In most ways today’s media landscape is more vibrant than ever, offering faster and cheaper distribution networks, fewer barriers to entry, and more ways to consume information (Waldman, 2011). Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are proving to be audience’s main network of accessing daily news, socially interacting and consuming content online. This is proving correct, with content creators such as Casey Neistat who are proving that the changing media landscape is successful. Through analysing Neistat’s career, it is evident that his contribution in convergence and globalisation, and his role to the public sphere and the fourth estate has led to the success as his career as a filmmaker.
YouTube Vlogger and filmmaker Casey Neistat was born in Connecticut, USA on March 25th, 1981. Since withdrawing his enrolment in Ledyard High School in 10th grade, Neistat has worked as a ‘dishwasher’ to support his girlfriend and young son from the ages of 17 until 20 years old (Koster, 2010). In 2001, after splitting with then-girlfriend, Neistat decided to move to New York City to pursue his career in filmmaking. Neistat’s film career began when he started making films with his brother Van, for an artist named Tom Sachs. Throughout the years, Neistat has made a variety of short films, and advertisements for companies such as Nike, Inc., Google, J. Crew and Mercedes-Benz (Nudd, 2013) (Google, 2011). It was March 25th, 2015 when Neistat decided to start daily vlogging that garnered a following of over 2 million subscribers to his channel (Neistat, 20161). In the same year, Neistat launched his very own app, Beme which enables users to product unedited 4-second videos, which are immediately uploaded and shared with other user’s of the app (Beme, 2015).
As a filmmaker, Casey Neistat has evidently been impacted by convergence in the changing media industry, and has utilized convergence to further his career. Terry Flew describes convergence as the “interlinking of computing and ICTs, communication networks, and media content that has occurred with the development and popularisation of the Internet” (Flew, 2008). In their book ‘Media Convergence: Networked Digital Media in Everyday Life, Meikle and Young’ (2011) observe that convergence can be understood in four dimensions: technological, industrial, social and textual. In this case, Neistat has been able to utilize social convergence through the rise of social media such as Twitter, and in particular YouTube. Neistat’s film ‘iPod’s Dirty Secret’ is a specific example of convergence through the use of social media. First publicly shared on iPodsdirtysecret.com (later casey.nyc), this was Neistat’s first ever film to go viral (Davis, 2003). Now shared on his second YouTube Channel Casey Neistat Classics, the film has garnered more response with over 650, 000 views. In the Neistat’s YouTube Video, the description explains how this film was ‘pivotal’ to Neistat’s success, as this film received a ‘crazy amount of press and was a big step’ for his career. Additionally, Neistat uses social media to promote his latest videos on Facebook and Twitter. Social convergence allows Neistat to self promote his work, which is proving successful for Neistat as he has 445 000 twitter followers (Neistat, 2016). Whilst Neistat’s films were receiving global attention on his website back in 2003, it was not until Neistat published them on YouTube and promoted them on sites such as Facebook and Twitter that it allowed audiences to access Neistat’s work. It is therefore clear the convergence has influenced Casey Neistat’s career as a filmmaker.
Through his YouTube videos, Casey Neistat has been able to achieve globalisation. Terry Flew describes globalisation as an expanding scale, growing magnitude and social interaction that links distant communities and expands the reach of media across the globe (2007, 67). Known as ‘vlogging’, Neistat has garnered two million subscribers who watch his videos on a daily basis. Starting in 2015, his channel has grown significantly with Neistat uploading daily rather than occasionally. The result of uploading daily has allowed for a larger global audience and more social interaction on Neistat’s videos. Due to his ever-growing popularity on YouTube, more people from across the world are subscribing to Neistat’s content. YouTube proves to be a critical element for Neistat to achieve globalisation, as it is accessible to millions across the globe. YouTube product manager Brian Truong states that ‘by opening YouTube up to include more languages, their vast library of videos is more accessible to those who want to explore it’ (Buskirk, 2010) therefore, giving Neistat more opportunity for globalisation. In conclusion, the accessibility of YouTube is a strong example of how globalisation has impacted the success of Neistat’s filmmaking career.
