Behind the cutesy smiles of YouTubers like PewDiePie are the cold dead eyes of Wall Street hedge fund managers

YouTube helped in no small part to create these gremlins. If PewDiePie is now saying vocally – which he does in his last video – that he could run YouTube better than the powers that be can and he’s on the verge of pressing delete on his account, then this mutiny was always in the making

Grace Dent
Monday 05 December 2016 16:36
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Felix Kjellberg, AKA PewDiePie, the world's highest-earning YouTuber
Felix Kjellberg, AKA PewDiePie, the world's highest-earning YouTuber

It will be of grave concern to you, I’m sure, that the vlogger PewDiePie is irked with YouTube and is threatening to delete his channel. OK, perhaps not to you personally, but instead to the mute, thankless cluster of teenage cells to whom you gave life, and then an iPhone, who could presently be sat gawping at PewDiePie’s latest video.

The 27-year-old has almost 50m subscribers, but is threatening to pull the plug over a disagreement about how YouTube hosts fresh content. His new output is too difficult to find, he feels. Some of his videos only get 2m views. It’s hardly worth his pulling a T-shirt on, talking for six minutes in a totally adorable, super-relatable way about putting the T-shirt on, then asking his subscribers to leave feedback about the T-shirt, while meanwhile checking if Forbes is putting him on the 2016 richest YouTube stars list.

Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg – PewDiePie’s real name, according to Forbes – made $12m in 2015. I don’t quibble with his claim that he works incredibly hard to build and maintain this brand. The average well-known vlogger gives his or her life over to the public completely and uploads continuously. It’s an endless, 365-day per year slog.

Personally, I have yet to get more than 76 seconds into a PewDiePie rant without thrashing listlessly like a hostage handcuffed to a radiator, but his shtick is not aimed at me. None of his ilk, or their output, are; and my age group’s curmudgeonly impressions of the vlogger crowd are clearly, in some part, down to jealous incomprehension at what these skinny, young and now very wealthy bastards are up to. Jealousy with a dank underbelly of sadness over the anodyne thickness of it all compared to our earnest 80’s selves.

Youtuber PewDiePie threatens to delete his YouTube channel

Is PewDiePie this generation’s Morrissey? Is he the modern-day Robert Smith? Are his videos as cerebrally titillating as when the Beastie Boys prodded us to snatch Volkswagen badges off cars? The answer must be, by and large, yes. My reaction to PewDiePie threatening to leave YouTube was exactly like my father in 1986 overhearing Morrissey fantasising about his death in “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”: loud laughter at the grandiose pomposity of the grizzling twerp, then a shout of, “’Ere, don’t let me stop you mate, go on sling yer hook!”

But what is not remotely stupid at about vloggers, as compared to my teen idols, is that these modern stars know their own value. Successful vloggers do not intend to learn slowly about show business on the job, then waste their middle years, like 1980’s pop artists, chasing stolen royalties and wriggling out of shitty contracts. Instead, behind the cheeky, adorable, kid-next-door face of your average lifestyle video blogger is the cold dead eyes of a Wall Street hedge fund manager. They don’t do mate’s rates, freebies or favours. The vlogger has a razor-sharp knowledge of their personal net worth, potential for ad space revenue and specifically their month-on-month growth.

YouTube helped in no small part to create these gremlins. They nurtured them and kept them warm. And then YouTube fed them after midnight and put the water sprinklers on. If PewDiePie is now saying vocally – which he does in his last video – that he could run YouTube better than the powers that be can and he’s on the verge of pressing delete on his account, then this mutiny was always in the making.

What would be truly delicious to observe is YouTube calling his bluff and deleting it for him. Because surely if PewDiePie is such a visionary about video-sharing, he should build his own wondrous platform in his own image then lure all of the other unhappy vloggers to his glorious haven.

Build it and they will come. Or, alternatively, he could sit whining about YouTube on YouTube while nosy new subscribers drive his traffic up and up. Who’s the stupid one now? I think the answer might be all of us.

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