Ten years ago, when YouTube made its debut, the video-sharing site was better known for its mindless cat videos than for hosting slickly produced content teeming with talent. Today, social stars like PewDiePie and Bethany Mota are engaging millions of cord-cutting millennials that Hollywood and marketers are eager to reach.
"YouTube is absolutely proving that it has the ability to retain an audience and stay relevant," said Chris Jacquemin, a digital media agent for William Morris Endeavor. "It's still very early, but I don't think [YouTube] creators are a flash in the pan."
Even so, with new players like Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram vying for brands' budgets, creators can't rest on their laurels. Marketers are increasingly looking for talent that can master digital video on multiple platforms beyond the Google-owned site.
"Smart brands are looking at this as a portfolio approach," said Jacquemin. "They're not just buying on one service to bet where an audience is."
And YouTube creators like filmmaker Casey Neistat are doing just that, crossing over to platforms like Snapchat. But YouTube remains, after a decade, the biggest game in town. Below, an overview of just how the video site evolved into the entertainment powerhouse it is today.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 16 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.