Hitting the Books: What goes on at a summer camp for YouTube Gaming kidfluencers

In the first days of social media, to build a personal brand online you mostly just needed a basic working knowledge of html. In 2022, however, the influencer marketing industry’s reach is estimated at around $16.4 billion. With so much money to be made, it’s little wonder that an entire support ecosystem has sprung up to help get the next generation of PewDiePies camera-ready. In the excerpt below from her new book examining the culture and business of online influencing, Break the Internet, Olivia Yallop enrolls in a summer gaming influencer camp for teens.

Break the Internet Cover

Scribe US

Excerpted from Break the Internet: In Pursuit of Influence by Olivia Yallop. Published by Scribe UK. Copyright © 2022 by Olivia Yallop. All rights reserved.

Beginning the course bright and early on a Monday morning in August stirs memories from classrooms past, as the students — myself, plus a small group of animated pre-teen boys hailing from across the UK — go around and make our introductions: an interesting fact about ourselves, our favourite foods, two truths and a lie. A pandemic-proofed schedule means we are learning remotely, in my case prostrated on my parents’ sofa. Once logged on, we meet our course coach Nathan, an upbeat, relentlessly patient Scottish instructor with a homegrown YouTube channel of his own, on which he reviews electronic synthesisers and (he reveals privately to me) vlogs whisky-tasting.

Twenty minutes into our induction, I realise I am already out of my depth: I have accidentally landed in a class of aspiring YouTube gamers. Within the influencer landscape, gaming is a microcosm complete with its own language and lore, each new game franchise spawning an expansive universe of characters, weaponry, codes, and customs. Whilst the students are happily chatting multiplayer platform compatibility, I am stealthily googling acronyms.

Far from the bedroom-dwelling pastime of the shy and socially reclusive, as it has been previously painted, gaming is a sprawling community activity on social media platforms. Over 200 million YouTube users watch gaming videos on a daily basis; 50 billion hours were viewed in 2018 alone, and two of the five largest channels on YouTube belong to gamers. And that’s just YouTube — the largest dedicated gamer streaming platform is Twitch, a 3.8m-strong community, which has an average of 83,700 synchronous streams — with 1.44 million viewers — taking place at any time.

Just a fraction of these numbers are users actually playing games themselves. Gaming content usually consists of viewing other people play: pre-recorded commentary following skilful players as they navigate their way through various levels or livestreamed screenshares to which viewers can tune in to watch their heroes play in real time. According to Google’s own data, 48 per cent of YouTube gaming viewers say they spend more time watching gaming videos on YouTube than actually playing games themselves.

If, like me, you find yourself wondering why, you’re probably in the wrong demographic. My classmate Rahil, a die-hard fan of Destiny 2, broke it down: ‘What makes these content creators so good is that they are very confident in what they do in gaming, but they are also funny, they are entertaining to watch. That’s why they have so many followers.’

Watching other people play video games is a way to level up your skills, engage with the community’s most hyped gaming rivalries, and feel connected to something beyond your console. Being a successful gaming influencer is also a way to get filthy rich. Video game voyeurism is a lucrative market, making internet celebrities of its most popular players, a string of incomprehensible handles that read to me like an inebriated keyboard smash but invoke wild-eyed delight in the eyes of my classmates: Markiplier, elrubiusOMG, JuegaGerman, A4, TheWillyrex, EeOneGuy, KwebbelKop, Fernanfloo, AM3NIC.