Being a creative professional on YouTube, Neistat’s career allows him to express his ideas and opinions with a willing audience and opens discussion across the public sphere. According to Hauser, the public sphere refers to a “discursive space in which individuals and groups associate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgement about them” (Hauser, 1999). Through his YouTube channel, Neistat regularly uses the public sphere to discuss matters that involve him. In Neistat’s YouTube video ‘Bike Lanes’2, Neistat discusses the faulty bike lane system in New York City. In the video, Neistat discusses the issue that bike lanes are unsafe for riders and pedestrians as unmovable objects block New York City’s pathways. Neistat’s video sparked an online discussion, which resulted in broad attention from various media outlets as his video went viral.
Similarly, Neistat has used the public sphere to address global issues such as the typhoon in Haiyan. In 2013, Neistat was given the opportunity from 21st Century Fox to promote one of their newly released films with a budget of $25 000. Instead of creating an advertisement however, Neistat decided to use the money to help those affected by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. In Neistat’s YouTube video, ‘What would you do with $25 000?’3, Neistat urges to viewers to help out by donating to UNICEF. Through public discussion on his videos, it is evident that Neistat contributes to the public sphere through his YouTube channel.
In today’s society, the “Fourth Estate” is increasingly being applied to non-news media such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter who are progressively becoming a networking fourth estate. According to Thomas Carlyle (1840), the fourth estate is the relationship between the press and its readers, whether the formal constitution is political or societal, genuine political power exists in the informal role of the media (Hampton, 2010). Similarly, American Lawyer Marvin Ammori states, “Traditional media organisations are no longer the only place to find news or make political arguments” (Ingram, 2014) with creative individuals like Neistat using their voice for political debate. Casey Neistat’s role as a social media commentator has allowed him to act as a guardian for public interest for giant corporations such as Apple and American Airlines. Through his contribution of the public sphere, Neistat uses his influence on the media to evaluate the performance and become a ‘watchdog’ on major corporations. In Neistat’s YouTube video, ‘Breaking up is hard to do4’ Neistat discusses how his relationship with American Airlines, which was based on promotion and sponsorship, was dismissed due to Neistat ‘not spending enough money’ with their organisation. Neistat’s video resulted in a public discussion, with his viewers suggesting other airlines and disapproving of American Airlines.
Additionally, in 2003, Neistat has spoken out about Apple’s products in his YouTube video ‘iPod’s Dirty Secret’, which evidently went viral and caused major controversy for the company in the media. In that video, Neistat criticises on Apple’s lack of battery replacement program for the iPod. Neistat’s film received national media exposure and brought broad attention on Apple’s policy towards iPod battery replacement. This clearly shows Casey Neistat’s role as a ‘watchdog’ in the media as he observes social issues through his YouTube videos, and ultimately contributes to the Fourth Estate in society.
Casey Neistat has been able to establish a successful career through motivation, risk-taking and by doing what he enjoys most, which is filmmaking, and inspiring others to be creative. Personally, I aspire to be like Neistat as he is able to enjoy the things that matter most in life. He has been able to establish a stable career from freelance filmmaking, and through his content, he has been able to make a difference in the world. His dedication to projects, and his commitment to projects and organisations such as UNICEF and his involvement in charity is something that I wish to pursue for my future career. It is evident from his career that Neistat has been able to shape his content to evolve with many different platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Casey Neistat’s motivation has certainly attributed to his success as a creator, and his ability to adapt to the changing media landscape is something that anyone can embrace for a successful career. Like Neistat, I aspire to be passionate and motivated in my career, whether it is in the form of writing, or filmmaking.
In summary, it is evident that Casey Neistat’s role in the media and his contribution to society is deeply impacted by his participation in the convergence of the changing media industry, the globalisation of his YouTube videos, and his contribution to the public sphere and fourth estate where he discusses important social issues, and acts as ‘watchdog’ in society. Neistat’s success as a filmmaker can be attributed to the changing shift of today’s media landscape from traditional media outlets to more modern outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Therefore, it can be concluded that Neistat’s career is successful due to the changing media landscape.
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