Shane Dawson is making the best content on YouTube today – his ‘The Secret World of Jeffree Star’ series is proof of that.
This is not something I thought that I’d ever write. Shane wasn’t always a phenomenal filmmaker/documentarian. Shane once represented the negative stereotype of a YouTube creator – making clickbaity content (ie Dog Herpes, Death By Cinnamon Challenge, and I’m Britney Spears Gyno, etc).
The type of content Shane (and countless others like him) created is the reason that YouTube launched a coordinated effort to brand the platform as a more premium, brand friendly, destination in 2012. The platform began to prioritize ‘watch time’ as the primary metric – all in an effort to place an emphasis on quality and recruit advertisers.
YouTube stated in their own blog regarding the changes that the “discovery features were previously designed to drive views. This rewarded videos that were successful at attracting clicks, rather than the videos that actually kept viewers engaged. (Cleavage thumbnails, anyone?).”
Folks like Shane Dawson were the black sheep of the YouTube family, and the algorithm (as I see it) was meant to choke the air out of their lifeline of views.
A lot of creators have struggled to adapt to this new YouTube ecosystem – Shane too experienced a slump in views for a time.
However, Shane has managed to evolve and adapt – clickbait videos seem to be a thing of the past, and as a result he’s thriving more than ever. In July of this year Shane generated over 189 million views vs 90 million for the same month last year, and he gained over one million new subscribers (vs 250K in July of last year).
It is important to note that more than simply understanding the algorithm Shane has become a phenomenal filmmaker. He’s not creating longer videos that are more of the same. His focus is long form documentary style, multi-episode series and pointing a spotlight on the personalities within YouTube in a way that only someone with his access can. His videos are shockingly bing-worthy (I’ve found myself checking my subscriber feed every hour hoping to see a new upload from his Jeffree Star series).
In a recent series YouTuber ‘Graveyard Girl’ joked about Shane being her “Dr. Phil” – I think that’s selling him short. Shane is now the Oprah of YouTube (with a touch of Howard Stern). He’s self-deprecating, which makes him endearing and approachable – sharing his own issues with his sexuality, insecurity with how he looks, his battles with eating disorders.
While YouTube may have changed their algorithm in response to creators like Shane – it had the unintended consequence of challenging him as a filmmaker and pushing him to pursue excellence. I can’t imagine they would have ever envisioned the Shane Dawson of 2012 becoming one of the most celebrated filmmakers in 2018.
Myself and millions of other viewers are grateful for this new Shane and better YouTube.