A YouTube star tells us why she felt like a ‘pawn’ in Google’s game

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Meghan Camarena says she is a pawn in Google’s game. Melia Robinson/Tech Insider

Meghan Camarena does YouTube for a living.

Her channel, Strawburry17, features the effervescent 20-something unboxing cutesy Japanese toys, taste-testing weird foods from around the world, and reviewing apps and games.

She’s hooked nearly one million subscribers who tune in five days a week.

As fun as her content is, working as a YouTuber is no piece of cake. In an interview with Tech Insider at VidCon, a three-day YouTube-sponsored convention in Anaheim, California, Camarena compared her job to working at a startup.

“In order to survive in this space, you don’t ‘just do YouTube,'” Camarena says. “You have to look at yourself as a brand. I learned that early on.”

In 2012, Google, which owns YouTube, released an update to its analytics tool that counts subscribers. In order to improve the accuracy of its data, Google removed inactive and closed accounts from the system — which diminished subscriber counts for users across the board.

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Camarena reveals her favourite beauty products in a Strawburry17 video from 2012. YouTube/Strawburry17

“It was the worst time for any kind of creator,” says Camarena, who created her account in 2007. “To see [subscriber] numbers drop that drastically, it was hard. How do you get back up when you face the [possibility] that you are irrelevant?”

She called herself a “pawn” in Google’s analytics game.

The algorithm update was a wake-up call. Camarena decided she needed to go beyond “internet personality” and think of Strawburry17 as a company. She hired employees who could take on some marketing and production responsibilities, freeing Camarena up to make TV appearances and host meet-ups with fans. She appeared on two seasons of “The Amazing Race,” and landed a backstage correspondent gig on truTV’s talent show “Fake Off.”

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Camarena jokes behind-the-scenes of truTV’s ‘Fake Off.’ Facebook/Strawburry17

The Strawburry17 team eventually ramped up production by committing to upload a new video every weekday. And this spring, it pioneered ultra high-def production in the YouTube space.

Like a startup, she has to keep up with tech.

While most creators film at a much lower frame rate and resolution, Camarena invested in the camera technology that would allow her to shoot 60 frames per second at 4K. Great care is put into lighting, colouring, and editing, which is apparent in the videos that include crystal-clear close-ups of miniature toys and foods.

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Camarena unboxes Japanese Re-Ment toys in a video shot in 4K. YouTube/Strawburry17

“It’s a great creative space because we’re a startup. We’re not this great big company that has a bazillion [sic] dollars that we can throw around,” Camarena says. “We feel the loss when it happens, but we also feel that victory when we’ve done something right.”

And, oh, has Strawburry17’s team done something right.

Adweek’s Chris Ariens reported last week that Camarena signed with Maker Studios, a talent agency for the world’s leading digital content-creators. An acquisition, of sorts, she’ll now have the coaching and budget for bigger and better YouTube endeavours.

Still, Camarena stays humble, as one must do in the here-today, gone-tomorrow startup space.

“Being a YouTuber is a privilege, it is not a right,” Camarena says. “It is not something that will always be there. … You just gotta’ keep hustling.”

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