Johnny Depp lawsuit makes Emily D. Baker a YouTube star

Emily Baker poses for a portrait

Former Los Angeles deputy Emily D. Baker found YouTube stardom in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard lawsuit.

(Whitten Sabbatini / For the Time)

Emily D. Baker is exasperated. During the penultimate week of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s libel trial, Baker sometimes rises from his seat in his home studio or fan himself with a little blue book of federal rules of evidence as she delivers a scorching review of Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft.

“That’s nonsense, Elaine! You don’t make vocal objections,” Baker, 44, seethes as the red lights flash to indicate another thousand subscribers have signed up to her channel. saying super-chat message flashes on the screen of a viewer who paid $10 to let the public know she thinks the judge is being too lenient with Bredehoft.” It’s a mess, and the jury will see it’s a mess,” adds Baker.

It’s just one more day in the weeks-long trial for this former Los Angeles assistant district attorney-turned-YouTuber whose live comments have drawn audiences beyond mainstream media like Fox or Entertainment Tonight. on the platform. As Johnny Depp testified at one point Wednesday morning, Baker had about 128,000 live viewers, compared to 72,000 for Fox’s LiveNOW and 86,000 for ET.

Baker, whose shocking purple hair and tinted glasses have become her trademark, is among a growing number of legal experts who are making a name for themselves not on traditional media like Court TV but online. This new cottage industry of lawyers’ social media stars highlights the evolution of media consumption from the days when lawyers would hit a newscast to comment on a big case like the OJ Simpson trial or, more recently, the Kyle Rittenhouse case. The Depp vs. Heard legal battle shows how much this audience turns to platforms like YouTube or TikTok for information.

“There’s been kind of a historic shift in the way people consume this type of content like I’ve never seen before,” says Rachel Stockman, president of online media network Law & Crime. “The days of linear cable, of watching an essay or watching a live event, I believe, are a bit over.”

With over a million live viewers on some days for the Heard-Depp trial, Law & Crime is the most-watched channel on YouTube showing the hearings in real time, but the trial proved to be a real rush. gold for other online creators.

Baker is one of the biggest so-called LawTubers, as his channel’s subscriber count topped 500,000 this week. Her podcast, “The Emily Show,” rose to No. 1 this month on Apple Podcasts for US entertainment news, up from No. 7, according to Chartable.

Emily Baker's studio lit in purple with color-sorted stuffed animals and books.

Baker’s colorful studio lights flash as she hits new subscriber benchmarks.

(Whitten Sabbatini / For the Time)

This shift in attention from broadcast media experts to LawTube or LawTok is permanent, says Kyle Hjelmeseth, president of digital talent manager G&B.

“It’s not even about going to Harvard anymore. If you can amass the following, the rest doesn’t matter,” says Hjelmeseth. “It really allows everyone to tell their story and show their expertise.”

Baker calls her largely female, law-curious audience LawNerds and warns viewers that she’s a fan of “curse words.”

The mother-of-two first posted a video (unboxing an iPhone) to her YouTube channel in 2015 from Manhattan Beach. In 2017, she told her followers that she quit her job in the district attorney’s office under high pressure to start an online legal consulting business.. But then the pandemic presented a new opportunity.

Her family had moved to Nashville, after her dentist husband closed his practice in Los Angeles in 2020, looking for a house with an acre of land and a good internet connection, she said.

In 2020, she had a podcast aimed at helping small online businesses navigate the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. But the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis has led her to spend more time nurturing interest online where pop culture intersects with the law.

With an accessible and informal breakdown of major legal battles involving Britney Spears’ conservatorship and reality TV stars Erika Jayne and Tom Girardi, her channel has garnered fans.

Its appeal is its approachability, says Eddie Pietzak, director of talent at Semaphore, which manages brand deals for Baker.

“She becomes the face of pop culture legal commentary,” Pietzak says. “Who doesn’t look like a traditional lawyer, who is that stuffy old white of a law firm.”

