Vlogger Zennie Abraham: Thank Oprah For The Fall Of The YouTube Vlog

Once, YouTube was ruled by individuals, conversing and sharing their opinions via video. Today the vlogger community has been overtaken by what Zennie Abraham refers to as the "lowest common denominator"—videos of dancing gorillas and other mindless content with no real intelligent substance. And who does he blame? Oprah!

Zennie Abraham—vlogger, YouTube partner and entrepreneur—has been vlogging since 2006.  Zennie vlogs about everything from sports to news, events and the latest viral videos, but he says that vlogging on YouTube isn’t what it once was.  Over the years, vlogging has seen something of a transformation.  Once, YouTube was ruled by individuals, conversing and sharing their opinions via video.  Today the vlogger community has been overtaken by what Zennie refers to as the “lowest common denominator”—videos of dancing gorillas and other mindless content with no real intelligent substance.  And who does he blame?  Oprah!

I had the opportunity to ask Zennie a few questions about how he started vlogging, what the YouTube vlogging community used to be like and what steps he thinks YouTube should take in order to prevent the blocking out of vloggers.

But before we get to my interview with Zennie, I want to address Zennie’s claim that Oprah is to blame for the death of YouTube vlogging as it once was known.  In a new video and blog post, Zennie says that, “Oprah Winfrey’s emergence onto the YouTube stage starting November 1, 2007, is to blame for the proliferation of shows and ‘lowest common denominator’ video clips.”  Zennie says that, when Oprah joined YouTube in 2007, she effectively blocked out the YouTube Community by refusing to take comments or response videos.  There was a huge outcry from the vlogger community.  Watch Zennie’s video below to find out more.

The dynamic of YouTube’s community has certainly evolved and continues to do so.  Even these “lowest common denominator” videos are being threatened as YouTube continues to bring in more and more professionally created content.  That being said, I asked Zennie what steps he thinks YouTube should take in order to reopen the conversation and avoid blocking out bloggers.  He told me, “All YouTube has to do is make a special page called ‘Vloggers Corner’ with a small widget that appears on the front page.” This page would consist of YouTube Partners that have been invited to join and an editor would handpick videos of the day or week that had inspired interesting discussion within the community.

I was also curious about what the vlogging community on YouTube was like before Oprah.  Zennie said, “I think before, and nothing against Oprah, the featured and popular videos were about topics and the vloggers talked to each other via the videos.”  Now YouTube is less of a discussion.  Even popular YouTubers that once posted vlogs are now changing direction, opting in favor of sketches and shows.

For those of you who are not familiar with Zennie Abraham, he posts videos daily on his YouTube Channel, blogs at Zennie62.com and is the CEO of Sports Business Simulations.  He told me a little bit about his history with vlogging and YouTube.  Zennie first started making online videos back in 2006, using YouTube to post video coverage of the 2006 NFL Draft.  Later that year, he had the chance to attend Vloggercon, where he met vlogging pioneers Irina Slutsky and Schlomo Rabinowitz as well as the founders of Blip.tv and Rocketboom, and others.  He was inspired and did his first vlog in June of 2006.

But Zennie’s vlogging career really took off in 2007.  Zennie told me, “Steve Grove, the News and Politics Editor for YouTube, asked me to help make a ‘sample’ video for the CNN/YouTube Democratic Debates.  He also invited me to become a YouTube Partner.”  Zennie created a sample video question, which ended up being selected for the first televised YouTube debate on CNN.  You can see the clip in the video below.

As a result of the debate, Zennie got the chance to appear on CNN on The Roland Martin Show in August of 2007.  He says, “It was my first time on national television.”  It wasn’t his last.  The next year, Zennie was asked by CNN to make a large series of video-blogs for CNN iReport and it’s been uphill ever since.  But there is still the question of the changing dynamic of YouTube, especially for vloggers.