Perspectives on the digital video world from JW Player’s SVP of Technology
Imagine that you operate a YouTube channel with over 8 million subscribers. This would rank you among the top 500 publishers on YouTube, which means your content would be wildly popular, far surpassing the viewership most cable networks, especially among the coveted 18-24 year-old male demographic. Surprisingly, the ad revenue from your channel doesn’t make you obscenely rich, but it provides a nice living, as they say, for you and the small staff of millennials you pay to create the videos.
You’d also imagine that your army of fans would make you popular with YouTube itself, since they are taking up to 45% of your copious ad revenue.
You would be wrong.
In fact, you might start to think that YouTube actively dislikes your channel, because they start “de-monetizing” your videos, citing vague violations of their “advertiser-friendly content guidelines,” like this one from December 2017.
YouTube isn’t deleting your videos, mind you—just your ability to make any money from them.
As result, your revenue plummets, taking with it your nice living but more urgently your ability to pay your millenial creators, which means fewer videos, which means even less revenue, which means a potential death spiral for your business.
This is basically what happened to Explosm, makers of the popular but controversial “Cyanide and Happiness” webcomic. In response, Explosm has started a Patreon community in the hopes that donations from fans will make up for the lost revenue. It will be interesting to see if they are successful.
It is another example of how risky it has become for even the largest video creators to rely solely on platforms like YouTube for their revenue (back in January my colleague Bill Day wrote about similar impact Facebook has had). Even a minor change in their terms of service can take a creator from blockbuster to bankruptcy almost overnight.
Creators need to take more control of their own destiny. Thanks to the open web, it is easier and more cost-effective than ever to distribute you own video content and monetize it any way you want.