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A New Kind of Reality TV

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As a society we have always had an obsession with other people’s lives and this obsession has taken many different forms: gossip, biographies, documentaries, reality TV shows, and now, vlogging. Vlogging (video blogging) is a popular form of content on YouTube, in which internet celebrities document their lives in short videos, typically between four and 20 minutes.

On January 2, 2000, Adam Kontras posted what is now widely referred to as the first vlog: a video documenting his cross country move to Los Angeles for friends and family back home. He posted videos along with a traditional blog, having no idea that he was pioneering a new genre of video content that would blow up years later.

Vlogging became far more popular in 2005 with the creation of YouTube, now the most popular video sharing site in the world. Many creators try to vlog in all different styles, and no specific style seems to ensure success. The cause of success is often the vlogger themselves, rather than the content.

That rule does have exceptions, as can be seen with the Paul brothers. The Paul brothers were originally famous Vine stars, but when that platform shut down they took to YouTube where each started daily vlogs. Both brothers created separate ‘teams’ with whom they created content, and while some may watch their vlogs for the brothers themselves, many watch for the crazy stunts performed, such as lighting furniture on fire or bringing a live alligator into one’s home to prank a roommate.

More traditional style vlogs can be found on a channel such as Julien Solomita’s. Solomita’s vlogs depict his daily life divided by time lapse footage. His content often features his girlfriend Jenna Marbles and their dogs, two Italian greyhounds and a chihuahua. He also has a series called J&J’s Kitchen wherein Solomita and his girlfriend cook. Many love this series because of couple’s funny back and forth, but are also interested in the vegan, gluten-free diet the two follow.

Other channels incorporate animation in their vlogs, such as sWooZie, a vlogger who provides funny anecdotes along with short animations to help tell the stories. Other vloggers, such as Daniel Howell, Phil Lester, and Natalie Tran have a similar format: instead of animations, they use small skits to add to their stories.

VlogBrothers is a channel that started in 2007, shared by two brothers many people know: the Green brothers. Hank and John Green started the channel as a brotherly project, in which they would cease all text communication for a year, only communicating via video every week day. The project was made public on YouTube, and even after the project ended they continued vlogging. The new rules created their current format: they talk about anything they want for four minutes, and post twice a week: John on Tuesdays, Hank on Fridays.

While some people may find it scary to think creators like the Pauls can find such a large audience despite their controversy and shallow content, their channels can actually act as entryways to other vlogging content creators.

The Paul brothers have fan bases made up almost entirely of children who won’t remain loyal fans. The children will grow up, see the shallowness and search for similar but better content. This will lead them to channels such as VlogBrothers or Natalie Tran, raising these creators rather than bringing down the genre. The Pauls may never run out of children who consume their content, but their fanbase doesn’t stay consistent like Julian Solomita’s, who is able to go to other platforms such as Twitch, and see his fans move with him.

Overall, there’s no reason to fear the rise of the Paul brothers. Ultimately it creates a healthy ecosystem for the vlogging community, instead of weighing it down as many assume.

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Graphic by Madeline McKowen


written by
Oliver Ray
March 8, 2019