Tomorrow, April 8th, public voting closes on the contestants in the YouTube NextUp contest. The top 50 contestants will enter the final round of judging by YouTube employees and up to eight other top YouTube Partners. The top 25 are awarded $35,000, four days of one-on-one mentoring and training techniques, and site-wide promotion on YouTube.

As a contestant myself, I'm obviously hoping to be in the top 25. This week I've been taking advantage of every connection I have to gain as many votes as possible for this potentially life-changing event. However, I noticed that other contestants are, as well, and with top YouTubers plugging their friends, it makes it feel almost impossible for people like me to reach the finals.

With this public voting method of determining finalists, I wonder if YouTube is looking primarily for undiscovered talent or for those who have the most connections with people who have substantial audiences. The two aren't necessarily incongruent, but it feels like the results of this contest will be based more on popularity and who has connections with popular people than it will be on talent and passion.

But maybe that's what YouTube is really looking for anyway. Maybe they're looking for people who have a substantial audience and support from people who have an even bigger audience. Maybe it's less risky to invest into people who have already proven to connect and collaborate with top players on this platform. The difficult part is that it's really hard to make those connections on a personal level, but maybe that's what separates the good from the best.

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Still, I'm hoping this is my breakthrough! If this is more of a popularity contest than a contest about talent and passion, then so be it. Maybe that's what YouTube really wants.

As we wait for the results to be made public in the next week or two, please head over to YouTube and vote for me! (Yes, I'm taking advantage of my social connections through ReelSEO, as well. Thanks, Mark!)

QUESTION - What do you think?

Is it better for YouTube to find undiscovered talent or to make popular YouTubers even more popular? Which could serve them better in the long-run: new talent that could potentially bring a new audience to YouTube or proven talent that plays into the audience that's already there?

  • Matt Kovalakides

    Great article, Tim. I see how it might seem unfair, and I do hope they choose based on talent. Keep in mind though that many of the bigger YouTubers are people who have invested a ton of free time into this -- for years. It's not like we were spoon-fed subscribers. A lot of us identified the value of producing for YouTube back in 2008, embraced it, and pounded away to build the audiences we have. So while it may seem unfair if bigger YouTubers get in, one could also argue that they deserve to be "next up". Having said that, if the people who get in are just talentless networkers, I will barf. haha

    Hope we both end up in New York, Tim!

    Matt Koval

    • Tim Schmoyer

      Oh, I totally agree, Matt. There's usually a reason why the bigger guys are bigger. I don't really think it's unfair, it's just probably not the best method for finding undiscovered talent, if that's what they're trying to do in the first place. Bigger YouTubers are already "discovered." It's quite possible they're looking for more proven and networked creators, not undiscovered people. If so, I think that's the result the voting system probably lends itself to. The question in my mind, then, is why do a contest? YouTube already knows who the bigger people are of the "less popular" YouTubers. Why not just offer private invitations to them?

      • Matt Koval

        Ya know, I had the same question. The only answer I could come up with is marketing. As I'm sure you know, the public voting phase of most online contests is really about marketing the product, or the company itself. That might be the case here. But either way, it's great to see them make an effort to back some of us. It makes the word "partner" feel more legit.

  • James Lawson-Smith

    I would have to say that it is better to bring in new blood. The top YouTubers are not going to be around forever and it would be good to get the new ones in now and learn from the bigger YouTubers.

    • Tim Schmoyer

      I tend to agree with you. If I had a say in it, I'd probably promote about 25% of people who already have substancial audiences and personal connections with top YouTubers and 75% fresh blood. YouTube probably has better stats that can predict how some of the new blood would fair on the site, but that'd be the way I'd go based on my gut.