On Scotty Sire’s YouTube channel, it doesn’t look like anything has changed. He does Q&As with friends, pranks his pals, and jokes around with them in his backyard — just about the same things he did before California required him to stay indoors since Sire and his co-stars live and are quarantining together.
“We’re going to be sitting on our asses, doing whatever we can think of,” Sire said in a video last week.
Social distancing has had very different impacts across YouTube. For some YouTubers, it’s business as usual as they continue to sit inside and film with their friends. But for others, whose jobs require them to go outside, the pandemic has forced them to rethink what their channels look like.
Food travel YouTubers, fishing channels, and dedicated theme park explorerssuddenly can’t operate like they did three weeks ago. Some creators are uploading old footage they shot before self-quarantine orders went into effect. Others are turning their channels into more personal vlogging projects, taking on other staples of YouTube vlogging culture.
On TheTimTracker, a channel that uploads weekly review videos from theme park resorts like Disney World, the channel’s hosts are trying to show off life at home through daily vlogs and at-home activities. Like so many people in the world right now, they’re trying to figure out how to get by while self-quarantining at home.
“We want to make sure we’re not leaving you guys without content,” Jen, one half of TheTimTracker, said in an update video to subscribers. “Especially if we’re all going to be stuck in the house. Maybe the only thing we can do is watch YouTube videos. We’re going to try and keep it interesting and entertaining for you guys, but we won’t be going to the parks because all the parks are going to be closed.”
Some YouTube creators, like Chris Steinbacher, one of the team members behind the car creation channel B is for Build, are taking more extreme measures to ensure that new content appears on the channel consistently. Steinbacher and his team agreed not to see anyone outside of their families and one another so they can keep working. “Either everyone goes home, or we all agree that we don’t go out and get each other sick,” Steinbacher told The Verge.
To keep people entertained while they’re stuck at home, Steinbacher also decided to start making more videos and change up his channel’s usual content. On B is for Build, Steinbacher and a group of friends build cars from scrap over the course of several videos. One video per week gets uploaded to Steinbacher’s 1.5 million subscribers, with videos typically pulling in north of 500,000 views.
The channel allows Steinbacher and his friends to earn a living through advertisements and sponsorships, which makes changing things up risky. Deciding to change a channel’s output or the type of videos that appear, can often hurt viewership. But Steinbacher says he wanted to put his audience before the algorithm.
“I basically said, ‘Screw it, I don’t care if we lose X-amount of dollars,’” Steinbacher said. “Yeah, it hurts the company a lot. You lose a percentage of money for the time being. But let’s work as hard as we can to make videos.”
Then, Steinbacher did get sick. Shakes, cough, fever. He went into immediate self-isolation. A few days later, he started to feel better and realized he came down with a bad cold or seasonal flu. In that time, however, he was forced to find creative ways to work with the team — performing voice-overs, working on behind-the-scenes projects — without actually interacting with them.
“It’s nice for us to get out of the house and be around each other and do something productive,“ Steinbacher said. “And I get to keep my employees employed. If you work as a server you’re just unemployed, and that’s devastating. We’re able to work through this.”
For other YouTubers, it’s business as usual. Jenna Marbles, a longtime YouTuber who mainly films in her house, is asking for fans to send their favorite TikTok videos so she can react to them in upcoming videos — a popular style of video that she often publishes. The only inclination that Marbles is in the same situation as everyone else is a message at the top of a recent video about trying to provide comfort to fans who are also stuck at home.
“I thought this week would be a good week to make you something that I seek out on the internet when I’m feeling a little stressed out, which is just some lovely dog footage,” Marbles says in a recent video. “Maybe I can do something next week that will lift our collective spirits.”
As long as Steinbacher has the parts to build cars, he says he’s going to keep producing videos. When he wonders if people will still show up if his team publishes more than once a week, he thinks about emails he’s received since announcing incoming changes to the channel.
“I’ve received so many emails saying, ‘You’ve helped me so much throughout my life.’ Emails from Italy saying ‘I’m in lockdown’ or ‘My family member is sick so this is really helpful,’” Steinbacher said. “They’re letting me know that the show means something to them, and I’m going to keep making videos to show them they mean something to me.”