For Online Video Stars, YouTube Is No Longer The Only Stage : All Tech Considered Online video is such a huge and lucrative market that a lot of companies are trying to lure some of the biggest stars away from the current king of medium — YouTube.
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For Online Video Stars, YouTube Is No Longer The Only Stage

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For Online Video Stars, YouTube Is No Longer The Only Stage

For Online Video Stars, YouTube Is No Longer The Only Stage

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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People watch about 4 billion videos on YouTube every day, and that's a huge market. NPR's Neda Ulaby says that's why other companies are trying to chip away at its dominance. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio of this story, we say that people watch about 4 billion videos on YouTube every day. That figure is outdated.]

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: We'll look at one example through a YouTube star named Anna Akana.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Anna, what'd I say about no stupid cellphones on the table?

ANNA AKANA: Don't call them stupid.

ULABY: Akana is a 25-year-old bespectacled comedian. She writes, directs and stars in skits about her cellphone versus her boyfriend.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sometimes, I feel like you're in love with your cellphone more than me.

AKANA: Not more.

ULABY: More than a million people subscribe to Akana's YouTube channel. But she's sort of over YouTube.

AKANA: YouTube revenue has been tanking.

ULABY: Akana is a savvy businesswoman. She says YouTube takes about half her revenue from the ads that play before her videos, and now it controls other advertising that plays during them. To be clear, Akana still has her YouTube channel. But now she has partnered with another company called Vessel.

AKANA: So I'm making 20 times more with Vessel for doing the same amount of work, if not less, than with YouTube.

ULABY: The way it works is Vessel plays Akana's videos a few days before they air on YouTube. It's counting on her fans to pay $3 a month for the privilege. Vessel's aiming to be the equivalent of premium cable for online video. Media analyst Alan Wolk says think about the economics of a YouTube show with 6 million followers.

ALAN WOLK: If I can take 10 percent of those, that's 600,000 people.

ULABY: And if you get each of them to pay $3, that's more than a million dollars monthly.

WOLK: That's a lot of money. And if I can do that multiple times, that's a whole lot of money.

ULABY: Much of the strategy is based on the TV-watching habits of millennials, who watch less and less traditional TV every year. Vessel's CEO Jason Kilar also started Hulu.

JASON KILAR: Web video is growing faster than any other form of media right now. And we happen to think it's going to be the most important form of media in the future.

ULABY: But Vessel's just one of many companies trying to chip away at YouTube's dominance, says analyst Alan Wolk.

WOLK: The other player that's challenging YouTube big time is Facebook. So it used to be that in order to put a video on Facebook, it had to live somewhere else, generally on YouTube.

ULABY: But now, Facebook is pushing for more native video. And Wolk says it was hugely helped by last summer's ALS challenge.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Then write a check to the ALS charity. Plus...

WOLK: If you remember the ice bucket challenge, people started putting all their videos up on Facebook rather than YouTube.

ULABY: Facebook's video views have more than tripled since September. And Twitter added native video earlier this year. Twitter's building on its sense of access to celebrities.


AMY SCHUMER: (As Amy) Good morning.

DAVE ATTELL: (As Noam) Oh, Amy, what happened? Did church let out early?

ULABY: Amy Schumer premiered the trailer for her new movie, "Trainwreck," natively on Twitter. And then she answered questions from fans using native Twitter video as well.


SCHUMER: Your question was, am I Beyonce. Now that's a fair question. Does this answer your question? (Singing) I woke up like this. I woke up like this.

ULABY: All these competing platforms can be complicated, not least for online video talent. Philip DeFranco became a star on YouTube, but he's moved over to Discovery Digital Networks. Still, you can see his videos on YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, at least, he says, four or five different online outlets.

PHILIP DEFRANCO: I'm just kind of hoping that in this ADD society that my shiny thing pops up at one point.

ULABY: Among so many other shiny things. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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