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From 2012 to 2016, worldwide digital video viewers have grown from 372 million to nearly 700, an increase of 87% (eMarketer). Digital video time spent has also risen sharply by 120% from 26 minutes per day to nearly an hour (fueled largely by mobile which has overtaken desktop viewing).
As viewing habits skewer increasingly towards online video, certain types of video content are proving to be in demand and popular with audiences. Vlogs—short for “video blogs”—have become one of the most popular types of digital video content featuring vloggers (“video bloggers”) who candidly capture and share their lives.
Vlogging (short for “video blogging”) is the daily practice of capturing and sharing vlogs characteristically featuring a vlogger shooting themselves at arm’s length throughout their everyday activities.
While there are earlier accounts, vlogs saw a pronounced increase in popularity around 2004. One of the most popular, Rocketboom, was a daily news broadcast produced by Andrew Baron and featured breakout star Amanda Congdon as the first of a handful of hosts. These early vlogs set an important precedent by acclimating audiences to follow individual creators and influencers.
Despite this early traction, vlogs still lived disparately on the individual sites of creators with RSS feeds and email being the primary modes of distribution. The vlog space lacked a dominant hosting platform.
In 2005 vlogging took a leap forward with the launch of YouTube—a free, searchable video hosting platform available for anyone to take advantage of. While YouTube’s inception represented a fundamental step in vlogging development, vlog creation at this point was largely sporadic and lower in quality featuring few (if any) edits.
LonelyGirl15 (2006-08) was a seminal moment for both YouTube and vlogging. For several months, it seemed as though the entire internet followed “YouTuber,” Bree, a teenage girl that shared details of her personal life through daily vlogging.
Similar to most vloggers now, Bree spoke directly and intimately with the camera in an almost raw and unfiltered way. As the entries became more centered around the topic of her involvement with a strange and mysterious cult, things started to unravel for LonelyGirl15. Soon it was revealed that the whole production was in fact a professionally-produced effort headed by CAA, a high-profile talent agency.
Despite the deception, the format became the template most others would follow—one or two hosts shot up close and personal, speaking directly to the camera, leaning in as if speaking across the table to a friend. From there on out, top YouTube stars (also known as content creators, YouTubers, or YouTube influencers) have leveraged the vlog format to build audiences numbering in the millions.
Vlogs caught on for the same reasons blogs did—it gave people an outlet for their passions, expertise, and personalities. Furthermore, the vlog helped foster deeper and more personal connections between creators and audiences.
It was also at this time that video recording equipment started to evolve. As equipment became more portable, vloggers like Shay Carl (below vlogging with Matt Damon) took the format a step further by carrying a camera around and filming their daily experiences on the go. This development helped set the stage for vlogging’s next big evolution.
As smartphone technology progressed (in particular smartphone camera advancements), vloggers could now begin to forgo video camera equipment and simply tote their smartphones to capture a greater variety of content beyond simple desktop videos or bedroom filming.
Mobile technology has not only facilitated vlogging, but has also proved to be the ideal platform for consuming bite-sized chunks of content.
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Globally, 44% of all internet users watch a vlog each month. As a result, vlogging today is big business. With digital video advertising budgets set to continue growing at a faster pace than their TV counterparts, advertising partnerships with popular vloggers represent an attractive option for marketers desiring to reach a young, affluent, and digitally savvy audience.
Today’s top daily vloggers like Roman Atwood, FunForLouis, or Casey Neistat collaborate with influencer marketing companies on household name brand sponsorships while others are managed by YouTube multi-channel networks (MCNs) and even Hollywood talent agencies. Vlogging’s popularity and its power to draw in audiences and propel YouTubers to celebrity-like status have resulted in a top few ending their daily vlogs in order to pursue other opportunities.
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To-date, YouTube has served as the go-to platform for vloggers, but more recently, several emerging competitors have threatened the norm. Facebook Video and Live have exploded in the last two years. Helping fuel this growth was a formal program Facebook launched to attract prominent influencers on YouTube and other platforms. With Facebook’s enormous reach, a new crop of influencers began using Facebook Video and Live exclusively for vlogging.
Other platforms, like Periscope, Instagram, and Snapchat, have since launched their own video platforms with features that differentiate them from YouTube.
Amidst competition, YouTube continues to innovate and provide its creators with features and amenities. In September, the company launched Community, YouTube’s social network platform that includes more traditional blogging features alongside the ability to post images, GIFs and more to keep audiences engaged.
The rise of Snapchat and Facebook Live can both be seen as derivatives of the vlogging movement. Both were made possible by the evolution of smartphones, which facilitated both the creation and consumption of video content. Snapchat, in its current form, is essentially a tool for micro-vlogging. Looking back, vloggers played an instrumental role in fueling and defining the initial demand for online video content.
Vlogging shows no signs of slowing down. Not only does vlogging represent one of the most popular types of video content, but top vloggers offer unique advertising opportunities as brands continue to see influencer marketing as a way to break through the ad clutter. Marketers have realized the incredible sway vloggers have over their audiences. With over a decade already written in its history, vlogging appears here to stay for the foreseeable future.