The state of video publishing

posted by Jeff | Saturday, September 5, 2020, 4:45 PM | comments: 0

The Internet has had an interesting arc of enabling and democratizing the creation of stuff. In the nascent hippie idealist days, people like me and tens of thousands of others were able to find a niche, publish content about something we cared about, and make a little money. You could put things out there for relatively low cost and potentially "compete" with traditional media for attention. I paid my mortgage through the recessions at the start and end of the oughts that way. A friend of mine "worked" his way through college that way.

A number of unfortunate things have happened since that time that have made the situation simultaneously better and worse. The social media platforms have enabled this bizarre concept of an "influencer," where people get paid mostly in attention for some fleeting amount of time. A few get enough of it that they can build an audience and get paid some percentage of ad revenue from YouTube. There are a fair number of people making a living this way. But just as advertising as revenue for content is almost entirely controlled by Google, the case is also true for video.

A couple of years ago, YouTube then put minimums on "partner" revenue sharing, requiring a certain number of subscribers and viewing time. Think about the volume of bullshit that is: Big YouTubers are going to generate revenue, but now they don't have the pay the long tail of creators who do. I used to make a couple hundred bucks a year by making one or two videos. They get my content for free now. The thing is, there aren't really any viable alternatives to YouTube, because it's where the audience and the advertisers are. What's worse, the partner requirements put the onus of engagement on the creators, which is why they're constantly asking you "LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE!" as if it were their only reason for being. It's icky, and it certainly doesn't encourage quality. If that weren't enough, these creative people are building their entire brands and identity on someone else's platform.

It's hardly a surprise that there is a bipartisan desire to beat up Google for antitrust behavior. I used to get ad revenue for my sites from as many as six providers at a time. I'm down to two, and 80% of it is Google.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about it because we want to publish Silly Nonsense, which is not a cohesive idea as much as it is a desire to make things. To that end, I'm not interested in making a living with it, but I can't simply accept the idea of Google making money for what I did and I get nothing. It's also worth noting that making something that's more than someone talking to a web cam or phone isn't free... cameras, lights, software, production music and my time have a cost. I've been putting stuff on Vimeo for more than a decade, and paying them for the privilege. They have a nice subscription model you can leverage. Twitch has something similar. But again, the discovery process often involves going to where the people are, which unfortunately is Google.

I'm going to give it a try, publish on YouTube, but there are things I'll do to make sure I'm still building something that I own. There will be a web site. I'm not above putting the same content in multiple places. If it does get any traction, I'll look at the self-sold advertising options.

I know it sounds like I'm hating on the platform, because there is a lot of garbage, but there's good stuff too, with high production values. The maker and science stuff like Adam Savage, Simone Giertz and Mark Rober is pretty great. I'm discovering some video nerd stuff that's also pretty great.


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