This question sounds like one we’d have been asked a few years ago, back when smartphones had a lower IQ and your parents thought calling Facebook ‘anti-social media’ was funny, but with a new content platform being founded seemingly every other day is it the only platform the industry looks at?
I don’t think YouTube is the only place that the industry needs to look to when searching for the new generation of creators. Look at Snapchat and Instagram ‘influencers’ and you’ll see a wealth of people who are regularly making content that reaches thousands of people every day. These users are already making first-class content and YouTube doesn’t even get a whiff of it.
However, when it comes to predicting the future of our industry I must admit I have a bias towards wherever the frontier of media can be found. Although I was trained traditionally and in the pre-digital era, I’ve always strived to be at the forefront of innovation, meaning my skillset has had to be constantly evolving, whether that’s learning how to use the latest tech or getting my head around new formats of storytelling. This, I feel, is what YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook represent: the frontier and direction our industry is going in.
I say this because throughout my first 10 years in the industry I held down a job whilst pursuing my own projects on the side and I would have killed to have a social video platform to put them onto – there is no way a real filmmaker wouldn’t already be relishing these tools.
Platforms like YouTube let exceptional filmmakers truly stand out. Now that all it takes is a smartphone to be a director, producer and a cameraman, it takes real talent and passion to stand above the crowd. The old barrier into the industry (cost of equipment) is no longer an issue whilst the bit that really matters on CVs (experience) can be gained on personal projects that can now be used to draw real audiences on YouTube et al.
But if you are creating content with a view to using it as promotional material to gain future employment, make sure that it works on the platform it's published on. A video on Instagram needs to be produced with the way users engage and interact with the platform in mind. You can't just take one video and post across all platforms because style, pace, technical specifications and audience expectations all change depending on the platform it's on.
So do I think YouTube is the future when it comes to breaking into the content creation industry? I certainly think it is, just like any other social platform that allows you to use your personal projects to build an audience before you’ve even been commissioned is. I just think it’s worth remembering that it’s never about any specific platform, it’s about knowing how the industry is changing and how you’re going to influence that change.
My advice would be to keep making, and stick to the frontier – it landed me a job.
Matt Campion will be taking part in the RTS Futures: From YouTube to TV panel on Monday 19 June. To find out more or to book a place visit https://www.rts.org.uk/event/youtube-tv.