One year ago today, Twitter shut down Vine forever, depriving us of happiness and leaving a class of fresh-faced influencers will millions of fans and nowhere to entertain them.
Almost ironically, there were a plethora of possible platforms for Vine’s stars to jump to. Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat were still some of the most popular apps being used by teens that had video capabilities and far reaching audiences. It made sense for Vine’s mega-personalities, like Lele Pons, Jake Paul, Logan Paul, Cameron Dallas and Nash Grier, to continue creating content for apps and platforms their fans were already switching between from when Vine was in its heyday. But there was one aspect of Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat that couldn’t give teen influencers on the rise something they were desperately craving: money — and even more fame.
YouTube became the new home for Vine talent; kids who made a name for themselves performing six-second slapstick-style comedy took those talents and applied them to long-form videos. YouTube became a professional network that worked with professional advertisers and took out professional billboards to showcase its professional talent. YouTubers were famous — just look at iJustine, PewDiePie and Lilly Singh — so why couldn’t Vine stars emulate them?
They did. Between February 2017 and now, Vine stars took over YouTube, becoming the most talked about and most hated personalities. The sudden popularity and growth of these creators, especially Jake and Logan Paul, was referred to as the “Viner Invasion.” There are a number of videos about the topic, but the best one remains Game Theorists’ “The Viner Invasion of Jake Paul and Logan Paul!” The video was published on June 25, 2017 and has amassed more than 3.3 million views. In it, the Game Theorists talk about the sudden prominence Viners had on YouTube, which seemed to occur over a few months.
“When Vine shut down, Jake Paul had 5.3 million followers on Vine,” Game Theorist host Matthew Patrick says in the video. “Logan had even more, with 9.4 million. When they made the transition to YouTube, a large percentage of those people carried over and subscribed to their channels. In a matter of weeks, they had hundreds of thousands of fresh subs.
“By bringing an audience with them from Vine, these guys and other Viners were able to pop into the scene with a big jump right out of the gate, which gave them stronger starting momentum from the get-go.”
Right off the bat, Viners made themselves known to YouTube, YouTube’s audience and, most importantly, other YouTube creators who resented what Viners represented. Whereas other creators spent years trying to build a following, these new teenagers were appearing on the site with their Vine following and active subscriber base, changing what the front page of YouTube looked like and taking large portions of Google Preferred’s top-tier ads. Or, as PewDiePie put it in December 2017:
Vine refugees. They’re everywhere. They spread all across the internet. Some went to YouTube, some went to Instagram, where they could continue spreading their six-second content in a new way.
‘Look, I’m making this hilarious, repetitive content with sexual references that is generally unfunny. Please accept me!’
The growing disdain original YouTubers had for Viners came to a head in June 2017, during an annual YouTube convention known as VidCon. Logan Paul announced he had hidden $3,000 somewhere around the convention center. In the middle of it, Paul went down and was ambushed by fans, breaking the convention’s rules and creating a very serious safety hazard. The footage Paul uploaded to YouTube was mocked by just about every major YouTube commentator, but it also solidified the Viners had invaded, and they had arrived.
It’s been a non-stop insult fest ever since, but Eric Dahan, CEO of influencer-focused marketing firm Open Influence, thinks the backlash the Viners have received in the past year is a normal reaction from the old guard being upset about newcomers.
“No one likes the disruptors, I think it’s that simple,” Dahan said. “You build a legacy, and all of a sudden there are these new kids coming in from out of left field. It’s the outer world problem; when disruptors move in to a new space.”
Disruptor is a good word for it. The transition from Vine to YouTube hasn’t been seamless. It’s been a whirlwind of fake drama between top personalities (Jake Paul and RiceGum, Jake Paul and the Dolan Twins, Jake Paul and Logan Paul) that result in diss tracks, reaction to those diss tracks and continued drama. It’s engaging, and people tune in for it. Subscriber counts go up, people start talking about your videos and it’s an easier path to being successful than just relying on content alone.
But whereas YouTubers see Viners as a problem, Dahan sees them as a new brand of comedians. Their success, according to Dahan, is proof there is an audience of people who want to watch their content even if original YouTubers think they’re nothing more than a menacing pest.
“They’re like a new generation of comedians,” Dahan said. “A lot of the more traditional comedians on YouTube started building out web series and more traditional content. I think Vine bred a specific type of community and comedy genre that these guys then translated onto YouTube. YouTube lends itself to a different content format, and I think there is a lot of opportunity there for something to arise.”
That something is former Viners. From appearing in YouTube’s annual rewind video to starring in YouTube Red projects, it’s clear that YouTube doesn’t view Viners with the same contentious view that YouTubers themselves do. That also means, however, that Viners will be held to standards they weren’t previously. In the recent case of Logan Paul, who uploaded a video that featured the body of a man who appeared to have recently committed suicide, YouTube will have to distance itself professionally from Paul. YouTube confirmed that Paul would no longer receive Google Preferred ads and all of his Red projects were on hold.
These consequences separate themselves from professional YouTubers on a more traditional network and dumb, funny kids on Vine, Dahan said.
“There are billboards with all these YouTube stars, and obviously YouTube is paying for those billboards,” Dahan said. “This is no different from Netflix having to drop talent from its original series following major issues. They have to treat them the same way. YouTube is representing them in a professional capacity instead of pawning them off and saying, ‘Here’s some people who happen to be using our platform.’”
Dahan is also convinced that Viners like Jake Paul and Lele Pons will only continue to get bigger. It may have started out as an invasion, but it’s become a permanent settlement.