It had a sense of inevitability about it last year. A perfect storm was brewing to create the predictable wave of new angling focused YouTube channels in the UK. As 2019 started, it seemed barely a week went by without someone announcing their new channel across every Facebook group they’d yet to be banned from. By the end of 2019, it felt like they were cropping up daily, but by now, each was simply a carbon copy of the one before, the names changing, the content and worst of all ‘sponsors’ remaining the same.
I certainly hold nothing against anyone aspiring to create content that others want to view. Such aspirations should be applauded. The great thing about the YouTube platform is, if you’re not up to it, you’ll be found out before long, whereas if you genuinely create original and enjoyable content, you can thrive. No doubt, the success over the past 12-24 months of channels such as The Fish Locker have spurred others on, but the vast majority seem to have paid little or no attention to how such channels have achieved their success.
Step one, for anybody in the creative realm, must surely be to distinguish yourself from everyone else around you. Whether you do this by finding a niche, developing a bespoke presentation style, excelling in video editing above others or simply catching bigger and better fish, you need to be not just noticed, but memorable.
The current outlook of the vast majority of aspiring YouTubers lays waste to the above. They don’t seem to worry at all about memorable, and set off on some pursuit right from the off to be ‘sponsored’ by the same two or three brands ‘sponsoring’ every other freshly started channel. This is the very opposite of standing out, it’s blending into a rather unmemorable crowd.
The worst of this situation starts to realise itself in the content being produced. All of a sudden, every channel is feeling bound to not just mention ‘sponsored’ products every few minutes, but dedicate whole videos to clearly less than impartial reviews of said products. Laying further waste to the individuality of a channel, when the same review of the same product appears almost at the same time across numerous channels.
So who really benefits from this? There’s a massive case to be made that modern influencer marketing can lead to exploitation of individuals so keen to appear ‘sponsored’. With little material value in return, they set off producing dedicated videos of the products, they spend ages crafting social media posts to reference the product and they spend time drafting questionable reviews. If you weigh the value of any free product they receive against this time, you’ll be lucky to be getting anywhere near minimum wage. All the while, any chance of success on YouTube starts to wane as they lose all sense of the individuality required to succeed.
There’s no denying we have a generation now, more keen than any that preceded them for their 15 minutes of fame. Being able to tell their mates they are ‘sponsored’ will grant them sufficient bragging rights for a few weeks. They become susceptible prey for the lower budget brands looking for cheap options to spread promotion and awareness. The reach may be fairly insignificant compared to established and successful YouTube channels, in fact they are rarely reaching the monetisation criteria before bragging about half a dozen ‘sponsors’, but in exchange for a couple of packs of beads, or whatever the product may be, the brands take an almost entirely risk free gamble whilst the individuals have to gamble whether the loss of integrity and individuality will destroy their channel for good.
So here’s hoping for a fresh outlook in the remainder of 2020, where the focus can be on the content and quality, rather than more duplicated videos on pointless items. The opportunities to build big channels are stacked against us in the UK, where frankly, we simply have to admit that our fishing is not as exciting as many overseas destinations. So don’t ruin your prospects further by being just like everyone else. Stand out from the crowd and don’t accept sponsorship that undervalues your time, stymies your creativity and puts you into a ready made mould alongside numerous others.
I won’t be holding out great hope on this front though.