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Interview with a Trends Manager: Sina Stieding

Virtual hikes, home tours and other emerging trends in Germany.

For this month’s “Interview with a Trends Manager,” we chatted with Sina Stieding, YouTube’s Culture & Trends Manager for Germany and Austria. Her favorite trend is lo-fi remixes of evergreen songs. 

This year, Covid-19 has kept most of us at home for extended periods of time. With people itching to get out, there’s been a big increase in travel-related videos. What are some of the more interesting trends you’re seeing with travel content in general?

It’s but one example of how much people are craving human connection and reminders of normal times.”

Sina: Globally, we’ve seen a doubling in “virtual hikes” and about 70 million views globally for “4K walks,” where a creator wears a high-resolution bodycam and goes for a walk, from a hike in the Grand Canyon to strolling along the beach in Thailand. These high-quality videos on larger TV screens create a more immersive and lifelike experience. We even have had some people in their homes watching these videos at double- or even triple-speed while working out on their treadmills and ellipticals to help simulate the experience of jogging through a scenic area. What’s interesting is that, for example, videos of walks in London during the pandemic, which featured few people on the streets, were viewed far less than similar walks during normal times where there were far greater numbers of pedestrians. It’s but one example of how much people are craving human connection and reminders of normal times.

In Germany, the pandemic has seen a rise in home-related content, but what's behind the “home tours” trend in Germany? 

Sina: The four walls of the home have obviously become more important with so many of us spending a lot more time indoors. So it's suddenly become interesting to see other people's homes, particularly with the huge global trend of home improvement and room makeovers, and people sharing these transitions with others. But especially in Germany, the room tour has really taken off, with many of the biggest creators offering tours of their homes, including Germany’s most-subscribed creator channel, BibisBeautyPalace. Even room tours of tiny houses have gone up in viewership. Videos with "tiny house" in the title experienced over 60% more views in Germany between January and September of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

I think there's two reasons why this has been happening. First, people are looking to home tours for inspiration for what they could do with their own homes. Second, your home is very personal, so a lot of people were watching this content because they just wanted to get to know their favorite creators a lot better. And seeing their favorite creator also being at home at the same time gave them a sense of being together through the pandemic. 

Tell us about the interest around climate change and how it recently inspired eight German creators to quarantine themselves a little differently. 

Sina: In general, Germans are very politically and socially conscious, a trait that no doubt has its foundation in our past history and a recognition that we must work together to prevent cataclysmic circumstances and events. This naturally applies to the environment, which explains Germans’ great interest in sustainability content, particularly among the country’s youth. A lot of this content centers around not just expected things like recycling, but also downsizing and minimizing one’s impact on the environment, including the trend in tiny houses, which has seen consistent growth on YouTube.

This great interest helped pave the way for the recent event “YouTopia.” Aside from the eight creators, around 40 people appeared in the broadcast. It consisted of a 99-hour live stream on YouTube on several creator channels, where the actual participants lived under a dome, “Big Brother” style. Every move was supervised and watched, with experiments that focused on climate change. They met with politicians and policymakers to discuss climate change, and they also conducted some games with various TV personalities. The central goal was to draw attention to the problem and inform people.

Another emerging area is people with disabilities educating the public to eliminate stigmas and stereotypes. What's behind this trend and who are some of the emerging creators in this area? 

Sina: The biggest creator breakthrough last year, and continuing through today, are Gewitter im Kopf, which features two friends, Jan Zimmermann and Tim Lehmann. Jan has Tourette’s Syndrome. Their channel focuses on following them as they navigate through this disease together. So far, they have over 2.25 million subscribers and they’re now some of the biggest creators in Germany. One reason why their channel took off was because there was not only interest in the disease, but until then, we just didn’t have a lot of channels in Germany that focused on diseases and how people confront them. 

This duo is pretty likable and entertaining, and there is an endearing honesty about them: They show that it's okay to laugh about Jan’s condition sometimes. This has been a very fresh take for a lot of people. It’s also led to the emergence of other disabled creators, such as blind creator Ypsilon and Leeroy Matata -- the latter is confined to a wheelchair and has become a YouTube star in Germany.

Tell me about the phenomenon of creators meeting with members of marginalized groups and sharing these interviews. 

Sina: In a way, this is related to the previous category of creators discussing topics that many might not have access to or feeling uncomfortable addressing in person. In fact, one of the rising stars of this category is Leeroy Matata, whom I just mentioned. He pursues exchanges from his wheelchair with marginal groups and has had a phenomenal year. 

Channels like his explore conversations with people from groups such as criminals, the homeless, or those suffering from depression. The viewpoints of members of such groups are not commonly heard, and even if we were to run into someone with such a background, it is unlikely that we would ask them questions the way Leeroy does. His approach is quite open but informed. One of his most successful interviews was with Maximilian Pollux, who was in prison for 10 years and once he got out, he woke up one day and decided to turn his life around. He became a motivational speaker for young people. After Leeroy interviewed him, he then decided to take his message to his own channel, and in just three months, he accumulated 100,000 subscribers.

Overall, this category illustrates the power of YouTube. The platform gives people who are in a bubble a place to share their voices and experiences with the world that we might not otherwise be exposed to and enriched by.