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Quite A Haul

When it comes to computer trends, the kids always get there first. From instant messages to Facebook to YouTube to Twitter, my girls (and everyone else’s offspring) were the early adopters, only to have their parents and grandparents eventually follow.

Of course, we don’t follow until we figure out what, exactly, you can do with this stuff. Now we know. Facebook is how you find out that the geeky guy you refused to date in high school now owns a chain of plastic surgery boutiques and regularly visits Third World countries, where he repairs cleft palates pro bono. YouTube is where you can watch genuine bootlegged episodes of Mr. Ed or share parenting experiences like “David After Dentist.” And, if you follow the tweets of your college-age child, Twitter is how you know when she is pulling an all-nighter.

Haul videos are one of the latest trends, and, once again, youth is leading the way. An outgrowth of many teenage girls’ propensity to socialize through shopping, haul videos feature shoppers returning home to share their recent purchases with an Internet audience. Sometimes the audience is amazingly large.

Blair (juicystar07), who says she is 16, has more than 300,000 subscribers to her two YouTube “channels.” Even some modestly successful haulers have thousands of followers, with many more non-subscriber views per video. These aren’t just teenagers sharing with friends anymore. At least, not with friends they know personally.

There are haul videos for everything from groceries to crafting supplies, Home Depot to Tiffany’s. The video hosts are men and women of all ages. For those who don’t make videos, watching the hauls of others can still be habit-forming.

Many of the videos feature surprisingly competent editing, composition and lighting. While naysayers claim these features earmark the videos as fakes, staged by companies featured within them (I suspect this is true in at least some cases), we are likely to see richer and more aesthetic videos from amateurs, too. Digital video technology is getting better and easier to use. Many young people handle these tools as easily as I slipped on a baseball glove at their age.

Even amateurs can make some money with haul videos. Google has a system in place that allows some of the most popular YouTube contributors to share advertising revenue. YouTube Partners also have access to more data about audience trends and tools to protect their brands and copyrights. While the average haul vlogger (as a person who creates a video blog is now known) is not going to be able to make a living at this, it must be nice to make some money merely by talking about one’s shopping habits.

Publicity, profit potential and pure journalistic instincts provide obvious motives for haulers to make their videos. But why does anyone bother to watch?

Because some haul videos are interesting, entertaining and even informative. I, for one, never even considered the possibility that a pair of jeans suitable for a stylish young woman could be purchased for $6.99. I’m pretty sure it has never happened in my home. But Blair displayed those very jeans, and who am I to argue with a shopper who has 300,000 loyal fans?

I can see some ways this might evolve. The next time I shop for a car, I might check YouTube to see if some hauler has made a video of the model I am considering, or of one of its competitors. A test drive is never enough time to really get to know a car. Hearing an owner rhapsodize about his new ride’s strong points, or complain about something he finds irritating, might be useful.

Or suppose a homeowner made a video about the subdivision or town where you are thinking of settling. That video might discuss whether the homeowners’ association is a nuisance, or whether the kindergarten teachers refrain from assigning excessive homework. You might want to watch such a video before you sign a purchase contract.

Maybe people will begin bringing video cameras to restaurants. Is the zuppa di pesce worth trying? Nothing says “stay away” like a sour look on a diner’s face.

So count me in for the long haul. I’ll be over in the YouTube corner where the coots and curmudgeons hang out.

Larry M. Elkin is the founder and president of Palisades Hudson, and is based out of Palisades Hudson’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters. He wrote several of the chapters in the firm’s book, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55. His contributions include Chapter 1, “Looking Ahead When Youth Is Behind Us” and Chapter 4, “The Family Business."

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