How a 15-year-old gamer captured YouTube gold with Depp v. Heard videos

Jacob, 15, was making YouTube videos about the “Elden Ring” video game when, he said, a video on a different topic — actor Johnny Depp’s libel lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard — surfaced in the recommended video feed.

Jacob, who spoke on the condition that his last name be withheld for privacy reasons, said he noticed the video had millions of views, but the channel he came from had “barely any subscribers.” Jacob’s own videos were only viewed a few hundred times at the time, so he decided to make a video about the celebrity defamation case instead.

Within a week, Jacob’s new content — often short compilations of clips from the sample set featuring royalty-free music — had been viewed more than 10 million times.

“I saw this Amber Heard lawsuit and I saw people getting excited about it, so I decided, ‘You know what, I can probably try this too,'” Jacob said. “I just started uploading on it and it worked.”

Few, if any, other topics have captivated social media like the Depp-Heard trial. Since the beginning of last month, content about the trial seemed to become inevitable on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and other major platforms. That attention, in turn, has attracted content creators of all kinds who score highly on a powerful combination of viewer interest and algorithmic boosts.

A wide variety of creators, from makeup artists, comedians and true crime podcasters to K-pop fans, musicians and movie critics, have stepped up to beat the Depp trial. Six creators, including Jacob, said in interviews that the pivot allowed them to reach an audience of millions on YouTube and TikTok.

All six creators are leaning on a wave of support for Depp, saying they believe Depp is a victim of domestic violence (Heard has said she hit Depp in self-defense or in defense of her sister). Two of the makers also said they were victims of domestic violence.

Their content is part of the “Justice for Johnny” social media movement, which has flooded platforms with content that supports Depp and is often hostile to Heard. On TikTok, videos with the hashtag #justiceforjohnnydepp have more than 10.7 billion views.

Cyabra, a disinformation monitoring platform, analyzed more than 2,300 Twitter profiles who had talked about the trial and found that 93 percent supported Depp.

YouTube and TikTok did not respond to questions in emails.

“I think a big part of this is due to the fact that Johnny Depp already has a huge fan base as he is one of the most famous actors in the world,” said Jas, 21, who manages TikTok and Twitter fandom accounts for Singapore that mostly focus on superheroes and K-pop.

Jas, who exchanged direct messages on the condition that her last name would not be disclosed for privacy reasons, said her content about the process gets “a lot more attention” than anything else she posts, despite the significant presence of K-pop and superhero fans on it. social media platforms.

Depp is suing Heard for defamation in the US, alleging she falsely stated she is a victim of domestic violence in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. Heard is suing Depp, also claiming defamation.

The creators said the frenzied environment surrounding the celebrities and the trial has allowed them to rack up millions of views on channels and accounts that had only a handful of viewers just a few weeks ago.

Sophie Helton, 20, a TikTok creator and artist who created a viral pro-Depp video, said taking Depp’s side is the popular opinion on social media, to the point that those who are pro-Heard will be outvoted by opposition.

“It was, I’d say, about 99 percent positive and in favor of Mr Depp, and for Ms Heard I feel like it was just an outpouring of, frankly, taunting,” Helton said. “The only people who support her, if they say anything about supporting her, everyone descends on them and tears them apart. If you support her, you have a lot of people who hate you.”

The formats of the videos may be similar. Most use clips from courtroom exchanges, often portraying moments framed as painting Heard and her team in a negative light. Some are set to music or lightly edited. Others have commented on the proceedings.

While some creators are trying to monetize their videos, others have put it off, saying they create content about the trial because it matters to them.

The allegations personally resonate with Haider Ali, 27, another YouTube creator who has switched to trial reporting. Ali said he is a victim of domestic violence and is encouraged by the large number of people who believe Depp. Before the trial, Ali posted guitar covers on YouTube to an audience of hundreds. Now his videos about Depp and Heard have millions of views.

“I didn’t expect to get this huge response from all over the world,” said Ali. “It’s been an overwhelming response from people who have been victims of domestic violence and abuse.”

A few days ago, Ali said, he also became eligible to join the YouTube affiliate program and started monetizing ads shown in his videos. However, he said he has no intention of monetizing his videos about the process.

On the contrary, after the trial is over, Ali said, he will return to posting his music.

“My main goal for posting these videos wasn’t to get famous or get financial freedom or anything like that,” Ali said. “My hope was to basically have a small community where we could talk about what was happening in this process, but the response has been pretty amazing.”

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