Joe Sugg: authenticity, self-branding and networking from YouTube microcelebrity to mainstream star

MURPHY, Kathryn Dorothy (2021). Joe Sugg: authenticity, self-branding and networking from YouTube microcelebrity to mainstream star. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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In this thesis, I explore the YouTube celebrification process from internet content creation to mainstream media through analysis of the career trajectory of Joe Sugg. Joe is arguably the most successful British YouTuber to transcend internet recognition and mobilise this prominence towards mainstream fame. As such, the research draws insight from his practices and brand development strategies to interrogate how he has been able to successfully bridge the worlds of mainstream and traditional media, whilst still maintaining his online presence. Existing research has defined levels of traditional and online fame, however there is a lack of research that interrogates the relationship and interaction between different stages of fame. This research considers the internet to mainstream celebrification process through a detailed analysis of Sugg’s career. Moreover, there is a gap in existing literature for research focused on individual creators’ career trajectories, particularly in relation to their development from online to the traditional media and celebrity sphere, which the research thus addresses. Within t his broad research aim, the investigation focuses on three key sub-themes within Joe’s career development: self-branding; authenticity labour; and networked relationships. The inquiry takes a single case study approach focused on Joe Sugg, which is situated in digital ethnography and utilises a variety of online and offline data collection methods to gather micro-, macro- and wider contextual level data f rom Joe’s career. The data is analysed using a combination of thematic, content and textual analytical approaches to draw insight into his career trajectory in relation to the sub-research themes. The analysis identifies ordinariness and relatability, maintaining perceived authenticity and credibility, and building strong networks online as key to developing an online brand that is commodifiable, appealing to audiences, and able to be mobilised towards mainstream media ventures. Moreover, the research offers a substantial framework for understanding the process of celebrification from online to mainstream through five stages, defined by characteristics and experiences as opposed to follower metrics. The research also provides the first significant longitudinal study of a British YouTuber’s career trajectory that interrogates their strategic brand development and networking practices, which have enabled them not only to sustain a career online, but to mobilise this online recognition towards mainstream media platforms too.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Deller, Ruth [0000-0003-4935-980X]
Thesis advisor - Mcseveny, Kerry [0000-0003-4263-1276]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Dr. Ruth Deller / Supervisor: Dr. Kerry McSeveny
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2021 17:32
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:03

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