Developed By: iNFOTYKE
By Heather Cecilia Phanwar
Can you speak your mind out? Do you have the zing to keep the audience hooked on to your performance? Then welcome to the digital world that has infinity space for all. You can be a drama queen or a Gospel ‘preacher’, a singer or a short-story teller, an actor or a filmmaker — this is the space where you can be your own boss. This digi-age story has lots of fun and business prospects too. Ladies & gentlemen, you are watching YouTube.
A number of enterprising youths in Meghalaya have found a platform on YouTube to showcase their unique talents. With the number of digital viewers increasing, these virtual performers are shooting to prominence fast and earning as well.
For Elizer Bareh, a former Edmundian, acting is life. He never missed any play in school and later studied theatre. However, his career in acting was not taking off as planned and “I started my YouTube channel”.
“Initially, it was just for fun. But with time, it became a serious platform for me,” says the 25-year-old YouTuber who already has over 1,000 subscribers in three months.
Sonia Bhattacharya, former anchor and copy editor in a local news channel, created her YouTube account in 2015 “but got serious about vlogging and uploading regularly merely five months ago”.
“YouTube gives you the space where you simply be you and explore your inner artiste. Also, it has definitely become the fastest and most pocket friendly way to share your content worldwide and even get a global viewership,” says 23-year-old Bhattacharya, who works as a freelance radio jockey and compère and has multiple interests.
Bhattacharya talks about Gospel and her videos get overwhelming response. The latest short film, ‘As Christ Is’, on her channel has received a large number of viewers.
Jlaw doh Tir, a group of six young YouTubers, started the channel two years ago “just for fun”. The group performs funny acts in Khasi and already has over a million viewers.
“Our motto is ‘make someone happy and you will be happy too’. So we try to make people laugh through our performance. Initially, it was for fun but after uploading two or three videos, viewers would ask for more. This inspired us to continue. We feel really happy and humbled when viewers praise us,” says 23-year-old Micky Lyngdoh.
The other members of Jlaw doh Tir are Hosia Kharnaior, Dakyrshan Kharnaior, Costlystone Kharnaior, Banpynskhem Makdoh and Mebanaibor Syiemlieh.
Life Unearth (the YouTuber was reluctant to use real name) started entertaining virtual viewers in August 2017. ‘Life’ bloomed on YouTube after a frustrating moment in office and the vlogger was determined to prove to his critics his creative side.
“The idea behind Life Unearth was to highlight ‘everyday life as it comes’ so that it can be shared with the public through easy-on-the-eye videos with little write-ups,” says the vlogger, who has over 4,500 subscribers and over 10 lakh views to boast about.
Now, he has started a website, www.lifeunearth.com, to connect all social media on a single platform. “Owing to financial constraints, Life Unearth now has 24×7 RSS News Feed from BBC Asia and Gadget 360. I am trying to establish Life Unearth as a social media brand,” says the determined vlogger.
YouTube not only gives the platform to express oneself but also the opportunity to earn. Its guidelines say a channel should have at least 4,000 hours of watch time in a year and at least 1,000 subscribers to turn remunerative. A channel ‘owner’ will become a prescribed YouTuber after fulfilling the criteria and can have a decent earning.
“But if you ask me, anyone who is passionate about creating videos and does so persistently is a certified YouTuber. YouTube works best for a person who treats it as passion rather than a money-making profession,” says Bhattacharya.
Of the YouTubers whom Sunday Shillong spoke to, Storyteller Lyndon has the highest numbers of viewers, over 64 crore, and subscribers, over a lakh. Lyndon is followed by Jlaw doh Tir with over 11 crore viewers and 65,000 subscribers.
Most of the local YouTubers are from the suburbs and connect with the virtual crowd through language, culture, themes and presentation.
Forty-nine-year-old Lyndon, who is probably the first YouTuber in the state, is from Wahkaji in South West Khasi Hills and true to his name he loves narrating stories in his own way. Though he started his channel in 2009, his first video came up only in February 2017. He had only 37 subscribers. It was recently that the number rocketed.
“I had been studying about online business and I found out about YouTube and how to earn through it. YouTube has given me a lot to look forward to, be it earning from it or learning from other YouTubers and also sharing my videos with viewers,” says the vlogger whose video content includes short stories, funny videos, songs and inspirational speeches.
“I have received a silver button award from YouTube,” he adds.
With unemployment on the rise, YouTube can be a creative and lucrative alternative, feels Lyndon who wants to inspire local youths to be self-employed on this digital platform. He is also keen on “giving tutorials” to prospective vloggers if need be.
But for ardent vloggers, pecuniary incentives are secondary. They are more interested in entertaining viewers and making the best of their creativity. Many like Dawan Kharkongor consider YouTube as a portfolio.
“It is a means to build up my name so that each day I get closer to achieving my dreams of becoming an actor and a filmmaker,” said the 21-year-old vlogger, who started his channel only three months ago and already has over a thousand subscribers.
In fact, he had thought of using the Instagram platform for his videos but later switched to YouTube.
Besides acting and travelling, football is another of Kharkongor’s interests.
Flips & flops
The digital entertainment platform has expanded its space over the years to accommodate a medley of creative works, artistes and amateurs. “YouTube gives recognition to young artistes like me. It also helps in boosting confidence and earning,” says Bareh.
According to Bareh, challenges are aplenty for YouTube stars. One has to be precise and should not get the facts wrong. “One flaw and criticisms start flowing in. Also, there will always be a handful of people who will write awful comments.”
