular ‘kidfluencers’ among 6-9 year old girls. Their ‘brand’ is a quickly growing staple in Gen Z girls’ entertainment. Creating little skits around topics that children recognize from their own lives, viewers get to enjoy entertainment that are more “real” than Elsa’s Ice Castle or other impossible living configurations depicted in children’s entertainment today. Seven-Super-Girls don’t live in glitzy high-risers or hotel rooms, but in nature toned familyhomes in the ‘burbs’. That is reassuring for a child. Spin-offs around this “seven-in-the-gang” topic include Seven Awesome Kids, Seven Twinkling Tweens, Seven Fabulous Teens, Seven Gymnastic Girls and Seven Perfect Angels. (Hey kids, what’s up with the number seven?)
DIY: Splurging is out. Thrift is in. And with online “how-to” videos on everything from hand crafted boutique styles, homemade skin and hair products and even how to curl your hair with bananas, the possibilities for thrifty fun are endless. And growing up in the shadow of a still job-plunging, future-robbing recession, Generation Z is indeed no strangers to frugality. Tanamontana100 is one of many YouTubers who teaches her viewers how to shop frugally and create various products for next to nothing.
Unboxing: I mentioned Grav3yardgirl and her product testing of various products to test the advertisement hype. If product reviews or testing satisfies the pre-decision viewer, unboxing and haul videos satisfy gift opening and even surrogate buying. Chad Alan is another youtuber who has generated some buzz the past year. Chad is a Millennial in his early 20s whose schtick seems to be buying Disney-princessy type toys by getting good deals (thrift), unboxing these toys and describing them, heavily spicing his vocabulary with a lot of “amazings”, “randoms”, “epics” and “awesomes”.
Unboxing videos has a following among adult product geeks and teens, but also among the very youngest of consumers. Toddlers find the opening of new toys, bright colors and sing-songy almost hypnotic voice of DisneyCollector’s voice enthralling. The surprise element with blind-box/ blind-bag unboxing videos cannot be under estimated. In a time of economic distress and growing environmental awareness, parents as well as children are quickly turning into fauxumers.
Will the endless mushrooming of “free entertainment” put fabricated fame once reigned by Hollywood, Peoples Magazine and Joan Rivers out of business? Will the established entertainment industry lose this youngest generation to unsung You Tube sensations? Or is self-published content backed a large following becoming a necessary stepping stone in order to attract the big entertainment industry and the advertising money that goes with it? I guess as long as 11-years olds have the ultimate say on who’s hot or not, the question remains in the proverbial chicken and egg category – kid consumers decide who win and who lose, but the kids’ attention are in turn determined by a ginormous entertainment and advertising industry. Maybe as attention span continues to shorten, the red-carpeted period of glamour and glitz circulates faster as new “youtubrieties” get in the pipeline and the “new-old” celebrities are expelled into a phase of “epic scandals” similar to those of Spears, Cyrus and Bieber. These antics in turn (real or manufactured) will either move them into new markets or eclipse their careers at a rate that accelerates with the size of the pool of newcomers.
One big difference from my own 1980s’ entertainment industry is that today the young audience move an entertainer’s popularity up or down directly and instantaneously while MTV’s video hosts have become redundant.
Maybe we’ll find out when TheFineBros‘ Kids React To Used-To-Be-You-Tube-Sensations – in the distant future of a year or two.