She enjoys breaking down complex stories for her audience, says Baker. And when it comes to choosing which cases to cover, she sticks to what she knows and finds interesting.

“I’m not a journalist, I’m a legal analyst,” says Baker. “I make sure I’m interested and it’s something I can actually analyze in a useful way.”

Details of a YouTuber's home office, including camera and audio equipment.

Baker’s move to her home in Tennessee.

(Whitten Sabbatini / For the Time)

His channel was growing steadily before the Depp-Heard affair, adding a few thousand subscribers each week, according to analytics firm Social Blade. Then the former Hollywood couple’s trial began in April, and the growth became exponential.

Baker had around 200,000 subscribers before the trial began on April 11, but that has more than doubled. From April 22 to May 19, his YouTube channel saw 1,540% more views, or 20.7 million views in 28 days.

In 2021, she earned $270,000 on her YouTube channel, or about $22,500 a month from about a million views, more than she took home as an assistant district attorney, she says. As the trial peaked this week, the channel was estimated to be generating up to $109,000 a month, according to Social Blade, which bases its estimate on ad rates.

She makes money from ads that run her channel, products, subscriptions to exclusive content, and superchats or superstickers (digital images that fans can pay to appear in the chat feed live).

The maximum anyone has paid for a super chat message is $400, she says.

“I didn’t think people would be interested in hearing days of video depositions and expert testimony, and I was wrong,” Baker says.

Depp sued his ex-wife for $50 million for allegedly defaming him in a Washington Post op-ed in 2018 Heard hits back at Depp over comments his then-attorney called his allegations domestic abuse of hoax. The case takes place in Virginia, where the servers of the Post Office are hosted.

The case has been controversial and Heard in particular has become the target of online hate from those who question her domestic abuse allegations against one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Baker wants to bring a more compassionate perspective.

“I hope that as a streamer lawyer who has worked in the criminal context, I can not only bring sensitivity to the subject, but also ask the appropriate questions if the evidence does not match the testimony in the most compassionate way possible. “, Baker says. “There’s just a way to have this conversation without being hateful.”

Baker is part of a messaging group with about 20 other LawTubers who help each other navigate the new technologies they need to learn, she says. They also appear on each other’s channels, often offering subscriber boosts.

A home office setup with lighting.

Baker’s setup at home. “I didn’t think people would be interested in hearing days of video depositions and expert testimony, and I was wrong,” she says.

(Whitten Sabbatini / For the Time)

Other prominent LawTubers include Alina “Alyte” Mazeika, who runs the Legal Bytes channel and is a member of the California Bar and the DC Bar; Nick Rekieta, a Minnesota attorney whose Rekieta Law channel has 435,000 subscribers; Kentucky-based defense attorney Larry Forman, who goes by the channel name The DUI Guy+ on YouTube, was among the LawTubers who lined up overnight to attend the trial in person. The case has been used by some lawyers to launch their online careers.

Virginia attorney Rob Moreton combined his passion for woodworking and the law to create a video on his channel, Law & Lumber, which he titled “Woodworker Attorney DEBUNKS Amber Heard’s ‘Broken Bed’ Testimony! ” — a reference to Heard’s allegation that Depp assaulted her on a bed, smashing its wooden frame. Depp denied Heard’s domestic violence allegations. The video has racked up over a million views.

On the Internet, a larger audience brings more reviews. Baker says she’s been called biased, accused of profiting from domestic violence, or being unprofessional with her purple hair and swearing. But she avoids exploitative coverage and hasn’t monetized some videos for ad revenue, she says. She hopes she brings compassion to the topics she covers and that, as LawTube has been boosted in recent weeks, viewers have a plethora of new options.

As the Depp-Heard fight wraps up this week, Baker already has his eye on his next big deal: the trial of ‘The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ star Jennifer Shah, who the US government has accused of leading a national telemarketing fraud scheme. Shah pleaded not guilty.

“Everyone has a different view, and people are looking for the type of commentary and community that works best for them.” said Baker. “Choice is always a good thing.”

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