PewDiePie — aka 30-year-old Felix Kjellberg, the only gamer noobs like me have ever heard of — has 106m followers and is estimated to earn around $8 million per month, including more than $6.8 million from selling merchandise and more than $1.1 million in advertising. Blue-haired streamer Ninja, aka Detroit-born 29-year- old Tyler Blevins, is the most-followed gamer on Twitch, and signed a $30 million contract with Microsoft to game exclusively on their now- defunct streaming service Mixer. UK YouTube gaming collective The Sidemen upload weekly vlogs to their shared channel in which they compete on FIFA, mess around, prank each other, order £1,000 takeaways, and play something called ‘IRL Tinder’, living out the fever dream of a million teenage boys across the internet. For many tweens, getting paid to play as a YouTube gamer is a hallowed goal, and each of my classmates is keen to make Minecraft a full-time occupation. I decide to keep quiet about my abortive attempt at a beauty tutorial.

Class kicks off with an inspirational slideshow titled ‘INFLUENCERS: FROM 0 TO MILLIONS’. My laptop screen displays a Wall of Fame of top YouTubers smiling smugly to camera: OG American vlogger Casey Neistat, Canadian comedian Lilly Singh, PewDiePie, beauty guru Michelle Phan, and actor, activist, and author Tyler Oakley, each underlined by a subscriber count that outnumbers the population of most European countries. ‘Everyone started off where you are today,’ says Nathan enthusiastically. ‘A laptop and a smartphone — that’s all they had. Everybody here started with zero subscribers.’ The class is rapt. I try to imagine my own face smiling onscreen between professional prankster Roman Atwood (15.3m subscribers) and viral violin performer Lindsey Stirling (12.5m subscribers). Somehow, I can’t.

Nathan hits play on early comedy vlogger nigahiga’s first ever upload — a 2007 viral video sketch entitled ‘How to Be Ninja’ that now has 54,295,178 views — and then a later video from 2017, ‘Life of a YouTuber’. ‘Look at that — 21.5M subscribers!’ Nathan taps on the follower count under the video. ‘It didn’t happen overnight. It took a year, 12 months of putting up content with 50 views. Don’t get disheartened. Take every sub, every view as a…’ he mimes celebrating like the winner of a round of Fortnite.

Thanks to its nostalgic pixelation and condensed frame ratio, watching ‘How to Be Ninja’ creates the impression that we’re sitting in a history class studying archival footage from a distant past: Late Noughties Net Culture (2007, colourised). In a poorly lit, grainy home video that feels like a prelapsarian time capsule, two teenage boys act out a hammy sketch in which they transform into martial arts experts, including off-tempo miming, questionable jump cuts, and a tantalising glimpse of old-school YouTube — running on Internet Explorer — that flies over the heads of my Gen Z classmates. The sketch feels like two friends messing around with a camera at the weekend; it’s almost as if they don’t know they’re being watched.

In the second video an older and now more-polished Higa — complete with designer purple highlights in his hair — breezily addresses his multi-million-strong fanbase in a nine-minute HD monologue that’s punctuated by kooky 3D animation and links to his supporting social media channels. ‘I am in one of the final stages of my YouTube career,’ he says, ‘and my YouTube life, so …’ The camera cuts to reveal his extensive video set-up, professional lights, and a team of three clutching scripts, clipboards, cameras, and a boom mic behind the scenes, all celebrating exuberantly: ‘That means we can get out of here right?’ asks one. ‘Yeah, it’s really cramped back here…’ says another, ‘I have to poop so bad.’

‘What’s the difference between these two videos?’ Nathan prompts us. ‘What changed?’ The answers roll in quickly, students reeling off a list of ameliorations with ease: better lighting, better equipment, a better thumbnail, slicker editing, a more professional approach, background music, higher audio quality, and a naturalistic presentation style that at least appears to be ad-libbed.

‘What makes a good video more generally?’ asks Nathan. ‘What are the key elements?’ When he eventually pulls up the next slide, it turns out Nathan wants us to discuss passion, fun, originality, and creativity: but the class has other ideas. ‘I heard YouTube doesn’t like videos lower than ten minutes,’ offered Alex. ‘There’s many things that they don’t like,’ Lucas corrects him. ‘The algorithm is very complicated, and it’s always changing. They used to support “let’s plays” [a popular gaming stream format] back in 2018, and then they changed it, and a lot of Minecraft channels died.’ Rahil pipes up: ‘They find as many ways as possible to scrutinise your video … if you do many small things wrong, you get less money, even though YouTube is paid the same money by the advertisers. So you should never swear in your videos.’ ‘No, demonetisation is different,’ corrects Fred.

