[Tech] girl next door iJustine built an empire in a man's world
One billion people and counting. That’s how many people have watched Justin Ezarik’s YouTube channel over the past decade.
Known simply as iJustine, the 34-year-old is one of the most successful early adopters of the platform’s vlogging format thanks to her focus on open and honest technology and gaming reviews, before pivoting to become a ‘lifecaster’ – a move which has garnered her more than 5.7 million subscribers.
ESQ: You started iJustine in 2006. As one of the original YouTubers, what was it like back then?
JE: When I first started out on YouTube, there were very few people doing it. We all sort of became friends and we were just people sharing our lives and posting things. My background has always been doing things with computers, so teaching myself how to edit [videos] was really cool. I had a daily photo website that I ran all through high school and I think that’s where my love for sharing things really began. Even when I was really young, I’d take my parents video camera and make small things with it. It’s kinda great that I’ve been able to make that into a job.
ESQ: Does this current generation do things differently from when you were starting out?
JE: I feel like if I was starting now, I would be trying to be someone else instead of just being me. A lot of art stems from being inspired by other people. Back then, I was just posting things on YouTube and trying to figure it out what I was doing. A lot of extremely successful creators come up to me and say “I watched you back in the day and you made me start my own YouTube channel.” I think that’s pretty cool. Trying to inspire others and make people enjoy tech is what I love doing. It might not be the most popular thing but it is what makes me want to keep making content.
ESQ: Was it harder for you to make it in the tech industry as a woman?
JE: It definitely was hard. When I was growing up I was the only girl in my programming classes, but today a lot of my viewers are young girls. It’s nice to be in a position to inspire the person I would have been back then. It’s funny, when I play video games people would be, like, “what?!” But I just think to myself: “I’ve been playing for a lot longer than you’ve even been alive!” The truth is, today, the percentage of women playing video games is actually higher than men.
ESQ: Do you feel pressure being a role model?
JE: I have seven-year-olds coming up to me and saying “I love you”, so I’m very conscious that the content that I post needs to be family friendly. What I love is that the audience that I’ve cultivated is not exclusively from the tech community, so because of that I like to keep my videos as simple as possible so that everyone can understand what I’m talking about because often tech videos are so technical that newcomers in the industry can’t really follow.
ESQ: How do you deal with online trolls?
JE: It still bothers me when there are people who constantly try to tear me down. I actually read the comments and people don’t realise that! I see it. It’s not my team who handles my social media. I get it, and unfortunately it is one of those things that you just need to realise is a part of the internet. The anonymity. People can say whatever they want and get away with it I guess. It’s exhausting.
ESQ: What games are you playing right now?
JE: I always have my hands on the latest stuff. So, right now, I’m playing the new Super Mario Maker 2 on the Nintendo Switch. Another new game that’s just out is Apex, so I’ve been playing that. And, of course, there’s Fortnite.
ESQ: You’re a big Fortnite fan, eh?
JE: Fortnite has changed the entire gaming world. They’re not afraid to push the boundaries and do what they want to do with their ideas, which if you look at the recent Marshmello concert [a live 30-million user in-game concert], is pretty ground-breaking.
ESQ: How do you decide what videos you make?
JE: I just do whatever comes to mind. As my content transcends genres, I don’t fit a particular mould of only tech, beauty or cooking, so it is different. With tech there’s always new stuff out and there’s always a steady stream of videos to be made. With the gaming community, I ask them what content they want to see.
ESQ: Do you watch other YouTubers?
JE: Yeah, because everyone has their own style. When we’re all reviewing the same new product or game, I try wait until I’m done with my video before checking out what others are doing so my content doesn’t get influenced by what they’re producing.
ESQ: So what’s can we expect from you in 2019?
JE: I want to scale my content up again. I pretty much edit all my own videos, which I enjoy but it is both a blessing and a curse. I might get more people to help out. The thing is, it’s still a very personal thing for me to video and edit my own stuff and then hit ‘post’. I know a lot of YouTubers today don’t know how to edit, so it’s been nice to see that shift. I mean nothing against that, that’s the way that they operate. I’ve been doing it since the beginning and I love it.
ESQ: Are you ever happy with the videos you edit? A lot of video editors —ahem — are never happy with their stuff.
JE: What’s crazy is that the number of times I’ve hit a deadline and it has to be done right away. There are times when I think I could have done a better job with the edit, but then I can’t worry about that too much because I have another video to get out!
ESQ: You were recently on The New Celebrity Apprentice with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Would you ever make the switch form YouTube to TV?
JE: I don’t necessarily have to give up YouTube to be on TV. I’d love to do a TV series obviously, but it has to be the right opportunity at the right time of course.