Customary TLDR is at the bottom, along with questions to spark the discussion. Please, feel free to comment below.
I know my audience, so I’m not going to spend eleven paragraphs describing February’s hit piece on PieDiePie done by Rolfe Winkler, Jack Nicas, and Ben Fritz on behalf of The Wallstreet Journal; I’m here weighing a bigger problem: the great imbalance of cause and effect. Over one hundred days have passed since that initial article was posted and dominoes are still continuing to fall. It may have begun with a precisely aimed round to PewDiePie’s forehead, but in consequence, baby YouTubers are running for cover.
YouTube was not designed to be a platform for content creators or budding media professionals, but over time that is what it’s become. And regardless of where you land on the “Spectrum of Political Correctness,” if you’ve found this article and have reached this point I believe you agree with me when I say: if you’ve created a platform in which content creators can thrive – to the point that they feel comfortable enough to trust you, leave their jobs, and rely on your income to survive – you cannot take advantage of that trust. I understand business, and we’re all cognizant of the fact that the highest bidder wins, but when you make a decision to appease a dozen huge corporations, and it endangers the livelihoods of thousands, I think your decision needs to be reconsidered.
For Google, the ultimate concern is YouTube’s profitability. And generally, revenue comes from the advertisers, not the content creators (at least not directly.) It is not YouTube’s job to take care of people. But when people that have vowed to never put a sponsor button on their page are forced to make a video, that always reads as uncomfortable, asking people to use a third party platform to contribute financially in an attempt to re-stabilize their income – you know your revenue stream has been shattered.
As content creators, we know that we cannot rely on a platform. The stars of MySpace that didn’t branch out to build their own brands were destroyed by the emergence of Facebook. The “Vine Famous” needed the business sense to use the platform as an on-ramp to movie auditions and TV / online shows – and some of them did; when Vine fell they were protected. Their names were known outside of the application, so they had external work to point to. But creating the content is work enough, not to mention keeping in touch with your audience, so they don’t feel slighted – given the impressions that you’ve become too popular for the people that helped you get there. One has to maintain their web pages and make sure their content is relevant because if they stop for a breath someone has surpassed them. The work was never easy, but one thing YouTube did was make you feel comfortable as a creator, that they had your back, and if you put in the hard work you were good. But when YouTube’s back was against the wall, it’s clear who they chose to protect.
So the question remains: when YouTubers are no longer making enough money to focus on their craft, and have to pivot – maybe slowly moving back into “real life,” or getting a new job entirely – to make sure they can provide for the people who need them, who suffers? These creators can turn to Patreon, but those Patreon coffers have to be filled by someone, and as viewers, we only have so much money. If we only have enough money to back two YouTubers but love watching five, what happens to the remaining three? Do we just let their quality fade until it can no longer be supported? Do we weed out the weak or the ones with audiences unable to financially support the channel’s growth? If this problem continues, and YouTubers go from withering to dying, who will suffer financially?
Because when it comes to companies, it’s money that matters.
Companies provide keys to content creators not because they enjoy giving away their games for free, but because if someone with 1 million, or even 5,000 followers plays a game – there are 5,000 eyes that are immediately interested in this game. It’s not like advertising on TV, where half of your advertising money is wasted. You buy the ad, but what percentage of people that view it actually care about what you’re selling? When a company provides a content creator with a game, they are guaranteeing that the audience that sees it will be, at the least, intrigued. But if, despite the viewer count, these creators can no longer do what they do because they can no longer support themselves, to whom will these companies turn?
I expand upon that idea in a post I wrote in January, arguing to companies the benefits of giving YouTubers the opportunity to showcase their products for them, rather than spending the money on ad revenue. But if they’re not going to be spending money on ads at all, doesn’t that strengthen my case, and give companies a more reliable advertising medium? No. When the primary source of income is through products or sponsorships by companies, the opinions no longer hold weight. They go from honest product reviews to paid sponsorships – simply another form of advertising – causing viewers to lose trust in the review and the creator presenting it.
The point is, when Content Creators suffer, who loses the most money? Answer that, and a solution for our current YouTube ad problem may appear.
– YouTube, having created a platform that compensated creators for their work, gave people the sense of security that needed to quit their day jobs and depend on the income from YouTube alone.
– What we tend to forget is that Google’s priority is not the happiness of their content creators or viewers, it’s the profit YouTube makes. If advertisers are no longer paying them, Google needs to do whatever they can to bring advertisers back.
– The only way to force someone to take notice is to disrupt their revenue stream. YouTube’s hair-trigger reaction to the loss of revenue is blocking ads on any piece of content that might initiate advertiser’s mass exodus.
– So, when content producers can no longer support themselves on videos alone they’ll have to change tactics; either by moving to another platform like Twitch, or asking for money on Patreon instead of Sponsoring on YouTube.
Let’s crowdsource some ideas. What do you think our options are? Who do you think loses the most if YouTubers have to dedicate their time to something other than their channel, and production quality declines? If they move to another platform who[se bank accounts] feel their absence? When we figure out the answer to that question, I think our voice will be loud enough to be heard.
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