If you’ve ever seen a Northwestern student beaming into a video camera on their way to class, looking far too cheerful to be en route to an 8:00 a.m., chances are you’ve already run into an NU vlogger.
Medill first-year Alexia Kadota-Browner, Communication second-year Yanni Economos and Communication fourth-year Jay Towns all create YouTube videos centered around their lives at NU. They chronicle everything from their daily lives to admission tips for specific schools, along with additional niche videos in areas like fitness and music. And while their specific channel goals vary, they each reiterated one viewpoint: there’s no such thing as too much NU content.
Towns said he never expected his Northwestern-oriented content to garner the views and clicks that it did.
“When I got to Northwestern, I just thought the most logical thing to do was to make a “Day in the life at Northwestern” video,” Towns said. “I never really imagined how many people would start to watch things on my channel.”
Towns’ channel now, as of May 2022, has over 2,200 subscribers, with videos like “First Day of Classes at Northwestern University” and a series of dorm tours amassing tens of thousands of views. He attributes the high view counts to the YouTube algorithm.
“Since those were the only kinds of videos that I made for a while, YouTube's algorithm would really push my content to high schoolers,” he said.
After consistently putting out content since eighth grade, he said he’s still figuring out what kind of content he wants to create.
“Although it's very cool to be known and to have my channel as part of the ‘Northwestern online canon,’ I feel like it kind of raises the bar for what kinds of videos I can make,” Towns said. “I’m still kind of having that conversation with myself.”
As of now, that content has expanded to include music videos, commentary, a cappella tour vlogs and food reviews.
“I have a lot of creative ventures that I just like to be able to display on my channel,” said Towns, an RTVF major. “I make music videos now, so I post those as well.”
According to Towns, his videos are less of an ode to Northwestern and more of a personal diary, one that showcases the highlights of his life. Given that he graduates this spring, Towns plans on shifting his focus away from Northwestern.
“I've been inspired by a lot of YouTubers I've met – especially college YouTubers – who have now graduated and are taking similar concepts and bringing them to other areas,” he said. “For example, I have a friend Shan Rizwan, who made really popular videos guessing people's majors. Now he makes videos like walking around Times Square and guessing what music people are listening to. It's still content that is fun for people to watch but just might not surround the same exact topics, like college.”
As his time at Northwestern soon comes to a close, Towns is hoping to pass the torch to other content creators on campus.
“The more people who are making content, the better, because as much as I would like to touch on as much as I can, we all have our own experience here,” he said. “It'll always be appreciated to have a more holistic idea of who is at Northwestern.”
Alexia Kadota-Browner is one such up-and-coming YouTuber. After running an Instagram account dedicated to wellness since 2014, she decided to pick up a camera during quarantine in 2020 and start posting videos on her channel, Live Like Lex. Like Towns, she stressed the importance of having a multitude of content creators on campus.
“It's great to have videos from people in different walks of life,” she said. “The way I see it is the more, the merrier. I'm a biracial female, so we [Jay Towns and I] give different perspectives to the experience. I might even be able to give a different perspective from someone who lives on South Campus. Adding to the creator base of people putting up content on YouTube is my main goal.”
She said her channel's initial idea was to help viewers maintain their fitness – hence its original name, "Get Fit With Alexia" – but she soon expanded the channel to include general lifestyle content.
“I realized that I'm pretty good at academics and have other skills beyond just health and wellness, so I wanted to expand it and include more aspects of my life.”
Now that she’s at Northwestern, she’s hoping to focus her content on more realistic experiences. One playlist on her channel is dedicated to videos about life as an undergraduate.
“For me, coming into Bobb-McCulloch, I was looking for a realistic dorm tour. There was nothing available on the Internet,” she said. “Looking at information deserts and filling those gaps with my YouTube videos is something that I'm looking to do here.”
Her ultimate goal with this Northwestern content, she said, is to convince prospective students to attend.
“I posted one video already about the first day of classes, and not only did I show my own day and the things that I did, I included other student interviews as well, because I'm fully aware that not everyone here has a YouTube channel,” Kadota-Browner said. “I would like to highlight other people's experiences to diversify the knowledge base.”
But she also hopes to showcase the realities of college life here to give a more complete perspective to applicants.
“I don't want to sugarcoat the experience because it definitely is really difficult being a Northwestern student,” she said. “Even if you were top-of-the-class in high school, you're probably painfully average here. A lot of us are struggling in our classes. I want to talk more about mental health and how students deal with it, providing a very balanced view of Northwestern and not making it so glorified.”
Providing a holistic view of NU is precisely what Yanni Economos hopes to do with his channel.
“My channel works in two ways: it can help students who want to come here, but it also gives a broader sense of the school to people who are just looking at colleges in general,” he said. “I love that because I don't like to be confined to one specific niche or school. If I did, then I wouldn't be able to help all the people that have.”
Economos, also an RTVF major, said it’s “amazing” to be able to translate his self-taught video editing skills to his academic work.
“They’re two completely different spectrums,” he said. “RTVF is very industry-based, and YouTube is based in marketing, but they overlap in the sense that they’re both media. It's a great thing if you're able to take the career that you're following and mold it into a cohesive fit with something that you love to do.”
And he does love YouTube, he said. But more than that, he loves to help people – and whether they gain that worth from an analytical or emotional standpoint, he doesn't mind.
“Stripping everything away, I want to help a person a day,” he said. “It sounds ridiculous, but usually I do have at least one person watch a video every day. I'm happy even if I don't meet the person but just knowing subconsciously that they are leaving my video with a value that wasn't there before.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this headline read “The world of NUtube: Conversations with three campus vloggers.” There is significant overlap between this headline and that of a story that North by Northwestern ran in its winter print edition, titled “NUtubers.” These two stories also contain significant sourcing overlap. Because the print story was published first, this story’s headline has been changed to respect the work of the print writer. The NBN web features team regrets the overlap in reporting, sourcing and titling between the two stories.