Deisukijai Langstang, a 26-year-old vlogger, says the algorithm can be very unforgiving at times, sometimes it feels like we work so hard on a project that should be a hit but the algorithm has moved on and isn’t directing organic traffic to it.
Most of the local YouTubers think advantages of this platform surpass the disadvantages and hence, more youths are opting to perform for the virtual audience.
“It (YouTube) gives you a global platform to share your story. It helps you connect to a wide audience in a short span of time and of course the constant criticisms (which can also be a disadvantage) keep you on your toes and push you to challenge yourself and get more innovative,” says Bhattacharya and adds that the biggest drawback is that people do not always take a vlogger’s creation seriously despite the efforts made.
“Making a video on YouTube requires a lot of hard work and brainstorming but it does not get the honour it deserves. Though the scenario is getting better, I cannot deny the fact that the problem still exists,” she informs.
YouTube provides a free platform to young artistes and give them the chance to grow. “The viewership is overwhelming. In India alone, there are 12 crore viewers everyday, according to YouTube analysis. An artiste with minimum skill and a basic android phone can start a YouTube channel. On the other hand, a professional with the best skills in the business of journalism and video making can also start a YouTube channel within minutes. So there is scope for all,” said Life Unearth.
The infinite digital space has led to high competition and vloggers need to have original ideas and innovate constantly to attract viewers and have a decent earning. “The competition is pretty intense actually. Just in Shillong we have a lot of YouTubers. But compared to other places, it is more relaxed and out here people help one another. This bonding is there among YouTubers too,” says Kharkongor.
According to Life Unearth who is trying to expand to other social media platforms, if one creates “a niche category channel” there is no competition among those YouTubers.
The young vloggers here say they take up the challenge because of the love and support they receive from viewers. “I am always overwhelmed knowing so many people are watching my videos. That keeps me going, to hunt for stories so that I can create a good video content to thank my viewers,” says Life Unearth.
Talking about advantages, Kharkongor says it makes it easier for an individual to present his or her creation.
“It has scope to change lives, change ways of thinking and help societies. The advantages are just so many. Personally, it helps me gain a name for myself and build my portfolio and of course maybe earn too in future,” he quips. He points out that sometimes a vlogger may unknowingly offend people or lead to conflict.
Joy of creation
For any creative person, sharing the joy of creation with innumerable viewers is like a dream come true. It only gets better when the creation gets appreciated and one earns from it. Local vloggers say sharing their short films, music videos and other creations online have given the opportunity to attract a motley group of viewers. “When we know how to use our resources, it is a boon and YouTube acts as a facilitator,” says Lyndon.
The online stars have to give their best efforts to produce videos on YouTube. Each one of them has a unique way of working. For instance, Bareh says whenever an idea comes to his mind, he writes it down. “Later, I analyse it and if I am satisfied, I start working on the idea.”
For Bhattacharya, praying and observing life are the two ways to come up with an idea for a video. When a particular incident or trend captures her attention, the vlogger uses it in her video.
“My plan is simple. Stay true to yourself, keep it real and remain consistent. Some of the most accomplished YouTubers have this simple secret that they did not give up,” says Bhattacharya.
Life Unearth began with a few amateurish videos with the intention to make “a personal video album collection” and shared those with relatives.
“When I found out that the feedback was really nice, I started working on concrete ideas and developing my video-making skills. In YouTube, the AI (artificial intelligence) system mostly calculates the organic ‘watch time’ ie the viewers who find your videos organically from Google or YouTube platform. But if we share manually in other platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook etc it is considered as an inorganic watch time by the AI and that way of sharing is also considered as a malpractice in the guidelines of YouTube community. This hampers monetisation. When I started attracting organic viewers, they would be always giving me feedbacks to improve the content and quality of the videos. I took it positively and it started showing results when organic viewers started subscribing to the channel and I really thank all my subscribers,” explains Life Unearth.
Heimonmi Suiam uploads two to three videos every week. Suiam says he started his YouTube channel not for earning but for the love of creating videos. “If you start only for money then you will be under stress but if you do with passion you will enjoy doing it and money will automatically come,” the vlogger has an advice.
Langstang, who runs her YouTube channel under the name Dei Lannie, is a “part-time YouTuber” with a full-time job in rural development. She started on the digital platform last November and has already uploaded 21 videos. At present, Langstang does not earn from her channel but she hopes for a better future. “However, I earn a modest amount from my music through digital distribution channels like Spotify and Apple Music and my YouTube channel is an important part of that growth journey,” she says.
“YouTube helps in a lot of ways. If you have a set schedule for videos like I do it creates discipline to continue creating consistently and adapt to feedback and success. I’m a naturally shy person, so putting myself out there to be judged by my audience has helped me a lot with my confidence and discovering my voice,” the vlogger says, adding that in the next 10 years, she sees herself as an accomplished artiste. “Independence is really important to me.”
The young vloggers have long-term plans about expanding their digital presence and gain more subscribers.
Jlaw Doh Tir members say in the next 10 years, they want to be “the best YouTubers in Ri Khasi and the rest of the state”
“In the next 10 years, I see myself as an established founder of Life Unearth Social Media as a brand and doing what I love doing is to be creative, adventurous and travel,” says Life Unearth.
But it is not an easy task, admits almost all vloggers whom Sunday Shillong spoke to. “One has to be authentic and stay true to oneself because it is visible. A few will try to drag you down but let it slide. A vlogger should do his or her best. Always focus more on the brighter side. Keep learning, keep growing,” is Bareh’s mantra for success and his fellow vloggers will second him on that.