Showtime! – DIY videos online
It’s no secret that DIY videos and how-to guides have conquered the internet. Every day, new assembly guides, handicraft tips, recycling ideas, operating instructions and testimonials can be viewed at video portals like YouTube and MyVideo – sometimes witty, sometimes conventional, but now and then also very professional. And the constantly rising number of users who turn into fans of these productions seems to confirm the trend: users’ needs for information on how to do things themselves are greater than ever before.
While MyVideo is mainly used to resurrect short-lived infotainment formats from TV, YouTube is the preferred stomping ground for self-producers and altruists like it was at the very outset. These people tend to play the main role in their productions themselves. Such DIY videos always have the charm of a live recording, exhibiting an air of improvisation. Not everything has to run smoothly in front of the camera here. And that is not really the goal either. After all, a bit of authenticity always goes down well with viewers. This self-marketing often ends up with these DIYers being idolised by young people in particular, so it is hardly any surprise that their number is continually increasing.
There is the DIY aesthete Fynn Kliemann, for instance. His videos are dynamic and quick. They are never meant seriously, as can be seen in the intros, where something always explodes. They always have something to do with DIY, but it’s really mostly meant to be entertaining. There is not a single scene in which Fynn does not play the main role. The exuberant all-rounder is almost always in the frame. The actual work only plays a minor role here. Yet it is enough to attract over 12,000 subscribers. Pleasing and entertaining the target group is the central theme here.
But not everything has stayed as it was on YouTube: several years ago, manufacturers and retailers discovered the networked world for themselves and are now heavily involved in virtual guides for the home environment. However, their professionally made product videos often lack the quirky charm of the private productions. Instead, they aim to convey their content in a way that is optimised for sales. In the course of online marketing, they do not simply discard the professional distance to their customers that they maintain in other channels. They only want to attract buyers through the advertised qualities of the product and are generally not interested (yet) in entering into a relationship with viewers that goes beyond selling. A real social media strategy still has yet to evolve here.
There is now a third kind of video post that fits between these two seemingly opposing worlds. These videos focus neither on the presenter nor on the branded tool that is being used, but on actually carrying out DIY work. In attempting to show the activities optimally, the producers want viewers to understand the individual steps. They are not always aiming for completeness. In some cases, that would barely be feasible without the video lasting a whole evening. The goal is to achieve the desired outcome in as few clear steps as possible.
A good example of this approach is DIY expert Mark Molter with his YouTube channel, to which more than 32,000 fans have subscribed. Here, too, the intros indicate another instance of self-portrayal at first as Molter can be seen smiling at the user in every single picture, but in the course of the video it soon becomes clear that it is more than that. After the obligatory (and occasionally very detailed) introduction, the camera stays trained on the project in question during the actual work. This makes it easy to follow all activities and understand them without difficulty. It takes patience to sit out some of Mark Molter’s videos as they last up to 30 minutes, but his productions are definitive for DIYers with plenty of time on their hands.
The posts at the Austrian DIY portal diybook.at are dedicated even more clearly to this new approach. There is nobody to identify with here; the sole star is the project itself. And it has to convince viewers in a very short time. Both easy activities like adjusting windows or fixing a clothes dryer and larger projects like erecting a partition wall are subject to the requirement that everything must be said and shown within a few minutes. The necessary explanations are given by an off-screen commentator who largely speaks in a matter-of-fact manner but sometimes injects a bit of fun. These videos might be over very fast, but they do contain a lot of content. Although this is not always easy to digest, it is very helpful when it comes to a quick overview. More than 4,000 subscribers have already found this a compelling concept. That is a considerable number for a channel which provides solutions to acute problems and does not have a journal nature – a channel that is actually only visited when needed.
The examples presented here outline the various ways of accessing visual information about DIY and make it plain that the evolution described at the beginning is fluid without any hard boundaries. The focus is not always on selflessly imparting knowledge as videos always remain quintessentially a show, of course. That is why it is up to the users to take their pick. They have to decide for themselves what exactly they expect from a DIY guide.