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Opinion: Shane Dawson is raising the bar for YouTubers

Shane Dawson speaks at VidCon 2012 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

With YouTube vloggers consistently growing in popularity, they seem to be a frequent topic of conversation. But recently, it is seemingly impossible to have a conversation about YouTube without one person’s name being mentioned: Shane Dawson. Specifically, his new style of making multiple-part documentary series; a style which was unheard of among mainstream YouTubers until now. Evidently, Dawson’s content in the past year has raised the bar higher for other content creators.

With his first sketch comedy style videos coming out over 10 years ago, Shane Dawson has been on YouTube since the website’s infancy and still manages to retain his popularity. This is a much larger accomplishment than what most would assume, and it is what truly sets Dawson’s content apart from others. With social media trends constantly changing and adapting, a YouTuber is lucky to stay relevant for a few years before finding themselves out of balance between following trends and staying genuine to themselves. Dawson, however, has an unprecedented ability to adapt to trends quickly, while staying true to his unique sense of humor. Now close to 17 million subscribers, he always seems to remain on top.

Dawson’s ability to adapt quickly is what makes him one of the most successful YouTubers of all time. His sincere atmosphere and the rawness of his humor is what draws an audience back, year after year. Viewers feel a more personal connection to Dawson. In his most recent videos, he has opened up to his subscribers about his rough childhood, in addition to incorporating his boyfriend, closest friends, and even cameraman into his videos. Despite Shane’s success, his human side is always evident, which has consistently been drawing more and more people in.  

Over the past decade, Dawson’s videos have gone through tremendous change. In 2008, he was creating short, one to two minute comedy sketches about random situations, including current events. In 2015, he was making vlog-style challenge videos featuring other YouTubers, a type of video that was trending at the time. In 2016, the first of his iconic conspiracy theory videos were posted. Now, in 2018, Dawson has essentially invented a new genre of video: the part vlog, part documentary series that some are saying will forever change YouTube.

This summer, Dawson posted two large documentary-style series. “The Truth about Tanacon,” a three-part series with each episode being 20-40 minutes long, was posted in June and focused in on YouTuber Tana Mongeau’s controversial failed convention. Dawson made a point to include all sides of the controversy, making the series even more documentary-like. “The Secret Life of Jeffree Star,” posted in late July, was a five-part series providing a detailed inside look into Jeffree Star’s life and business strategies.

The underlying theme in these series seems to be an effort to bring light to a side of YouTube that viewers may be less aware of. For an audience to feel less detached from creators and more connected as they change and develop. The YouTube community cannot get enough of this authentic aspect- collectively, “The Secret Life of Jeffree Star” now has 86 million views and “The Truth About Tanacon” comes in at 42 million.

Dawson appears to be sincerely overwhelmed by his success and consistently thanks his subscribers for the amount of support his content receives. Last month, in response to the success of The Secret Life of Jeffree Star, Dawson addressed this on Twitter.

“My heart is so filled with love right now,” Dawson tweeted in August. “The support on today’s video and the support for the whole series has been life changing for me and for Jeffree as well. I don’t want it to end.”    

Overall, as Dawson simultaneously follows and creates trends, it is only inevitable that YouTube will begin to see more of this new type of content from other creators. It is safe to say that Shane Dawson’s evolving content will not disappear from YouTube’s recommended list any time soon.

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