The YouTube stars you’ve never heard of (because you’re not Asian)

Big Think
Adam Flinter
May 10, 2012

I’ll be honest.

I’d hoped to hold out a bit longer before falling back on this staple of any Asian culture column, but it was unavoidable in this case.

The idea to write about YouTube in Asia first popped into my head a few weeks back but after doing a bit of research I realised my hands were tied.

So now I have no choice than to talk about…cue dramatic music…K-Pop.

Before I get into that, a little background information.

I had originally planned to write about the rise of v-loggers, but it turned out that none of the popular celebs are actually from Asia.

While the like of WongFu productions, Peter Chao (embedded below) and BubzBeauty are both funny and popular in Asia, they are also basically Western born ethnic Asians.  Not everyone may have heard of them, but the fact is they really hail from places like San Diego and Northern Ireland.

I guess this could lead onto a point about the fact that the most famous Asian YouTube celebrities are famous because they play up on Asian stereotypes. But they aren’t in Asia, I’m not a sociologist and this isn’t a deep and meaningful column. I’ll leave you all to discuss the nuances of how ethnic minorities cross-over into mainstream social success.

More pointedly I guess I could also ask why the most populous region in the world, which stacks up some impressive social useage stats, doesn’t produce more well-known social media stars?

Actually I can have a stab at that one. The answer is pretty simple and pretty logical.

When you see that Singaporeans watch an average of 130 online videos per month, 25% of the Japanese (22m people) watch videos on the phones and in Hong Kong YouTube reaches 63.4 per cent of the population then you have to wonder why.

First up, is the age old issue of original content. A quick scan of the localised YouTube pages from Singapore and the Philippines shows Western content is still very much King.

Very little original local content of any quality is being produced. (although I would urge everyone to google Steven Lim or Aaron Tan. Thank me later.) and you certainly don’t need to be an ardent media-watcher to understand that more local content, means more local viewers, bigger stars and a bigger chance of cross-over.

The second reason is more traditional. Despite what people think. There is actually very little in the way of real pan-Asian culture. Because of this, most social stars will be stars in their own backyard and nowhere else.

Language barriers, diverse local cultural traits and the traditionally insular nature of many societies mean it is difficult for a cult Singaporean blogger like XiaXue to get any traction in Thailand.