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The Popularization of Video Essays and Commentary Videos on YouTube

Some say YouTube is dying, however with commentary and video essays becoming more popular a resurgence may be occurring.

woman watching something on her laptop with headphones and a popcorn bucket.
Shutterstock/Antonio Guillem

With creators like Cody Ko and Kurtis Conner blowing up recently on YouTube for their commentary skills, it leads to the question of wondering what changed.

Is YouTube Dying?

With TikTok becoming so popular in the past few years, attention spans have shortened. Especially those in Gen Z and younger generations. Why would they watch long videos when they can learn the same information with a 60-second TikTok? I’ve seen a few TikToks questioning if YouTube is dying, we don’t discuss popular channels and challenges as much as we used to. With the occasional Mr Beast reference, YouTube seems to be a thing of the past.

@ario.joseph

I used to watch YouTube for hours at a time but now it’s not fun to watch at all except for triplets 😭

♬ original sound – ariojoseph
TikTok/@ario.joseph

However, I believe it is coming back stronger than ever with commentary videos and video essays. These videos keep viewers’ attention while providing them with entertainment that is sometimes educational. Instead of going down an extensive TikTok search page trying to find out information about a certain topic, there is most likely a thirty to an hour-long video on YouTube explaining every nook and cranny about the topic. With riveting animations, displays, and overall storytelling skills, these videos are sure to catch your attention.

What Are Video Essays?

According to Studio Binder, “A video essay is a video that analyzes a specific topic, theme, person, or thesis.” In simple terms, it’s an essay in video form. Video essays are normally split into different sections and organized by each subtopic, just like a normal essay. People who film and make video essays take an opinionated or argumentative stance on a topic and then give their evidence and reasoning for it.

Many video essays today cover things like pop culture, social media, television shows, and films. YouTuber Drew Gooden recently did a video analyzing Netflix’s new Avatar The Last Airbender series in relation to the original. He covered the characters, plot, and overall themes that were affected by this adaptation. If you want to learn more about the adaptation watch his video, or check out this article by Trill Mag.

Thumbnail of Drew Gooden in front of a green screened Aang from Avatar The Last Airbender. Text that says "spectacle > story"
YouTube/Drew Gooden

What Are Commentary Videos?

Commentary videos fall into the same realm as video essays but are a bit more relaxed. They generally comment on certain things such as trends, TikToks, Reddit posts, etc. These videos aren’t structured as much as video essays and sometimes aren’t structured at all. In my opinion, they are perfect to mindlessly watch while you eat a meal or just something good to have in the background while you do your everyday tasks.

Cody Ko is a perfect example of a commentary videos. He simply sits in front of his computer and comments on TikTok, other YouTube videos, old TV shows, and more. If you can think of something to react to, he probably has done it. You may describe these types of videos as simply reaction videos, but they are so much more. Cody personally applies his own humor and life experiences to the videos in order to make them more interesting.

Kurtis Conner is another one of these commentary YouTubers. He tends to do a mix of commentary and essay style. One of his most recent videos was about buying old technology and reviewing it. He split the video into different sections like an essay would do, but also provided his commentary on each device. Another Youtuber named Danny Gonzalez also does this similar style of videos. Overall, both of these kinds of videos are in an individual category, but they also can be used together in unison, almost like a Venn diagram.

Kurtis Conner standing in front of a stock image of a couple having a picnic while wearing old technology that makes him look silly
YouTube/Kurtis Conner

Gen Z has grown up online their entire life and for the most part, they have been socialized a lot. However, as the pandemic does, it ruined that. Refinery 29 states that Gen Z’s ability to know,

“Almost any topic at their fingertips, [have] become used to educating themselves online.”

Refinery 29

Gen Z tends to go down rabbit holes about any and every subject and video essays only make it simpler. Why would we read about something when we can simply watch a video about it?

Now due to the pandemic, Gen Z has become less socialized. With being confined to their bedrooms during their developmental years, they quickly found comfort in online deliberation. This is what made commentary videos shine. As a part of Gen Z myself, I can say I love hearing others speak about topics that I enjoy. Many of Gen Zers grew up in fandoms, whether it be Percy Jackson, Twilight, Teen Wolf, etc. Meaning that we love consuming content that fits our specific niches. Hearing what others think about certain things, themes, and places. Anything that peaks Gen Z’s interest.

teenage girl watching a video or working on her laptop at night in the dark. The laptop screen lights up her face.
Shutterstock/Lysenko Andrii

At the end of the day, Gen Z loves things online and they love talking about the things they love. These two things put together make for the perfect type of media: commentary videos and video essays.

Of course, the people I’ve mentioned previously are popular and you should check them out, but there are always more people to see! Here are some listed in an article by Favoree.

Blameitonjorge: This channel is perfect for people who love things creepy and unknown. He covers a variety of topics like found footage and urban legends while using his soothing voice to calm viewers.

Jacob Geller: Geller makes video essays about numerous things like video games and history. He uses metaphorical and psychological tactics to explain video games’ true depth.

Wendigoon: Wendigoon is perfect for true crime and horror lovers. With compelling visuals and captivating storytelling, this channel is sure to catch your attention.

Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell: A perfect channel for science and history lovers. Kurzgesagt uses compelling visuals and animations to help explain their topics as well as keep viewers entertained.

In Conclusion

Gen Z loves to consume media whether it be an article, an infographic, a social media post, a YouTube video, or anything online. Growing up online has strengthened their research skills and are now able to learn more at the tap of a screen.

YouTube home page on a macbook
Shutterstock/PixieMe

They are also huge fangirls, so learning about their interests in visual format is perfect. Gen Z strives to be educated on every topic they can, especially the ones they love. Video essays and commentary videos are perfect for learning about your niche interest or just for entertainment.

So go down that rabbit hole, learn all the deep dark secrets of Disney, find a new hobby, and overall watch a YouTube video! There are so many things to learn and discover on the website, find what interests you.

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Hello! I am currently an english major at Gustavus Adolphus College. I love all things book, movie, and tv show related.

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