The Challenges of YouTube
Content Creation during Covid-19
Luis Cuevas

David Dobrik is one of YouTube’s top creators, reaching over 18 million subscribers. Known for his energetic vlogs, and charismatic crew of friends, Dobrik had been publishing at least two videos a week for the last four years. He has had guest roles in movies, has featured celebrities, and even won a Kid’s Choice Award. However, in April 2020, all uploads to his YouTube channel ceased.

“It is tough to make those videos without [my friends] around,” says David Dobrik while on Steve-O’s Wild Ride podcast. “I feel like if I start posting during this quarantine my content will be watered down because it will just be me inside my house… I would rather quit cold-turkey and stop, and when I can make the videos exactly the way I want to make them then I will start again.”

Dobrik has been one of the many YouTube content creators to be vocal about the difficulties of working during Covid-19. Beginning on August 31, Dobrik began live streaming video games from his home. This has been a popular alternative for YouTubers whose content is affected by Covid. However, those whose content was already made from home have been affected differently as the pandemic continues.

“I have not left my house pretty much since February,” Says popular video game YouTuber Dino, who runs the channel Rhymestyle Before, it was pretty easy pre-recording and planning trips, but now I’m just always home and ‘always at work’.”

“I don’t think I do anything to stay sane other than play games,” Dino says when asked if he does anything to relieve the tension of the pandemic, finding it a difficult conundrum to navigate through. As his job is already to play video games and stream, he feels obligated to stream whenever he has time to relax and play video games. This leaves Dino with a feeling of always being at work.

Various YouTubers have expressed the concern of feeling stuck in work-mode, or that they must work because they are stuck at home for long periods of time. While some find the situation to be overwhelming, others see this as a chance to continue pushing out content as normal, or even go beyond.

“Things don’t feel significantly different for me since I spent most of my time at home anyway,” says anime YouTuber Swagkage. His content has lent itself well to the Covid-19 situation, as it can be done without leaving home. However, just like many others, he has had to try and keep a sense of normalcy while not being able to go out. In Swagkage’s case, watching movies and moving some hobbies to the internet has been helpful.

Swagkage has missed out on several events and opportunities because of the pandemic. Swagkage explains that he misses, “Mostly hanging out with my friends. I also used to go to a local card shop to play in regular tournaments and I obviously can’t do that anymore.”

Dino feels similarly, as he had just gotten over a fear of flying during a Japan video shoot, “After that trip, I felt like I was ready for flights and of course Covid happened. I’d be in Japan right now if it was normal,” Dino says.

Missing out on opportunities is only one of the problems YouTubers face, as revenue has also been affected. As more people have time to stay at home and relax with some internet videos, viewership has been higher than normal. This would usually mean more ad revenue for the content creators, but in a strange twist, their income has actually been lower than it should be.

“In April, there was almost an 80% drop in ad revenue,” notes Dino. “It has slowly been getting better, but I’m still probably going to make like 40% less revenue this year.”

This issue came about because of online advertisers pausing their ads, after all, no one was going out to buy products. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, digital ad spending was down 39% in March, with 24% of respondents pausing all digital advertising. Though this has been alleviated as time has gone on, IAB shows that influencer advertising spending has decreased by 21% compared to the survey fielded pre-Covid. A decrease in revenue is an added stressor for content creators.

“It is kind of like being at work and going home, but in my case I never go home and don’t go outside,” says Dino, explaining that his mental health may be more affected than he might realize.

Though there have been several different reactions from content creators as to how to approach their work and mental health, there does not seem to be a right way to go about it.

“I don’t think there is a “normal” reaction [to Covid-19]; rather, we are all trying to react as best we can and it will look differently for each of us,” says Assistant Dean and executive director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Kennesaw State University, Dr. Josh Gunn, “…I have seen data that suggests increases in symptoms of depression, which includes reduced motivation, have been observed since the onset of the pandemic. Isolation and hopelessness are also symptoms of depression that folks seem to be experiencing more intensely right now.”

This is unsurprising, as the CDC has published a mental health survey report that shows an increase of anxiety in the months of April-June in comparison to last year. The survey, conducted by Qualtrics, showed that 40.9% of the 5,470 surveyed had at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, with 26.3% having symptoms of a trauma- and stressor-related disorder related to the pandemic.

But how can content creators alleviate this stress, and keep themselves motivated?

Swagkage and Rhymestyle believe focusing on work and finding ways to continue their hobbies is a crucial way to remain calm in this time.

“I think everyone has to take a hard look at what works for them, what motivates them, and what brings reassurance and joy,” says Dr. Gunn about how YouTubers could deal with working from home, and overworking, “For some that may mean diving into their work, but for others it may mean backing off to use some extra resources on just taking good care of themselves. I think one of the hardest things has been the disconnection from others, so finding ways to feel engaged with others would be my one recommendation to anyone who is struggling.”