As we get into the swing of 2017, YouTube still has a lot to answer for. They are still being frighteningly vague about all the issues surrounding drops in views and subscribers; and the questionable system for their Trending feed has left creators worried about their future plans. But one thing we can definitely credit YouTube for in their work over the past year, is a new focus on who becomes the face of YouTube; specifically, featuring a much more diverse range of creators wherever they can.
It began at the end of Black History Month.
YouTube’s home-built channel “YouTube Spotlight” shared a video titled “Keep Making History” on March 1st. The focus was on some of the site’s biggest and best black creators, in all their wide range of video styles; and ringing out February’s Black History Month, it was a powerful tribute to the future of YouTube and diversity.
Since then, Spotlight has been increasingly rolling out video content that promotes a diverse range of voices amongst the creator community; gender equality, racial stigma and sexual/gender identity have been enormously featured at the forefront of the site, by way of their own channel.
Then there was #YouTubeBlack.
But YouTube’s fight for diversity isn’t all a big show; they’re taking steps behind the scenes too. Over 2016, YouTube hosted at least three separate events dubbed #YouTubeBlack; two summits in New York and one panel discussion in London.
At each event there was ample discussion on how to promote diversity on the site; as well as creators’ influence on how to address racial stigma and political discourse in their videos. More than anything, it was a great chance for black creators to network and uplift each other.
YouTube are regularly hosting similar events at their Spaces across the world; panels, screenings and workshops with a focus on marginalised identities have become a mainstay in several of their global headquarters.
Diversity was also at the front of their advertising.
We’ve spoken at length about YouTube’s #MadeForYou campaign that kicked off at the tail end of 2016; but the most refreshing part of all the posters and pre-roll ads that we saw between November and December was that not every single face was white.
In the past, YouTube have taken flak for the mistake of not diversifying the creators they used for promotion, and have clearly learned. In all the work they did with their roster of creators in this campaign, there was a conscious effort to be as inclusive and representative as possible.
So why will 2017 be better?
Well for one thing, it has to. As the world falls into the shadow of a Trump presidency, and bigots and literal white supremacists everywhere become emboldened, it’s up to the social media directive to ensure that a diverse range of voices remain at the forefront of the discussion. Fear and hatred cannot be allowed to dominate the internet anymore than it already has, and the ones holding the keys have to be more conscious of their efforts.
Luckily, YouTube has a plan in the form of Oona King. Formerly a Labour politician, Baroness King (yep, she’s in the House Of Lords) was hired in the middle of the year as YouTube’s official global director of diversity, after working in a similar role for Channel 4. King’s roots as a mixed-race Jewish African American have helped refine her views and work in social justice; and makes her more than a perfect fit for the role.
And it’s not just YouTube putting in the work; the community itself is making a conscious effort to be more inclusive in who they collaborate with and learn from. Almost every major YouTube community event in 2016 made a stronger effort to increase diversity in their attendees and their content.
There’s no denying there is still a lot of work to be done; and in an increasingly difficult social climate, what’s left to be done will not be easy. But with the right support from major platforms like YouTube and working together amongst the community, we can celebrate the beauty of its diversity loudly and proudly.