There is something fascinating and incongruous about watching pre-teens reel off the details of various influencer revenue models with the enthusiasm of a seasoned social media professional. The fluency with which they exchange terms I’m more accustomed to encountering on conference calls and in marketing decks is a startling reminder of the generational gulf between us: though they may be students, they’re not exactly beginners on the internet.

As the conversation quickly descends into technocratic one- upmanship, Nathan attempts to steer our analysis back to entry level. ‘Once you reach 1,000 subscribers,’ he enthusiastically explains to the class, ‘that means you can monetise your channel and have ads on it.’ A heated debate about the intricacies of YouTube monetisation ensues. Nathan is corrected by one of his students, before another pipes up to undercut them both, and suddenly everyone’s talking all at once: ‘Most YouTubers make money from sponsorships, not advertising revenue, anyway,’ offers one student. There is a pause. ‘And merch,’ he adds, ‘the MrBeast hoodies are really cool.’

‘Okay then,’ says Nathan brightly, shifting the slide forward to reveal a list of attributes for creating successful content that begins, ‘Attitude, Energy, Passion, Smile’, ‘what about some of these…’

Looking at my notes, I realise Nathan’s original question, ‘What makes a good video?’, has become something else entirely: what does YouTube consider to be a good video, and thus reward accordingly? It’s a small elision, admittedly, but significant; good is whatever YouTube thinks is good, and interpretations outside this algorithmic value system aren’t entertained. His prompt about creative possibilities has been heard as a question about optimising the potential of a commodity (the influencer) in an online marketplace. ‘It’s all about value,’ he continues, unwittingly echoing my thoughts, ‘what value does your video bring to the YouTube community? How are you going to stand out from all the other people doing it?’

This cuts to the heart of criticism against influencer training courses like this one, and others which have sprung up in LA, Singapore, and Paris in recent years: that it’s ethically inappropriate to coach young people to commodify themselves, that it’s encouraging children to spend more time online, that it’s corrupting childhoods. Influencers and industry professionals rolled their eyes or responded with a mixture of horror and intrigue when I’d mentioned the Fire Tech programme in passing. ‘That’s disgusting,’ said one agent, ‘way too young.’ (Privately, I thought this was an inconsistent position, given she represented a mumfluencer with a family of four.) ‘I respect it,’ said a Brighton-based beauty guru, ‘but I would never personally make that choice for my kids.’ ‘Crazy times we live in,’ offered a NYC-based fashion influencer, before admitting, ‘for real, though, I kind of wish I had had that when I was younger.’

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Tech News

Bluetti EB70 Portable Power Station Review – Hitting the Sweet Spot

Portable power stations, the hulking versions of the power banks for smartphones you carry with you in your bag, now come in all shapes, sizes, and capacities. Almost all of them offer the same trifecta of portability, power, and safety though they mostly vary in how they balance the first two. Go too small and you won’t be able to get much out of it. Put in too much, however, and it defeats the purpose of being portable, even if you have wheels. Offering a powerful battery that won’t pull your arms off when you carry it is what the Bluetti EB70 Portable Power Station is trying to offer and we take it for a good spin to see if it is indeed the Goldilocks of its kind.


Almost all portable power stations, at least the ones designed to be literally carried around, start out with a rectangular boxy shape. From there, manufacturers add all the embellishments they need to stand out from the crowd. Those often involve curved bodies or unusual handles. The Bluetti EB70, however, sticks with the basics in order to create the most space-efficient design possible.

