How social media videos turn children into viral sensations

Moshimoshi folks!

I’m thrilled to share this radio interview featuring my colleague Tama Leaver and I speaking with ABC RN Life Matters on young children in viral social media videos.

In this segment, we discuss the rise of viral videos starring very young children, how they are being co-opted into TV talk shows (i.e. The Ellen DeGeneres Show), and how parents (unwittingly or deliberately) play a part in such sensational celebrity.

You can listen to the interview here.

Tama and I will be co-presenting our full paper on this phenomenon, “From YouTube to TV, and Back Again: Viral Video Child Stars and Media Flows in the Era of Social Media” at the Digitising Early Childhood International Conference in Perth happening this week. Read some conference spotlights here and follow along on Twitter at #digikids17.

See also my 5min Snapchat lecture on young children in viral social media videos here.

If you are interested, here is some further reading on my work on young children in the age of internet celebrity:

Abidin, Crystal. 2017. “#familygoals: Family Influencers, Calibrated Amateurism, and Justifying Young Digital Labour.” Social Media + Society 3(2): 1-15. DOI: 10.1177/2056305117707191 <Link | PDF>

Abidin, Crystal. 2015. “Micromicrocelebrity: Branding babies on the Internet.” M/C Journal 18(5)<Link | PDF>

“When exploiting kids for cash goes wrong on YouTube: the lessons of DaddyOFive.” The Conversation, 2 May 2017. <Link>

“Micro-microcelebrity: famous babies and business on the internet.” Parenting for a Digital Future, LSE Blogs, 20 January 2017. <Link>

“New’s kid on the blog.” The New Paper, 9 January 2011. <Link>

If you work in similar areas or would like to chat about these works, please feel free to get in touch!

Business Briefing: the ‘get rich quick scheme’ influencing what you buy

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Josh Nicholas for The Conversation to provide expert commentary on the Influencer industry. Specifically, we chatted about how Influencers differ from mainstream media celebrities who are prolific on social media, the ecology of Influencers and micro-Influencers, and Influencers who are crossing over to mainstream media industries.

Here is the podcast and the accompanying article. Continue reading Business Briefing: the ‘get rich quick scheme’ influencing what you buy

Recent developments in the global Influencer industry.

While updating my personal archive of news relating to the Influencer industry, I decided to highlight a few significant developments in Q1-Q2 of 2017 in this short round-up.

With its historical beginnings rooted in bedroom camming culture in the North American late-1990s and the online selling culture in the South East Asian early-2000s, the Influencer industry is its vernacular and institutionalised formats is more than a decade old today.

Yet, for all their progress and advancements across several industry verticals and areas of society, present-day news reports seem to be stuck in a backdated timeloop as they continually express surprise at the fact that Influencers can command sizable earning and brands want to work with them, assert that the Influencer industry is somehow mysterious and a secret weapon, and reiterate that the Influencer industry is simultaneously on the rise and on the decline. That’s quite the obsession over the financial aspect of Influencers. But is there much else?

Yes! In the first half of 2017 alone, the Influencer ecology worldwide has registered several controversial blows and innovative debuts in relation to legality, economics, culture, and social issues.  Continue reading Recent developments in the global Influencer industry.

When exploiting kids for cash goes wrong on YouTube: the lessons of DaddyOFive

In light of the recent DaddyOFive controversy, Tama Leaver and I have a new commentary out on The Conversation, reproduced below. In this piece, we call for greater transparency in labour laws and guidelines when young children are increasingly engaged in for-profit social media. Continue reading When exploiting kids for cash goes wrong on YouTube: the lessons of DaddyOFive

YouTuber Influencers vs. Legacy Media: PewDiePie, Weaponized microcelebrity, and Cross-media politics

Last week, Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article and accompanying video accusing 27-year-old Swedish YouTube Influencer Felix Kjellberg, better known by his moniker PewDiePie, of publishing “anti-semitic posts”. In a media ecology saturated with Influencers, wannabes, and old/traditional/legacy media attempting to shift into digital spaces, this news is significant as PewDiePie is among the most watched, renown, and viable icons in the digital Influencer industry, being the most subscribed and highest paid YouTuber in 2016. In the wake of these accusations, PewDiePie’s network Maker Studios (recently bought over by Disney) and his platform partner YouTube Red dropped him from their stable, terminated his upcoming series, and removed him from their advertising programme.

I am an anthropologist who wrote my PhD on the Influencer industry, having observed the scene as early as in 2007 and investigated it professionally since 2010. I published extensive case studies and academic research on the culture of Influencers, including the shifts in trends and practices over the years. In this post, I extrapolate from the PewDiePie-WSJ scandal alongside reactions from prominent YouTubers to discuss Influencers on YouTube, their cultural vernacular and community norms, their relationship with legacy media, and their potential as new weaponized microcelebrity.  Continue reading YouTuber Influencers vs. Legacy Media: PewDiePie, Weaponized microcelebrity, and Cross-media politics