5 Oct 2015

New Zealand's most popular YouTube stars

9:32 am on 5 October 2015

Meet the young YouTube heavy-hitters who are turning a hobby into a profit.


Creating content for YouTube is Shannon Harris' fulltime job.

Creating content for YouTube is Shannon Harris' fulltime job. Photo: Facebook

“Hey everyone!”

Beauty vlogger Shannon Harris, aka Shaaanxo, starts each video for her YouTube audience of more than 2 million subscribers with these two words before launching into her latest beauty tip. 

She does it all from her Palmerston North bedroom and racks up about 150,000 views on a video within a day of posting it to YouTube.

Since starting her channel five years ago, Shannon has posted more than 850 “How To” videos about beauty and fashion.  She’s documented life-changing experiences, including her weight loss and a trip to Thailand covered in her “Boob Job Vlogs”, which have been viewed more than 4.9 million times.

Started by three tech entrepreneurs 10 years ago and now owned by Google, YouTube has about one billion active users each month and four billion hits on the site each day.

With the ability to reach a global audience, online personalities such as Shaaanxo have become just as popular as a TV series or movie.      

According to social media analytics site socialblade.com, Shannon is earning at least $31,500 per year, but once sponsorships are factored in she can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. Creating content for YouTube became Shannon’s fulltime job in 2012.    

“I earn enough to live comfortably. I am paid through my network, but it’s all coming through YouTube at the end of the day,” she says.

Shannon isn’t New Zealand’s only popular YouTuber. Sally Hickey (Sally Jo), Ollie Langdon and Jamie Curry (Jamie’s World) also have large followings in the vlogging scene.

Sally Jo, 21, has gained a following of more than 115,000 YouTube subscribers. Living in Wellington, Sally films videos in her studio surrounded by all things beauty, uploading vlogs every three days with similar content to Shannon. After recently finishing a Bachelor of Communications degree from Auckland University of Technology, YouTube is now part of her everyday life.

“I did it as more of a hobby-type thing and I thought it was a cool way to make friends,” says Sally. “I didn’t think that heaps of people would tune in or anything, I just thought I would try meet a few people from around the country who like makeup.”

“Even if I wasn’t making a single cent I would still do it because it’s enjoyable and it’s my hobby.”

Ollie Langdon, 19, agrees. “If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it.”

Ollie creates comedic content for his YouTube channel audience of more than 80,000 subscribers. Creating videos that appeal mostly to a male based audience is one of Ollie’s biggest achievements.

“My channels changed since I started it originally, I was this skinny blonde kid, and I’d get viewers because that’s what it was. Now I’m no longer a skinny blonde. I get more viewers now on the content.”

Creating similar content to Ollie, Jamie Curry, aka Jamie’s World, started her own YouTube channel after gaining a following of more than 10 million Facebook followers. She now has more than 1.3 million YouTube subscribers with her content appealing more to a female audience.

“My friends bullied me into it. Basically they were like, 'you’re kind of a weirdo, entertain us'. I wasn’t the first, but I was one of the few females on the internet being a weirdo.

“I’m pretty lucky to be in the position that I am.”

Dealing with fans is something that these four YouTube personalities have to do on a daily basis.

Of course, there’s the love: “You’re so talented”, “I love you so much” and “I laughed so hard, you’re fantastic!”

On Shannon’s 'Heart to Heart' video where she opened up about depression, a viewer commented that she was in a dark place and that the video gave her hope.

But there’s also the hate, with comments like “Get cancer and die soon” and “kill yourself”.

Jamie says she is sometimes yelled at in the street. “It’s like excuse me, I’m a human don’t yell at me.”  

These four YouTubers, who have a combined following of more than 18 million, align themselves with the self-proclaimed worldwide network, Team Internet.

Team Internet are YouTubers and their followers. Consistently speaking in second person, YouTuber’s can create an energy that makes their fans feel more like friends.  

By having such large audiences, it gives these YouTuber’s more publicity, becoming attractive to companies who aim to sell their products.

Maximising on her YouTube following, Shannon has created her own line of beauty products, XoBeauty. Jamie was also given the opportunity to write her own book, They Let Me Write A Book which will be on sale later this month    

With an audience so large it feels strange to hear Jamie mention the idea of Team Internet still being small enough to be secluded.

“We’re a reasonably big community but still small enough to be secluded. I don’t know all of the other YouTubers, but I feel like if one YouTuber is kind of being beaten, then we will all stand up for each other,” says Jamie.   

Ollie says: “I’m not close with Shannon or Kris or anything, and I don’t really see Jamie much but, I’m just enjoying what’s going on. Enjoying the revolution.”

For those wanting to give it a go, perhaps enticed by the income, all four YouTuber’s say  “just do it”.

But Jamie cautions: “If you’re young, stay in school, go to university and just wait till you’re at a point where you think this is reasonably sustainable.”