The Youth Lab


Vlogging’s great revival and the ‘Sulek Effect’

Trends are cyclical. Just as the Tumblr-era boho-chic and the 2010s indie sleaze have made comebacks, long-form YouTube content has also returned to the mainstream as an integral part of youth culture. It may seem like it never left, but the resurgence of long-form lifestyle vlogging is evident through the growing popularity of YouTube and video watch times - the world’s second most visited website has seen year-on-year growth of 3.8% for monthly active users to 2.68 Billion in 2023, with the average YouTube viewing session now lasting 40 minutes.

Sam Sulek, a bodybuilding YouTuber, has seen monumental growth in his channel since March of 2023. His long form content exemplifies the resurgence of vlogging, often clocking in with near daily videos that stretch over the hour long mark. This week’s 52INSIGHTS explores what’s behind Sulek’s success and what it means for the future of content creation.

Source: Youtube


Sam is a visual anomaly: incredibly muscular with a superhuman level of strength, but what seems to resonate most with his audience is his straight to camera conversation, developing a direct relationship with the viewer.

He starts almost every video with his ‘car talk’: an often 20+ minute conversation with the camera as he drives to the gym. When Sam misses these ‘car talks’, there is consistent pushback in the comments community, all seeking to re-establish that one-to-one conversational feel. Perhaps this phenomenon reflects a significant issue: young people’s desire to feel connection - to little experience someone talking to them directly; (ref the Cigna Loneliness index that highlights that young people aged 16-24 feel more lonely than any other age group, including people aged 65 and over.)

Sam’s content seems to fly in the face of all we have been learning about the dwindling attention span of young people. His most popular video is an hour long, made up predominantly of straight-to-camera talk as he drives and goes on a grocery haul, the workout in the middle almost a footnote for the viewers in the comments. This level of long form content is entirely at odds with the fast paced world of TikTok, shorts, and reels, although notably both TikTok and Instagram increased their video length capabilities in 2023 to draw in audiences whose preferences skew towards long-form.


Sam’s upload schedule is a contributing factor to his virality. He posts almost daily and has done so for over a year, rarely missing a day. Such consistency fosters predictability, a trait his audience values highly. His devoted followers have come to expect his regular upload cadence, enabling them to align their routines with his content. This habit not only underscores the importance of consistency in content creation but also resonates with young people's yearning for a sense of connection.

His success can be broken down into three factors:

1. Expectation and Predictability:
Sam's consistent daily uploads foster a sense of community and routine, providing young people with something they can count on and connect over.

2. Watch Time and Algorithmic Favouritism:
YouTube's algorithm rewards elements of Sam's strategy, including his long-form content and frequent posting schedule, promoting his videos to new viewers.

3. Authenticity and Connection:
Sam’s personality is the driving force behind all of this. There are plenty of physically bigger bodybuilders. There are people who upload more frequently. And there are YouTubers who provide even longer content. But it is Sam’s ability to create one to one connection and conversation with the viewer that is essential in his growth. He has become a part of his viewers' lives.

Source: Youtube analytics


The ‘Sulek Effect’ can be seen across many more creators including Cry Creek Wrangler School, Azlia Williams, and Will Survives, all examples of creators who prioritise engagement with the viewer over everything else.

And with Tik-Tok getting in on the long-form video action, we’re likely to see more long-form content there too - case in hand the “Who TF Did I Marry” TikTok sensation that took over the app in February this year. Tiktok user ReesaTeesa posted the mega series with over 50 videos spanning six hours of consecutive content. This series captivated audiences for several reasons, just like Sam Sulek, it is Reesa’s personality that draws us in (as well as the drama). The series has generated over 400M views to date, resulting in 3.7M followers for the creator.


THINK SHORT + LONG: While short-form content resonates with some and plays a key role on social media channels like Snapchat, Instagram and Tik-Tok, long-form content is growing in popularity, not just on YouTube but across social media. What are the long-form stories your brand could tell to connect with audiences seeking meaningful connection? It’s time to get in on the ‘Sulek Effect’!

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