Data charges are falling, and South Africans are becoming more connected to the Internet for longer stretches of time. For people like me who create video content, it's a time I've been longing for.
We need people who are interested in watching documentaries, soapies, TV dramas, local news features, investigative pieces and "vlogs" to be able to find all of that online. Why? Because the Internet is a democratising tool. Our tastes, and more importantly, the manner in which we inform ourselves about the world, should not be dictated by traditional gatekeepers in charge of the means of production.
Luckily, those means of production are much less these days. To be a video producer in 2014, you need only an average to low-end Android cellphone, with the YouTube app, and enough airtime to upload a file. Gone are the days of needing a big studio, professional equipment, and a handshake from the higher-ups at the SABC. Hence the rise of the vlogger, and people like Caspar Lee – a kid from Kynsna who commands 1-million+ views a week.
But YouTube is more than just One Direction fans talking about their day at school or people filming cats. It also allows you to access programmes that don't show on TV here. As a tool for education and current affairs, the options are phenomenal.
While there are full-length documentaries available, I still prefer shorter clips I can watch on my phone while sitting on the bus or when I have a spare 10 minutes at work (sorry, boss!) This kind of video consumption has now completely outstripped any TV viewing I do, and so I thought I'd share the love and point you to some great YouTube channels that are worth subscribing to.
A quick note on "subscribing" on YouTube: all it does is create a handy list of channels on the left, for easy access, when you land on YouTube.com, and you'll also be alerted as to who has uploaded something new. Subscribing, just like a once-off viewing of a video, is of course free.
You know news channel Al Jazeera, but AJ+ is aimed at younger audiences, and has more discussion-driven, magazine-style content. They help contextualise the bigger stories you'll hear about in the news, and their explainers are great, covering everything from apartheid to Bitcoin, to ISIS.
Last Week Tonight
Last Week Tonight airs on HBO in the US, but the main feature of the show is always posted timeously on the YouTube channel. It provides another excellent round-up of current affairs, delivered with John Oliver's wry British humour. Some of the best topics they've covered include Ferguson, Net neutrality and FIFA.
I am a huge music nerd, so this channel really appeals to me. New videos are sparse these days, but always a treat when they emerge. This "Collective Cadenza" performs musical experiments to inspire people to pick up an instrument and learn to play. Highlights include the history of lyrics that aren't lyrics, epic key changes and An Abridged History of Western Music in 16 Genres.
A spin-off of the well-known TED talks, TED-Ed looks at a concept from the world of art, literature, science and history and explores it in a fun, easy-to-understand way. The topics are varied, but always educational. There's one on how fictional languages work, penguin poop and how repetition works in music.
I'm not into cars at all (I don't even own one), but this channel takes a Top Gear-esque approach to car reviews – making them fun, and accessible for all – and adds a local twist. They cover everything from Toyota Corollas (could you get more South African?) to Aston Martins, and even go biltong shopping with Jack Parow.
Blank on Blank
As a journalist, I appreciate the art of a good interview, and that's why I adore Blank on Blank. Old, unpublished audio recordings of interviews conducted with a variety of famous faces are given a new lease on life, with beautiful animation that accompanies the original recording. Watch them all, but especially Bette Davis, Ray Charles and Michael Jackson.
The paradox that is Suzelle DIY was only recently introduced to me. Brilliant, creative, practical advice on a range of topics ... but delivered in a hilarious, faux-Afrikaans accent that you just cannot take seriously. That is, until you learn the secret of the braai pie ...
If you enjoy American late-night TV, subscribe to the Tonight Show's channel, where you can watch Kimmy Fallon's lip-sync battles, or if you'd rather keep up to speed with local news, eNCA and News24 post regular content daily.
Two Flow clients whose YouTube channels are worth checking out: South African Tourism and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Video is a growing medium and we hope to see more companies embracing it in the future.
Do you have any YouTube favourites? Share them below!