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Jon B. is in his early 20’s. He recently dropped out of college to work full-time on his YouTube content. He has been creating YouTube content since 2009; he was 12-13 years old at that time. He participates in several additional social media, such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Jon B. is attentive to the details of his camera, audio work, and editing and he seems as passionate about them as his fishing. Recently Jon B. has traveled, fished, and created content with a cohort of YouTube channel hosts. These people might be seen as competitors; however, they are working as collaborators driving traffic to each others’ sites and appearing in each others’ videos. Jon B. has created a recognizable personal brand, defined a business model, and is executing his plans.

Jon B, Logo

In this video, the friends have set a fishing challenge for themselves. It is not enough that Jon B. is hundreds of miles from his home near Chicago visiting Texas, during the winter, using borrowed boats on an unfamiliar water. This theatricality speaks to creating urgency, dramatic questions, emotional content, and pacing, all of which aids in having a story, an adventure, from what might otherwise only be a relaxing fishing trip. This emphasizes both the lived experiences and the gonzo journalistic technique of pouring gasoline on the fire – everything for the sake of a story.

I see a couple of places where Jon B. celebrates and advocates for “real” experience. Indeed, his love of fishing and fishing where he is present, informs all of his video creation. He surrounds himself with friends and fans who love fishing. That is only part of what is required by being a content creator. Jon B. has to film his activities and he, in turn, spends hours editing his videos. Solo camera work, self-filming, requires a split consciousness, as he must engage simultaneously with fishing and with video creation. We know that good framing and camera work can save hours of editing. Jon B. also puts the time into editing on his laptop, at home, or on the road and hence can be said to be sequestered in the virtual world as much as the real. This in part because he has to think like his consumer, to produce a product they want, and for many of them the ratio is inverse virtual to real world. We know Jon B. values the real world because of the message from one of his sponsors, Mystery Tackle Box (an interesting consistency between espoused value and paid sponsorship).

In several of his videos, Jon B. talks about his decision to drop out of college. In this one, he comes at it from the direction of quitting fishing and quitting video making, or the price tag that college required him to pay, beyond tuition (view from 7:30).

For me, this links back to the real sense of urgency in his life and his business enterprise. Also, that connects with the critical theory as well. It also demonstrates the kind of social criticism that Jon B. is engaged in. I suspect that this cohort is speaking together in its’ critique of schooling, and the “normal” career path. Thinking back to deconstruction, we also see Jon B. seeking corporate sponsorship as one of his revenue streams. Some of these vlogs narrate his attendance at industry trade shows and, while he offers no details, he mentions business meetings as an aspect of those trips. Therefore, this form of social criticism is complicated. Likewise in some videos, we hear Jon B. say or do things unreflective of his middle-class privilege. At other times, he is deeply cognizant of the opportunity and luxury he has in creating this media. Some of this we can attribute to his youth, but some of it has to do with the straight up complexity of combining, art, self, and economics and doing it as a performance piece nearly real-time, for a subscriber base of four-hundred-thousand YouTube viewers.

Jon B. is serious about his art; his video editing, camera work, storytelling and selection of soundtrack are all intentional. He is undoubtedly bridging a very interesting divide. He is engaged really in fishing and virtually as a social media marketer and content creator.

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John B.: Never Stop by Robert D. Heath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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