by Christian Duque
When it comes to bodybuilding media there are the giants from the print era, a hybrid group from the past decade, and the new wave of influencers and commentators from the past 2-3 years. As for the print media – it’s basically dead. Muscular Development has proven to be the last of the Mohicans to not only cover bodybuilding but make it its driving force. Ironman Magazine is still around, but it only covers natural bodybuilding associations. There really are no other serious bodybuilding publications left. MD has evolved online, from Dave Palumbo to Ron Harris, but for many, the magazine will always be their claim to fame.
When it comes to YouTubers for the past decade, many of their biggest names have long since switched gears, from The Hodge Twins to Luimarco to Kai Greene. Bodybuilding isn’t the only tool in their wheelhouse and many have chosen to make more money and land more mainstream jobs by distancing themselves from the scene that made them famous. Others like Luimarco paused just to return to a scene that she had basically been. Sometimes when you sleep you lose !!
Perhaps the greatest name of all on social media, Rich Piana has passed away.
Over the past 2-3 years we’ve seen other stars come and go. At one point, I would have called Generation Iron a powerhouse, but I can’t tell you the last time I saw something from them that really got me excited. For now, at least, the playing field seems to be pretty much between the ancient dinosaurs and the current YouTubers. We all know Nick Strength And Power is the most popular of the pack, but does he have any viable challengers? Is there anyone who publishes content that could be perceived as an alternative to their channel? The answer is a resounding yes !! Xavier Wills of Desktop Bodybuilding could very well be that guy, but why?
YouTube has been around for a while. I remember that in 2008 it already had some power; But it wasn’t until the turn of the decade that things really got going. There was always a clique at the top, be it Bostin Loyd, Jerry Ward, Marc Lobliner, The Delray Misfits, the list goes on and on. Even Jason Blaha has garnered considerable fanfare, but many of these guys have been popular for their openness and / or other antics. It wasn’t until Luimarco that a DIY commenter could become a mega-star just because of his insights. Luimarco had no preproduction, no fancy intro or any special effects. He was the king of home improvement, only speaking into his webcam and not holding back. That was pretty much it. No frills, just plain talk. Luis Rise could be described as a troll who coined several buzzwords, slowly became a fan of bodybuilding and eventually appeared worldwide. The deaths of Rich Piana and Dallas McCarver created a negative atmosphere among major YouTubers. When monetization became a problem and big money started to take a hit, some (like Lui) went to MIA, others slowed the pace at which they published content, and for others it went on as usual. One of those guys who never stopped was Nick Miller aka Nick Strength And Power. Not only that, but as Luis’s protégé, he inherited his following. When Lui wanted to come back, he was SOL. Nick wasn’t about to lose the kingdom he had acquired – not to mention that by the time Lui wanted to return, Nick had already gained another 100,000-200,000 subscribers. His dominance was so pronounced that Luimarco gave up after a few failed comebacks and confirmed Nick Miller as the top dog. Since the pandemic broke out, desktop bodybuilding has been a channel that has had a strong run at NS&P.
The key to DB is competitive bodybuilding. In many ways, Xavier got his channel on point than Nick’s. What I mean by that is that there is a lot to cover in IFBB and NPC body based sports, but Nick went beyond that. In fact, Xavier has now done podcasts and brought co-hosts and guests with him. Nick, on the other hand, has ventured into other forays and even set up channels that focus on areas outside of bodybuilding. In many ways, I think Miller has a broader “big picture” of what he wants to do. It would be interesting to ask him where he sees his channel in a year, five, or even ten years from now. I don’t think he wants to jump the ship, but I think he wants to extend his range. With over a million subscribers, there’s a chance he’ll get bored. Plus, Nick would never host a co-host or have multiple guests. I think he would see this as giving up his platform and / or diluting his reach. I don’t think Miller is a narcissist, but I don’t see him as sure about that as Wills either. That being said, Nick may not have to do anything other than what he’s doing. But while his channel continues to grow, at what point will fans get bored with him? I mean, at some point, like any other channel, he will no longer be the top dog. The question is, how much taller could Miller get?
One thing I really like about Wills is that he’s not delusional. He realizes that Miller has more than 50 times his audience. He understands that Miller has huge sponsors and close ties with promoters, and he also understands that Nick is in America. The internet is global, but being in America is undeniably an asset. Australia has some of the most restrictive laws on events and travel. If Wills were based in the US, it is safe to say that he has 5 to 10 times the subscribers and reach that he currently has. Would he ever move to America? I don’t know, but if he really wants to push his channel to the limit, then that’s definitely a thought that must have crossed his mind. I don’t know either. Is desktop bodybuilding just something Xavier does for fun – or does he want to build an empire?
Although Wills’ reach may be limited due to travel restrictions and the pandemic, the fact that he speaks English and publishes English content means that he still has a strong chance. This may seem silly, of course he speaks English – he’s from an English-speaking country, but there’s a lot more to it than that. If you want to get famous, English is the language you need to speak. This may seem arrogant, but prove me wrong !! Not only would it be difficult for you to win, I doubt you could even collect enough evidence to make a valid argument. Whether you are in America (North, Central or South), Europe, Asia, Africa, etc., the only language that everyone seems to know – or want to learn – is English.
This is also a reason to pause when looking at the number of spectators. When we look at the number of views, Miller buries Wills, but when we look at engagement, there seems to be data to suggest a change is possible. When it comes to the content itself, both guys offer important insights and both guys have a tendency to fly on their own. While many old-school speakers more or less stuck to existing schools of thought, neither NS&P nor DB are afraid to make bold predictions or criticize competitors, associations or the status quo. Both channels also tend to read and answer their comments, which the old guard outlets don’t. Interestingly, both Miller and Wills have their largest audiences on YouTube; none of them have a strong presence on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. This is both good and bad. It’s good that they are great on an established platform; It is strange, however, that neither can duplicate this elsewhere and, to my knowledge, they both tried.
I myself prefer desktop bodybuilding and have always found NS&P to be DIY on the surface, but with the aim of establishing itself. This isn’t a knock, it’s just not what I like when I see a YouTuber. For example, check out Greg Doucette, who is another DIY YouTuber. I like Miller’s content, his commentary, but I’m not that interested in the presentation. I also think NSP is too sensitive. He blocked me and I don’t even know why? And guess what, he apparently blocked Xavier WIlls too. Unlike Luimarco, who helped Nick, I think that’s the last thing Nick wants to do with Xavier.
Anyway, who knows what the future holds and where those channels will be in a year from now. I’ve seen channels that ruled the world and literally took a dive within months, sometimes weeks. I doubt that will happen to NSP, but at some point you stop growing and you lose ground. When that day happens, I feel like DB is going to see a huge increase. Which channel do you prefer and why?