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Johnny Depp trial is driving a new online economy. This ex-LA prosecutor is all in

Anousha Sakoui, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES — Emily D. Baker is exasperated. In the penultimate week of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp's defamation trial, Baker at times rises from her seat in her home studio or fans herself with a small blue book of the federal rules of evidence as she delivers a steaming critique of Heard's attorney Elaine Bredehoft.

"This is preposterous, Elaine! You don't do speaking objections," Baker, 44, seethes as red lights flash to indicate another thousand subscribers have signed up to her channel. A so-called super-chat message flashes across the screen from a viewer who paid $10 to let the audience know she thinks the judge is being too easy on Bredehoft. "This is a mess, and the jury is going to see it's a mess," Baker adds.

It is just another day in the weekslong trial for this former Los Angeles deputy district attorney turned YouTuber whose livestreamed commentary has drawn audiences surpassing that of mainstream outlets 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 with 72,000 for LiveNOW from Fox and 86,000 for ET.

Baker, whose shock of purple hair and tinted glasses have become her trademark look, is one of a growing number of legal experts who are making their name not on traditional media outlets like Court TV but online. This new cottage industry of attorney social media stars highlights how media consumption has shifted since the days when lawyers would drop into a TV news broadcast to comment on a big case like the O.J. Simpson trial or, more recently, the Kyle Rittenhouse case. The Depp vs. Heard legal battle is showing how much of this audience is turning to platforms such as YouTube or TikTok for information.

"There has been a kind of historic shift in how people are consuming this kind of content like I've never seen before," says Rachel Stockman, president of online media network Law & Crime. "The days of linear cable, watching a trial or watching a live event, I believe, are somewhat over."

With more than 1 million live viewers some days for the Heard-Depp trial, Law & Crime is the most-viewed channel on YouTube carrying the court sessions in real time, but the trial has proved a veritable gold rush for other online creators.

 

Baker is one of the biggest so-called LawTubers, as her channel's subscriber count surpassed 500,000 this week. Her podcast, "The Emily Show," rose to No. 1 this month on Apple Podcasts for U.S. entertainment news, up from seventh place, according to Chartable.

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

"It's not about even going to Harvard anymore. If you can amass the following, the rest doesn't matter," Hjelmeseth says. "It really makes it so anybody can tell their story and show their expertise."

Baker calls her largely female, law-curious audience LawNerds and warns viewers she is a fan of "the cursey words."

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