Chris C. Anderson is a Senior Editor at the Huffington Post. He was kind enough to talk to me when he came to Taiwan as part of a whistle-stop tour of Asia. In the video of this interview he talked about why he chose to move to China in 2006 and gave advice to any young souls feeling stuck in their home countries who want a change of scenery. In this written part of the interview he talks about the role of user generated content in the future of media and advice for any YouTubers feeling disillusioned after Charlie’s I’m Scared video.
Around 2007/08 there was a feel amongst a lot of the mainstream media, especially publications, that user generated content, including vloggers and content creators on YouTube, were their direct competition and the future of the media. It feels like that perception of innovation has disappeared and that content creators are being sucked into a larger business model like Stylish or My Damn Channel, rather than creating their own networks and maybe creating their own equivalent of the Huffington Post. Do you think that there is still a chance for user generated content to become a real competitor in the media without being sucked up into a larger conglomerate?
I think that people, if they are offered good compensation for something that they have created, that they are always going to look at it.
Do you think it loses a certain amount of integrity when that happens?
I think it loses an amount of its initial juice. That creative spark when you build something, when it gets bought out or you offer it up to somebody, you’re losing that bit of yourself that you put into it. Suddenly you don’t have that control that you had over it, when you were number one.
This is something that happens on YouTube quite a lot. Individuals, channels and group projects are being approached by organisations and are being told to have schedules, cover certain content etc…
There is actually a discussion happening now amongst YouTubers, where a lot of content creators have started questioning the quality of their content and the integrity of what they are posting. As a journalist, do you think that this is something that is present over all creative disciplines, or do you this the intimacy of YouTube means that creators on the site means that they are more susceptible to it. Is this something that you have experienced at some point in your career?
I think everyone runs into a bit of a wall sometimes in terms of creativity. It’s like writer’s block, right? You sit down in front of your keyboard and know you have a good idea and you want to get it out there but for whatever reason your fingers don’t move and your stuck. I don’t think it’s any different for people on YouTube.
However, I think it’s different in how you approach it because you are forced to be in front of a screen as opposed to being behind a screen because you have to always have that same personality. But if you’re a writer it doesn’t matter what you look like or how you act.
You can maybe look back at the content and say that you look good, sound good, think that your presentation is really tight but think, “what the heck was I talking about, why did I say that? I could have said it differently…” and question yourself into a spiral. The next time you’ll be doubting yourself and looking at your content, trying to get it straight the next time, but try not to care about that – just plough through it. You still look good, you still have a following, you still have people who care about what you have to say.
And these people are invested in you. I keep on bringing up the fact that we are brands now, and it is in vogue to say that everyone is their own brand and you have to try and get people to invest in your brand whether you’re doing business, selling merchandise or creating content. We seem to be keen on the idea of getting others to get excited about the idea of you and not just the content you create.
Right, so long as you do go so far out of what you normally do so that you alienate your audience. You know what, if you don’t make the best content one day, just hit it back the next day. Don’t stop doing it. You’re a creative person; just don’t stop.
Chris C. Anderson became a Senior Editor at the Huffington Post in New York after starting his career as a travel and lifestyle journalist in Asia. I met him when he came to National Chengchi University to talk on new media during a trip around Asia. You can find him on Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest where he posts about East Asia, gaming and travel.