The Bluetti EB70 is pretty much a large polycarbonate plastic box that only curves minimally at the corners and edges. Its molded-plastic handle folds flat down into the body when not in use. Except for the car charging port cover, nothing extrudes too much from all sides of the power station. What this means in practice is that it can be crammed into tight places without any space wasted on odd angles and curves.

Despite the plastic material used throughout the Bluetti EB70’s chassis, the power station feels sturdy and well-built. Of course, it is also on the heavy side at 21.3 lbs, roughly 9.7 kilos, which is not what you might expect from such a small box. Then again, if you knew what it was packing inside, you wouldn’t be that surprised.

The Bluetti EB70 comes in three color variants but, as of this writing, only Space Gray and Vibrant Red are available. Both look premium but the Vibrant Red that we got for this review definitely stands out more, especially in case of an emergency. Speaking of emergencies, it also comes with a very bright LED torch that is thankfully located in front. No more trying to awkwardly point the light like a gigantic and heavy flashlight.

Battery and Charging

The Bluetti EB70 boasts of a 716Wh or 700W battery that easily outclasses the more portable kind of power stations. Part of that weight comes from the use of LiFePO4 or Lithium-ion Phosphate technology, the same kind used in electric vehicles.

While that definitely seems like a large amount that can power many electronic devices and appliances, it actually also puts limits on what you can plug into it. Microwaves, for example, can work but only if it meets the maximum wattage. Anything around 800W or higher will force the safety system to kick in and turn off the power station for safety reasons.

Like most portable power stations these days, the EB70 offers three methods of charging. The most environment-friendly is, of course, via Bluetti’s own 200W solar panels that meet the bare minimum to quickly charge the power station. You can also charge it from a car’s lighter port but most people are probably going to charge it via the gigantic 200W power brick that it comes with. While this is the easiest and fastest charging method, charging up to full in under 4 hours, it is also the noisiest.

Unlike most of the portable power stations we’ve come across, the Bluetti EB70’s power brick has its own fan and it’s quite a loud one. Curiously, those fans turn on even if it isn’t charging the EB70, as long as the charger itself is plugged in. In other words, you’ll have to unplug the charger when not in use and it will remind you of that fact in the most annoying way.

Output and Performance

The Bluetti EB70 has your staple output connections to meet any and all needs and then some. On the right side, you have the AC section with two three-pronged outlets and two two-pronged outlets. On the opposite side are the DC group with a car charger, two DC barrel ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and two USB-C ports. The top also has a 15W wireless charging pad so it’s really convenient that the carrying handle can fold out of the way.

What makes this particular Bluetti power station special are those two USB-C ports. Not only does it support the USB-C Power Delivery standard, it can actually output the max 100W of power that the standard allows. And that’s not just 100W split between the two but 100W each.

With all those output options, the Bluetti EB70 can power almost any mid-power appliance, mobile device, and even a MacBook Pro. The EB70 itself has fans to keep it cool and they are fortunately quiet while in use. However, they also do kick in when charging and can be a noisy affair, especially when in concert with the already noisy power brick.

The EB70 supports pass-through charging on both DC and AC ports so you can charge the power station and power appliances at the same. For AC, Bluetti once again boasts of its pure sine wave inverter for maximum efficiency. It does work as advertised and can dish out that 700W of power, give or take. You can also try your luck pulling even more but, as mention, the safety system kicks in before things can go bad.


The Bluetti EB70 Portable Power Station was designed to deliver a well-balanced option between power and portability and we can definitely attest to that. Although the 700W battery does limit what you can plug into it, most off-grid and emergency use appliances will fit right in.

The two 100W USB-C ports are definitely must-haves these days with more laptops accepting USB-C power for charging. While Bluetti tried to err on the side of safety, the fan noise from the charger, even when just plugged in, can really get under your skin. Fortunately, it is a minor flaw that makes the Bluetti EB70 Portable Power Station a valuable part of your house or travels, especially at the $499 pre-order price the company is offering.

