Monday, November 21, 2016

VLOGs Dropping Like Flies

This is a screenshot from Feedly, which is a handy piece of software that puts in one place descriptive links to things I follow. The striking thing about this page from Feedly's video page is that two vloggers (video bloggers, or video diarists if you like) are coincidentally announcing they're giving up the business, and a third is announcing his wife just delivered a baby, but, giddy from the excitement, he doesn't seem to have realized that the new baby will rearrange his life dramatically.

The most dramatic change documented here is Casey Neistat's ending his daily vlog. Casey has 5.7 million followers—a count which has been growing exponentially: he just celebrated four million and without fanfare is three quarters of the way from five to six million. He's the kind of guy who produces a few viral videos every year, and when he does, snippets of those videos go viral on regular television news in the US and Europe. The most recent example was last January when Manhattan was shut down by a winter storm, so Casey, holding high an American flag, accompanied by equally dare-devilish friends, and towed behind his father's four-wheel drive Jeep, went snow skiing through Times Square—footage was everywhere. Casey by nature is a filmmaker, and he's just happened to make YouTube his home for the past few years. Before that it was, along with his brothers and friends, HBO, on which they documented several excursions, not the least of which was a rough trip up Mt Kilimanjaro with minimal equipment and maximum chutzpah. Casey says that he'll still be posting occasionally to YouTube, but it just won't be daily anymore. He says he first has to let go of the current vine on which he's swinging through the jungle before he grabs the next.

Grace Mineta, whose Texan in Tokyo channel has provided great pleasure by illustrating myriad aspects and facets of life in Japan, explains that the number one reason for shutting down regular vlogging is the incompatibility of the YouTuber lifestyle with parenting. She's not a mom yet, but it sounds like she's planning to be in the near future. 

Casey's daughter Francine has been on the fringes of his videos for most of the first two years of her life, but then Casey's not the mom but the dad skateboarding all over lower Manhattan and flying to the rest of the world. So, not the same thing.

2016 was a year of global travel for Mark Wiens. Previously he's traveled mostly in Asia, and even stayed in a hotel in his and his wife's home town of Bangkok as though they were visiting it. First there was a trip to Jordan sponsored by the Jordanian tourism board. Then there was a round-the-world trip sponsored by Star Alliance, a consortium of airlines circumnavigating the globe. 

The videos from that Star Alliance trip are still arriving on YouTube at the rate of two or three per week—one about Portugal is at the top of the screen in the screenshot—even as the occasional still photos from videos yet to come tell us that Mark and his wife Ying are safely back home in Thailand. But the surprise, ironically just above Grace's link in the screenshot, is "Say Hello to Micah Wiens (How I Became a Dad)!" In that video, Mark explains how Ying surprises him with news of her pregnancy in a room in a hotel near the Dead Sea. The pregnancy is concealed through the summer's videos in India, Europe, and New York, so the surprise announcement is a happy shock thrown into the arena populated by all the anonymous followers. The intimacy of YouTube videos create the illusion of friendship for an audience, most of whom will never meet Wiens.

Having a kid changes everything, of course, but life goes on, so I imagine Mark will find a way to keep producing videos even as he puts on the new hat of fatherhood. I wish Mark luck, and, greedily, I hope his output doesn't slow down. I will miss Casey's and Grace's videos and how they brightened my morning YouTube session, and I do hope they check in with us now and then just to say hello and let us know how their new ventures are going.