The role of the amateur or individual in screen media has drastically changed over the past few decades, due to the introduction of the internet. Amateurs now have the power to influence the media landscape. As a result, the lines between amateur and professional have been blurred. This development has occurred due to the availability of online software and training.
One of the most complicated and confusing areas of the internet where the amateur and professional spheres are completely blurred is YouTube. It was founded as an amateur site, a place where anybody could produce content and while it still retains this aspect, YouTube’s landscape has changed over the past ten years. What began as a website for hobbies and escapism has become a job for some creators, who are known as YouTubers. Today, not only can people produce online content, these YouTubers can now earn money and have successful careers. What once was a network for amateur videos is now an internet space where videos have a professional appearance.
For example, Zoe Sugg began her YouTube channel, Zoella, in 2009. She began making fashion, makeup and lifestyles vlogs as a pastime while she was working in retail during the day. As of today, Zoe now has almost twelve million subscribers and is a full-time YouTuber, earning money from Google’s Adsense and sponsorships.
Therein lies the blurred lines between media producer and media consumer. The accessibility of inexpensive technology and software allows any person to generate content. Any amateur who creates high-quality, entertaining videos regularly on YouTube has the potential to become a professional YouTuber.
The success of YouTubers is a result of Henry Jenkins’ definition of an ideal consumer, one who is “active, emotionally engaged and social networked” (2008, 20). Through the use of other social media in conjunction with YouTube, for example Instagram and Twitter, YouTube stars have built loyal and interactive audiences. This phenomenon cannot be dismissed as a mere fad as it is quite obvious that YouTubers have developed empires and have expanded their brands through signing book deals and creating Netflix series.
The role of the amateur in screen media is no longer a passive role. Individuals have the opportunity to shape the media landscape and this leads to difficulties when attempting to determine the difference between professional and amateur in our digital age.
Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2008. Print.