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Tech News

3 ways the global semiconductor shortage is hitting the US hard

President Joe Biden’s executive order calling for a review of supply chains for critical products put a spotlight on the decades-long decline in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing capacity. Semiconductors are the logic and memory chips used in computers, phones, vehicles, and appliances. The U.S. share of global semiconductor fabrication is only 12%, down from 37% in 1990, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.

It might not seem important that 88% of the semiconductor chips used by U.S. industries, including the automotive and defense industries, are fabricated outside the U.S. However, three issues make where they are made critical to the U.S. as the global leader in electronics: lower capability, high global demand, and limited investment.

Lower capability

The increasing reliance by U.S. chip companies on international partners to fabricate the chips they design reflects the United States’ diminished capability. U.S. semiconductor companies have 47% of the global chip sales market, but only 12% are manufactured in the U.S. Meeting expectations for ever faster and smarter electronics requires chip design innovation, which, in turn, is dependent on the most advanced fabrication technologies available.

Advances in semiconductor fabrication are based on the number of transistors, the smallest of a chip’s electronic components, per square millimeter. The most advanced semiconductor fabrication technologies and facilities, known as fabs, are labeled as 5 nanometers, or millionths of a millimeter. The number refers to the process rather than any particular chip feature. Generally, the smaller the nanometer rating, the more transistors per square millimeter, though it’s a complicated picture with many variables. The highest transistor densities are about 100 million per square millimeter.

Taiwan and Samsung in South Korea are developing 3-nanometer fabs while the U.S. does not yet have a 7-nanometer fab. Intel has announced that its 7-nanometer fab won’t be ready for production until late 2022 or early 2023. This leaves the U.S. without the means to make the most advanced chips.

[Read: How do you build a pet-friendly gadget? We asked experts and animal owners]

High global demand

With the pandemic, demand for cell phones, laptops, and other work-at-home devices and increased use of the internet have put pressure on fabs to increase the number of chips they are delivering for these products. The global automotive industry predicted that demand for cars would fall during the pandemic, so it reduced its orders for semiconductor chips used in vehicle safety, control, emissions, and driver information systems. The auto industry has restarted production but is now faced with a shortage of semiconductor chips.

Recently, eight state governors asked Biden to redouble efforts “to urge wafer and semiconductor companies to expand production capacity and/or temporarily reallocate a modest portion of their current production to auto-grade wafer production.” This “modest” reallocation cannot be done without causing shortages elsewhere. And it cannot be done quickly. For example, Taiwanese semiconductor giant TSMC has reported a six-month lead time from placing an order to delivery, and producing a chip is estimated to take up to three months.


Fortnite’s split-screen bug still hitting some players after 15.50 update

Epic Games released Fortnite update version 15.50 earlier this week, and with that update came a fix for the split-screen ‘ready up’ issue. Epic said on the Fortnite Status Twitter account Thursday that the issue had been marked as ‘resolved’ and the split-screen functionality has been restored. In a new update today, the company says that some players are still impacted by the bug.

Fortnite‘s split-screen functionality is exactly what it sounds like: a new mode in which two local players can share the same screen. The split-screen feature is akin to what you’d have enjoyed on the older consoles before online multiplayer gameplay became commonplace.

The split-screen feature is only available on Fortnite for consoles. A few days ago, the functionality was disabled due to a ‘stability issue,’ according to Epic Games. Two days later, Epic said that the problem had been fixed and the split-screen functionality restored.

It seems that the version 15.50 update wasn’t a complete fix for the problem, which Epic noted in a new tweet on the Fortnite Status Twitter account today. The company said that some players are still impacted by the split-screen ‘ready up’ problem, which prevents the second player from readying up.

‘We are working to address this,’ Epic notes on the split-screen issue card on the Fortnite Trello board. It’s unclear when the fix will be available, but it’s reasonable to assume it will arrive with the next game update. The problem impacts both PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

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