YouTubers are now an indivisible part of the games industry. What started as a hobby for kids in their bedroom has evolved into a massively important – and influential – part of our industry. Now, YouTubers need to be more professional than ever.
That’s why a new type of company has emerged in the games industry these past few years: whether they’re called ‘talent management agency’, ‘influencer relations agency’ or simply ‘managing company’, their goal is the same: be the bridge between YouTubers and gaming brands, so that the former can become bigger and the latter can reach a larger audience.
uChannel Management is one of them: “What we do is essentially connect YouTubers with various brands to advertise their product,” explains founder Sam Barkaway.
Former Activision digital PR manager Henry Clay also founded Hype Management at the start of 2016 with the same goal.
“The primary service should always be to further a YouTuber’s career, that is the focus from which everything else should flow,” he tells MCV. “At Hype we use industry contacts to put the YouTuber forward for projects that will help them build relationships with brands, raise their profile and increase their fanbase.
“These opportunities could include setting up event appearances, brand sponsorships, media interviews, promotional content campaigns and merchandise development. We also have our eye on the long term too, so where appropriate we look to develop areas of work off-platform, so that talent becomes more than just a YouTube personality.”
The truth is some YouTubers now have as much appeal and power as some TV or movie stars in their respective industries. “YouTube personalities are the equivalent of the rockstars or movie heroes of the previous generation, ” Legend of Gaming Live director Thomas Greenwood-Mears told MCV last September, and that’s something both Barkaway and Clay agree on.
“You ask a 10-year-old who is Tom Hardy or Brad Pitt, they may or may not know who they are, and more than likely they don’t care. But you ask them who is KSI or Stampy and they go crazy,” Barkaway confirms.
Clay adds: “What you might call ‘traditional celebrities’ will always exist in their given fields, be that film, music or TV. The online content creator is just the latest category in which individuals can rise to meteoric fame. For youth audiences, talents on YouTube have already attained the level of stardom experienced in other sectors. From an awareness level that is without question, and when it comes to the power of their influence, the demand that YouTube stars are in is evidence alone of their pulling power and status.”
"YouTubers who adopt a more professional
approach will certainly be more successful
on the commercial side."
Henry Clay, Hype Management
But, as everyone knows, with great power comes great responsibility. And that latter part is probably what has been slightly forgotten in the process of YouTubers’ professionalisation so far. You just have to take a look at all the controversies that agitated the YouTube sphere recently: from illegal gambling to the grey area surrounding sponsored content, it’s not like all is well.
“It is honestly so stupid,” Barkaway frankly says about the gambling controversies. “If your company sells in-game coins and you are advertising it as the best, to a key audience for that game... mention it’s your company. That is just common sense to me.“
Clay continues: “It was an unfortunate situation where a little transparency would have made all the difference.”
The key word there is ‘transparency’, which is something that should come with the sector becoming more professional, and also something management agencies can help with.
“In a majority of these incidents there hasn’t been actual intent to mislead audiences,” Clay argues. “YouTubers work in a quickly evolving space, promotional content plans often have a number of variables meaning brands, influencers and their management are often faced with new situations. They therefore may not have had a clear understanding of what was required to ensure full transparency.”
Facing this ‘quickly evolving space’ and tackling the transparencies issues: these are part of the reasons why YouTubers need management.
“If a YouTuber wants to build an all round successful career from their YouTube channel, then management can without doubt provide the support necessary to do that. Just like the traditional relationship between talent and representation, YouTubers benefit from an expertise and support structure that allows them to focus on what they do best, which is creating great content and engaging with their fans.”
Barkaway echoes Clay’s stance: “Really a YouTuber just wants to create content doing what they love for their fans. This is why it is very beneficial to have a person they can trust dealing with all the ups and downs that come from dealing with business ventures for the channel.”
"YouTube having a list of
Dos and Don’ts would help
influencers know what’s right."
Sam Barkaway, uChannel Management
The process leading to transparency and decreasing controversies could be simplified by further efforts from all areas within the industry – and YouTubers themselves - though, Clay believes.
“Brands need to ensure that they have consistent internal policies and procedures that are aligned with industry guidelines, influencers needs to understand these guidelines and also their responsibility to their audiences, and industry bodies should maintain active and ongoing communication to the industry at large,” he says. “For all parties these practices and guidelines need to be regularly updated as new methods and practices come into use.”
And YouTube needs to be willing to go the extra mile as well, Barkaway reckons.
“YouTube changed its policies a lot in 2016, so to have a solid list of Dos and Don’ts on the matter from Youtube would lay the groundwork for influencers knowing what is right and wrong,” he states.
But as long as policies from all parties are not aligned, YouTubers management agencies will remain an essential part of what is now a business, helping influencers to understand the aforementioned ‘Dos and Don’ts’ of the platform. YouTubers are both a well-established presence in the industry, a booming market and a nascent medium – this hybrid position is also why management from veterans of the industry seems to be very much needed.
“At just over a decade old, YouTube’s platform is a relatively new area for business, and the business of being a YouTuber even more so,” Clay says. “As such business practices are constantly developing. And those YouTubers who adopt the more professional approach will certainly be more successful in the commercial side of their operations. It’s also important to note that over the past few years, industries at large, not just the games sector, have come to understand how to harness the power of YouTubers, so it has been a learning process on both sides of the fence.”
“Running a YouTube channel is a business and must be approached as such, from time management and forward planning to client relationship management and brand building.”