It’s rare to come across a cultural phenomenon about which you had no clue. Names like Charlie McDonnell,[see video above] Dan Howell and Phil Lester meant nothing to me before. Now I know they’re internet sensations, with their own YouTube channels. Uploading their videos online is a full time job for which they are paid pretty well.
“Enough to pay the rent,” Phil told me.
Channel 4 News was invited in to Dan Howell’s home, where he makes the videos he puts up on his channel Danisnotonfire. His vlogs (or video blogs) have been viewed almost 35 million times and the more popular they are, the more he’s paid by Youtube. He’s recognised in the street. He’s feted when he makes an official appearance. And he’s only 21.
Dan says: “People like YouTube, it’s a personal connection. They don’t put YouTubers on pedestals like traditional celebrities. It’s like you have a friend.”
Dan is one of quite a few “YouTubers” making their living this way. They’re telegenic, tech-savvy and adored and obsessed over by teenage girls. YouTube may only be seven-years-old, but it’s the third largest website in the world, and for many youngsters watching it, it’s more attractive than TV.
Charlie McDonnell is the British king of the group. Just 22, with 1.5 million people subscribing free to his channel Charlieissocoollike, his videos have been watched 250 million times.
We caught up with him at a YouTubers gathering, surrounded by hundreds of fans queuing up for a picture. “I definitely feel I’m part of something important,” he told us.