YouTube Creators Talk Diversity, Coming Out & More During Pride Summit’s Digital Media Panel

Sponsored by Verizon Media, the Digital Media: Pride & Platforms panel at Thursday’s (Aug. 8) inaugural Billboard & The Hollywood Reporter’s Pride Summit offered audiences with an in-depth look behind the curtain at the inclusivity of digital content, and the creators making change happen. 

Panelists included Hannah Hart, Eugene Lee Yang, Miles McKenna, Gigi Gorgeous, Anna Akna, Joey Graceffa and CEO of Verizon Media’s RYOT Films Hayley Pappas, with Valence Media’s VP of Pride Alexis Fish serving as the moderator. The panel discussed everything from coming out to making content that makes an impact with fans, not just advertisers. 

Hart, for example, spoke at length about the importance of having multiple projects going on at once as a digital media creator. “There is no moment where you achieve a singular goal, because it is my goal to make this my life,” she said. “You can’t put your eggs in one basket, and that basket certainly can’t be owned by somebody else.”

Akana added on to Hart’s comments, saying that as an independent creator, finding streams of revenue for projects that don’t necessarily get promoted by YouTube’s algorithm can be exceedingly difficult. “I love reality TV-style stuff, too,” she said. “But right now, there is no sustainable model unless you rely on that.”

During a discussion about the future of YouTube content, Yang said that creators are grappling with what it means to be a YouTuber today. “Is [YouTube] allowing for new fresh voices, or is YouTube joining into the mainstream?” he asked. “I would describe it as … digital content is it’s own industry that is going through it’s own growing pains as with any other industry … How do we innovate and make things that challenge the notion of being stuck in a place of just being popular?” 

Yang referencedd fellow creator Shane Dawson as an example of someone who tried out a new format with his documentary-style videos and found major success. “He’d never done that before, and those videos blew up,” he said. 

Gorgeous pointed to fellow creator Lilly Singh andd Troye Sivan, as examples of creators being recognized by mainstream media for their talent and connection to fans. “YouTubers a lot of the time have a deeper connection with their fans than a Leonardo DiCaprio-type,” she said. “It’s just people on a video and talking to the camera. When people meet their favorite YouTubers, they break down and dcry because they helped them through a hard time. And that’s something special.”

For McKenna, representation is still missing in a lot of mainstream media areas, especially in the field of acting, where he tries to take a more active role in making sure representation is present in projects. “It’s not just about taking an acting role, but I feel that I need to dive into what I’m signing up for, because I want to make sure these kids are represented in the content I am releasing,” he said.

Pappas added that mainstream media brands have a responsibility to reflect the diversity of those they work with, adding that Verizon and RYOT Films have continued to incorportate that inclusivity into their partnerships. “There has to be more fluidity than rigidity to this,” she said. “Who and how are we employing in the making of these traditional formats?”




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