By NASA MARIA ENTABAN
THREE years ago, Ray William Johnson was just a regular guy with a video camera, an Internet connection, and an opinion.
Today, he has almost five million subscribers on YouTube. Every video he puts up gets millions of views and here’s the kicker: All he does is review clips that go viral, twice a week.
Because of the unique and humorous way he narrates, Ray became an Internet celebrity almost instantly.
Vlogging (pronounced vuh-logging) is what Ray does, and it is fast gaining popularity among many people, worldwide.
All you really need to become a vlogger is a filming device (or a gadget with a filming function), an Internet connection, and a thick face.
Blogging allows one to express himself or herself openly, but there’s always the security of remaining hidden behind words on a screen. With vlogging, however, people can actually see you, and the potential for embarrassment is huge.
Nevetheless, this was not the case for Kedah native Matluthfi90 (who wishes to only go by his online nickname), whose no-holds-barred YouTube videos are immensely popular. He has 24,687 subscribers and almost a million channel views.
The 21-year-old student is studying architecture in Australia, and has been vlogging for three years now. His videos are of him ranting about a topic in a humorous manner, and he talks about anything from being judgmental to poking fun at teledramas.
He even has quite a moving (and humorous) Mother’s Day message to his mother on his list of clips.
“It started out just for fun, for self-amusement,” said Matluthfi90. He vlogs mostly in Bahasa Malaysia and English.
“I mimed songs, recorded abnormal activities and laughed while watching them afterwords,” he added.
Matluthfi90 then created a YouTube channel to share his videos with friends.
“As time went by, I realised that I could use my ability and influece for good purposes, and started to think about what my viewers get from my videos. I wanted to help Malaysians, especially youngsters, to judge rationally instead of emotionally,” he explained.
He isn’t sure why so many people watch his videos, but he thinks they like the humorous spin he puts on serious topics.
“People’s taste in entertainment has changed. Instead of watching something that tells you everything like our typical boring dramas and movies, people want something thought-provoking, something that intrigues them – not just something to laugh at but something that moves them,” he shared.
Like Matluthfi90, the guys behind Tech Idiots: Uncensored also vlog to express themselves.
Chan Wern Shen, 28, and Kelvin Lim, 30, use Facebook’s group video cast to discuss the technology industry.
“We vent out our frustrations on anything that’s going on in the industry. We debate and try to educate people on the hot topic of the moment,” said Wern Shen, who is the editor of online forum, Lowyat.net.
Even though their videos may seem like “shows”, Wern Shen said it is just two guys with occasional guests, sitting on a couch, bantering and making jokes.
“Our crowd started small but as it went on people who have absolutely no interest in technology started tuning in, a lot of it because of the banter between us.
“We have that ‘opinion thing’ going on, and we leave our cellphones on – sometimes when it rings on the show, it makes for good conversation,” noted Wern Shen.
Wern Shen is always ahead of the curve in the technology world, as he attends launches and junkets regularly, using information from these events on the show.
Where many would see the commercial potential in a popular show, the duo don’t plan to monetise their hobby anytime soon.
“We told each other when we first started, the moment it starts becoming like a job we’ll stop. No sponsors, product placement. It’s all just us doing it on our own free time for our own interest,” said Wern Shen.
While vloggers like Matlufthi90 and Wern Shen create videos for self-expression and satire, others do it as an extension of their blogs, as pictures and words can only tell so much.
Jason Goh, or Smashpop as he is known in the blogosphere, uses vlogging to feature the places and events he goes to.
“It’s additional coverage on a certain event since pictures on my blog can only tell so much,” said Jason, 28.
“These videos also act as a medium for me to express how fun and excited I am everywhere I go. Since all I’ve done in all my years of blogging was just about photography, I thought it was about time I got myself more into videos as it’s the trend nowadays,” he added.
Even though Jason wasn’t familiar with any video editing software, he didn’t want to miss the vlogging boat and posted his first vlog a year ago.
“I am still learning, and putting up these videos on the web really took a lot of courage. Luckily, the feedback has been mostly positive and encouraging,” he said.
Tiong Sue Lynn, a writer, content editor and blogger (Bangsar Babe) who has always wanted to host a TV show about food, started vlogging a year ago using just a compact camera.
“I’ve always wanted to host food shows, but because I lacked experience, it wasn’t easy scoring a hosting gig,” said Sue Lynn, 26.
“My fiance and best friend have been persuading me to start my own food video blog, and after six months of their nudging, I finally did it. I created my own food series.”
Putting herself in front of a camera wasn’t a big challenge, as she has had experience competing in beauty pageants, but it took a little time to get used to talking into a camera.
“I do food video blogging, where I go to interesting eateries and present what I eat in front of the camera. It’s like my mini food channel,” she said. So far, Sue Lynn has even managed to get sponsors for her vlogs.
Vlog vs blog
There is that risk of embarrassing yourself when you vlog, but there’s also so much potential in that medium.
“It’s very different. In blogging or writing, we could always undo what we wrote or we could plan our content. Making videos is spontaneous. I can undo and re-record if it’s just me talking to the camera in my room but if I am recording at events or while travelling, I have to make sure that whatever I say is what I want viewers to see and hear,” said Jason.
Videos are also richer in content because there is audio and moving images, and having someone “speak” to you from beyond the screen adds the element of “human connection” to it.
Matlutfhi90 used to blog but prefers videos as a medium of self-expression.
“There are emotions and body language – some of my humour probably couldn’t be expressed in words,” he revealed. “It’s just a matter of what you’re good at.”
For Sue Lynn, both blogging and vlogging have their pros and cons.
“A balance of both is ideal. I feel that most people love looking at pictures and videos. And after a long day at work or school, the last thing they would want is to read a long essay.
“Video blogs are perfect because they just need to watch,” she shared.
Sue Lynn does almost everything herself (except hold the camera), and finds that food videos are more tedious to do as compared to blogging as she needs to figure out new ways of presenting.
Wern Shen highly doubts vlogging signals the death of blogging, as Malaysians are a pretty shy bunch.
“We like to hide behind our cloaks of anonymity,” he said with a laugh.
However, he does not rule out the possibility of vlogging becoming the next big thing.
“Cameras are cheaper and video editing is much easier. Everything is pre-installed, all you need to do is drag, drop, cut here and there, piece it together and get a YouTube channel,” Wern Shen added.
A step further
A vlogger shouldn’t just put up video after video without thinking much of it. They also encourage feedback from viewers in any shape or form.
“Being on Facebook is good because we get feedback and people tell us what they want to see or don’t want to see. On slow weeks, we ask our viewers what they want us to talk about, and we take it from there
“It’s the age of user-generated content. As long as there are people who enjoy doing stuff and putting it on camera, there will be people who enjoy watching them and asking for new material,” said Wern Shen.
Commenting on posts and sending in e-mail or even tweeting someone your feedback is pretty easy. Vloggers encourage their audience to join them by asking for video responses.
For this year’s Merdeka, Matlutfhi90 has embarked on a mini project called “Made By Malaysians”. He is asking Malaysians to send in videos sharing their racial and religious values.
He hopes that when he compiles them and posts them up on Merdeka Day next week, people will realise that they all have some common ground despite being from different backgrounds.
“The response has been great so far – I’ve got 150 plus videos and counting. It’s good, and sort of a relief knowing that I’m not alone in this effort. Malaysians can really speak out if they are given a chance. Some of them are really inspiring and I’m hoping that these are the kinds of people that lead the next generation,” said Matlutfhi90.