Sharon Ní Chonúir talks to Seán McLoughlin, Ireland’s most popular YouTuber, who is believed to earn anything up to €7.3m a year — and all from working in his own bedroom.
IT may be hard to believe but there’s a 24-year-old in Athlone whose viewer numbers are much higher than the highest for an episode of Love/Hate or EastEnders (bar the recent denouement, perhaps).
Seán McLoughlin — otherwise known as Jacksepticeye — has so far made 1,506 videos, which have been watched 1,115,533,201 times by a total of 3,515,691 people who subscribe to his YouTube channel.
Yet, if you’re like me, aged over 25 and with no interest in computer games, you have probably never even heard of him.
Welcome to the new media frontier of YouTube channels created by vloggers (video bloggers) and where, in this online world, Seán has Ireland’s most watched YouTube channel. It’s a long way from when he started in December 2012, making videos in his bedroom.
It all started with his passion for computer games.
“I’ve played games since I was seven and I probably spent too much time playing them, really,” confesses Seán.
Whenever he ran into a tricky bit while playing games, he would often watch what are called ‘Let’s Play’ videos online.
“These are videos where people film themselves playing computer games,” he explains. “I’d watch them trying to figure out ways of doing things and I started to think that I could do that too.”
He was studying sound engineering at Limerick Institute of Technology at the time and was interested in learning how to edit videos. “Filming myself playing games, editing the videos, and posting them to YouTube seemed to be a way of bringing all of my interests together,” he says.
It took time for Seán to build an audience for his videos. By September 2013, the Jacksepticeye channel had 2,500 subscribers and he had worked hard to build it to that modest level.
On average, he makes two videos every day, usually between 6 and 15 minutes long. In order to do this, he spends 30 minutes to two hours every evening recording himself as he plays games.
The next morning, he starts the editing and rendering process, which can take up to five hours. Next, he spends between two and four hours responding to comments people have left from the day before. And then the process begins all over again.
“I haven’t taken a single day off since March of last year,” says Seán. “It’s much more than a job. It’s 24/7.”
His diligence began to pay off when one of YouTube’s biggest gaming stars PewDiePie (real name Felix Kjellberg) recomm-ended his channel to other gamers last September. Within four days, the number of subscribers shot up from 2,500 to 15,000 and they’ve continued to grow ever since.
It’s not hard to see why people enjoy Seán’s videos. Speaking as someone who knows very little about video games, I found myself laughing at his manic commentary and hyper style. He throws himself wholeheartedly into playing the games and is entirely uninhibited in front of the camera.
He adds humour, funny voices, and laughter to his commentary, giving each game an extra layer of narrative and imagination. He curses furiously when frustrated. His high energy and genuine passion are pure entertainment. This was his aim all along.
“I just want to make people laugh,” he says. “I want to entertain people who like playing games as much as I do. I want them to enjoy the moment with me.”
He has created his own online community through his YouTube channel. The hours he spends responding to people’s comments is part of that. “Talking to other people, really, is the best part of what I do. I love it when people say that they were having a bad day and that my video cheered them up. That’s one of the best things you can hear.”
He also engages with those who leave negative comments. “I don’t ignore anyone. I try to explain my point of view to them. Anyway, it’s good for my ego. It grounds me in a way that only engaging with the positive comments would never do.”
Seán does all of this while maintaining what could be seen as an overly stereotypical Irish personality. His trademark is a flat cap and he opens every video with a shout of ‘top of the morning to you’. He does this deliberately and for a purpose.
“When I first started out, I tried to speak clearly and people thought I was American,” he says.
“Then they thought I was an American putting on an Irish accent. I decided to drive home the fact that I was Irish so I put on a Paddy cap and made myself loud, energetic, and stereotypically Irish. There are very few Irish people on YouTube and I wanted to show that we can do it and that we are doing it. I wanted to put us on the YouTube map.”
Seán plans to continue with his Jacksepticeye channel for as long as he can. “It’s the best job in the world,” he says.
He is also interested into branching out into other areas. “I’d like to explore opportunities outside of YouTube. I’d like to attend gaming events and meet people in real life. I’d like to try all sorts of things for the learning experience.”
He is not entirely convinced by the thought of moving into traditional media like TV. “I suppose I’d be interested in hosting a gaming show but I’d miss the interactive element of YouTube,” he says. “This doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like a gang of people playing games together.”
He has plenty of advice for those who are considering following in his footsteps. The first is to maintain a connection with subscribers. “I know lots of YouTubers who get successful and then stop replying to comments,” he says.
“They think that because they can’t reply to everyone; they won’t reply to anyone. I don’t think that’s right. Keeping a connection with your followers helps you to stay grounded and reminds you why you started doing what you do. I try to be transparent, genuine, and truthful and my subscribers help me to stay that way.”
Secondly, he insists that the only secret to success is hard work. “Working really hard is the only way you’ll succeed. I work all day every day.”
Finally, he urges everyone to focus on doing something they love. “You’ll spend all your time doing it so make it something you enjoy. Otherwise, it will soon start to feel like a job. Remember, if you don’t have fun making it, nobody will have fun watching it.”
There are many reasons why people might want to emulate Seán McLoughlin. One is that he appears to be making a good living from doing what he loves.
Although he is contractually forbidden from revealing what he earns, with advertisers paying about $2 (€1.60) per 1,000 views, the Social Blade YouTube statistics website estimates his annual earnings at anything between €454,000 and €7.3m.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved